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 Posted: Tue Aug 21st, 2007 01:19 am
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javal1
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OK, a question which I've always hesitated to ask, possibly because I was afraid it was a "dumb question".  We all know that the story of Gettysburg is now written in stone, and most have made up their minds about what were "good" decisions and what were "bad".

But what about Buford's decision to stay and fight on McPherson's Ridge? We all know how it turned out. But having walked the field dozens of times, I'm always drawn back to that ridge, and I catch myself asking the same question - would all (or most) Civil War officers have made the same decision - namely to make the stand on that ridge, rather than on Seminary Ridge several hundred yards behind him? Seminary was considerably higher, giving an open view of not only Herr's Ridge and Willougby Run, but also of McPherson's ridge and the plain between McPherson's and Seminary. It had well built buildings which could have been used as cover. There was still the fall-back of retreating to Cemetery Hill. Reynolds still had a straight shot down Emmitsburg Road to reinforce.

So the question is not so much whether Buford's decision was a good one, but whether most officers, had they found themselves in his situation, would have done the same. Opinions?



 Posted: Tue Aug 21st, 2007 02:25 am
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Basecat
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Javal,

Technically, he did not stay and just fight on McPherson's Ridge.  He utilized all the riges in that area to delay and harrass the Confederate advance as much as he could until the leading elements of the Union Army arrived on the field.  Buford had a keen sense of topography, and he could see that by occupying the ridges to the West of McPherson's Ridge, he could accomplish his goal of delaying the Confederate army advancing down that road. 

Knoxlyn Ridge, and Herr's Ridge are a lot steeper than McPherson's Ridge, but by advancing that far out, he could see just how tough it would be to advance over those ridges under fire.  Take into account the amount of marching those in Hill's Corps had done the past few days and IMHO, the odds were with him that he could stall them sufficiently enough until Reynolds arrived on the scene.

Add to the fact that Buford had videttes spaced out from modern Rte. 116 to where the management office of The NPS is at Gettysburg shows that he knew where he would probably be hit from as well.  IIRC, those arc of videttes were in a line that was about 6 miles long, from South to North. 

As for other officers in Buford's position, IMHO, no they would have probably occupied Cemetery Hill further to the east and just sat there awaiting further developments.

Hope all is well, and my best of luck to SoX, and hope Xan is feeling better.

Regards from the Garden State,

Steve Basic 

 



 Posted: Tue Aug 21st, 2007 05:30 pm
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j harold 587
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Buford came east from fighting indians. His goal was not to stop the ANV, just to  slow the advance to allow infantry to come up. This is called a defense in depth. I am confident Buford had seen this defense used in the west by native americans to stall convential army tactics while their noncombatants were able to evacuate a village or camp area. 

If an infantry defensive line was his goal the more rearward position would have been prefferable due to elevation and field of fire.

This way marching troops were shook out of road formation and into battle lines at each ridge.   This is a time consuming movement. Also I beleive initally the blue resistance was thought to be home guard which after a solid rout by battle hardened veterans would melt away.



 Posted: Tue Aug 21st, 2007 08:36 pm
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PvtClewell
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Buford was also a West Point graduate, class of '48 and probably learned a thing or two about defense in depth there, too.

I was wondering if it was just happenstance that Buford was where he was when the battle broke out, since we know it began as a meeting engagement and not necessarily by somebody's design. Buford had been in Fairfield on June 30 and observed some of Heth's movements there, which he reported to Reynolds. I guess this early warning probably gave Buford time to set up his defense in depth.

Joe's question is whether someone other than Buford (1st Cav. Div) would have done what Buford actually did. The other cavalry division commanders at G-burg were David McM. Gregg (2nd Cav. Div.) and Judson Kilpatrick (3rd Cav. Div.).

Here's what Sears writes: "David McMurtrie Gregg, a trooper seemingly cut from the same bolt as Buford — able, reliable, imperturbable...Judson Kilpatrick was not in the least like Buford or Gregg. Kilpatrick was all flamboyance and burning ambition." I suspect Buford was the best man for the moment for the Federals. Merritt, Farnsworth, Custer, McIntosh, et al, were brigade commanders and not responsible for troop deployment in the way Buford was.

I was thinking about this: all the geography Buford used for his defense — Knoxlyn, Herr, and McPherson ridges and Willoughby Run — faced west in the direction of Hill's approaching Confederates. But what if Ewell, coming down from the north, arrived first to begin the meeting engagement? Ewell would essentially be crossing the T on all those ridges — flanking them — then what? Just wondering. I guess it coud have happened.



 Posted: Wed Aug 22nd, 2007 01:35 am
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Basecat
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PvtClewell writes:

I was thinking about this: all the geography Buford used for his defense — Knoxlyn, Herr, and McPherson ridges and Willoughby Run — faced west in the direction of Hill's approaching Confederates. But what if Ewell, coming down from the north, arrived first to begin the meeting engagement? Ewell would essentially be crossing the T on all those ridges — flanking them — then what? Just wondering. I guess it coud have happened.

Buford knew that Ewell had a longer march to the area, and he did have Devin's men posted there covering the roads from Harrisburg area.  Hill was the main threat because he was closer.  Cashtown is about 6-10 miles from Gettysburg.  Ewell's boys had about 25 miles to march before they got to the area. 

It also shows just how affective the Union Cavalry was during the pre battle stages, and the poor showing the Confederate Cavalry had during those days. 

Hope all is well.

Steve Basic

Last edited on Wed Aug 22nd, 2007 01:37 am by Basecat



 Posted: Wed Aug 22nd, 2007 11:59 am
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PvtClewell
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Steve,

You are correct, but I was speaking in hypotheticals and more in terms of geography and not timing. It seemed all the geopraphy, facing west toward the approaching Confederates, favored Buford's defense. I was just supposing what would happen if, say, Ewell got an earlier start from Carlisle on the 30th, doesn't dilly-dally on the march (Lee expressed no urgency to Ewell) and arrived on the field from the north about the time Heth did. Buford's in a hot spot then because his ridges for defense are facing the wrong direction to face Ewell. Even early warning from his videttes aren't much good then. His only good ground might be Oak Hill and perhaps Blocher's (Barlow's) Knoll. Certainly not good ground for defense in depth. Just wondering.



 Posted: Wed Aug 22nd, 2007 12:40 pm
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j harold 587
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Good points Pvt Clewell and basecat. I had never considered the results of Ewell arriving first. That would have made stalling the ANV for Reynolds to arrive much more difficult. Without the natural rigdelines Devons men could not have held out nearly as long. 

Also to the original question Buford and Gregg were very conserned with saving  men and horses to fight another day. Not so with kill calvary.  His ordering a charge over poor ground for no obvious tactical advantage over the objection of his subordinates on day three of Gettysburg should show his poor tactical planning.

I'm sure Buford studied defense in depth at the point. I just feel he had seen how effective it could be on conventional troop movements as a delaying tactic.



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