Portrait of John Buford

John Buford’s greatest claim to fame came at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863), where he chose the ground upon which the battle would be fought. [Wikimedia Commons]

John Buford, Jr. - Facts

March 4, 1826 – December 16, 1863

Key facts about Union General John Buford.

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Full Name:

  • John Buford Jr.

Birth Date:

  • March 4, 1826

Birth Location:

  • near Versailles in Woodford County, Kentucky

Parents:

  • John and Anne (Bannister) Buford

Education:

  • Knox College
  • Cincinnati College
  • United States Military Academy (1848)

Occupation:

  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • Major (USA)
  • Major General (USVA)

Spouse:

  • Martha McDowell Duke (1854)

Nickname:

  • Old Steadfast

Place of Death:

  • Washington, DC

Date of Death:

  • December 16, 1863

Place of Burial:

  • West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY

Significance

  • John Buford, Jr. was born on March 4, 1826, near Versailles in Woodford County, Kentucky.
  • John Buford was the first of three sons of John and Anne (Bannister) Buford.
  • John Buford’s half-brother from his father’s first marriage, Napoleon Bonaparte Buford, attended the United States Military Academy and achieved the rank of brigadier general of volunteers during the Civil War.
  • John Buford’s grandfather, Simeon Buford, was a veteran of the Revolutionary War.
  • John Buford’s father, known as Colonel John Buford, was a prominent planter who owned over forty slaves. He was also a locally influential politician who served in the Kentucky Legislature for seven years and was a personal acquaintance of President Andrew Jackson.
  • When John Buford was about nine or ten, his mother died of cholera.
  • John Buford’s family moved to Stephenson (later named Rock Island), Illinois, in 1835 or 1836.
  • John Buford attended Knox College, in Galesburg, Illinois, for one year in 1842.
  • John Buford attended Cincinnati College while seeking an appointment to the United States Military Academy in 1843.
  • John Buford attended the United States Military Academy from 1844 to 1848.
  • John Buford graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1848, ranked of 16th out of 38 cadets.
  • Upon graduating from West Point, John Buford was brevetted as a second lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Dragoon Regiment and assigned to garrison duty at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri.
  • John Buford was promoted to the full rank of second lieutenant on February 17, 1849.
  • John Buford was promoted to first lieutenant and transferred to the newly-formed 2nd U.S. Dragoons on July 9, 1853.
  • On May 9, 1854, Buford married his third cousin, Martha McDowell Duke (they shared great-great-grandfathers). Their marriage produced two children, James and Pattie.
  • While stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1855, John Buford helped restore peace in “Bleeding Kansas.”
  • In 1857–1858, John Buford participated in the Utah Expedition against Brigham Young and the Mormon militia.
  • John Buford was promoted to captain on March 9, 1859.
  • After the Civil War erupted, Buford was reassigned as assistant inspector general of the defenses of Washington, D.C. and promoted to major on November 12, 1861.
  • On July 27, 1862, Major General John Pope named John Buford as commander of the cavalry brigade of the 2nd Corps of the newly formed Army of Virginia.
  • John Buford was promoted to the rank of brigadier general of volunteers on July 27, 1862.
  • John Buford received a gunshot wound to the knee as he was leading a charge during the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 28–30, 1862).
  • John Buford was named as field commander of the Reserve Brigade, 1st Division, of the Cavalry Corps, in January 1863.
  • During the Chancellorsville Campaign, John Buford took part in Major General George Stoneman’s unsuccessful raid into Confederate territory (April 29 – May 30, 1863).
  • John Buford advanced to the commander of the 1st Division of the cavalry corps, without a promotion in rank, in May 1863.
  • During the Gettysburg Campaign (June 3 – July 23, 1863), John Buford took part in the Battle of Brandy Station (June 9), the largest cavalry engagement of the Civil War.
  • During the Gettysburg Campaign (June 3 – July 23, 1863), John Buford took part in the Battle of Aldie (June 17), the Battle of Middleburg (June 18), the Battle of Upperville (June 21), the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – 3, 1863), the Battle of Williamsport (July 6–16) and the Battle of Boonsboro (July 8).
  • John Buford’s greatest claim to fame came at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863), where he chose the ground upon which the battle would be fought.
  • John Buford contracted a case of typhoid fever in the fall of 1863, forcing him to relinquish his command on November 21.
  • President Abraham Lincoln promoted John Buford to the rank of major general for his “distinguished and meritorious service at the Battle of Gettysburg., “on December 16, 1863, just hours before Buford’s death,
  • John Buford died from typhoid fever at about 2:00 p.m. on December 16, 1863, at the Washington home of his friend and former commander Major General George Stoneman.
  • After a memorial service in Washington on December 20, 1863, John Buford was buried at West Point Cemetery overlooking the Hudson River.
  • In 1865, John Buford’s comrades-in-arms financed the erection of a 25-foot memorial obelisk over his grave.
  • In 1895, a bronze statue of Buford was erected at the Gettysburg Battlefield. The inscription reads, “In memory of Major General John Buford, Comdg. 1st Div. Cav. Corps Army of the Potomac, who with the first inspiration of a cavalry officer selected this battlefield July 1st, 1863.”
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title John Buford, Jr. - Facts
  • Coverage March 4, 1826 – December 16, 1863
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date August 1, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 28, 2021
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