Midpoint of the War: May to July 1863

Gettysburg: The First Day

What was different about Buford’s men?

The Confederates had encountered plenty of Union cavalry in the past, but Buford’s men were a little different. Their commander was a believer in the new style, which meant cavalrymen fighting on foot. Buford saw horses as a fine way to get from one point to another, but once a fight began, his men knew that every fourth one would become the holder of horses for the other three, who would fight dismounted, using their Spencer carbines. These seven-shot rifles were far superior to what the Confederates at Gettysburg possessed, and in the opening minutes of the day’s battle, Buford’s cavalrymen more than held their own. Buford realized this would not long remain the case, though, and he sent off urgent messages to Major-General John Reynolds, who promptly relayed them to other commanders. Within two hours of the first shots being fired, scores of thousands of men were on the march from all points of the compass, virtually all of them headed for Gettysburg.


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