As the day dawned on June 28th, 1863, General John Buford and his cavalry division had moved through Jefferson,Marylandand went into camp near Middletown. The troopers were to re-fit and re-shoe their mounts. This was done in preparations of following up the Confederate invasion that would eventually land Buford and the rest of the Army of thePotomacat Gettysburg. That same day, the Confederate command issued orders for their concentration at Gettysburg.
The next morning, Buford’s cavalry was ordered to screen the western base of South Mountain, while the First Corps and the Eleventh Corps marched northward to Emmitsburg. Buford was to march from Middletown to Cavetown, cross the Mason and Dixon Line, and recross South Mountainat Monterey Pass, and then encamp near Emmitsburg where General John Reynolds’s left wing would be located. The main assignment for Buford was to “cover and protect the front, and communicate all information rapidly and surely.”
Buford’s First Cavalry Division consisted of three brigades. The First Brigade, under the command of Colonel William, Gamble and the Second Brigade, under the command of Colonel Thomas Devin, were ordered northward following the western base of South Mountain to the Mason and Dixon Line. The Third brigade, known as the Reserve Brigade, under the command of General Wesley Merritt, was ordered to Mechanicstown, located seven miles south of Emmitsburg. Attached to Colonel William Gamble’s Brigade was Battery“A”, 2nd U.S. Artillery, under the command of Lieutenant John H. Calef.
The cavalrymen of Buford’s command wore a variety of the army regulation uniforms. They consisted of the preferred loose fitting fatigue blouse, and the mounted services jacket with yellow taping, which fitted much tighter on the body. Their headgear consisted of a forage cap, or slouch hat. While sky-blue kersey trousers were the norm, there are a few photographs taken before Gettysburg of the cavalrymen wearing dark-blue trousers. The blue uniforms, showing signs of wear, were caked with the same dust that choked the footman while he marched. Several accounts make mention that the dust was several inches thick.
The best description of a cavalryman during the Union advance toward Gettysburg was provided by Captain Charles F. Adams of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry in General Gregg’s Cavalry Division. “My blue trousers are ragged from contact with the saddle and so covered with grease and dust that they would fry well. From frequently washing my flannel shirts are so shrunk about the throat that they utterly refuse to button and, so perforce, I follow Freedom with bosom bare. I wear a loose government blouse, like my mens’, and my waistcoat, once dark blue, is now a dusty brown.” The artillery experienced the same harsh elements.
Buford’s command was well armed. Many of the cavalrymen carried the Sharps carbine, however, several others carried a variety of small arms such as the Burnside carbine, Merrill Carbine, Smith Carbine, and the Gallager Carbine. A combination of Colt and Remington Revolvers complete the troopers’ weapons, excluding the saber. Lieutenant Calef’s battery was armed and equipped with six 3-inch rifles.
At9:00 am, General Buford’s command left Middletown and crossed South Mountain at Turner’s Gap. From there, his men trotted into Boonsboro and took the road toward Cavetown. Captain Newel Cheney of the 9thNew York recalled that near Mount Pleasant, near Boonsboro, a huge National flag was displayed to show their patriotism. As the cavalrymen continued, many accounts of civilians greeting them along the way were recorded.
Opon entering into the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, late in the afternoon, General Buford’s command recalled the enthusiasm and cheering from his troopers with regards to once again being on northern soil. Abner Frank recalled seeing a mounted trooper from the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry, “who stood with a streaming guidon, on the boundary line of the state, indicating our exit from Maryland into loyal Pennsylvania.”
Once in Pennsylvania, the troopers began ascending South Mountain to Monterey Pass. Monterey Pass was a vital transportation hub. In addition to the numerous smaller roads leading to the pass, there were several main roads leading to Chambersburg, Emmitsburg, Fairfield, Smithsburg, and Waynesboro that converged at Monterey Pass. Monterey Pass had already seen a skirmish on June 22nd, when a detachment of the 14th Virginia Cavalry attacked a few mounted Federal cavalry units. On June 28th, a detachment of Cole’s Cavalry Company “C” had traveled through Monterey Pass and skirmished with a Confederate foraging party at Fountaindale.
As Buford’s column continued its ascent, Newel Cheney, an officer from the 9th New York Cavalry recalled “An old man stood beside the road near Monterey Springs, with his hat off and tears streaming down his face. As the column passed the men cheered him heartily. At Monterey, some of the officers called and got a well served supper of bread, butter, ham, apple-butter and coffee.”
Buford stood at the opening of MontereyPassand saw in the distance, toward Greencastle, the dust being kicked up by General James Longstreet’s Corps as they marched to Chambersburg. It was at this time that Buford came to realize that a large battle would soon erupt. As Buford’s soldiers traveled the Emmitsburg and Waynesboro Turnpike, they came to the small hamlet of Fountaindale at approximately 10:00 pm. There, Buford ordered the majority of his cavalrymen to rest. Lieutenant Calef described the days’ march as being “very long and fatiguing, adding horses very much used up.” The troopers were amazed with the rich agriculture and produce they had seen in the surrounding countryside upon reaching Fountaindale, Pennsylvania. For many Pennsylvanians this was their first trip back home since enlisting in the military. This was especially so for the soldiers of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry, many of whom were from Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, located seven miles from Fountaindale.
The days’ march was exhausting for Buford’s men. Many troopers tied the reins to their wrist during the march, so as to rest while in the saddle. Upon reaching Fountaindale, and being ordered to bivouac, several of the troopers fell to the ground and slept where they had landed. Between 2:00 am and 3:00 am, the troops were back in the saddle heading toward Fairfield. After a brief skirmish, Buford made his way to Emmitsburg, where he arrived during the mid morning hours on June 30th.