Buford Day 1

Chapter 6 – This poem, “Buford Day 1,” focuses on Buford’s actions on July 1st,1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg. His cavalry forces repulsed the first Confederate attack by two of General Henry Heth‘s brigades (Archer’s and Davis’). Heth was a Major General in General A.P. Hill‘s Third Corp. But it was a tough day for General John Buford’s cavalry. Even with help from the Iron Brigade (Black Hats), the rest of I Corps and the XI Corps, the Union was overwhelmed by Confederate forces, and the Union lost its best General, John Reynolds.

by Christopher Rudolph © 2015

Buford Day 1

Ch 6 – Buford Day 1


Along the ridge before dawn

Down the line Buford rode

Waking boyish faces

Sleepy dreamers he goad


He climbed the Seminary ladder

Up to the cupola white

Watching the light come

Looking for the fight


Air was wet and cool

Slow soaking rain

Great trees in the mist

Lovely rolling domain


Formidable vista

He was in the right spot

When the battle began

And he heard that first shot!


Two more widely spaced

Then volley spattering blare

Through tops of smoky trees

Resounding through white air


First attack on Herr Ridge

Repulsed but they’d be back

Rebels regrouping

New line formed to attack


Charging fiercely this time

Driven bloody back again

Buford gazed off distantly

Where were Reynold’s men?


Archer’s and Davis’ brigades

Were the Rebels attacking now

Of Henry Heth’s division

Buford’s men trying not to bow


But with the rest of A.P. Hill’s Third Corps

Sure to join the attack

Ewell’s Second Corp sweeping in from the north

Too many to combat


He needed word from Reynolds

What was the latest news?

He could hold for but a couple hours

Then precious ridges he would lose


Calef’s 2d US Artillery blasted

Cannon balls did fly

Soon they were met

By Pegram’s Rebel Artillery reply


Buford called another regiment

To move forward with speed

Dig in to greet the Rebels

And really make them bleed


But the Rebel attack was fierce

Barrage of shrapnel rained

A breakthrough on the right flank patched

But Buford’s men were drained


Another breakthrough on the right

Fighting got hand to hand

Not much longer they could hold

This high tactical land


Archer’s and Davis’ brigades advanced

By 10:00 AM breaking through

Buford withdrew to McPherson’s Ridge

Pulling back the cavalry blue


Rebel cannon kept pounding

Situation quite dour

Ammunition running low

Buford had perhaps half an hour


Buford climbed back up to the cupola

Now in their time of need

Galloping gallantly with his aides

Was Reynolds on his steed


Soon Reynolds was up in the cupola

Viewing the waves of incoming gray

Buford said, “We need to keep this high ground

Or there will be the Devil to pay!”


A blue line from the South

Snaked around the bend

Iron Brigade of I Corps

Ready to contend


Toughest Union Vets

Wearing Hats Black

The rest of I Corps following

With XI Corps at their backs


Reynolds complimented Buford

For repelling the Rebel attack

As soon as I Corps deploys

Buford’s Cavalry could pull back


They must guard the North road

And watch for General Richard S. Ewell

For soon the Confederate Second Corp

Would arrive to join the duel


Reynolds sent a message to Mead

“Urgent situation

Get here fast

Or lose favorable position


Of hills beyond the town

Don’t want to retreat

Will delay them as long as possible

If necessary barricading streets”


The Iron Brigade arrived

Hardened veterans grand

Mid Westerners to the rescue

Guardians of blessed land


I Corps was not yet in place

When it rained Confederate shells

A fierce attack came through the smoke

The Screeching Rebel Yell!


General Reynolds led the Iron Brigade

A brave warrior in his saddle

Shouting orders in the chaos

Determined to win the battle


“Forward men, for God’s sake”

They needed to break the rebel line

“Drive those fellows out of the woods”

They were running out of time


Buford saw General Reynolds

Pointing to line of attack

Glanced over again

His horse was bare-backed


Reynolds lay in the dirt road

Thick bloody stain behind head

His aide crying hysterically

General Reynolds was dead


Without their grand Commander

Iron Brigade still bold

Balls and fragments bursting

Still the line they did hold


His men bloodied and weary

Buford drew back following orders

To guard against Ewell’s attack

Defending the Northern shoulder


So, off his men rode

On their weary steeds

All desperate for the arrival

Of the Union General Meade


Go to Chapter 7

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