On the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Gen. Buford and the Union cavalry were initially defending the ridges to the north and west of the town. Even after Gen. Reynolds arrived with the Union I Corps, they ultimately had to retreat through town and defend Cemetery Ridge south of town. My question is, was this Buford's plan all along? Defend the high ground closer to the enemy so you could fall back to other high ground if necessary? Or was it just a fortunate coincidence? Or maybe somewhere in between?

  • Any reason for the -1?
    – Craig W
    Mar 29, 2013 at 17:14
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    Generally if I don't see any comments complaining, I assume the downvoter is just having a bad day.
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 29, 2013 at 20:53
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    @T.E.D. = On SFF.SE I saw people downvoting every question unless you present a great case for why you are asking to "solve a practical problem". I shall leave it to you as to judge the wisdom of such a pattern on "Science Fiction and Fantasy" site >:) . Incidentally, +1. I can't believe we have so few Civil War questions.
    – DVK
    Mar 31, 2013 at 17:36

1 Answer 1


It was his plan all along. The line of hills south of town were the obvious defensive position for an army, but Buford didn't have enough men to defend the entire line so he placed his defensive line north of town. If he could hold the Confederate infantry off long enough, it would give the Union infantry time to come up behind him and begin occupying the hills, which is ultimately what happened. Having said that, and borrowing a quote from Moltke: "No plan survives first contact with the enemy." Buford was certainly improvising as the situation changed, but he had clearly meant to protect the Cemetery Hill position, so it was inevitable that he would withdraw to it at some point.

  • It might well be the untimely death of Reynolds that kept the Union at that initial position, even as it was being flanked by the advance of Ewell from the North.
    – Oldcat
    Jan 10, 2014 at 1:02

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