CAVALRY FIGHT ON THE RIGHT FLANK AT
By Lieutenant-Colonel William Brooke Rawle
Statement of Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel William Brooke Rawle (who at the time was a Lieutenant
in the Third Pennsylvania Cavalry) giving his personal experiences in the Cavalry fight on the
right flank of the Army of the Potomac during the Battle of Gettysburg July 3, 1863, additional
to the account given by him in his pamphlet entitled "The Right Flank at Gettysburg, "
(Philadelphia 1878) which is also printed in the Annals of the War, p. 467, published by the
Times Publishing Co., subsequently revised and, as an Address delivered at the Dedication of
the Shaft erected on the spot October 15, 1884, published in pamphlet form; also published Vol.
4, Journal U.S. Cavalry Association 257 (September 1891) First Maine Bugle April 1891, and
Vol. 2, Pennsylvania at Gettysburg 802.
On July 3, 1863, Lieutenant Brooke Rawle was in command of the left wing of Captain Miller's squadron of the Third Pennsylvania Cavalry. This and Captain Walter S. Newhall's squadron had been so reduced in officers, men and horses during the campaign that it was found advantageous to consolidate them temporarily. Lieutenant Brooke Rawle was in command Of Newhall's squadron during the battle of July 3rd, Captain Newhall serving at the time as A.A.A.G. of the Brigade.
When the First New Jersey Cavalry, which occupied a stone and rail fence crossing the field of the fight, was being heavily pressed, Captain Miller's squadron was deployed, mounted as skirmishers along the edge of the rectangular piece of woods to the north of the Lott house, supporting the First New Jersey, the line of which formed an acute angle with the squadron. The right of the squadron extended to a cross road running from the Salem Church road towards the center of the enemy's position. The first charge of the enemy did not quite reach the line occupied by the squadron which, however, kept up a steady fire and assisted in its repulse. Heavy skirmishing was maintained with the enemy, both before and after this first charge. When Hampton and Fitz Lee's brigades were seen approaching in magnificent style with drawn sabres, and on a line parallel with the edge of the woods occupied by the squadron, Captain Miller, who had received no orders during the emergency, rode along his line to the left to consult with Lieutenant Brooke Rawle as to the advisability of making a charge on the flank as the Confederate column passed. He thereupon ordered the squadron to fire a volley and then to rally on the right--Captain Miller going to the right and Lieutenant Brooke Rawle to the left, to superintend the movement. A strong stone and rail fence separated the fourth platoon from the rest of the squadron, which compelled Lieutenant Brooke Rawle to make a detour. When he reached the edge of the wood on the other side of the fence, he saw that the main part of the squadron had already started with Captain Miller at the head, making directly for the flank of the heavy column of the enemy. Lieutenant Brooke Rawle then headed his detachment across the field (which being soft ploughed ground went hard with the horses) to take its place on the left of the squadron, there being a gap of some twenty-five or thirty yards between them, however. Captain Miller, with the main portion of the squadron, drove heavily into the column of the enemy, striking its left flank about two-thirds of the way down its length, and succeeded in cutting his way clear through, detaching the rear portion of the enemy's column. He got almost up to the Confederate battery with, however, but a small number of the men who had started with him.
A few moments before Captain Miller struck the flank of the Confederate column, the head of it was met by General Custer with the First Michigan Cavalry. The flanks had also been struck by other portions of the Third Pennsylvania, by portions of the First New Jersey, and by other small bodies of cavalrymen who had rallied indiscriminately and gone into the melee, and many of the enemy began making their way towards the rear. The small party under Lieutenant Brooke Rawle, consisting of about fifteen men, before it could catch up to the main part of the squadron, became surrounded by the retreating enemy and was swept along with the current. By degrees his party became smaller and smaller, until the Lieutenant, catching an opportunity between the strokes and brandishings of the sabres of the enemy (which were being used freely, their pistols having by this time been emptied), looked around and saw but three or four blue men in the crowd of grey.
While he was having a sabre altercation with several men in grey, who in language more forcible than polite, were inviting him to accompany them, these three or four of his men worked their way close to him, and keeping together, this small party, edged to the right and succeeded in cutting their way out of the crowd. By making a detour, they came in behind the First Michigan and followed it in the pursuit of the enemy. With the repulse of this grand charge, all the important fighting of the day ended.
The Third Pennsylvania Cavalry, after the close of the fighting, reformed in the woods from which
Captain Miller's squadron had started on its charge.
(Read before the Pennsylvania MOLLUS 1878)