John Buford


Within six months of his having played a key role in the opening of the battle of Gettysburg, cavalryman John Buford was dead of typhoid fever.

The Kentucky-born soldier had moved to Illinois before being appointed to West Point. Graduating in 1848 he was posted to the dragoons and saw some action along the frontier and in the expedition against the Mormons in Utah in 1857-1858.


After staff duty in the Washington defenses he obtained a position on Pope’s staff in northern Virginia. He was rewarded with a brigadier’s star and command of a brigade of cavalry. While leading this at 2nd Bull Run he suffered a wound. The next spring he was commanding the Reserve Brigade, which was composed mainly of regular army units, and took part in Stoneman’s raid during the Chancellorsville Campaign. He directed the division at Brandy Station, Aidie, Middleburg, and Upperville.

It was two of his brigades that initiated the fighting at Gettysburg northwest of the town. He was able to hold off the Confederate assaults until the arrival of Union infantry and enabled Meade to make a stand south and east of the town on the next two days.

He later served through the Bristoe Campaign, but just before the commencement of the Mine Run Campaign he was struck down by typhoid and had to relinquish his command on November 21, 1863. He died in Washington on December 16, 1863, is buried at West Point. His commission as major general of volunteers was presented to him on his deathbed.

Military Achievements

  • Captain, 2nd Dragoons (since March 9, 1854)
  • Captain, 2nd Cavalry (change of designation August 3, 1861)
  • Major and Assistant Adjutant General (November 12, 1861)
  • Brigadier General, USV (July 27, 1862)
  • Commanding Cavalry Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of Virginia (July 27 – September 12, 1862)
  • Commanding Reserve Brigade, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac (February 12 – May 22, 1863)
  • Commanding the division (May 22-27, June 9 – August 15, and September 15-November 21, 1863)
  • Major General, USV (to rank from July 1, 1863)