Abraham Buford (July 21, 1747 – June 30, 1833) was a Continental Army officer during the American Revolutionary War, best known as the commanding officer of the American forces at the Battle of Waxhaws.
Born in Culpeper County, Virginia, Buford quickly organized a company of minutemen upon the outbreak of war in 1775, eventually rising to the rank of colonel by May 1778. Assuming command of the 11th Virginia Regiment in September, he would be assigned to the 3rd Virginia Regiment in April 1780 and sent south to relieve the British siege of Charleston, South Carolina.
Forced to withdraw following the surrender of Charleston on May 12, the 3rd Virginia Continentals were trapped on May 29 by a British and American Loyalist force under Col. Banastre Tarleton. When Buford refused Tarleton’s demand he surrender, Tarleton ordered an assault in which Buford’s force suffered casualties so severe that the Americans tried to surrender. While Buford was calling for quarter, Tarleton’s horse was struck by a musket ball and fell. This gave the loyalist cavalrymen the impression that the rebels had shot at their commander while asking for mercy, and thus engaged in what Tarleton later described as “a vindictive asperity not easily restrained”; many American soldiers were sabred to death as they attempted to give up. The incident became known as the Waxhaw Massacre, and became strong propaganda story in the southern states. From that time onward, “Tarleton’s Quarter” (meaning give no quarter) was an American battle cry in the Southern theatre.
Escaping on horseback with his remaining men, Buford was not found culpable for the action and continued to serve as an officer in the Continental Army through the Battle of Yorktown. He eventually settled in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, on military bounty lands in excess of several thousand acres, where he helped found that state’s horseracing industry and where he lived until his death at his home which he called “Richland” (National Register of Historic Places) in Scott County, Kentucky on June 30, 1833.
On Flag Day, June 14, 2006, descendants of Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton sold Col. Buford’s regimental flags taken at the Waxhaw Massacre at Sotheby’s New York for over $5,000,000 (US).
Buford was one of six sons of John and Judith Early Beaufort (Buford), all of whom served with distinction as officers during the American Revolution. Their Civil War descendants included Union Major Generals John Buford, who distinguished himself at the Battle of Gettysburg, and Napoleon Bonaparte Buford and Confederate General Abraham Buford.