Skip to comments.HISTORY: Forgotten Kentucky soldier was 'best cavalry general' in Civil War
Posted on 09/23/2004 11:55:07 AM PDT by stainlessbanner
GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Gen. John Buford's bravery at the battle of Gettysburg was little noted nor long remembered in his native Kentucky.
"He is one of those all but forgotten heroes," said John Trowbridge, director of the Kentucky Military Museum in Frankfort. "But we would never have won the battle without Buford's quick thinking and quick action on the first day."
Rebel infantry outnumbered and outgunned Buford's Yankee cavalry. Even so, the horsemen in blue stalled the Confederates long enough for Gen. George G. Meade's Union Army of the Potomac to organize a defense and ultimately to win the Civil War's bloodiest battle.
A bronze statue at Gettysburg National Military Park commemorates Buford's stand. "There are no monuments to John Buford in Kentucky that I know of," Trowbridge said.
Buford was born near Versailles, Ky., the Woodford County seat, in 1826. A state historic marker in Versailles names Buford and five other county natives who were Civil War generals. "It is amazing that six could come from one small county," Trowbridge said.
A pair of generals on the marker were Buford kin. His half brother, Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte Buford, also fought for the Union. Their cousin, Gen. Abraham Buford, donned Rebel gray.
John Buford moved with his parents to Rock Island, Ill., in the 1840s. He graduated from West Point in 1848.
The mustachioed, pipe-puffing Buford had little use for fancy uniforms and military spit and polish. "He don't put on so much style as most officers," one of his men said.
Though popular with his own troops, Buford was tough on the enemy. He hanged a Confederate guerrilla to a tree with a sign that warned, "This man to hang three days; he who cuts him down before shall hang the remaining time."
At Gettysburg, Buford's 2,700 horse soldiers were the first Yankees to make contact with Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. They galloped into town on the evening of June 30 in time to skirmish with some of Lee's advance units. Buford correctly figured the whole Southern army would attack the next day.
On the morning of July 1, Buford deployed his men on high ground west of Gettysburg. More than 7,000 Rebels assaulted Buford's dismounted troopers around 9 a.m. "The two lines became hotly engaged, we having the advantage of position, he of numbers," the general reported.
His soldiers held on until Gen. John F. Reynolds' infantry arrived around midmorning. The Union troops fell back through Gettysburg to higher ground, including Cemetery Ridge, where the Yankees stopped Gen. George Pickett's storied charge on July 3 and won the battle.
Buford, who was badly wounded and left for dead after the 1862 battle of Second Bull Run, Va., did not survive the Civil War. The general succumbed to typhoid fever on December 16, 1863, and was buried at West Point.
Buford, described by a Yankee colonel as "decidedly the best cavalry general" in the Army of the Potomac, was featured in "Gettysburg," the 1994 movie and TV miniseries. Sam Elliott sported a Buford-style mustache in portraying the Kentucky general who, according to the colonel, could "always be relied on in any emergency."
Nathan Bedford Forrest and James Ewell Brown Stuart win by a mile.
Forrest was outstanding ...
Buford was probably the best at dragoon/mounted infantry tactics of all of the cavalrymen.
Perhaps he was the best Union cavalry general, but I agree with you that several Confederates were better overall.
Although Grierson and Sheridan could have given him a run even in the Union.
Buford and Forrest were both all business.
General Stuart went missing precisely when he was needed most.
Just a note about the present . . . . General Buford's great-great-nephew is a State Senator in Kentucky and is running for Congress in the 6th District this fall as the Republican nominee.
Col. Theodore Lyman
Don't forget Mosby
...and for Kentuckians, how about John Hunt Morgan?
Nathan Bedford Forrest founded WHAT famous Reconstruction fraternal lodge?
You have six seconds... begin!
Too Bad ole' Jeb wasn't there the first day to prove your thought huh?
Forrest was probably too busy out west murdering POW's at the time.
Tis' a Shame...
Oooh, THERE'S a good thing to know!
The same one he disavowed a year and a half later after it became racist and violent.
Just before the 2nd Battle of Bull Run Buford was ordered to make a reconnaissance across the Rapidan in force. He sent two of his regiments, the 1st Michigan and the 5th New York. The next day, they captured JEB Stuart's adjutant-general, who was carrying valuable dispatches from Lee.
Pressing on, they surprised Stuart himself while he was relaxing at a farmhouse with his staff.
Stuart narrowly got away, but not without leaving his famous plumed cavalier's hat and scarlet cloak - those fell into the regiments' hands as war prizes.
Doubtless, but that is a far cry from having been the best cavalry commander on either side, during The Recent Unpleasantness.
And Grierson and Little Phil Sheridan for the Yanks ...
The Graybacks had better true cavalrymen of the hussar heritage ... pistols and sabres.
The Yanks were better with the wave of the future .. mounted infantry/dismounted cavalry with the repeating rifles.
However, he was a cavalry colonel, not a general.
And, unlike Buford or Forrest, he cannot be credited with a decisive role in the outcome of a major battle.
"Forrest must be hunted down and killed even if it costs 10 thousand lives and bankrupts that Federal Treasury."
Their performance got the attention of the Administration, and Lincoln subsequently pushed procurement of the Spencers for all the Federal troops. Our people called those weapons the "Yankee Seven Devils" because of their multi-shot capability. (Actually, they held 8 rounds; don't know the reason behind the "seven" unless it's a Biblical reference.)
J.E.B.Stuart was off joyriding when the Battle of Gettysburg started -- deprived Gen. Lee of critical intelligence information when it mattered most.
Another fun Mosby fact: he became a Republican after the war and worked on Grant's election campaign.
That was the point: Buford was the best Yankee cavalryman.
I agree re Stuart and Forrest. Stuart had talent, but he was all about Stuart, and if Lee hadn't been so fond of him, Stuart would have been demoted or cashiered long before Gettyburg. Forrest was referred to as "that devil Forrest" by Sherman; anyone who earns that kind of sobriquet from their opponent is certainly doing something right.
Always found it ironice the Haunted Tank was a Sherman guided by the ghost of Stuart.
But you can't name it, can you?
South Lost - Get Over It.
A senseless war, one against the freedom of self-government.
Forrest and Stuart were far better.
What's your point?
Does that somehow in your mind detract from his military genius?
Does the fact that Rommel fought for the bad guys make him any less a great military mind?
Only if you were willing to carry one of those rounds in the chamber while you were riding - a potentially dangerous move.
Apparently most cavalrymen kept the chamber clear until they engaged, giving them seven rounds before reloading.
Ah, but remember that the very early incarnation of the Haunted Tank .. before the crew was given a Sherman .. was the old M4 Stuart Honeybee, with that little 37 mm peashooter ...
What I thought was funny was the little Stuart taking on German tanks at a distance and making killing shots with that popgun.
Somehow, I don't believe racism particularly bothered a man who made his fortune (over $1,000,000) as a slave trader.
PS - The South may have been the losing side. Doesn't mean it was the wrong side.
Always amazed me, while on Active Duty, how the tankers and the cav always emulated the Nazis and the Rebs.
I reminded them of who won, and I got dirty looks. Still do, so it seems.
As a born and bred Yankee and a member of the Sons of Union Veterans, I have to say that your post is senseless.
Great generalship was found on both sides in the Civil War and Forrest was quite simply one of the greatest cavalry tacticians in history.
Forrest's speech to the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association July 5, 1875.
"Ladies and Gentlemen I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God's earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself. ( Immense applause and laughter.) I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to elevate every man to depress none. (Applause.) I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going. I have not said anything about politics today. I don't propose to say anything about politics. You have a right to elect whom you please; vote for the man you think best, and I think, when that is done, you and I are freemen. Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office. I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I'll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand. (Prolonged applause.) "
I'm not sure that slave owners were "racists," in the manner that that term is used today. Not that that makes it any better, of course.
(scanners indicate negative.)
Just found it to be an interesting tidbit. I enjoy Civil War history and contemporary politics. Thought this bit of information combined them pretty well. : )
Like a certain high-profile candidate who likewise wears his service on his sleeve, you make no sense.
I see no reason to honor or emulate butchers and Klansmen.
I had relatives in the old country die at Buchenwald - I see no reason to emulate the goosesteppers, either.
So, you wanna get personal, Sheethead?
That, FRiend, is the most dangerous thing you could have said.
And you're thin-skinned like Kerry, too, and speak in non-sequiturs.
I'm scared. Ping who you want if you can't fight your own battles.
So, someone who emulates a bigoted leader from a lost cause, is better?
Classic example of the headline not really relating to the points made in the actual article.
Where did I say I emulate him?
I admire his military genius, particularly since he didn't have any formal military training.
Later great generals like Patton and Rommel both considered his tactics and strategies to be required reading.
Ghengis Khan was a great military mind.
So was Xerxes, and Nebachadnezzar.
Alexander the Great was a great military mind, Atilla the Hun, Julius Caesar, Sparticus, and Wellington.
You sound like someone who is very bitter about history.
Like a certain rumored dead muslim who mourned for Moorish Spain and had a certain gleeful interest in certain dates in history and their significance with muslim history.
Statements like yours can be aimed at anyone.
Think a little beforehand please.
It's a black thing, you wouldn't understand.
You seem to have stumbled into the wrong forum, sir.
And knock off the attacks on Old Sarge.
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