Commanders-in-Chief Biographies

Major General David McMurtrie Gregg
Commander-in-Chief 1903 - 1905

by Robert G. Carroon, Past Commander-in-Chief
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States

Major General David McMurtrie Gregg succeeded Lieutenant General John McAllister Schofield as Commander-in-Chief of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States by election on October 21, 1903. General Gregg had made his reputation during the Civil War as a dashing commander of cavalry and, after the war, had become a prominent figure in Pennsylvania politics.

A native of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, where he was born to Matthew Duncan Gregg and Ellen McMurtrie, he was educated in private schools and then entered Lewisburg University, the predecessor of Bucknell. In July 1851, he entered West Point graduating four years later when he was commissioned a Brevet Second Lieutenant of Dragoons. He was assigned to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis and then, having been promoted to Second Lieutenant, he was sent to New Mexico. From New Mexico, he went to Fort Tejon in California and from there to Fort Vancouver and Walla Walla in Washington. He was in combat at To-Hono-Nimme against the Indians and then returned to Fort Tejon where he was promoted to First Lieutenant on March 21, 1861.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Lieutenant Gregg was ordered to Washington D.C. where, on May 14, he was commissioned a Captain in the 6th United States Cavalry. He remained on duty in Washington D.C. until March 1862. On January 24, 1863, he was promoted to Colonel of the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry and joined the Army of the Potomac. Serving under General George B. McClellan, he fought in the Peninsular Campaign including the battles of Seven Pines, Fair Oaks, Malvern Hill, and covered the retreat of the federal troops from Harrison's Landing to Yorktown, Virginia.

David Gregg next participated in the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam and, as part of the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac, pursued the rebel forces to Warrenton and Fredericksburg. On November 29, 1862, Colonel Gregg was promoted to Brigadier General, United States Volunteers, and was assigned the command of the brigade of cavalry attached to the Left Grand Division under Major General William Franklin. In February 1863, he assumed command of the Third Division of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac and continued in that position through May.

From June through February 1864, General Gregg commanded the Second Division of the Cavalry Corps. He was actively engaged in almost all of the military operations leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg. He commanded troops, and on occasion was in over all command at Brandy Station, Beverly Ford, Aldie, and Upperville. At Gettysburg, with his Second Division comprising 14 regiments, he defeated General J.E.B. Stuart's Cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia and, in the opinion of a number of scholars gained the most conspicuous cavalry victory of the war, saving the Army from the disaster which would have resulted had the rebel cavalry gained the rear of the Union lines.

Full justice has yet to be done to the services of General Gregg, and of his command, in the Battle of Gettysburg, wrote Companion William Brooke Rawle, a Captain in the Third Pennsylvania Cavalry at Gettysburg, That gallant and distinguished soldier; that upright and courteous gentleman; that modest and retiring man, was not given to writing glowing descriptions of what he had done, or what he thought or dreamed he had done, as was the case with some others. But the country is gradually and surely coming to a proper appreciation of those services. Had Stuart succeeded in his well-laid plan, and, with his large force of cavalry, struck the Army of the Potomac in the rear of its line of battle, directly toward which he was moving, simultaneously with Longstreet's magnificent and furious assault in its front, when our infantry had all it could do to hold on to the line of Cemetery Ridge, and but little more was needed to make the assault a success-the merest tyro in the art of war can readily tell what the result would have been.

It has often been said that Gregg's fight at Gettysburg was one of the finest cavalry fights of the war. As Custer said in his report of it, I challenge the annals of warfare to produce a more brilliant or successful charge of cavalry than the one just recounted.

Pursuing the enemy, General Gregg was again in action at Rappahannock Station, Beverly Ford, Auburn and New Hope Church. Actively engaged in Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant's campaigns, he was in command at Todd's Tavern, Trevellian Station, Boydton Plank Road, and in virtually every action during 1864. On August 1, 1864, he was promoted Brevet Major General for highly meritorious and distinguished conduct throughout the campaign particularly in the reconnaissance on Charles City Road. Major General Gregg continued his service with the Army of the Potomac until the acceptance of his resignation on February 8, 1865. No explanation has ever been given for his resignation and he did not offer one. At the time of his resignation General Gregg had participated in more than forty engagements. General Gregg returned to Washington D.C. and then retired to his home in Reading, Pennsylvania.

In 1874, President Grant appointed General Gregg United States Consul at Prague, but he remained at his post less than a year. After his return to Pennsylvania, he became active in state politics (Pennsylvania's War Governor Andrew G. Curtin was a first cousin) and was elected Auditor General of Pennsylvania serving a three year term.

David McMurtrie Gregg was an active and hardworking participant in the Military Order of the Loyal Legion. He was elected a Companion of the First Class on August 29, 1866, by the Commandery of the state of Pennsylvania and assigned Insignia Number 342. He served in various offices in the Pennsylvania Commandery and was its Commander from 1886 to 1904. On October 21, 1903, he was elected Commander-in-Chief, succeeding Lieutenant General John McAllister Schofield. General Gregg served a two-year term, retiring in 1905. He was honored with a statue in Reading and a memorial tablet in the Prince of Peace Church in Gettysburg, erected by the Pennsylvania Commandery. In 1907, he published The Second Cavalry Division of the Army of the Potomac in the Gettysburg Campaign.

David McMurtrie Gregg died in Reading, Pennsylvania on August 7, 1916 at age 83 from general debility aggravated by the intense heat. He married Ellen Frances Sheaff in 1862 (she predeceased him in 1915). Two sons, David M. Gregg and George S. Gregg (the latter becoming a member of the Pennsylvania Commandery with Insignia Number 8782), survived General Gregg. Major J. Edward Carpenter said of David McMurtrie Gregg, To him the regiment owed everything. His modesty kept him from the notoriety that many gained through the newspapers, but in the army the testimony of all officers who knew him was the same. Brave, prudent, dashing when the occasion require dash, and firm as a rock he was looked upon, both as a regimental commander and afterwards as a Major General, as a man in whose hands any troops were safe.

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