It was necessarily very slow. Both men and horses were tired and jaded. For five days we had been without forage for our horses, and in almost constant motion. Hundreds of horses dropped down on this march, and were left on the road with their saddles, blankets and bridles upon them. Men, whose horses were "played out," trudged along on foot through muddy roads and swollen streams without food. 176While at Frederick, fresh mounts were provided and the division spent the day reshoeing and drawing supplies for the next phase of the campaign.
As Buford's command came on. the Confederates opened fire with artillery and small arms. Imboden had almost as many men as the Federals and his command had the benefit of having prepared strong defenses. Confederate artillery fire caused Buford to fall back briefly until Calef's battery came up to engage in counter-battery fire with Confederate gunners. An artillery duel began, with Confederates driving Calef's supports off for a time, leaving his guns open to capture. Buford ordered Gamble's brigade up to support Calef, and a sharp fight broke out along the Boonsboro Road. Gamble dismounted his command and ordered it forward. Its sharp fire drove the Confederate skirmishers back to Imboden's main line. In this attack, Maj. William J. Medill, commander of the 8th Illinois, fell mortally wounded. Gamble's men held the position until dark, frustrated by their inability to get to the Confederate wagon train just behind Imboden's line."178 When Devin's brigade arrived, Gamble already was engaged, as was part of Merritt's brigade. Devin was told to mass in the woods in the rear of the Union position and await further orders. At 7 p.m., Devin was ordered to relieve Gamble's men on the left front and disengage and fall back to the woods after dark. Devin held the woods until morning, allowing the rest of Buford's command to withdraw. Devin then conducted a fighting retreat, covering his line with skirmishers. Devin had heavily picketed the roads in his rear, as members of the 6th New York detected approaching Confederate infantry and artillery seeking to flank the Union troopers and get into their rear. Around midnight Confederates advanced skirmishers and encountered Devin's skirmish lines. After a brief firefight, the Confederates withdrew. Devin took some casualties in this clash.179
At daybreak on July 7 Devin ordered a squadron of the 6th New York to make a demonstration in the enemy's front, charging upon and driving Confederate pickets and creating confusion in the enemy's lines. Under cover of the demonstration, Devin withdrew the rest of his command toward Antietam Creek and established a new line two and one-half miles behind his original position. Resting his men and horses, Devin was under orders to hold the position until the rest of Buford's and all of Kilpatrick's division, the latter having been routed by the Confederates in a fight that raged in the streets of Hagerstown, had crossed Antietam Creek.180
At 11a.m., enemy infantry and artillery appeared in Devin's front. Devin ordered the 9th New York to hold the enemy in check, and sent a messenger to notify Buford. Once Devin learned that the rear of Buford's column was crossing the Boonesboro bridge over the Antietam, Devin ordered the 9th New York to withdraw. Devin then followed behind Buford's column. all the while being pressed by pursuing Confederates. The 9th New York was forced to fight a rearguard action, occasionally stopping, turning on the pursuers, and making a stand in order to buy some space. Reaching the Antietam bridge, Devin dismounted two squadrons of the 17th Pennsylvania and posted them on the hill overlooking the bridge, where the 17th, in Devin's words, was "intending to give the enemy a warm reception."181 The Confederates, recognizing the strength of the 17th's position, broke off the engagement. allowing Devin's brigade to cross the bridge unmolested. Devin again demonstrated that he had earned his nickname, "Buford's Hard Hitter."
In the interim, the 6th U.S. was dispatched on a reconnaissance along the Funkstown Road, where they again encountered the 7th Virginia, like them veterans of the July 3 Fairfield battle. A brief fight occurred at Funkstown, with the 6th being outnumbered. Two companies of the 7th Virginia were sent forward against the 6th U.S., whose skirmishers fired a volley and then fell back upon their battleline. The 7th Virginia then charged the 6th U.S., both in its front and on its right flank. As it had rained the night before and the 7th Virginia's weapons had been soaked, and as its supply of ammunition was low, the saber was the weapon of choice for the 7th in this fight. 182 After resisting initially, the 6th was routed by the Virginians' charge. The butternuts pursued the retreating Federals. Reaching the area occupied by Buford's Division, the Confederates drew up and fired a volley, which was answered by a counter-charge. The 7th Virginia then withdrew at the double-quick, pursued by Union troopers.183 When the 7th Virginia was joined by reinforcements from the 11th Virginia, Buford's troopers gave up the chase.184 Grumble Jones' report of the action described the encounter:
Sabers were freely used and soon 66 bloody- headed prisoners were marched to the rear, and the road of slumbering wrath was marked here and there by cleft skulls and pierced bodies. Fairfield is fully and nobly avenged. The Sixth Regular Cavalry numbers among the things that were.185
On the night of July 7, some twenty hours after being hammered back from the eastern approaches to Williamsport, Buford's division bivouacked at Boonsboro. Because the Union cavalry command feared an attack by Stuart's horse soldiers during the night, most of the men kept awake. The night was rainy and miserable. As Chaplain Gracey, regimental historian of the 6th Pennsylvania, described it, he and the 6th spent most of the night "dismounted in a ploughed field in line of battle, in a heavy storm of rain, without fires and with clothes thoroughly saturated ... standing in mud to our knees, every horse remaining saddled and in position, and every man at his horse's head .... This was one of the most wretched nights of all our experience in the cavalry service."186 It had been the division's worst day of the campaign and more heavy fighting lay ahead over the coming days. Frustrated, Buford reported to Pleasanton:
I attempted to take Williamsport yesterday, but found too large a force of infantry and artillery. After a long fight, I withdrew to this place. Heavy forces were coming into Williamsport all night. There. are a good many wagons at Williamsport. There is no bridge there. Troops and wagons are being ferried ' flat across in two boats very slowly. I can do nothing with the enemy save observe him. There is nothing at Sharpsburg. 187The next morning, July 8, Jeb Stuart, sensing an opportunity for a kill, ordered his command eastward along National Road. Stuart came in force - the brigades of Fitzhugh Lee, Grumble Jones, J. R. Chambliss, Jr. (Rooney Lee's brigade), and L. S. Baker (Hampton's brigade). Pleasanton had been ordered to hold the South Mountain gaps open to enable Meade's infantry to cross the mountain and attack Lee's army before it crossed the rain-swollen Potomac. The advance by the Rebel cavalry led Pleasanton to believe Stuart's mission was seizure of the South Mountain gaps. Stuart was feinting, to keep the Federals on the defensive long enough for the rear of Lee's columns to clear Hagerstown and to reach its defensive position along the Potomac.
Buford formed his command in an arc athwart the National Road with Devin on the left, Merritt in the center, and Gamble on the right. Buford's command was dismounted, and in line of battle from the previous night's deployments. Buford had Kilpatrick's two brigades in reserve, and threw out skirmishers on both flanks. At 5 a.m. Stuart opened the fight with an artillery barrage from a height commanding the Union line. Gamble's men were enfiladed by this battery and, along with Calef's battery, were forced to pull back to the south. Seeing Gamble retire, Stuart sent his dismounted skirmishers toward Buford's position. The rain-soaked grounds were too wet and muddy for a mounted charge.
While Buford contended with this movement, Stuart launched a flank attack with Jenkins' cavalry brigade, led as it had been since July 2 by Col. Milton Ferguson. These troopers had come down the Williamsport Road. Seeing the approaching Confederates, two squadrons of Devin's brigade, as well as units of Custer's brigade of Kilpatrick's division, were thrown out as skirmishers to meet the threat. The 6th New York advanced to an exposed hill to the left of the Williamsport Road, where Stuart had unlimbered a battery that swept Devin's front. Under heavy fire, the 6th withdrew to the shelter of a woods, which it held for nearly two hours."188 While this fight went on, Devin's skirmishers engaged Confederate skirmishers. At 2 p.m., the Confederates made a concerted attack after being reinforced. In response, Devin dismounted the 17th Pennsylvania and the 6th New York, to fight a delaying action but they had to be replaced with fresh troops as ammunition ran low. By 5:30 p.m., Devin's entire line was heavily engaged and nearly out of ammunition. After giving notice to Kilpatrick of his lack of cartridges, Devin withdrew after nearly a day's fighting. As Devin retired, Kilpatrick's men-Col. N. P. Richmond's brigade-supported by Army of the Potomac's artillery posted near Turner's Gap, came up to fill the breach created by Devin's retreat. In an effort to assist Kilpatrick, Devin's men remained in line, "holding and even driving the enemy with their pistols after their carbine ammunition was exhausted."189
Confronted by the Union counterattack and worried about running short of ammunition, Stuart's command fell back toward Funkstown. Gamble's dismounted troopers chased Stuart's command nearly three miles with a badly winded John Buford leading the charge in person. As Abner Hard, the regimental historian of the 8th Illinois, described the movement: "The men had run so fast that they were completely tired out, but were pleased to see General Buford shake his fat sides, as he attempted to keep up with them. He said, 'these boys beat anything in the world on a foot skirmish."191
The Confederates were driven back across Beaver Creek, where they took up a strong defensive position approximately four miles west of the day's battlefield. As pursuing Union troopers approached, Chew's battery opened fire on them and the pursuit ended with the Union troopers withdrawing to the prior night's campsite, east of Boonsboro. The Union troopers were ecstatic with their day's success. A member of the 8th Illinois wrote of his comrades in arms: "They are all bully boys and the don't fear the Rebbs [sic] a bit.... Gen. Buford says ... the only fault he finds with us is that he can't stop us when we once get the Rebbs to running.192
That night, he sent the following dispatch to Pleasanton:
I have had a very rough day of it. Early this morning the enemy advanced upon me in a pretty strong force (cavalry, infantry, and artillery). During the first part of the day they pressed me severely, and came near the town [Boonsboro). Toward night, I turned the tables upon them, and drove them across the Antietam, toward Hagerstown and Williamsport. You never saw the division behave better. My loss is not heavy. The artillery fire was very hot. All of my fighting had to be on foot. The (Potomac] river is 5 feet higher than before, and rising. I have drawn in close to this place [Boonsborough), to sleep. My train has been interfered with by the Eleventh Corps. I hope it may arrive in the night. There are no rebs this side of Antietam; none on the old battle-ground, and none at Sharpsburg. Plenty of them, however, can be found between Greencastle and Williamsport and between Hagerstown and Williamsport. Hurrah for Vicksburg. [U. S. Grant's army had captured Vicksburg on July 4, and the word of this signal victory had reached the Army of the Potomac.]193Buford's tired troopers settled down to a well-earned rest, their commander knowing that their tribulations had not ended.
On July 9, at 4 p.m., Buford ordered Devin's command to report on the Confederate dispositions west of Beaver Creek. While out scouting, Devin encountered a detachment of cavalry and artillery left by Stuart on high ground near his main line. Devin deployed a line of mounted skirmishers to sweep the left flank of the Confederates as far as a bend in Antietam Creek. The horse soldiers were supported by a section of Batteries B and L, 2nd U.S. Artillery commanded by Lt. Albert 0. Vincent. Devin dismounted two squadrons and, connecting with elements of Gamble's brigade on the left, advanced against the Confederate line. After a short fight, Devin's skirmishers took the crest, while the left squadron ran into a large camp of Stuart's cavalry, which was quickly dispersed. Pressing his advantage, Devin's brigade drove the Confederates for nearly two miles, before Devin called off the pursuit. One member of the 8th New York described the action succinctly: "Out again. Found the rebels about 5 p.m. and made them get up and get."194 Devin's men bivouacked on the field. It had been another good day for Buford's "Hard Hitter."195 That day Pleasanton proposed that Devin be promoted to the brigadier general's position left vacant by Elon Farnsworth's death.196 During the night of the 9th, Meade's infantry came up, in preparation for an attack on Lee's lines guarding the Potomac bridgehead. Buford's cavalry was to drive in Confederate outposts and clear the roads for the advancing infantry. Buford dismounted his brigades, Gamble in the center, Merritt on the right, and Devin on the left, and sent them across Beaver Creek, where they attacked Stuart's outposts. Seeing the size of the force advancing on them, Stuart's troopers fell back to Funkstown. Buford's men drove the cavalry back on their infantry beyond Antietam Creek. There at noon, reinforced by infantry, Stuart made a stand. Fitz Lee placed the infantry forces of G. T. Anderson's Georgia Brigade (which had stopped Merritt's ill-fated charge on July 3) across the creek and around the town of Funkstown. The infantry dislodged Buford's skirmishers from a ridge near a barn outside Funkstown.
In the interim, infantry support had arrived. Elements of the Sixth Corps were less than a mile away, and heard the firing. Despite repeated urgent requests, Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick's men pitched their tents, began cooking rations, and failed to come to Buford's aid. Finally, nearly out of ammunition, Buford had no choice but to withdraw behind Beaver Creek. As the First Division was withdrawing, a brigade of the Sixth Corps finally came forward to his relief, but the infantry failed to occupy the field held so stubbornly by Buford.197
During the fight, Buford found time to send a dispatch to Pleasonton describing the action near Funkstown:
I have been fighting Fitzhugh Lee's, Hampton's, [Baker's], and [Grumble] Jones' brigades; have driven them back upon Longstreet's . . . corps, which occupies the crest beyond the Antietam. My information is that the whole of Lee's army is in the vicinity of Hagerstown, Jones' Cross-Roads, and ex- tending toward Williamsport. His line will be along the Antietam. He has a large force in front of a bridge a mile below Funkstown. I don't care about going any farther just now. I will cease firing, and try to watch their movements. Staff officers have been all over this section, examining ground and measuring distances.198This was cavalry scouting at its best, giving Meade the necessary intelligence to close in on Lee's army.
The Funkstown fight permitted Meade to march most of his army to within two miles-of Lee's entrenchments. Buford was proud of the accomplishments of his command over the past few days, and he did not hesitate to praise them: "There was splendid fighting on the part of the division on the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th. There was no faltering or hesitation. Each man went to work determined to carry anything in reason."199
On July 11 Gamble and Devin were sent on a scout toward Bakersville, while Merritt's brigade was detached on a special mission. Gamble and Devin rode via Boonsboro and Sharpsburg to Bakersville, where they remained until the morning of July 14. During this forty-eight hour period the countryside to their front was reconnoitered, and the enemy's position fronting Downsville pinpointed.
Buford's pickets, after a brisk skirmish, were pushed to within 800 yards of the Confederate entrenchments at Downsville. There the men suffered through two torrid days, interrupted by heavy thunderstorms. The 8th Illinois' Abner Hard recalled: "In five minutes the water came down the hills, carrying away some tent-flies we had put up, and stood over a foot deep in camp. The artillery of Heaven had supplanted that of man. Little fighting was done, and only two prisoners brought in, though the pickets exchanged shots, and kept the camp alarmed."200
The heavy rains flooded the Potomac. Meade called a council to determine whether to attack Lee's entrenchments. The Confederates were pinned against the flood-swollen river with no escape other than to fight their way out, as their pontoon bridge had been destroyed by Union cavalry from the 14th Pennsylvania cavalry led by Maj. Shadrack Foley operating out from Frederick on July 4. Meade failed to attack on the 13th, allowing his men a day of rest after their forced marches.
On July 14, Buford's, along with Kilpatrick's division, were ordered to advance at 7 a.m., and quickly discovered, that except for a rearguard left behind to cover the retreat, Lee's army had escaped across the Potomac into Virginia. Buford saw that Pettigrew's and Heth's divisions-Lee's rearguard- could be cut off from the river and captured. As Buford planned his attack, Kilpatrick pitched into the Confederate infantry, engaging Pettigrew's division. Heth's troops crossed the river just before this attack. While Kilpatrick kept the Confederates engaged, Buford's division got around the Confederate flank and into their rear. Gamble's men were not supported by Kilpatrick as Gamble had expected. They were repulsed by entrenched Confederates, who, having gained the bridge, fell back toward the ford. Gamble's men regrouped, dismounted, and attacked Pettigrew in the flank over rough ground.
Reinforced by Devin's brigade, Gamble's men had a sharp fight, capturing 511 prisoners, more than 300 stands of arms, and a 10-pounder Parrott gun. One of Gamble's severely wounded troopers, carried back from the front and placed under a tree where Buford was standing, did not see the general. As the wounded cavalryman was being examined by the 8th Illinois' surgeon, the trooper said, "I am glad it is not General Buford who is wounded." 201
This brought tears to Buford's eyes, and he recounted the incident fondly many times after the battle ended. In the fight with Kilpatrick, Pettigrew, the Confederate commander, was mortally wounded. Had Kilpatrick's attack been coordinated with Buford's. Rebel losses might have been larger. Kilpatrick's impertinence had cost the Union a possible sweeping success, with his men suffering heavy losses in the process. Buford's men arrived at the river too late. "As our troops neared the bridge," Buford recalled, "the enemy cut the Maryland side loose, and the bridge swung to the Virginia side.202
By July 15 the fighting over for a time. The tired, hungry men of Buford's division went into camp near Berlin. Merritt's brigade had marched, skirmished. and camped for several days without wagons or packs and went several days without rations. 203 They needed clothing, shoes, ammunition, and most important, food and rest. On July 16, camp was moved to Petersville, and Buford's men got two days of well-deserved rest. Finally. on July 18, Buford's division crossed the Potomac at Berlin and encamped near Purcellsville, Virginia. For the veterans this was a return to familiar country. They had been here in the weeks subsequent to the Antietam Campaign.204
Gamble marched his brigade through Salem, saw the body of the dead partisan and continued on to Chester Gap, arriving there around 3:30 p.m. About one mile in front of the gap, Gamble encountered Confederate pickets and, after dismounting six squadrons of troopers, ordered a skirmish line forward. This skirmish line drove Confederates to the crest of the Blue Ridge, where they fell back upon the main body of troops, consisting of a regiment of Grumble Jones' cavalry, remnants of Pickett's division, and a battery of artillery. Obtaining this intelligence and knowing that he was badly outnumbered, Gamble ordered his command to withdraw after some skirmishing. Capturing twenty three prisoners, and a number of horses, Gamble retreated about a mile and a half to a position where he could cover the two roads leading from the gap, one to Barbee's Cross-Roads and the other to Little Washington, put his guns in battery, and establish a strong line of pickets in his front and on his flanks. The men then bivouacked .207 Merritt, in the meantime, had also encountered enemy forces at Manassas Gap. The 1st U.S. had been sent into the Shenandoah Valley in an attempt to enter the ; town of Front Royal. Reinforced by the 2nd and 5th U.S., the Regulars engaged in a sharp skirmish with the enemy infantry in the western approach to Manassas Gap. The Regulars captured five officers and twenty- one enlisted men of the 17th Virginia Infantry and obtained intelligence that Longstreet's corps was deployed and camped between Manassas Gap and Chester Gap. While all of his prisoners were from the same regiment, Merritt was satisfied that Montgomery Corse's brigade blocked his path, that he would be unable to breakthrough to Front Royal, and that he should resume his probing the next day.208 On July 22 Merritt's men skirmished with Confederate infantry all day. While Merritt's men were outnumbered, his artillery kept Confederates from driving his men from their position in the saddle of Manassas Gap, although several flank attacks were tried.209 Gamble also engaged in fighting on July 22. At 8 a.m. his pickets reported the approach of Confederate skirmishers advancing from Chester Gap via the road to Little Washington and Sperryville.
When the head of the Confederate column came into view, Gamble's men opened fire with artillery and carbines. Surprised, the Confederate column halted and fell back out of range, but maintained contact with Gamble's skirmishers. Gamble's men held their position until 6 p.m., when Longstreet sent five infantry regiments through covering woods with fixed bayonets. The Rebels assailed Gamble's left, drove in his skirmishers, and forced him to retreat several miles Barbee's Cross-Roads. Due to defective ammunition Gamble got little support from his artillery, Companies B and L, 2nd U.S. Artillery, which had "a)bout one shell in twelve ... explode, and then it would be prematurely, over the heads of our own men." Even so, Gamble slowed Longstreet's efforts to force Gamble's people from their position at the vital intersection for most of the day, and it took the commitment of a large number of Confederate infantry to drive Union troopers from their position. Gamble in this skirmishing suffered twenty-five casualties and claimed that Longstreet had sustained as many."210 Gamble's men encamped at Barbee's Cross-Roads, where they were rejoined by the rest of the division. They spent the next three days there resting. It was a pleasant respite, with plenty of food for the men and horses. Two major problems were a shortage of tobacco and an abundance of applejack. One member of the 8th Illinois got so intoxicated on the latter, pilfered from a plentiful Virginia cellar. that he was captured by Confederate pickets and stripped of his weapons. Unable to march the sot off, the Confederates left him, and he returned to camp, greatly embarrassed after sobering up. 211On July 25 a squadron of the 8th New York was sent to search for horses. Some were found, as well as corn, which they brought back to camp.212
Finally, on July 26, the division moved again, to Liberty, where they spent the night. Resuming the ride the next morning, the division marched to the Rappahannock taking positions at Warrenton and Fayetteville, to picket the river from Warrenton Sulfur Springs to Kelly's Ford.213 Buford's division had come full circle, reaching the same positions from which it had begun the campaign, along the Rappahannock near Brandy Station. After fifty days of hard marching and fighting, the Gettysburg Campaign had ended for Buford's exhausted troopers. During the course of the campaign, the division had suffered 1, 160 casualties. 214 Never again would Union infantrymen be so quick to jest " who ever saw a dead cavalryman."215
I am disgusted and worn out with the system that seems to prevail. There is so much apathy, and so little disposition to fight and co-operate that I wish to be relieved from the Army of the Potomac. I do not wish to put myself and soldiers in front where I cannot get a support short of 12 miles. The ground I gain I would like to hold.... I am willing to serve my country, but I do not wish to sacrifice the brave men under my command.215The fighting ended on August 10, 1863, and, in a letter to his friend General Burnside, Buford commented, with typical humor, "[The Army of the Potomac] is in about the same state as when you left it. The same faults exist among corps commanders as has always existed. Too much apathy, too much cold water.216 Buford still felt frustration over the episode with Slocum. Buford left the division for ten days leave on August 8, placing Merritt in command. While on the Gettysburg Campaign, his family had suffered the loss of a daughter, a sister-in-law, and a father-in-law. Seeking to put his affairs in order, Buford returned to the family home in Kentucky for a few days.217
After his leave, Buford resumed his post, engaging in more heavy fighting and patrolling between the Rappahannock and the Rapidan. continuing into the Bristoe Station Campaign of mid-October. Col. Theodore Lyman of Meade's staff wrote to his wife on October 22, "General Buford came in today, cold and tired and wet. ... The General takes his hardships good-naturedly."218
Perhaps the Union high command believed Buford's tactics were the best hope of coping with Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest's Confederate cavalry. In late October 1863, Buford was assigned the command of the cavalry corps of the Army of the Cumberland.219 This could have created an interesting confrontation, as by the late winter of 1863-64 Buford's first cousin Abraham was given command of a division of Forrest's cavalry. Unfortunately for John Buford, the fates were not kind to him, he would never have the opportunity to command the Army of the Cumberland's Cavalry Corps.
On November 19 Colonel Lyman wrote, "We find the cavalry chief afflicted with rheumatism, which he bore with his usual philosophy."220 However, the problem noted by Lyman was not rheumatism. The rigors of so many years of hard marching and fighting had taken their toll on Buford, who had contracted typhoid fever "from fatigue and extreme hardship,' after participating in the marches and fighting that on November 7-8 compelled Lee's Army of Northern Virginia to abandon the line on the Rappahannock and retire behind the Rapidan. He was granted a leave of absence and removed to Washington, D.C., on November 20, 1863.221
There he was taken to the home of his good friend, General Stoneman. Buford's condition deteriorated quickly, and it soon became apparent that he would not survive. On December 16, 1863, President Lincoln sent a note to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who was said not to trust anyone with southern antecedents, and who disliked most of the officers associated with John Pope's Army of Virginia. Lincoln's note requested that the gravely-ill Buford, whom Lincoln did not expect to survive the day, be promoted to major general. Although the promotion was well deserved, Stanton permitted Buford's promotion only when it became certain that Buford was dying.222 The promotion was to be retroactive to July 1. 1863, in tribute to Buford's service at Gettysburg.223 "Buford lapsed in and out of delirium, alternately scolding and apologizing to his black servant, who sat weeping by the general's bed- side.224 He was comforted by several old comrades, including his aide, Capt. Myles Keogh, and General Stoneman. When the major general's commission arrived, Buford had a few lucid moments, murmuring, "Too late. . . . Now I wish that I could live." Keogh helped him sign the necessary forms and signed as a witness, and Capt. A. J. Alexander, 1st U.S., wrote a letter to Stanton for Buford, accepting the promotion.225 Buford's last intelligible words were, "Put guards on all the roads, and don't let the men run back to the rear. 226 He died in Keogh's arms on December 16.227
General orders were prepared by Merritt, who succeeded Buford in command of the First Division:
... His master mind and incomparable genius as a cavalry chief, you all know by the dangers through which be has brought you, when enemies surrounded you and destruction seemed inevitable.... The profound anguish which we all feel forbids the use of empty words, which so feebly express his virtues. Let us silently mingle our tears with those of the nation in lamenting the untimely death of this pure and noble man, the devoted and patriotic lover of his country, the soldier without fear and with out reproach 228The division's staff officers prepared resolutions of regret, lamenting Buford's death and resolving that the members of the First Division would wear the badge of mourning for thirty days as a sign of respect for their leader.229 Another of Buford's peers wrote in his diary,
December 20: The army and the country have met with a great loss by the death of . . . Buford. He was decidedly the best cavalry general that we had, and was acknowledged as such in the army. [He was) rough in his exterior, never looking after his own comfort, untiring on the march and in the supervision of all the militia of his command, quiet and unassuming in his manners.230 In a tribute, the men of the First Division raised money to erect a monument to Buford at his grave site at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a fitting final campground for a Regular. Most members of the 9th New York contributed a dollar each to pay for the monument. 231
And what was John Buford's legacy to the American Civil War?
In many ways, he deserves credit for the Union victory at Gettysburg, having personally selected the battlefield and developed a strategy to hold it, despite the approach of the Confederates in overwhelming numbers on July 1. Buford and his men campaigned almost nonstop for fifty days, and their performance was superb throughout. Their stubborn, determined fight and defense in depth along Chambersburg Pike bought enough time for Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds to reach the field, determine that the high ground south of the town was strong defensive position, and decide that the Army of the Potomac should stand and fight there. But for Buford's successful fight for time, Reynolds never would have had the opportunity to make that decision.
Throughout the campaign, Buford and his men provided crucial information, acting as the eyes and ears of the army. By helping to locate Confederate infantry in the lower Shenandoah Valley west of Ashby and Snickers Gaps on June 21, Buford and Pleasonton provided Hooker with the necessary intelligence to begin rapidly moving the Army of the Potomac north towards its date with destiny at Gettysburg. By assisting in pinpointing Lee's columns after the battle, Buford allowed Meade the opportunity to catch Lee and give battle along the banks of the Potomac. Only Meade's hesitation on July 13 prevented a showdown. The Army of the Potomac's high command was never as well-served with intelligence from the cavalry as it was during the Gettysburg Campaign.
Another of Buford's legacies was that many of his proteges were advanced to higher levels of command within the Army of the Potomac's Cavalry Corps. Both Tom Devin and William Gamble were promoted to brigadier general after the campaign, and Wesley Merritt served as commander of the First Division until after Appomattox, continuing on meritoriously in the post- war army.
Buford's most important legacy, however, lay in the successes of the cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac. The Gettysburg Campaign was the first time the Union horsemen - discounting the fight at Kelly's Ford on March 17, 1863, when Brig. Gen. William Averell had the heaviest battalions took on Jeb Stuart's vaunted cavaliers in grey and fought them as equals. The actions at Brandy Station, Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville, and during the retreat from Gettysburg were stand-up fights, in which the Union cavalry held its own and defeated Stuart's cavalry on several occasions.
John Buford and his men deserve the accolades they received for their role in the Gettysburg Campaign, for without their service, the outcome of the Civil War might have been changed.
ORDER OF BATTLE FIRST DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC
THE GETTYSBURG CAMPAIGN, JUNE 9-JULY 31, 1863
Brig. Gen. John Buford, commanding
Col. Benjamin F. "Grimes" Davis*
Maj. William S. McClure**
Col. William Gamble
8th Illinois (Maj. John Beveridge)
12th Illinois (four companies)
3rd Indiana (six companies)(along with 12th Ill., under Col. George H. Chapman)
8th New York (Col. William L. Markel)
Col. Thomas C. Devin
6th New York (eight companies)(Lt. Col. William H. Crocker)
9th New York (Col. William Sackett)
17th Pennsylvania (Col. Josiah H. Kellogg)
3rd West Virginia (two companies)(Capt. Seymour B. Conger)
Maj. Charles J. Whiting***
Maj. Samuel H. Starr****
Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt
6th Pennsylvania (Maj. James H. Haseltine)
1st United States (Capt. Richard S.C. Lord)
2nd United States (Capt. Theophilus F. Rodenbough)
5th United States (Capt. Julius W. Mason)
6th United States (Maj. Samuel H. Starr)
Second Brigade (Capt. John C. Tidball)
Companies E/G, 1st United States
(Capt. Alanson M. Randol)
Company K, 1st United States
(Capt. William M. Graham)
Company A, 2nd United States
(Lt. John H. Calef)
*Killed in action at the Battle of Brandy Station, June 9, 1863.
**Relieved of command when Gamble returned to duty on June 13, 1863.
***Relieved of command after the Battle of Brandy-Station.
****Relieved of command upon promotion of Merritt to brigadier general; lost an arm after being wounded in action
July 3, 1863, at Fairfield, Pennsylvania.
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