General John Buford

United States of America

John Buford, Jr., son of John and Anne Bannister Buford, married, May 9,1854, Martha McDowell Duke, daughter of James and Mary Duke.

This is the hero of the battle of Gettysburg, called John 3rd.

John Buford, Jr., cadet United States Military Academy July 1, 1844; brevet second lieutenant, Second Dragoons, February 1, 1849; first lieutenant, July, 1859; regimental quartermaster, 1855-58; captain, March 1859; engagement, 1855, with Sioux Indians, at Blue Water, Kansas, disturbances, 1856-57; major, assistant inspector-general, March 12, and attached to General Pope's staff, March 25, 1861; brigadier-general volunteers, July 27, 1862, and command of brigade of cavalry, consisting of First Michigan, Fifth New York, First Vermont and First West Virginia; engagement at Madison Court house, August 9, Kelly's Ford, August 12, Thoroughfare Gap, August 28; Second battle of Manassas, August 29 and 30, engagement in which he was wounded; acting chief of cavalry of the Army of Potomac in Maryland campaign; battle of South Mountain, September 14, 1862; Antietam, September 17, 1862; after Antietam was succeeded by General Stoneman; was on McClellan's staff; assigned to the command of the reserved cavalry brigade of the Army of the Potomac, upon the completion of the cavalry organization under Burnside, General Stoneman being made chief; was leader in nearly every cavalry engagement subsequent to this; Fredericksburg, December, 1862; Stoneman's raids into Virginia, May, 1863; Brandy Station, Beverly Ford, Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville, June, 1863; appointed major-general of volunteers July, 1863; selected the site and opened the battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863; checked Hill's corps for four hours with a small force of worn-out cavalry until relieved by Reynolds.

John Buford said of this battle, "A heavy task was before us. We were equal to it, and shall remember with pride that at Gettysburg we did our country much service."

He did splendid service July 2, at Wolf's Hill and Round Top; pursued the Confederates to Warrenton, Virginia, engaging them at Culpeper and across the Rapidan, and cut his way back to the army north of Rappahannock. In October he covered the rear of Meade's army during a retrograde movement; was in an endless number of small engagements; assigned to command the cavalry of the Army of the Cumberland. Before assuming command he was taken ill, suffering from an old wound received at the second battle of Manassas, and worn out with three years' constant and arduous service, he died at Washington, District of Columbia, December 16,1863, the date of his commission as major-general, which he received before his death. He was but thirty-seven years old. "A splendid officer and one of the most successful in the service." Honored by friends and foes, the pride and hope of the cavalry arm of the service, no nobler epitaph to him can be written in the history of his country than "Old Steadfast," the name given him by his comrades, and one by which his men loved to call him. He was buried at West Point, where a monument is erected to his memory. A bronze statue of him was also erected July 1, 1895, near the town of Gettysburg, on the spot where he fired the first gun of the battle. General James H. Wilson, in his address at the dedication of the statue, pays this tribute to his memory: "Strong, courageous, and generous, as they (Bufords) were through many generations, the very flower and jewel of this family, was the gentleman in whose name we are gathered here today."

The eloquent and admirable address delivered by General James H. Wilson at the unveiling of the Buford Statue was something more than a portrayal of the distinguishing traits of a splendid soldier. It was also a discussion of the historical question as to who deserves the credit of selecting the field for the greatest battle ever fought on this continent, or, as it has been put in other words, who "made Gettysburg possible."

This honor General Wilson ascribes unhesitatingly to General John Buford, and makes Buford's act one not of chance but of deliberate choice, his soldierly eye taking in the full strategic value of Gettysburg field, with its commanding ridges and its excellent highways, and his resolute will, determining to secure it at all hazards. At that time Buford was in the prime of his life and experience. "an ideal soldier and leader." Coming of a fighting ancestry, after his graduation at West Point, in 1848, he had plenty of service in the Dragoons. He had risen to the command of the first division of the cavalry corps, in the Army of the Potomac, and in the movements that resulted at Gettysburg was heading Meade's advance.

It was on the afternoon of June 30 that Buford, reaching Gettysburg, drove out the small force of the enemy that occupied it. His information satisfied him, late that night, that Hill's corps of Lee's army was only nine miles distant, at Cashtown, with its advance several miles nearer Gettysburg. Convinced that he was on the spot where a decisive trial of strength between the two armies could be had, with an advantage in position to the Union forces, and knowing that Reynolds, with the first and eleventh corps, was encamped only five miles away, he determined to hold his position against the enemy, as he grimly expressed it, "completed arrangements for entertaining him until Reynolds could reach the scene."

Text quoted from: History and Genealogy of the Buford Family In America With Records of a Number of Allied Families

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