Saturday, February 18, 2017

Role of the Cavalry - II

In yesterday's post, we looked at the opening moments of the engagement at Gettysburg.

Harry Heth had  problem.  He was an infantry commander under Robert E. Lee, and was leading the march toward Gettysburg.  Some say he inteneded to find shoes in that town.  But, he was tactically blind.  Lee's cavalry under General Stuart was off riding, God-knows-where.  Heth had sent pickets into Gettysburg the day before and had encountered militia..  On what we now call the first day of the battle, he thought that his infantry could move into the town virtually unopposed.  What he didn't consider was John Buford, who had moved into the town the late afternoon of the day before.

In this first clip, Buford is trying to save the defensible terrain for the main army, who is behind him several miles.  Buford is deceiving Heth, showing only a portion of his force.  We call this "economy of force", by only using the force necessary to obtain the objective, which for Buford is to slow Heth down until the main body can arrive.  During this phase, Buford drives off the first attack, then strengthens his line for what he knows is the seond attack.  Buford will put two brigades on line, with a screen to his north, because he knows that the Confederates are massing on Gettysburg.

With two brigades on line, Buford is committed to this location.  He's awaiting Reynolds, who commands a corps of infantry.  As the day progresses, Reynold's infantry arrives, and again strengthens the line, allowing the battle to proceed.

Now, let's go surprise Harry Heth.


Dave said...

There's a statue of Buford on that ridge, right next to the road. There are four cannon arranged around it.

One of those cannon was actually at the battle, with Buford's cavalry.

(My regiment, the 6th Infantry, was at Gettysburg, part of Sykes division. Fought just south of the Wheat Field. After that it was so beat up that they were pulled from the line and sent to NYC to fight draft rioters.)

Anonymous said...

My mother & I visited Gettysburg in 2014, something we'd both wanted to do for some time. We're both proud Southerners, & descendants of combatants for the CSA. She saw me taking pictures of the memorials to Reynolds & Buford, & was naturally curious as to why, these men being our people's enemy. I had to explain (Ma not being a veteran) that although this was true, they were damned good soldiers, & did an outstanding job.
I would never take a photo of anything concerning "Spoons" Butler, but he was, other than rank, far below these cavalrymen.
By the time we got to Little Round Top (we toured the battlefield more or less by the order of events), she understood. I even got to introduce her, in a manner of speaking, to Winfield Scott Hancock--she was unfamiliar with the name.
--Tennessee Budd