Some historians believe a key to the Union Army’s success at Gettysburg was due, in part, to the key role played by cavalryman John Buford.
Buford, who was born on April 4, 1826, in Kentucky, graduated from West Point in 1848. He first saw action on the frontier, and against the Mormons in Utah in 1857. During the Civil War, Buford was made a captain of Dragoons and a captain of the cavalry, a major (1861), brigadier general (1862) and commanding Cavalry Brigade of the 2nd Corps (1862), Division Commander.
Buford participated in 2nd Bull Run, Stoneman’s raid during the Chancellorsville action, Brandy Station. Two of his brigades initiated the fighting at Gettysburg. Thanks to Buford’s occupying strategically sound “good ground”, the Union cavalry was able to hold off the advancing Confederate Army until the arrival of the Union infantry under George Meade.
Buford later served in other campaigns, but on November 21, 1863, just months after his stand at Gettysburg, he was struck with typhus. He died on December 16, 1863, and was buried at West Point. While on his deathbed, he was presented his commission as Major General.
Read more about the West Point Class of 1848