John Buford was born March 4, 1826 in Woodford County, Kentucky. He graduated from the highly respected military school, West Point in 1848. Buford wasn't one of the main generals in the war but he helped the Union gain control at Gettysburg. At the start of the Civil War Buford was a captain in the 2nd Dragoon Regiment. During the Battle of Gettysburg Buford was in command of the 1st Division Cavalry Corps. Buford was a very important cavalry commander because of the choices he made on June 30th and July 1st when the major battles occurred. He enjoyed being around those he commanded and he knew everything about them, but he kept his distance from his superiors. "The great joy of the cavalry was to be so far away, out in the clean air, the open spaces, away from those damned councils. There were some moments, like now, when he felt no superior presence at all. Buford shook his head. He had been badly wounded in the winter, and possibly as you got older you had less patience instead of more. But he felt the beautiful absence of a commander, a silence above him, a windy freedom" (Shaara 38). Because he knew his troops so well they looked up to him and trusted that he would do what was best for them. .
Buford recognized the strategic importance of Gettysburg as a road centre and was prepared to hold this site until reinforcements arrived (Battle of Gettysburg). Buford played a major role during the first day at Gettysburg. Buford was commanded by General Meade to move to Cashtown or Gettysburg (Battle of Gettysburg). Buford chose Gettysburg because he saw a strategic advantage and decided to defend it until reinforcements showed up. Buford strengthened the picket lines along Herr Ridge until several hundred troopers held the lines, scattered at intervals of thirty feet, with three out of every four men manning the lines, the fourth responsible for holding the horses of his comrades (Gettysburg Campaign).