01 June 2015 by Published in: Research and Writing No comments yet

UnknownWith many thanks to Dave Roth, the publisher, for giving me permission to reprint it here, here is Rob Grandchamp’s extraordinary review of “The Devil’s to Pay”: John Buford at Gettysburg. A History and Walking Tour that appears in the current issue of Blue & Gray Magazine. I’m humbled by such a wonderful review, which is the finest review any of my books has ever gotten.

Award winning historian Eric Wittenberg, who has had a lifelong fascination with Union General John Buford, has researched and authored this tome. It combines the sharp research and intellect that he brings to his work, extensive use of primary manuscript sources, as well as the maps and images that Savas Beatie’s works are known for.

Wittenberg begins with a brief biography of Buford and an overview of his First Cavalry Division. The book is heavily illustrated with photographs, and includes many never before seen images. In addition, highly detailed maps throughout the text show the position of Buford’s men in this battle. Arriving in Gettysburg on June 30, 1863 Buford carefully surveyed the ground and determined to hold a series of ridges west of the town in order to delay the Confederates and allow the Union infantry to get into position. Wittenberg notes that Buford’s tactics on the morning of July 1 are still taught to cadets at West Point as a classic example of the use of cavalry (now replaced with wheeled vehicles, but still employing the same concepts).

Much of the book covers Buford’s actions on the first day at Gettysburg. Through a series of breakdowns in Confederate leadership, and with superb use of the terrain and their breechloading carbines, the eight regiments of Buford’s command were able to hold the ground against an overwhelming Confederate offensive. The descriptions of this action are the most detailed and descriptive this reviewer has ever seen. The maps highlight the action, allowing the reader to view the text down to the company and regimental level. In addition, the well placed footnotes allow for further serious scholarship. It is evident that Wittenberg has done his homework, as the book contains many sources not previously seen by historians. Buford’s men held their positions until the I Corps arrived on the field, and continued to support General John Reynolds’ flanks until the corps retreated back to Gettysburg.

While most books that narrate the story of Buford’s men at Gettysburg end with his division being relieved at the end of the First Day, this book does not. On the morning of July 2, one of the brigades supported the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters and the 3rd Maine in a reconnaissance in force near Pitzer’s Woods on Seminary Ridge. This engagement is often overlooked, but Wittenberg provides a detailed overview of the brief fight at Pitzer’s Woods, which was the opening of the battle on the southern part of the line on the Second Day. After this engagement, army commander General George G. Meade wisely sent Buford’s worn out division back to Westminster, Maryland to guard the supply train and refit.

The main part of the book ends with a historiography of Buford’s legacy and his role at Gettysburg. Several important appendices are also present, including one on the Buford monument at Gettysburg, a driving tour of positions associated with Buford’s command, and a discussion about the long held thought that Buford’s men were armed with Spencer repeaters, rather than single-shot breechloading carbines, at Gettysburg. Wittenberg, through deep research, has finally determined that the command was not armed with Spencers until the fall, and that Buford’s eight regiments carried a miscellaneous assortment of carbines.

In conclusion, this book is typical of what we have come to expect from Wittenberg: meticulously researched, superbly illustrated, and well written. While many books have been written about the early morning fighting at Gettysburg on July 1, 1963, this is the first book that has focused solely on the very important role that John Buford and his First Cavalry Division played in the fighting. While often an unsung hero of the battle, this book has brought Buford’s role in the action back to life. It is one of the better books to come out of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. “The Devil’s to Pay” is an exceptional read and must-add to any Civil War collection.

It simply does not get any better than that, I am very grateful to Rob for his incredibly kind words about my labor of love. That is, without question, the single best review one of my works has ever received.

I do need to correct Rob’s statement about when Buford’s command might have been armed with Spencer repeaters. Rob incorrectly states that the First Cavalry Division was armed with Spencer carbines in the fall of 1863. The Spencer carbine only went into mass production in September 1863, and there were not sufficient quantities of them available to distribute until the winter of 1863-1864. When the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps took the field in the spring of 1864, it was largely armed with Spencers, but not before that time.

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