General John Buford: A Military Biography


The film Gettysburg introduced the general public to Union cavalry leader John Buford and his key role on the first day of the battle; no full-length biography of the general has ever been written until now.

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General John Buford

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The film Gettysburg introduced the general public to Union cavalry leader John Buford and his key role on the first day of the battle; no full-length biography of the general has ever been written until now.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Longacre adds to his status as a leading authority on Civil War cavalry (The Cavalry at Gettysburg; Mounted Raids of the Civil War) with this definitive biography of one of its key leaders. John Buford graduated from West Point in 1848. Serving on the Western frontier, he decided that whether cavalry fought mounted or on foot in a given instance mattered less than using its speed and mobility to be in the right place at the right time. Buford applied that principle while commanding first a cavalry brigade, then a division, in the Army of the Potomac in 1862-1863. At Gettysburg, his eye for terrain determined the Union position, and his troopers held that position until the main army arrived. His death from typhoid prevented the further successes that would almost certainly have been his as a cavalry commander. This comprehensively researched, well-written volume merits recognition from Civil War students and military historians. (Jan.)
Library Journal
A Civil War officer hitherto neglected by biographers finally gets his due in this work by Longacre The Cavalry at Gettysburg, Univ. of Nebraska, 1993, a commentator for A&E's Civil War Journal. Anyone who has seen the movie Gettysburg will be familiar with Buford's importance at that battle, but this is the first book to address his entire military career, from his West Point days through his quartermaster duties, field service on the frontier, Bleeding Kansas and the Mormon campaign, to his Civil War campaigns, including Brandy Station and Gettysburg. Throughout his military life, until his death from typhoid on December 16, 1863, Buford earned the complete respect of the men who served with him. This book will be a valuable addition to any Civil War collection.-Robert A. Curtis, Taylor Memorial P.L., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Roland Green
Union cavalry general John Buford was known to few except Civil War buffs before his none-too-accurate portrayal in the movie "Gettysburg". May this first full-scale biography repair what the movies have wrought. Buford, a transplanted Kentuckian, graduated from West Point after the Mexican War and served well in both command and staff positions until the outbreak of the Civil War. He rose steadily to command of the First Cavalry Division and made a reputation as a courageous commander, an effective tactician, and a skilled trainer of green Union horsemen. The climax of his career came with his division's stand at Gettysburg, which helped determine the site of the battle favorably for the Union. He died in the winter of 1863, from exhaustion and typhoid fever, and lacked a decent memorial in Civil War literature--until now.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780938289463
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 11/21/1995
  • Pages: 248
  • Lexile: 1490L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.39 (h) x 1.08 (d)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2000

    Buford Biography Has Devil to Pay

    Edward Longacre is to be commended for trying to fill a void in civil war historiography. John Buford is a hero of Gettysburg and deserves a good biography. Regrettably, Longacre falls short. His treatment is shallow and speculative. One gets a better sense of Buford by reading the KILLER ANGELS. Longacre challenges the historicity of others, but his own accuracy is wanting. He claims, for example, that First Corps commander John Reynolds died 'helping steady a part of Meredith's line that showed signs of wavering¿ .' He cites several sources for this novel account, including Edwin Coddington. Meredith commanded the Iron Brigade, which relieved Buford, counterattacking Archer's Brigade through Herbst Woods. Coddington provides an account clearly at odds with Longacre's. 'Immediately, the 2nd Wisconsin¿ dashed forward. Near the ridge they met Reynolds, who shouted, 'Forward men, for God's sake forward and drive those fellows out of those woods¿ .' Without breaking step they followed their determined colonel (Lucius Fairchild) and advanced steadily into the timber. As Reynolds¿ turned in his saddle to look for supports, there was a heavy exchange of volleys¿ Reynolds suddenly swayed and fell to the ground.' How or why Longacre reads 'signs of wavering in a steady advance' goes without explanation or authority. And while there is fleeting reference to the Union's command controversies of the first day, some analysis would be welcomed, particularly as Longacre purports to provide us a 'military' biography. Could Buford have better covered Howard's right flank? I am glad I added Longacre to my library, but hope he or another will provide us with a deeper, more accurate account.

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