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J. Buford

J. Buford

Federal (USA)

Brigadier General

John Buford

(1826 - 1863)

Home State: Illinois

Education: US Military Academy, West Point, NY, Class of 1848

Command Billet: Staff, AoP Chief of Cavalry

Branch of Service: Cavalry

Unit: Army of the Potomac

Before Antietam

After graduating from West Point in 1848 he served in the dragoons in the West and on the expedition against the Mormons in Utah (1857-58). He was appointed Captain, 2nd US Dragoons 9 March 1854, which was designated the 2nd US Cavalry 3 August 1861. He was promoted to Major and Assistant Adjutant General 12 November, and Brigadier General, US Volunteers 27 July 1862. He led a brigade of Cavalry in July and August 1862, but was wounded at 2nd Bull Run.

On the Campaign

"On September 9, 1862, McClellan pulled Buford from brigade command and appointed him Chief of Cavalry ... At the Battle of Antietam, just a week later, Buford had no field command and was stuck at "Little Mac's" headquarters during most of the action. He was, however, near Corps Commander General Joseph Hooker when the latter was wounded at the "Bloody Cornfield" and overheard the General's wish that General George G. Meade take over his command. Spurring his horse, Buford took the request to McClellan, who issued the order. Buford, then, played a major role in getting the right commander to the right place at a crucial time. It would not be the last time this would happen. "
(from Petruzzi)

The rest of the War

He remained in the Staff postion, under Burnside, through Fredericksburg (December 1862). He then took command of the Reserve Brigade, and was on Stoneman's raid in the Chancellorsville Campaign. He commanded the division at Brandy Station, Aidie, Middleburg, and Upperville.

He is best known for his leadership at the first day's action at Gettysburg, 1 July 1863. With two brigades he and his cavalry held the ground against considerable odds until the arrival of Union infantry.

He was ill for most of the summer following Gettysburg, but did see action at Brandy Station. He was more seriously ill that fall, and died of Typhoid fever that December. He was appointed Major General on his deathbed by President Lincoln (to date from 1 July 1863).

References & notes

Source: Heitman, Francis Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army 1789-1903, Washington, US Government Printing Office, 1903.

More on the Web

See the comprehensive Buford biography, by J. David Petruzzi - source of the quote above - on the excellent Buford's Boys website for a wealth of detail on the General and Cavalry more generally; or
Another detailed piece called The Devil's to Pay by Tom Gladwell on RootsWeb.


3/4/1826; Woodford County, KY


12/16/1863; Washington, DC; burial in West Point Cemetery (USMA), New York