Unsung Civil War Heroes: David McMurtrie Gregg

David McMurtrie Gregg
Image from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:David_McMurtrie_Gregg.jpg

When you think about the Battle of Gettysburg, who comes to mind? Probably George G. Meade, the Union general who led the Army of the Potomac to victory after a three-day invasion. Possibly George Custer, the charismatic “Boy General” who may have singlehandedly led the turning point of the Civil War.

But what about the leaders who flew under the radar to help lead the Union troops to victory? One such man is Brigadier General David M. Gregg, who quietly aided some of the revered generals responsible for the Union victory and thus the state of the country as we know it.

Humble Beginnings

David M. Gregg was born in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania to a politically active family – he was the grandson of Pennsylvania Congressman Andrew Gregg. His upbringing led to a United States Military Academy education at West Point, from which he graduated in 1855. Gregg’s first taste of combat came during his assignment to Fort Vancouver, where his company of 160 men fought against 1,000 Indian warriors, managing a fighting retreat after three days of battle.

The Civil War Begins

At the start of the war, Gregg returned to the East Coast to assist in battle and was promoted to captain. In 1862 he developed typhoid fever and narrowly escaped death, but recovered miraculously and became colonel of the 8th Pennsylvania Calvary, which he commanded admirably and led him to be promoted again that same year to brigadier general.

An Unsung Hero

Gregg stayed inconspicuous for much of the battle, quietly and deftly commanding his troops to shield the Union lines and repelling Confederate efforts to infiltrate Union troops. On July 2nd, Gregg’s division was tasked with the crucial role of protecting the Union’s right and rear. Gregg had the good insight to command George Custer’s brigade to come to his troop’s assistance, a critical decision that secured the Union lines against Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart’s efforts. This decision ultimately led to the Confederate retreat that ended the Battle of Gettysburg.

A Quiet Resignation

In January of 1865, just two years after the Gettysburg victory, Gregg abruptly resigned his commission; his actions remain a mystery to this day. Some speculate that Gregg feared a violent death; he described himself as a “coward” and his nerve finally gave way, forcing his resignation. Gregg settled in his wife’s home in Reading, Pennsylvania and dedicated much of his later life to the preservation of Valley Forge as a national shrine.

He died on August 7th, 1916, at age 83, making him one of the oldest survivors of the war in the state. Commemorated by a bronze equestrian statue in Reading, Gregg’s efforts in the Battle of Gettysburg were instrumental to a Union victory in the Civil War.

For more information about David M. Gregg and other important heroes of the Battle of Gettysburg, we encourage you to take a tour with us! Gettysburg Battlefield Tours are a fun, exciting way to learn all about what makes our humble Pennsylvania town anything but ordinary. Give us a call today at 877-680-TOUR or check out our Calendar of Tours to plan your time with us!