Gettysburg Off the Beaten Path: The First Federal Cannon Shot

Part of a Series.

Hall's battery position on McPherson's Ridge. Hall's monument is in the center of the picture.

McPherson Ridge Gettysburg. The Buford Monument is on the left of the photograph. Not the large Reynolds equestrian monument near the tree.

At the base of the monument to Brigadier General John Buford are four cannon. These cannon are not on carriages like the other 400 or so cannon on the Gettysburg Battlefield; rather the cannon sit within granite mounts. These are four of the original cannon under the command of Lieutenant John Calef. Calef commanded Battery A, 2nd United States Artillery and was attached to John Buford’s division at Gettysburg. To trick the enemy into thinking that there were more than just six 3-inch ordinance rifles in their front, Calef spread out his guns in sections along McPherson’s Ridge. The young artillerist hoped that this would make the enemy think that there were three batteries to their front instead of one.

The section near the Buford monument was commanded by Lieutenant John Roder. As the Confederates strode over the crest of Herr’s Ridge, and Major William Pegram deployed his Confederate artillery battalion, 800 yards to the front Roder ordered his section to life. The first shot fired by a Federal cannon came from this section; specifically gun number 233, which was foraged at the Phoenixville Iron Works, in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

Peering to the west overlooking the cannon today is the statue to John Buford. When this monument was dedicated on July 1, 1895 a good bit of controversy swirled around the monuments design. Sculptor James Kelly decided not to place the famed cavalryman on horseback, rather he had Buford dismounted like his troopers had fought on July 1. It was “suggested that it would be better for me to stay home and not attend the unveiling.” remembered sculptor Kelly. The monument committee, including Gen. James H. Wilson were set against Kelly depiction of Buford, until they actually saw the monument. Wilson, once an outspoken critic of the monument became Kelly’s “…most devoted friend…” Former Buford classmate John Tiball exclaimed “I knew Buford at West Point served with him in the Mexican War and saw him at Gettysburg. The proportions are good-the character is good. That’s Buford!”

John Calef, who survived the war, actually tracked down the four cannon, which were part of the battery at the battle. At the dedication of the monument Calef spiked the gun so that “….it may speak no more.”

The guns are located on the north side the Chambersburg Pike across from the stone guide station building. This building is located at the intersection of the Chambersburg Pike and Stone Avenue.

Take Chambersburg Street out of the square in Gettysburg, following the road 0.3 miles. Bear right at the Y with West St./Spring Ave./Chambersburg Street-following the Chambersburg Pike (Rt. 30 West) 1 mile. The guide station will be on your left. Park your car at the guide station  and walk cross the road, use the large Reynolds equestrian statue as a guide mark to Buford. Do be careful crossing the road, the pike dips to your right making it difficult to see oncoming traffic.

Buford Monument Map

About Kristopher D. White

Civil War author and historian.
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