Major General Alfred Pleasonton

Alfred Pleasonton commanded the Federal Cavalry attached to the Army of the Potomac. After Chancellorsville, in June 1863, Pleasonton's cavalry, supported by Strong Vincent's brigade, surprised J. E. B. Stuart's men at Brandy Station, where Stuart's troops were screening Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia as it headed north. The battle there was the largest cavalry battle, to date, on the North American continent. After initially giving ground, Stuart's troops rallied and took back the field, making the contest a draw. However it was a 'moral' victory for the Union; for the first time the Federal cavalry proved to be the equal of the Confederate. The battle also led to Stuart's attempt to regain his honor by engaging in one of his patented rides around the Army of the Potomac, causing Stuart to be out of contact with Lee during the opening moves at Gettysburg.

Upon George Meade's elevation to Commander of the Army, Pleasonton tried to reinvigorate the fighting spirit of his corps. As part of this he ordered three promising captains--George Custer, Elon Farnsworth, and Wesley Merritt--promoted to brigadier general.

During the Battle of Gettysburg, Pleasonton stayed mainly with Meade's Headquarters, leaving independent field command in the hands of his three division commanders, John Buford, David McM. Gregg, and Judson Kilpatrick.

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Photo credit: Library of Congress
Created 21 SEP 1999; Modified 23 JUL 2014