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BUFORD (Chapter 3 of Part I) The armies first meet
The chapter’s first paragraph is from the perspective of the Confederate infantry who are marching towards Gettysburg. As these soldiers get out of the rolling hills just to the west of the town they spot Union cavalry on the road south of Gettysburg.
The point of view then switches to the eyes of John Buford, commander of the two Union cavalry divisions sent to hunt down the invading Confederate force. Buford and Gamble, one of Buford’s brigade commanders, consider how odd it is that Confederate infantry are moving through the North without cavalry scouts. The two are discussing how superb the ground is (the ridges just south of town) and making plans for entrenching when the distant Rebel infantry turn around and retreat back towards the hills.
Buford, an experienced ex-frontier fighter, has a hunch that Lee is not withdrawing from the town but only bringing his lead infantry back into the group before they return en masse. Buford guesses, correctly, that Lee will abandon his path towards Harrisburg and head towards the small town of Gettysburg once his troops are collected. Just before Buford leaves the hill-top cemetery from which he has been watching the Rebs, he notices a white angel statue. He rides down into town and starts up the Cashtown road that the Confederate infantry had been taking into town before their withdrawal. Buford sees the Reb column still making its way west. He also spies its lone officer, a "gentleman," Buford notices with disgust.
After his scouts return with the information that Lee is in fact turning and coming towards the town, Buford writes to Reynolds to send reinforcements but is afraid that Lee will return and take the town and the surrounding hills before the Union infantry can make it. Nonetheless, he takes the risk and establishes a defensive position northwest of town.
Shaara uses similes, juxtaposition, symbols, metaphors, vernacular language, and alliteration to get his point across.
The chapter’s opening sentence uses a simile with water imagery comparing the ridges west of Gettysburg to waves. (p.33) Water imagery is found throughout the book in Shaara’s likening the armies to floods, dams, and rivers.
Shaara compares Buford’s tracking the Confederate army to a hunter’s tracking a big cat. This simile ties into the instinct theme: Buford’s gut feeling on what Lee is doing is often what the cavalry leader acts on. (p.36)
"The hills rose like watchtowers." With this simile, Shaara makes another reference to the theme of good ground. (p.37)
"...the hills, dominant as castles..." (p.41) This quotation also touches on the theme of good ground.
Juxtaposition: Shaara uses juxtaposition to compare the neat, quiet, and peaceful town of Gettysburg to the unruly, loud, and war-bringing horde of Union cavalry. (p.33)
Juxtaposition & Soldiers’ Past Experiences: The neat and tidy east is juxtaposed in Buford’s mind with his memories of Kentucky (where he was born). The east is too neat for war, with not enough room. Kentucky has a "feel of space, of size, a great starry roof overhead, a great wind blowing." (p.44) We are again reminded of Buford’s affinity with the wide open spaces of his youth when, at the chapter’s end, he closes his eyes and sees, "miles and miles of Wyoming snow, and white mountains in the distance, all clean and incredibly still, and no man anywhere." (p.48)
Metaphor: Shaara uses a metaphor to compare the Union cavalry line to a "long blue smoking snake." (p.33) Serpent metaphors and similes can be found throughout the book.