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“The Devil’s to Pay”: John Buford at Gettysburg. A History and Walking Tour. Hardcover – November 2, 2014
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"Most people were introduced to John Buford through Sam Elliott’s riveting portrayal of him in the film Gettysburg. Now, through the talented hand of Eric Wittenberg in his new exemplary book, a new generation of readers will meet the real Buford as history knew him―a brilliant cavalry tactician and inspirational leader whose star reached its zenith at Gettysburg before an untimely illness struck him down just as opportunity for advancement to senior command beckoned. This wonderfully written and deeply researched study stands as a tribute even a gruff Old Army veteran like Buford would have admired.”" (Scott L. Mingus, Sr., author of Flames Beyond Gettysburg and Confederate General William “Extra Billy” Smith)
“As the author of 17 previous books on Civil War cavalry operations, Eric Wittenberg’s name is well known to students of the Gettysburg Campaign. In ‘The Devil’s to Pay’: John Buford at Gettysburg, Wittenberg tackles one of Gettysburg’s most iconic and revered leaders. Wittenberg’s narrative encompasses every aspect of Buford’s Gettysburg performance and readers will leave with a much better appreciation of John Buford and the cavalrymen who served under him.” (James A. Hessler, author of Sickles at Gettysburg (2009) and co-author of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg (2015))
“Few books on Gettysburg spill much ink on the role played by General John Buford and his troopers during the opening hours of the battle, and even less regarding their participation during the rest of the first day or thereafter. Wittenberg’s new master work details, for the first time, Buford’s crucial roll and how he and his cavalrymen impacted the course of the battle. It is a scholarly, yet eminently readable book that is decades overdue.” (J. David Petruzzi, author of The Complete Gettysburg Guide)
“No figure is more central to the Battle of Gettysburg than Union cavalryman John Buford. More than any other commander’s decision, Buford’s determination to stand and fight on July 1 precipitated all the combat that followed. Award-winning author Eric Wittenberg, noted for his excellent work on cavalry in general and Gettysburg in particular, offers a detailed examination of Buford’s role in clear, well-ordered prose. ‘The Devil’s to Pay’ is another must-have book on any Gettysburg shelf.” (David A. Powell, author of The Maps of Chickamauga and The Chickamauga Campaign)
About the Author
Eric J. Wittenberg is an accomplished American Civil War cavalry historian and author. An attorney in Ohio, Wittenberg is the author of many articles and the author or co-author of more than a dozen books on Civil War cavalry subjects, including The Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads and the Civil War’s Final Campaign; Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg; and One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife Susan.
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The author's beginning pages are a mini-biography on General Buford and his beginning career of being stationed in the west right after graduation from West Point. All who knew this young officer were impressed with his character, demeanor, and intelligence, yet he was a quiet and humble officer of few words. The opinions of those who knew General Buford would remain the same over the years. Officers in the Confederate Army and Cavalry who served with Buford before the war knew they were going to deal with a highly intelligent and thoughtful leader who would be a very formidable foe. His troops and officers would refer to him as "Old Steadfast" and "Honest John," in admiration. From the middle of June 1862 up until July 1st, Union regiments under Buford and Confederate cavalry regiments were in a series of clashes from Virginia, through Maryland and up into Pennsylvania as Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) were scouting and getting intelligence about the militia regiments, the terrain and roads the ANV would soon march through.
The night before the "big battle" of Gettysburg General Buford realized that the Confederate Army was going to march right at the town he was in (Gettysburg,) he also knew that if the Confederates would seize and hold the high ground surrounding the town, the Army of the Potomac would most certainly be defeated if they fought the Army of Northern Virginia. The Army of the Potomac under General George Meade was indeed fortunate to have a General like John Buford make the appropriate maneuvers and strategic decisions to counter the Army of Northern Virginia. Buford's 1st Cavalry Division had outstanding officers such as Thomas Devin and many others who did an outstanding job of leadership under the heat of battle, the men would look up to Devin and the other officers and count on their decisions and thoughts during the stress of battle.
As the author explains, Buford's cavalry division did an excellent job at being prepared at a moments notice to go into battle. Buford's division was the perfect one to hold off the Army of Northern Virginia until reinforcements under General John Reynold's 1st Corps could arrive and take over the positions that Buford's men were holding at a dear cost of dead and wounded. Union Cavalryman John L. Beveridge said, "we could easily fall back and elude pursuit, but we are not here to retreat, nor was it our habit to retreat." The attitude of this officer was shared by Buford's entire division.
As Mr. Wittenberg often proves in this outstanding summary of the first day's action of Buford's division, this was the almost perfect division to stop and hold the invading Army of Northern Virginia until an adequate number of soldiers could be sent to do battle against the ANV. The author's outstanding research explains the decisions and maneuvers of the key officers in Buford's divisions as they faced the ANV with a much smaller division against the advancing regiments from North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia during the beginning hours of the battle.
John Buford and his division should rank up there as one of the finest disciplined and trained divisions not only in the Army of the Potomac but of the Union army as whole.
Unfortunately, Brigadier General John Buford would die only a few months after the battle of Gettysburg on December 16, 1863, from Rheumatism and pretty much exhaustion overall due to his constant being in the saddle throughout the eastern theater from 1861 to 1863. President Abraham Lincoln promoted Buford to Major General due to his outstanding performance at Gettysburg. When Buford passed away, the whole Union army (as well as many Confederate officers) mourned. He was that respected, admired, and beloved. In the years following the war, many men in the 1st Cavalry division would write down their admiration of their beloved General and NOT ONE ever wrote anything critical about him or his leadership during the war. This is a rare accomplishment indeed.
The closing chapter(s) are of a driving tour that you can make at Gettysburg that highlights the locations that the 1st Division fought at during the battle. It is an excellent overview of the important locations that the 1st corps regiments were stationed in the beginning hours of the battle.
Many never before published photographs of the officers of Buford's division highlight the book. Maps in the book also enhance the understanding of where both Union and Confederate regiments were located during the first day of battle.
Mr. Wittenberg is well known and regarded for his outstanding books on Civil War Cavalry battles and regiments. Each one of his books is a fascinating read and vital to understand the importance of the cavalry during the war in the eastern theater. Having said that, I can honestly say after reading "The Devil's to Pay, John Buford at Gettysburg, A History and Walking Tour," should be considered his "signature book." You can't read anymore outstanding books like this one. In years to come this book will be one of the "cornerstone" books in regards to the Gettysburg campaign and battle. Yes, it is that good. Eric has said that this book is his "life's work," rest assured, he can know that he is very successful with this outstanding read and his "life's work" is a definite success. Ted Savas and Savas Beatie has yet again published another outstanding book of the Civil War and my compliments again to both Eric and Savas Beatie in this outstanding edited, researched, and formatted read. HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Overall, this is a good read and another must to have on a notepad or paperback to head out for some on the spot reading!
Wittenberg starts off with some insight into the figure of General John Buford. Despite the fact that many "know" him through Sam Elliot's portrayal of him in the movie Gettysburg, I must say I had not done my research on this unsung hero of the battle. General Buford was a no nonsense type of man that did his job, and did it right. However, in an arm of the Army that was known for it's colorful characters, Buford never seemed to draw attention to himself. Eric shows an very good overview of General Buford, which I appreciated.
I especially liked the attention that he drew to the "hollow squares" that might or might not have been deployed by Confederate infantry when they thought Buford's men would attempt a mounted charge. Mr. Wittenberg sheds some light on this story. I also appreciated the walking and driving tour that were part of this book. It led me to the Cobean Farm, a spot on the battlefield that I had never been to.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book as a must for any Gettysburg scholar, and would think that even a novice might enjoy the book. Good job!
exposure less than a year after his great delaying actions at Gettysburg. Buford's
men and his tactical acumen secured the High Ground and eventual victory, all of which is most deserving of close study by both Civil War History buffs, and by
American tactician. Buford's skill, knowledge and Combat Experiences were instrumental in his 2 on-scene Cavalry Brigades delaying and bloodying Harry Heth's
Division of Confederates, and thus merits in-depth study. Wittenberg's book makes important strides toward such study, and fully merits 5 stars!
I think the detail is about right. The one thing that I would have liked is a TOE for the unit. Equipment was less standardized during the Civil War and I think this would have been interesting. An appendix with this info would have been great.