"The Devil's to Pay": John Buford at Gettysburg. A History and Walking Tour

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Eric Wittenberg
Pub Date:
July 2018
Trade paper, 6 x 9
Images, maps, 288 pp
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About the Book

Although many books on Gettysburg have addressed the role played by Brig. Gen. John Buford and his First Cavalry Division troops, there is not a single book-length study devoted entirely to the critical delaying actions waged by Buford and his dismounted troopers and his horse artillerists on the morning of July 1, 1863. Award-winning Civil War historian Eric J. Wittenberg rectifies this glaring oversight with “The Devil’s to Pay”: John Buford at Gettysburg. A History and Walking Tour.

This comprehensive tactical study examines the role Buford and his horse soldiers played from June 29 through July 2, 1863, including the important actions that saved the shattered remnants of the First and Eleventh Corps. Wittenberg relies upon scores of rare primary sources, including many that have never before been used, to paint a detailed picture of the critical role the quiet and modest cavalryman known to his men as “Honest John” or “Old Steadfast” played at Gettysburg.

“The Devil’s to Pay” also includes a detailed walking and driving tour of pertinent sites, complete with GPS coordinates. Three appendices address the nature of Buford’s defense at Gettysburg, whether his troopers were armed with repeating weapons, and whether a feint by his men late in the day caused the Confederate infantry to form “squares” (a Napoleonic defensive tactic). Finally, 17 maps by Gettysburg cartographer Phil Laino, together with more than 80 images, several published for the first time, round out this study. “The Devil’s to Pay” is a must-have for Gettysburg enthusiasts.


"Most people were introduced to John Buford through Sam Elliott’s riveting portrayal of him in the film Gettysburg. Now, through the talented hand of Eric Wittenberg in his new exemplary book, a new generation of readers will meet the real Buford as history knew him―a brilliant cavalry tactician and inspirational leader whose star reached its zenith at Gettysburg before an untimely illness struck him down just as opportunity for advancement to senior command beckoned. This wonderfully written and deeply researched study stands as a tribute even a gruff Old Army veteran like Buford would have admired.”" (Scott L. Mingus, Sr., author of Flames Beyond Gettysburg and Confederate General William “Extra Billy” Smith)

“As the author of 17 previous books on Civil War cavalry operations, Eric Wittenberg’s name is well known to students of the Gettysburg Campaign. In ‘The Devil’s to Pay’: John Buford at Gettysburg, Wittenberg tackles one of Gettysburg’s most iconic and revered leaders. Wittenberg’s narrative encompasses every aspect of Buford’s Gettysburg performance and readers will leave with a much better appreciation of John Buford and the cavalrymen who served under him.” (James A. Hessler, author of Sickles at Gettysburg (2009) and co-author of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg (2015))

“Few books on Gettysburg spill much ink on the role played by General John Buford and his troopers during the opening hours of the battle, and even less regarding their participation during the rest of the first day or thereafter. Wittenberg’s new master work details, for the first time, Buford’s crucial roll and how he and his cavalrymen impacted the course of the battle. It is a scholarly, yet eminently readable book that is decades overdue.” (J. David Petruzzi, author of The Complete Gettysburg Guide)

“No figure is more central to the Battle of Gettysburg than Union cavalryman John Buford. More than any other commander’s decision, Buford’s determination to stand and fight on July 1 precipitated all the combat that followed. Award-winning author Eric Wittenberg, noted for his excellent work on cavalry in general and Gettysburg in particular, offers a detailed examination of Buford’s role in clear, well-ordered prose. ‘The Devil’s to Pay’ is another must-have book on any Gettysburg shelf.” (David A. Powell, author of The Maps of Chickamauga and The Chickamauga Campaign)


Eric J. Wittenberg is an accomplished American Civil War cavalry historian and author. An attorney in Ohio, Wittenberg has authored over 21 books on various Civil War subjects, with particular focus on cavalry operations, as well as three dozen articles in popular magazines such as North & South, Blue&Gray, America’s Civil War, and Gettysburg Magazine. His first book, Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions (Thomas Publications, Gettysburg PA, 1998) won the prestigious 1998 Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award. The second edition won the Army Historical Foundation’s Distinguished Writing Award, for Reprint, 2011. His 2014 book, “The Devil’s to Pay”: John Buford at Gettysburg. A History and Walking Tour, was awarded the Gettysburg Civil War Roundtable’s 2015 Book Award. Wittenberg is a favored speaker at Civil War Roundtables, and conducts tours of various Civil War battlefields and related sites. He was instrumental in saving important battlefield land at Trevilian Station and Brandy Station, Virginia, and wrote the text for the historical waysides located at Trevilian Station. He lives in Columbus with his wife Susan and their beloved dogs. Visit Eric J. Wittenberg's website: http://www.ericwittenberg.com