2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
The Battle of Gettysburg - Wednesday, July 1, 1863
Brigadier General John Buford

The day prior to the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Union Brigadier General John Buford gazed intently at Confederate Brigadier General J. Johnston Pettigrew's approaching and then withdrawing forces. While pondering its significance, General Buford, commanding the advance of the Union cavalry, followed his orders. In his official report, Army of the Potomac Cavalry Commander General Alfred Pleasanton summarized his orders to Buford. "Orders having been issued for the advance of the army toward Pennsylvania, on June 29, Buford's division moved as follows, to cover and protect the left flank of the line of march...On June 30, (Buford's) two brigades moved toward Gettysburg; met two regiments of rebel infantry, with some artillery, and after some skirmishing, not wishing to use artillery, they turned off, and reached Gettysburg in the afternoon, just in time to meet the enemy entering the town, and to drive him back before he secured a position. The enemy withdrew in the direction of Cashtown, leaving his pickets about 4 miles from Gettysburg.

By daylight on July 1, General Buford had obtained positive information of the enemy's position and movements, and made his dispositions to hold him in check until the First Corps, under Major-General Reynolds, could arrive upon the field.

Between 8 and 9 o'clock in the morning, the rebels advanced with superior numbers on Buford's position." [5]

The beautiful monument pictured here, sculpted by James Kelly, shows Buford peering westward from a position near the McPherson Farm towards Herr Ridge and the direction of the oncoming Confederate 3rd Corps. As it has since 1895, this bronze memorial stands tribute to General Buford's willingness to risk deploying his outnumbered Cavalry division to slow the advance of the much larger force of Southern soldiers.

He did not take this decision lightly. John Buford understood the hazards and dangers to come. Prior to the beginning of this first battle on Pennsylvania's soil, Buford held a practical respect for the soldiers his men would soon face. In response to one of his subordinates who thought they could easily repulse any gray forces they encountered, the cavalry commander countered, "No. You won't. They will attack you in the morning and they will come booming, skirmishers three deep. You will have to fight like the devil until supports arrive." [2,G] Buford would include in his comments, "The enemy knows the importance of this position and will strain every nerve to secure it, and if we are able to hold it, we will do well. [2]

John Buford and Staff

Despite the eventual success the Butternuts would have on this day one of the battle, Buford's quick thinking and skillful placement of his cavalry, fighting mostly on foot, allowed the approaching Federal infantry to gain the strategic advantage of the high ground just south of town by days end. This defensible ground with its interior lines would prove an invaluable asset when, during the following two days, the Union forces would need to fend off repeated and furious Confederate offensives.

The bronze barrel facing forward in the above photograph of the Buford monument belongs to the original cannon to fire the Union's first artillery round at the Battle of Gettysburg. Like Union Lieutenant Marcellus Jones before them, Horse Battery A, 2nd US Artillery claimed and held sacred the honor of this first shot. The inscription on the barrel reads proudly:

"The Four Cannon Guarding The Base of the Statue
Belonged To
Horse Battery "A", 2D U.S. Artillery
This Piece Was
The Opening Gun of the Battle
Fired From This Spot
Under The Personal Direction of Gen. Buford.
July first 1863"

 

Sadly, only six short months later, on December 16th 1863, surrounded by a small group of the men whom he had inspired, the recently promoted Major General John Buford died of typhoid fever at the young age of 37.