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David M. Gregg (1833–1916)

Union cavalry commander David McMurtrie Gregg was said to be as modest and unassuming as this photograph of him suggests. Taken probably in the spring of 1864, during Grant’s drive for Richmond, this image shows Gregg as he was commanding the 2nd Cavalry Division of the Army of the Potomac. A native of Pennsylvania, Gregg graduated from West Point in 1855 and served on the western frontier with the dragoons before the Civil War. In 1861, he came east and became attached to McClellan’s Army of the Potomac, then manning the defenses of Washington. Only a first lieutenent at the start of the war, Gregg rose to brigadier general of volunteers by the end of 1862. He participated in the major Virginia campaigns between 1862 and 1864, as well as at Antietam and Gettysburg. His repulse of Jeb Stuart’s cavalry on the last day at Gettysburg kept the Confederates from attacking the rear of the Union line countering Pickett’s charge.

Genially disposed, Gregg was well liked in the army. His ability in the saddle made him a favorite with his superiors, especially Grant and Sheridan. In August 1864, he was breveted a major general of volunteers for his distinguished reconnaissance near Charles City Court House, Virginia. Gregg’s sudden resignation from the army two months before the surrender at Appomattox has remained one of the war’s minor mysteries.

Unidentified photographer
Albumen silver print, 1864
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution


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