- John Buford
Infobox Military Person
name= John Buford, Jr.
born= birth date|1826|3|4
died= death date and age|1863|12|16|1826|3|4
Woodford County, Kentucky
caption=Maj. Gen. John Buford
rank= Major General
commands=1st Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac
Utah War American Civil War
Second Battle of Bull Run
Battle of South Mountain
Battle of Antietam
Battle of Gettysburg
John Buford, Jr. (
March 4, 1826– December 16, 1863) was a Union cavalryofficer during the American Civil War, with a prominent role at the start of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Buford was born in
Woodford County, Kentucky, but was raised in Rock Island, Illinois, from the age of eight. His father was a prominent Democratic politician in Illinois and a political opponent of Abraham Lincoln. His family had a long military tradition. John Jr.'s grandfather, Colonel Abraham Buford(of the Waxhaw Massacre) and great uncle served in Virginia regiments during the American Revolutionary War. His half brother, Napoleon Bonaparte Buford, would become a major general in the Union Army. His cousin, Abraham Buford, would become a Cavalry brigadier general in the Confederate States Army.
John Jr. attended Knox College in
Galesburg, Illinois, for one year. He graduated in the 1848 class of the United States Military Academyand was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Dragoons, transferring the next year to the 2nd U.S. Dragoons. He served in Texas and the Southwest, fought against the Sioux, served on peacekeeping duty in Bleeding Kansas, and in the Utah Warin 1858. He was stationed at Fort Crittenden, Utah, from 1859 to 1861. [Petruzzi, [http://www.bufordsboys.com "Buford's Boys" website] . Longacre, pp. 69-73; Fort Crittenden was originally named Camp Floyd, but was renamed during his assignment there.] Bielakowski, p. 310.] He was a student of the works of General John Watts de Peyster, who was a strong advocate of making the skirmish line the new line of battle. [Randolph, Lewis Hamersly. " [http://books.google.com/books?id=4iIZx9QohXIC&pg=PA82&dq=%22John+Watts+de+Peyster%22#PPA88,M1 Biographical Sketches of Distinguished Officers of the Army and Navy] ", pp 82-88. Henry E. Huntington Library: New York, 1905.]
When Civil War broke out, Buford returned to the East from his post in Utah. He was regarded as a man who drove himself too hard, which might have contributed to his success. He had relatives who fought for the South, and upon receiving an offer of a commission in the Confederate Army, legend has it he crumpled it up and threw it on the ground, declaring that he would "live and die under the flag of the Union." [Frank Moore, Edward Everett: "The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events". D. Van Nostrand 1865, p.24]
In November 1861, he was appointed assistant inspector general with the rank of major, and, in July 1862, after having served for several months in the defense of Washington, was raised to the rank of brigadier general of volunteers. In 1862, he was given his first position, under Maj. Gen. John Pope, as commander of the II Corp's Cavalry Brigade of the Union
Army of Virginia, which fought with distinction at the Second Battle of Bull Run. Buford personally led a charge late in the battle, but was wounded in the knee by a spent bullet. The injury was painful but not serious, although some Southern newspapers reported that he had been killed. He returned to active service, and served as chief of cavalry to Maj. Gens. George B. McClellanand Ambrose E. Burnside. Unfortunately, this assignment was nothing more than a staff position and he chafed for a field command. In McClellan's Maryland Campaign, he again served as chief of cavalry in the Army of the Potomacand was in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, replacing Brig. Gen. George Stonemanon McClellan's staff. Under Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, however, Buford was given the Reserve Brigade of regular cavalry in the 1st Cavalry Division, Army of the Potomac.
Battle of Chancellorsville, Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasontonwas given command of the Cavalry Corps, although Hooker later agreed that Buford would have been the better choice. Buford first led his division at the Battle of Brandy Station. In the Gettysburg Campaign, Buford, who had been promoted to command of the 1st Division, is credited with selecting the field of battle at Gettysburg. Buford's division was the first to arrive at Gettysburg and they successfully held off Maj. Gen. Henry Heth's Confederate division. This holding action allowed Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds's I Corps to hold the high ground west of town in relief of Buford's division. Buford's actions allowed the Union army to beat the Confederates to the heights outside of Gettysburg, which put Lee's army at a considerable disadvantage. Afterward, Buford's troopers were sent by Pleasonton to Emmitsburg, Maryland, to resupply and refit, an ill-advised decision that uncovered the Union left flank. They saw no more action at the eventual Gettysburg victory, of which Buford had been a key component.
Buford pursued the Confederates to
Warrenton, Virginia, and was afterward engaged in many operations in central Virginia, rendering a particularly valuable service in covering Maj. Gen. George Meade's retrograde movement in the October 1863 Bristoe Campaign.
Quotation|The hero at Oak Ridge was John Buford... he not only showed the rarest tenacity, but his personal capacity made his cavalry accomplish marvels, and rival infantry in their steadfastness... Glorious John Buford!|Maj. Gen.
John Watts de Peysteron Buford's Dragoontactics [Phipps, Michael; Peterson, John S. "The Devil's to Pay". Farnsworth Military Impressions: Gettysburg, 1995. ISBN 0964363216]
Death and legacy
Buford was stricken with
typhoid feverand died in Maj. Gen. George Stoneman's home at Washington, D.C.He was promoted to major general on his deathbed, but effective July 1, 1863, the day he fought so effectively at Gettysburg.Eicher, p. 153.] He is buried in West Point Cemetery.
In 1866, a military fort established on the Missouri-Yellowstone confluence in what is now
North Dakota, was named Fort Bufordafter the general. The town of Buford, Wyoming, was renamed in the general's honor.
In 1895, a bronze statue of Buford designed by artist James E. Kelly was dedicated on the
In popular media
Buford was portrayed by
Sam Elliottin the 1993 film "Gettysburg", based on Michael Shaara's novel, " The Killer Angels".
Buford is a character in the alternate-history novel "Gettysburg", written by
Newt Gingrichand William Forstchen.
* List of American Civil War generals
* Bielakowski, Alexander M., "John Buford", "Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History", Heidler, David S., and Heidler, Jeanne T., eds., W. W. Norton & Company, 2000, ISBN 0-393-04758-X.
* Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., "Civil War High Commands", Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
* Longacre, Edward G., "General John Buford: A Military Biography", Combined Publishing, 1995, ISBN 0-938289-46-2.
* Petruzzi, J. David, [http://www.bufordsboys.com "Buford's Boys" website]
* Petruzzi, J. David, "John Buford: By the Book," "America's Civil War Magazine", July 2005.
* Petruzzi, J. David, "Opening the Ball at Gettysburg: The Shot That Rang for Fifty Years," "America's Civil War Magazine", July 2006.
* Petruzzi, J. David, "The Fleeting Fame of Alfred Pleasonton," "America's Civil War Magazine", March 2005.
* "Proceedings of the Buford Memorial Association" (New York, 1895)
* "History of the Civil War in America" (volume iii, p.545):NIE
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