Summary and Analysis
Wednesday, July 1, 1863 - 7. Buford
It is 2 a.m., and Buford rides along Cemetery Hill while the men continue to dig in. He is wounded, in pain, and looking for orders for what is left of his cavalry unit. At the farmhouse being used as a headquarters, he encounters two majors arguing over who is in charge — Howard of the XI Corps or Hancock of the II Corps. Meade is not there yet.
Gibbon comes over to greet him. Buford learns that Howard's men were falling back during the battle, and Hancock came along and pulled things back together. Buford starts to head inside, but Gibbon stops him and briefs him on Howard's accusation that Buford's men didn't support Howard's right flank. Hancock joins them and is surprised to hear how involved Buford and his men were, something that leaves Buford feeling a bit better.
Meade shows up. Hancock and Meade discuss that this is very good ground, but Buford, who saved it, can't even get close enough to talk to him. Disgusted and tired, Buford has his orders and leaves.
Buford reflects on all the men in his company who are dead. The chapter ends with Buford talking to the dead Reynolds and noting that "we held the ground." Buford notes that the white angel that was in the cemetery before the battle is nowhere to be found.
The theme of relationships in the war is touched on in this chapter. Gibbon is a Union general, but his brothers are fighting for the other side, a common theme for this war of brothers.
Most of the Union top brass are portrayed as ineffective. In addition, here is a battle that may determine the outcome of the war, and Buford, who is weary to the bone, has to stand and listen to two majors argue about army protocol and which general is really in charge.
Shaara uses the loss of the white angel in the cemetery as a way to make the losses personal and real. At the beginning of the story, you meet the young lieutenants in Buford's command and see the white angel in the cemetery. By night, the lieutenants are dead, and the angel is gone.
Irony is evident when Buford, whose men managed to save the high ground, is accused by General Howard of not supporting Howard's flank. The reality is that Howard could not even hold his own ground, much less save the high ground, and General Hancock had to restore the Union lines during the battle because Howard could not.
Petty resentments show in Howard's jealousy of Hancock's leadership abilities and Hancock's popularity with the rank-and-file soldiers.