America's Best History Spotlight
On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.
East Cavalry Field, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Yes, it's a legitimate question. Just what is a portion of the most famous battle in American history doing in a lesser known history column? Well, it's mainly because, for all the people who come to this historic town, less than one percent wander to this location three miles east, and only a few know it's story, despite the fact that there's a controversial possibility that had General David McM. Gregg and General George Armstrong Custer not stopped Confederate J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry from meeting up with the back of Pickett's Charge, we might be visiting Virginia with a passport. Okay, that's the controversial part. There are no orders that state this was Lee's or Stuart's intention. Some rangers consider Stuart's action as assisting the left flank of the Confederate line at Culp's Hill or to reconnoiter this part of the field or perhaps create a bit of dissention or feint in the rear guard of the Union army and divert attention. None of this is known for certain. But it is this uncertainty and any one of those possiblities, that elevates this portion of the field from it's current status as lesser known to very important in the lexicon of american history. We'd like you to know more about it and visit there on your next Gettysburg foray. Photo above: East Cavalry Field today from Cress Ridge, courtesy americasbesthistory.com.
- What is There Now
- History Nearby
East Cavalry Field
The battle had been raging for two days through the woods and farm fields around this town, all without Lee's most important cavalry general Stuart, who rode out of position, allowed the Union army to get between him and his commander, and was summarily chastised when he made it to Gettysburg two days late. This was a surprising development for Lee; Stuart was his most trusted and able cavalry general. Once he arrived, Robert E. Lee would have his ears and eyes again and set about to use him on July 3, 1863. The Union was positioned in their fishhook alignment from the Round Tops to the south to Cemetery Ridge in the center and Culp's Hill to the north. General Lee decided to send Stuart toward Culp's Hill to see if he could help there. That's what many scholars surmise, but do not know for sure. Nobody wrote that in an order or wrote about it after the fact.
But whether the case, General J.E.B. Stuart rode to his east to Culp's Hill, a difficult place for cavalry, and kept going, until he was east of Gettysburg between Route 30 and Route 116 today, in farm fields that would guard a route to the rear of the Union line, to its reserves, and to the back of Pickett's Charge. He would ride down the farm lanes there, searching for Union troopers, with arrival shots meant to tell Lee where he was, seek movement in the distance, and give out locations. This would succeed to the south, causing the cavalrymen of General Gregg and subordinate, and new General, Custer to move, then ride to see what troops had come to their spot in the field.
The battle here raged for only forty minutes once begun in earnest, most during the cannonade that preceeded Pickett's Charge. Dismounted troopers attempted to dislodge Confederate troops at the Rummel Farm, whose barn still shows the battle scars of bullet holes today. Mounted troopers raced across the fields to the south with Custer boldly challenging prudence in its lead. At the end of the fight, the north had prevented Stuart from riding around the back of the Union line, and Pickett's Charge was never challenged by a rear guard movement. Now, whether that was its intention, nobody knows. It prevented Stuart from gaining information, for certain, and for bothering supply trains and reserves, as well. But as many a what if remains in the lexicon of Civil War stories, this is sure a big one. One that deserves more attention. And East Cavalry Field is one place, one beautiful place, that deserves it and your visit.
Image above: Park Ranger Tom Holbrook leading Spring Foray tour of East Cavalry Field toward the Rummel barn.
East Cavalry Field, Gettysburg
Gettysburg National Military Park Preserved Battlefield - Farm fields and historic farms along three avenues; East Cavalry Field Road, Gregg Avenue, and U.S. Cavalry Avenue.
Historic Farms - Fought over during the battle, including the Rommel Farm (center) and Lott Farm (south). While the land of these farms have been preserved, they are still working farms. Please do not attempt to visit the farms and barns themselves; it is still considered private property
East Cavalry Field Tour - Once per week in the summer, there is an East Cavalry Field park ranger tour. It's a treat. Plan to take it if you're there during that day. At times, Park Rangers are allowed to visit the farms and barns, as well, although this is a rarity.
Self-guided tour - You are welcome to drive down the battle roads and visit East Cavalry Field by yourself. Monuments and markers explain the battle. The largest monument to the Michigan troopers and General Custer commands the field on the southern end.
How Much to VisitFree.
Hours OpenDuring park hours.
Where Is It LocatedEast Cavalry Field is located three miles east of town off Routes 30 or Route 116. We'd suggest driving east on Route 30, Old Lincoln Highway, from the center square of town, over Route 15, and past the Harley Dealership. Take a right on East Cavalry Field Road and wind into the park. By coming in from this northerly direction, you get a better taste of the sequence of battle.
Website - Gettysburg National Military Park.
Area Historic Sites
So what else is there to do near East Cavalry Field and Gettysburg? Well, this is Gettysburg, so there's a bunch to do. Private museums such as the Shriver House museum, the Gettysburg Heritage Center with the best Gettysburg video presentation in town, Civil War Tails and their unique cat soldier perspective on the battle for kids and adults alike, plus ghost tours, Eisenhower National Historic Site, and lots of cool souvenir shops, antique stores, and places to eat.
Civil War Tails
Eisenhower National Historic Site