23d. Cav vs Cav

Robert E. Lee had another option to better utilize Stuart’s Cavalry. Rather than assign him a rather insignificant ‘back-door” attack mission, he could have deployed him to the south. His main mission would have been to interdict any supplies or re-enforcements moving up from Westminster. This would only have had an impact if Lee had simply paused his furious assault on the Union lines. I postulate that he’d have had more success if he had adopted a siege mentality and not rushed into a Day 3 frontal attack.

Meade had left the vast majority of his supply trains near Westminster. There would have been small groups of wagons ferrying supplies to Gettysburg. These could easily have been stopped by simple road blocks on the only two roads connecting those cities. Those road blocks could have been maintained by just a few cavalrymen. The remainder of Stuart’s force would have been deployed for support.

Once Meade noticed that no supplies were arriving, he’d have been forced to react. But HOW? His cavalry had not generally fared well in squaring off with Stuart’s. Before he could attack them, he’d have to find them. Stuart had always proved elusive. Before Meade’s cavalry could gather a sufficient force to attack, Stuart could simply have moved! Even the road blocks could shift position easily. It would look like a chess piece chasing the opponent’s King around the board!

Hemmed in on three sides with no real options for gathering any supplies from the east, Meade would have truly been defending a ‘castle’ under siege. Meade’s best option was to try to establish contact via Hanover and have supplies routed through there, but the rail line ran into Gettysburg so the supplies would have to be carried by wagons down the Hanover Pike. This would be a slow process and possibly even subject to interdiction.

For Lee, having Stuart deployed to the south had an additional advantage. Should he opt for Longstreet’s plan to attack around Big Round Top, Stuart would be in position to spearhead such an attack.

Lee and Meade’s staffs agreed to a truce for 3 July to allow each army to collect its dead and wounded. Pickett moved his division south and set up his bivouac just out of cannon range at the south tip of Seminary Ridge. He, too, was now in position to launch an attack up the Taneytown Road.

It began to rain that evening and the deluge continued into the 5th of July. Just about all of Lee’s men were hunkered down in their tents enjoying hot stew. Meade’s men were out in the open with only hard-tack to munch on. Everyone was grateful for the rest but for Meade the coming days did not bode well!

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