George Armstrong Custer
Civil War Generals / George Custer
Just prior to the Battle of Gettysburg, 23 year-old George Armstrong Custer was promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers. He was one of the youngest generals in the Union Army and prior to the engagement at Gettysburg, had not led men into battle.
Custer was know for his aggressive style in leading the 1st Michigan Cavalry into battle on many occasions. As a brigade commander, he was often considered brash or reckless in his style, yet he studied battlefields and planned out his attacks often well in advance of the battle and only then would he attack with vigor.
Custer faced death in battle many times and he always believed that luck was on his side. He took this belief into Gettysburg and his courage would help thwart a Confederate Cavalry maneuver aimed at the Union rear.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered Major General J.E.B. Stuart to lead a cavalry attack on the rear of the Union army in coordination with the infantry assault known as Pickett’s Charge. Stuart was met by Union Brigadier General David McMurtrie Gregg on a location that would later be named East Cavalry field which was due east of the main fighting at Gettysburg.
Hours of hand-to-hand fighting and charges ensued and Custer was right in the thick of the fighting. He led the 7th Michigan Cavalry on a heroic charge that broke the back of the Confederate assault and forced them to abandon the fight. The collision of the two cavalry forces was not unlike a clap of thunder as thousands of pound of horses and men met with many going head-over-heels after the initial clash.
George Armstrong Custer lost over 200 men in the fight, more than any other cavalry brigade that fought at the Battle of Gettysburg. Despite the losses and an indecisive battle, it was a tactical victory for the Union as the Confederates failed in their goal to attack the rear of the Union army and Custer was right at the heart of it all.
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