Gettysburg's Forgotten Cavalry Actions: Farnsworth's Charge, South Cavalry Field, and the Battle of Fairfield, July 3, 1863 by Eric J. Wittenberg

I recently read another book from one of my favorite Civil War authors, Eric Wittenberg.  His latest book, Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions, is a revised edition that he originally wrote in 1998.   He updated the book because of new research, interpretations, and conclusions of the cavalry actions.

Wittenberg is my favorite writer not only because he writes about some of the less studied and written areas of the Civil War, but he does it with excellent prose.

Here is a synopsis of the book from the publisher:

Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions examines in great detail three of the campaign’s central cavalry episodes. The first is the heroic but doomed legendary charge of Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth’s cavalry brigade against Confederate infantry and artillery. The attack was launched on July 3 after the repulse of Pickett’s Charge, and the high cost included the life of General Farnsworth. The second examines Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt’s tenacious fight on South Cavalry Field, including a fresh look at the opportunity to roll up the Army of Northern Virginia’s flank on the afternoon of July 3. Finally, Wittenberg studies the short but especially brutal cavalry fight at Fairfield, Pennsylvania. The strategic Confederate victory kept the Hagerstown Road open for Lee’s retreat back to Virginia, nearly destroyed the 6th U. S. Cavalry, and resulted in the award of two Medals of Honor.

This book focuses on the three battles and the “could have beens” of those battles.  For instance, if Farnsworth and Merritt’s charges were coordinated with infantry support, the Union could have rolled up the Confederate right flank and routed them.  Or, if the Sixth U.S. Cavalry was reinforced and its commander deployed his men in a stronger position, the Union could have denied the retreating Confederate Army an easy exit out of Pennsylvania.

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