John Buford, Jr. was a West Point graduate and a native of Kentucky who remained in the United States Army though many of his relatives and classmates chose to join the Confederate cause. During the American Civil War, Buford served as a Union cavalry officer. He discharged his duty with distinction at the Second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas). He also fought at South Mountain and Antietam.
Buford is credited with having chosen the field of battle at Gettysburg. Although greatly outnumbered, Buford, a Brigadier General at the time, deployed his dismounted cavalry on McPherson Ridge to impede the Confederate advance led by his West Point classmate, Major General Henry Heth, until 1 Corp under Major General John F. Reynolds arrived to support the Union position. When Confederate General Robert E. Lee retreated back to Virginia after being soundly defeated at Gettysburg, Buford pursued Lee into Virginia, engaging the Confederates in several battles.
In December, 1863, Abraham Lincoln approved Buford’s promotion to Major General on the eve of Buford’s death from a disease, probably typhoid. He was buried at West Point. A fort in North Dakota and a town in Wyoming were named in his honor.