Thursday, December 16, 2010

He Held The Ground At Gettysburg

Union Cavalry officer Brigadier General John Buford Jr died December 16th 1863.

John Buford Jr was born March 4th 1826 in Versailles, Woodford, Kentucky. When he was eight the family moved to Rock Island, Illinois. Buford attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois for one year before getting an appointment to the United State Military Academy at West Point. He graduated 16th out of 38 in the class of 1848. Buford was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the United States Dragoons and served in Texas, and as part of the peacekeeping in Kansas and in Utah.

When the Civil War started in 1861, Buford chose to stay with the Union, despite having several relatives who sided with the Confederacy. With the rank of Major in November 1861 Buford was appointed assistant inspector general of the defenses of Washington, DC. In 1862 he was promoted in rank to Brigadier General and posted under Major General John Pope as commander of the Cavalry II Corps Union Army of Virginia. They fought with distinction at the Second Battle of Bull Run. Buford was wounded in the knee, it wasn't serious but was painful. When he returned to service it was in a staff position and he wanted a field command. In 1863 when Major General Joseph Hooker took over the Army of Potomac, Buford was given the Reserve Brigade of Cavalry in the 1st Division. He led his new division at the Battle of Brandy Station June 9th 1863.

On July 1st 1863 Buford set up his troops west of the town of Gettysburg. The Cavalry mostly fighting dismounted, they held off a superior number of Confederates at Gettysburg, until the Union Army’s 1st Corps could come up and deploy. During the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg, Buford’s Cavalry pursued the Confederates, in Warrenton, Virginia, they engaged them several times. Then his men covered Union Major General George Gorden Meade’s retrograde movement in the Bristoe Campaign in October 1863.

Buford contracted Typhoid during the Rappahannock Campaign and by December 1863 it was obvious he was dying. He went to Washington DC to the home of his friend General George Stoneman. On December 16th 1863 at Stoneman’s request President Abraham Lincoln promoted Buford to Major General, for meritorious and distinguished service at the Battle of Gettysburg. At the end of his life he was surround by many old friends, but his wife Pattie traveling from their home in Rock Island, Illinois didn't get there in time. Buford died December 16th 1863. His body was transported to West Point for burial, in the United State Military Academy Post Cemetery.

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