There is a somewhat forlorn battlefield to the east of Gettysburg that few visit. It is located near a shopping area off the route 30 corridor. It is the East Cavalry battlefield.
The East Cavalry Field fighting was an attempt by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate cavalry to get into the Federal rear which was viewed as the soft underside of the Union lines. Lee ordered Stuart to protect the Confederate left flank and attempt to move around the Union right flank and into the enemy’s rear. There Stuart could launch devastating and demoralizing attacks against the Union, and capitalize on the confusion from the assault (Pickett’s Charge) that Lee planned for the Union center. Stuart’s plan had been to pin down Union forces and swing around them, but the Federal skirmish line pushed back tenaciously. Custer counterattacked yelling, “Come on, you Wolverines!” Waves of horsemen collided; 700 men fought at point-blank range. Custer’s horse was shot out from under him. Custer’s actions caused the Virginians to retreat, protecting the Union rear, and saving the day on that front of the Battle.
To find this area takes a bit of effort. It is not well marked and you seem to drive for a long time before you arrive there. The only clue that you are on the right track in the end is a National Parks battle sign at the edge of the property. You drive through a small entry point and on the right is a large battle monument. Unlike the main battlefield, there is little else there. This is the memorial to the Michigan Cavalry Brigade.
Unlike the main battlefield, it is a place of quiet contemplation. There are no tour buses, large groups of tourists, or ongoing traffic. It is one place at Gettysburg that is clearly a place where the people who are there have chosen to be there. Perhaps they are devotees of General George A. Custer, or perhaps as we were they had relatives who fought there, as we did.
Two of my great uncles were there.
Major Edwin Forrest Norvell had joined the Michigan 1st Cavalry, along with his brother Freeman, in July 1862, later moving to Custer’s staff as one of his aides de camp. Lt Dallas Norvell, who had entered the service as a sergeant, was also a member of the 5th Michigan .They had been with the Michigan Cavalry Brigade almost from the start of their service. Dallas who suffered from epilepsy who resign from the service in the fall of 1863, Edwin would continue with Custer until he was court martialed, as were many who served under the mecurial general, after the war. Perhaps that saved him from being at Little Big Horn. Still for the time being as Custer’s star rose, Norvell remained as one of his aides.