Buford at Gettysburg: A Study in Maps

A few days ago, Mr. Dana Shoaf (editor of both Civil War Times and America’s Civil War magazines) approached me with an article idea:  A four-map study of Brig. Gen. John Buford’s cavalry at Gettysburg with an explanatory article for the July issue of ACW.  Traditionally for the past few years, I’ve had a hand in the July issue of that magazine… an article on Buford at Gettysburg, an article about the first shot fired by one of his troopers, and an article about the July 3 cavalry fight at nearby Fairfield. 

I immediately jumped on this “study in maps” idea, because I’ve long wanted to map out the very obscure actions of Buford’s cavalry at the battle.  Of the four maps, I’ve already completed three, and sent them off to cartographer Steven Stanley.  Specifically, the four maps will detail the following events:

1. Buford’s early morning July 1 dispositions, the firing of the “first shot” to open the battle, Heth’s initial skirmish line (which has never been mapped and identified before) and related details.  In other words, this map will show what one would see if he were flying overhead over the first day’s field on the morning of July 1, 1863 at about 7:30 am.

2. The second map details the height of the fight between Buford and Heth at about 9:30 to 10:00 am on July 1, just prior to the arrival of Reynolds’ Federal I Corps.  Again, this maps has loads of details never mapped previously.

3. The third will be a combination map that shows the very unknown flank actions of Buford’s brigades under Cols. William Gamble and Thomas Devin.  On the left flank of the I Corps, Gamble’s brigade conducts a mounted feint assault.  Then, there is a galling fire laid down by some of Gamble’s troopers from behind the stone wall just west of the Schultz house.  On the right flank, Devin’s delaying action against Blackford’s Confederate sharpshooters is detailed, and against the advance of Ewell’s corps from the north.  Finally, the mounted feint conducted by Gamble’s brigade at the foot of Cemetery Hill as the Federal infantry corps rally there will be shown.  None of this has been mapped previously.

4.  The final map (and perhaps my favorite to have done) will detail the VERY obscure skirmishing that took place mid-morning of July 2 in Pitzer’s Woods by 2 of Devin’s regiments alongside the 2nd United States Sharpshooters against Wilcox’s skirmishers.  This skirmishing further alerted an anxious Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles of the Federal III Corps of the enemy in his front, and helped lead to his very controversial move forward.  This is the first time this little action will have been mapped in detail with all units and their positions identified.

I’ll finish up the final map and the accompanying text this weekend, and I really look forward to its appearance in the magazine.  Steve does amazing map work (he’s the cartographer for the Civil War Preservation Trust also – I’m sure many of you recognize his work) and I’m excited to see the final work.

Watch for this in the July issue of America’s Civil War which I think will be available sometime in May at a newsstand or mailbox near you.

Published in: on February 29, 2008 at 2:14 pm  Comments (6)