Around two o’clock in the morning, Buford returns to the cemetery on the hill and watches the rest of the army arrive and prepare to defend the hill. He goes to headquarters in search of orders and listens in amazement as various junior officers argue about who is in charge. He will never get used to the mindset of headquarters. Eventually, a familiar soldier brings him word that General Howard is blaming him for the loss of half his men through inadequate support. Buford is dizzied with anger. Eventually Hancock listens to him, and he is pacified.
Buford is bemused by the self-importance that prevails at headquarters, which bears so little connection to what he experiences on the field. Even more galling, Buford is faulted for losses earlier that day. Everyone is too busy arguing among themselves to recognize that by claiming and holding onto Cemetery Hill, Buford has made a pivotal stand for the Union.
Suddenly, General Meade arrives, an “angry man with a squeaky voice.” Buford is pushed into the shadows as officers flock to see and hear the general. Buford slowly rides back to the cemetery and finds that none of his aides have survived the battle. He looks around the cemetery for the familiar white angel but cannot find it. Instead, he looks at the sea of Rebel campfires to the west and sadly remembers Reynolds: “Well, John, we held the ground.”
In contrast to Lee’s solemnity, Meade is portrayed as an unimpressive figure. Buford is pushed further into the shadows and, unremarked, returns to the cemetery, where he can’t spot the angel that had comforted him the night before. This seems ominous, as if God has abandoned this place in anticipation of the carnage to come.