Get the Book for the Bicentennial!

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This year marks George Gordon Meade’s bicentennial. The future general was born on December 31, 1815. What better way to commemorate his 200th birthday than by reading about his life and legacy in Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg? It is now available in both hardcover and paperback editions.

You can order the book from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

PRAISE FOR SEARCHING FOR GEORGE GORDON MEADE

“Despite his great victory at Gettysburg and his command of the army that forced Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, George Meade saw his fame eclipsed by that of Lee, Grant, and other Civil War generals. This book does a great deal to redress that historical injustice. Tom Huntington has invented a new genre of biography that shifts between past and present as he tells the story of Meade’s life and describes his own pilgrimage to the key sites of that life. The result is an engrossing narrative that the reader can scarcely put down.” —James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

Searching for George Gordon Meade is a splendid book! Well-researched, well-reasoned and well-written, it’s a timely and vital addition to the all-too-meager literature on this neglected American hero. Strongly recommended for serious historians as well as for a general readership. Excellent!” —Ralph Peters, author of Cain at Gettysburg

Much more than another Civil War biography, Tom Huntington’s gripping personal ‘search’ for George Gordon Meade is unique and irresistible: a combination life story, military history, travelogue, and cultural commentary that brings us closer than ever to the old general and his strange reputation—and also opens new windows to our own unending search for an understandable national identity.” —Harold Holzer, Chairman, Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation

“[A] refreshingly readable and well-researched book . . . . Searching for George Gordon Meade should be required reading for all those interested in Civil War history.”—Civil War News, July 2013

 

Gettysburg Monuments

You can always buy Tom Huntington’s other books, Guide to Gettysburg Battlefield Monuments, Ben Franklin’s Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Civil War Trails. You can get them at Amazon.com or directly from Stackpole Books.

152 Years Later

A marker indicates the spot where Hancock fell at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 (Photo by Tom Huntington).

A marker indicates the spot where Hancock fell at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 (Photo by Tom Huntington).

Steve Weatherbee as Meade (Tom Huntington photo).

Steve Weatherbee as Meade (Tom Huntington photo).

I met my fourth George Gordon Meade yesterday.

I know Andy Waskie, of course, the founder and president of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia. Waskie often portrays Meade at talks and living history events. He was out of the country during the 2013 anniversary commemorations, so Jerry McCormick—who usually portrays Gen. Andrew Humphreys—stood in for him as Meade at Gettysburg with the Confederation of Union Generals. I talked to Bob Creed at a Gettysburg reenactment when I was working on Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg. And today I met Steve Weatherbee, who portrays Meade for the Civil War Heritage Foundation. That doesn’t come close to matching the profusion of Robert E. Lees you will find at Civil War events, but it’s a beginning.

I talked with Weatherbee while we waited for advancing Confederates at the stone wall at Gettysburg’s Bloody Angle. The Angle was considerably less bloody today, and the crowd gathered here 152 years after the Union soldiers along this line repulsed Lee’s attack—Pickett’s Charge—was considerably smaller than it had been in 2013, when some 47,000 people showed up for the 150th anniversary.

Over the past couple days I had watched several of the Gettysburg Battlewalks on the Pennsylvania Cable Network, which made me realize I must get down to Gettysburg myself on July 3. So I packed a lunch and set out. It was a fine, pleasant day for a visit, with a light cloud cover blocking the July sun, and a cool breeze blowing through. My goal was to take the 10:00 walk, which covered Winfield Scott Hancock at Gettysburg. A large crowd gathered at the white Abraham Brian farm buildings. As we waited, I overhead some people talking favorably about George Meade. I pointed out the Meade Society cap I was wearing, and we agreed that the general had never really received his due.

Ranger Matt Atkinson talks about Hancock at the Copse of Trees (tom Huntington photo).

Ranger Matt Atkinson talks about Hancock at the Copse of Trees (Tom Huntington photo).

Park ranger Matt Atkinson led the Hancock walk, and he added a distinctive Southern flavor to it. At the start, he admitted that he didn’t often do Union-themed talks, and that he had grown up in the South looking up to Confederate heroes as a boy. Still, he told us that Hancock was one of his favorite generals, and that he was “a natural-born leader.” From the Brian buildings, we moved south down Cemetery Ridge. We made a stop at the monument that marks the spot where Confederate General Lewis Armistead fell on July 3 1863. Armistead and Hancock had been friends before the war—a friendship portrayed as a full-blown bromance in the book Killer Angels and the movie Gettysburg. We finished across the road from the monument that marks the spot where Hancock fell, taken down by a bullet that went through the pommel of his saddle and into his thigh. Atkinson provided a fairly graphic account of Hancock’s wound and the various attempts to remove the musket ball. Maybe that’s what led to our only casualty of the morning, when a woman went faint and had to be helped to the ground (and later to an air conditioned park vehicle).

Alonzo Cushing's belt at the National Civil War Museum (Beth Ann Huntington photo).

Alonzo Cushing’s belt at the National Civil War Museum (Beth Ann Huntington photo).

After the talk, I whiled away some time reading the new book by Jim Hessler and Wayne Motts, Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg: A Guide to the Most Famous Attack in American History. My wife and I had attended the book launch event the previous Sunday at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, where Wayne serves as CEO. Jim and Wayne both spoke, and the two of them, plus cartographer Steven Stanley, signed copies of the book afterwards. Wayne had also put out a collection of artifacts related to Pickett’s Charge, including the belt worn by Alonzo Cushing, the Union artillerist who had been cut down at his guns as Armistead approached them. Cushing was just recently awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions that day.

One of two Lewis Armisteads at Gettysburg on July 3. The real George Pickett never got this far (Tom Huntington photo).

One of two Lewis Armisteads at Gettysburg on July 3. The real George Pickett never got this far (Tom Huntington photo).

Back at Gettysburg, I walked over to the Angle to wait for the Confederates with Weatherbee and other reenactors. I spotted only one Robert E. Lee, but two Armisteads.

It seemed to me that the day felt politically charged in the wake of the debate over the Confederate flag sparked by the church shootings in Charleston. (“Keep flying it,” I heard one woman remark to a Confederate reenactor as he passed her with a Rebel flag.) I’ve written about the flag issue elsewhere. I have no problems with Confederate flags in a historical context. I do have issues with it in a political context, whether it’s being flown at a statehouse or in the back of a pickup truck.

Anyone who has read Searching for George Gordon Meade knows that I have little patience for Lost Cause rhetoric. Here’s one thing I wrote:

During the war and in the years since, Lee has been lionized. Entire bookshelves groan beneath the weight of the volumes dedicated to him. He has come to symbolize a glorious “lost cause,” a world of “cavaliers and cotton fields,” as Gone with the Wind put it. In this view of the Civil War, the noble, freedom-loving South fought a valiant but doomed battle against the institutionalized and bureaucratic forces of the North. The Southern generals, men like Lee, Jackson, and Stuart, tend to be remembered as glamorous and noble warriors. The generals in the North come across more like CEOs of major corporations, faceless and colorless. Except perhaps for Ulysses S. Grant, who gained a reputation as a “butcher” willing to exchange his soldiers’ lives for victory. Who wants to cheer for those guys, especially today, when public distrust of the federal government seems to have reached an all-time high? No, it’s much cooler to cheer for the rebels.

Modern rebels at Gettysburg, 152 years later (Tom Huntington photo).

Modern rebels at Gettysburg, 152 years later (Tom Huntington photo).

Yet there’s one thing that tarnishes this glamorous view of the rebellious South, an elephant in the room that many try to ignore. And that is slavery. The South fought to preserve a culture that rested on a foundation of human bondage. Don’t take it from me–take it from the vice president of the Confederate States of America, Alexander Stephens. In a famous speech he made in March 1861, less than a month before the attack on Fort Sumter ignited the Civil War, Stephens declared that slavery “was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.” Furthermore, he added, the foundation of the Confederate government—its very cornerstone, in fact—“rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.” Claiming that slavery did not cause the Civil War is like clearing the iceberg of any responsibility for sinking the Titanic. That’s why I find it galling to see the Sons of Confederate Veterans contend that the South’s “motivating factor” for war was “the preservation of liberty and freedom.” Except, of course, for the approximately four million people of African descent whom the slave-holding states kept in bondage. It’s a stain that will forever sully the story of the Confederate States of America. There’s no escaping it.

The recent discussions have dragged the unsavory side of Confederate banners into the light, which is a good thing. People forget that South Carolina started flying the stars and bars over its state capitol in 1962, not to salute the courage of Confederate soldiers, but to symbolize its resistance to civil rights. “Heritage not hate,” is what flag supporters tell us the banners symbolize. But that’s not quite right. “Heritage AND hate,” would be a more accurate motto.

So I sensed that subtext percolating beneath the day’s events at Gettysburg. The present has a way of forcing its way into these things, photo bombing history.

Hands across the wall (Tom Huntington photo).

Hands across the wall (Tom Huntington photo).

After watching Union and Confederate reenactors grasp hands across the stone wall, I headed up to the Meade statue for the start of a short “real time” talk about Alexander Webb and the Philadelphia Brigade, led by ranger Emma Murphy. By the walk’s end we were down at the Copse of Trees by the monument to the 69th Pennsylvania. She read us excerpts from Lt. Frank Haskell’s account of the battle and the final repulse of the Confederates on July 3, 1863. “The line springs,” Haskell had written; “the crest of the solid ground, with a great roar, heaves forward its maddened load,–men, arms, smoke, fire, a fighting mass; it rolls to the wall; flash meets flash; the wall is crossed; a moment ensues of thrusts, yells, blows, shots, an undistinguished conflict, followed by a shout universal, that makes the welkin ring again; and the last and bloodiest fight of the great battle of Gettysburg is ended and won.”

As far as I’m concerned, the right side won at Gettysburg. But as all the debate about the Confederate flag has shown us, in some people are still fighting the Civil War.

This Army Ceasing to Exist (June 28, 1865)

George Gordon Meade and his staff, photographed outside Washington in June 1865 (library of Congress).

George Gordon Meade and his staff, photographed outside Washington in June 1865 (library of Congress).

One hundred and fifty years ago today, the Army of the Potomac was officially disbanded. General George Gordon Meade had commanded the army longer than anyone else had—in fact, longer than all three of his predecessors combined. The army ended its existence exactly two years to the day after Meade had assumed command. The order he issued on June 28, 1865, follows, plus some commentary that appeared in Meade’s Life and Letters.

Headquarters Army of The Potomac, June 28, 1865

Soldiers:

This day, two years, I assumed command of you, under the order of the President of the United States. To-day, by virtue of the same authority, this army ceasing to exist, I have to announce my transfer to other duties, and my separation from you.

It is unnecessary to enumerate here all that has occurred in these two eventful years, from the grand and decisive Battle of Gettysburg, the turning point of the war, to the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House. Suffice it to say that history will do you justice, a grateful country will honor the living, cherish and support the disabled, and sincerely mourn the dead.

In parting from you, your commanding general will ever bear in memory your noble devotion to your country, your patience and cheerfulness under all the privations and sacrifices you have been called upon to endure.

Soldiers! having accomplished the work set before us, having vindicated the honor and integrity of our Government and flag, let us return thanks to Almighty God for His blessing in granting us victory and peace; and let us sincerely pray for strength and light to discharge our duties as citizens, as we have endeavored to discharge them as soldiers.

Geo. G. Meade, Major General, U. S. A.

Thus closed the career of the grandest army that this continent has ever seen. When its history shall have been one day faithfully and well written it will be seen that, with all due justice to the other heroic armies of the North, its record stands pre-eminent as the most heroic of them all. It was engaged in more difficult campaigns, fought more hard-contested battles, and suffered more severely than any other army. If, with the double task of guarding the capital of the nation, and of confronting the flower of the Southern armies, it was not always successful, it never failed to respond to the call of duty, and cheerfully to bear the dangers, hardships, and fatigues incidental to active campaigning even under the most trying circumstances of leadership.

It was in existence within two months of four years. General Meade was continuously with it from within a few days of its organization to its final disbandment. He was absent from it, during those four years, but one hundred and nine days, forty-two of which he was recovering from a wound. He was present in every campaign of the army, and in all its engagements, save three. He was its commander for more than half the term of its existence, and as such fought and gained in the greatest battle of the war its most important and signal victory.

From The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 282-3. Available via Google Books.

paperback scanThe paperback edition of Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg is now available! You can purchase it through Stackpole Books, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

A Visit to Monterey Pass

the new museum at Monterey Pass.

The new museum at Monterey Pass.

My lovely wife, Beth Ann, and I made a trip to Gettysburg yesterday. It was a beautiful Sunday, warm, but not too hot, with mostly sunny skies. We decided to explore Culp’s Hill, since I had just read John D. Cox’s guide to that part of the battlefield, Culp’s Hill: the Attack and Defense of the Union Flank, July 2, 1863. We started at Benner’s Hill, where Confederate artillery had received a punishing fire from their Union counterparts, then drove over to Spangler’s Spring and parked the car. From there we had a pleasant walk to the top of the hill (where we paid our respects to George Sears Greene), over the Stephen’s Knoll, and then back to the car.

Since it was such a nice day, and we were in the neighborhood of the neighborhood, we decided to drive to Monterey Pass, the site of fighting during Robert E. Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg. A little museum had opened there in the spring and I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit. When I wrote about Monterey Pass for a book called Pennsylvania Civil War Trails, there was almost nothing about the battle there, just a single historical marker. But a team of volunteers from the Friends of Monterey Pass Battlefield, Inc., has labored for years to build a visitor center, and their dream reached fruition this spring. The museum tells the story of the battle and a good deal about the region’s history. It is certainly worth a visit, and the Friends of Monterey Pass should feel proud of what they have accomplished.

Here’s an adaptation of what I wrote about the battle in Pennsylvania Civil War Trails (which is available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Stackpole Books):

Trails coverOnce the Union threw back Pickett’s Charge, Robert E. Lee knew he had to get his battered army out of Pennsylvania. The retreat required monumental feats of logistics and planning. The army needed ambulances for the wounded and wagons for the tons of provisions that it had foraged. The wagon train for Richard Ewell’s division alone stretched for 40 miles. Supplying his army from Pennsylvania’s riches had been one of Lee’s primary goals, after all, and he wasn’t about to leave his spoils behind. Making the retreat even more difficult was the driving rain that began on July 4 and turned roads to mud and drenched the defeated army as it made is way back towards the Potomac River and safety.

The quickest way back to the ford across the Potomac at Williamsport, Maryland, was via Fairfield, then across South Mountain at Monterey Pass. Through the downpour of July 4, one of the two southern wagon trains (the other was proceeding via Cashtown Pass) was laboring up South Mountain on a steep, narrow route called the Maria Furnace Road. Heading up the Emmitsburg/Waynesboro Turnpike from the south, on a collision course with the retreating rebels, was Judson Kilpatrick and his Union cavalry.

Kilpatrick’s men approached the pass through a pitch-black night, with visibility made even worse by the driving rain. The cavalrymen literally couldn’t see their hands in front of their faces until sudden bolts of lightning lit everything for brief instants. On their way up the steep pike towards Monterey Pass, Kilpatrick’s men met 12-year old Hetty Zeilinger. The girl offered to guide the Union cavalry up to the pass, so one of the Union troopers hoisted her onto his horse.

Near the top of the road, at Monterey Pass, Kilpatrick’s men, with Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer in the lead, ran headlong into a tiny force of defenders, about 90 men and a single cannon under the command of Captain George Emack of Company B, First Maryland Cavalry. Aided by the darkness and confusion, Emack’s small force managed to delay the 4,500 Federal cavalrymen, before he was forced slowly back towards the wagon train.

With the sounds of the wagon train coming from the darkness in front of him, Custer sent the Sixth Michigan forward through the dark and rain to attack it. It was so dark, in fact, that one of the dismounted cavalrymen literally stepped on a Confederate lying on the ground in his path. The rebel shot him dead. In the charge that followed, Custer’s men captured 300 wagons and 1,300 prisoners during a nightmarish encounter amid crashing thunder and lightning, panicked animals, and screams and shouts. Captain Emack suffered a series of serious wounds before his men carried him to safety.

Henry J. Chritzman of Greencastle, a surgeon with one of the Union cavalry brigades, recalled the scene. “When we came up with the wagon-train, Federal and Confederate cavalry, wagons, ambulances, drivers and mules became a confused mass of pursued and pursuing demons whose shouts and carbine shots, mingled with the lightning’s read glare and the thunder’s crash, made it appear as if we were in the infernal regions,” he wrote. Panicked animals went tearing down the road and plunged over the steep edge, where the wagons crashed to pieces. When Kilpatrick burned his captured wagons later that night, the light from their flames was visible for miles.

paperback scanThe paperback edition of Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg is now available! You can purchase it through Stackpole Books, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

The Grand Review

Detail of a photograph of the reviewing stand in front of the White House shows a number of VIPS, including (left to right) Ulysses S. Grant, the blurred figure of Edwiin Stanton, President Andrew Johnson, Wesley Merritt (as commander of the cavalry corps in Philip Sheridan's absence, he sat next to the president as his corps passed), Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, Postmaster William Dennison, William T. Sherman, and Quatermaster General Montgomery Meigs (Library of Congress).

Detail of a photograph of the reviewing stand in front of the White House shows a number of VIPs, including (left to right) Ulysses S. Grant, the blurred figure of Edwin Stanton, President Andrew Johnson, Wesley Merritt (as commander of the cavalry corps in Philip Sheridan’s absence, he sat next to the president as his corps passed), George Gordon Meade, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, Postmaster William Dennison, William T. Sherman, and Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs (Library of Congress. Thanks to Garry Adelman for discovering this detail.).

One hundred and fifty years ago today, a triumphant Army of the Potomac marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in the nation’s capital. Here’s how I described the event in Searching for Georg Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg:

May 23 dawned with the promise of perfect weather, with just enough rain early in the morning to keep the dust down. The Army of the Potomac began forming around the Capitol building in the early hours. At 9:00 a cannon shot from Capitol Hill announced the parade’s start, and the long blue lines of men began marching down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol toward the White House, Meade astride his horse Blackie proudly at their head. “The plaudits of the multitude followed him along the entire line of march; flowers were strewn in his path, and garlands decked his person and his horse,” wrote Horace Porter. His staff—minus Theodore Lyman, who was back in Boston—followed behind him. When he reached the reviewing stand in front of the White House, Meade turned, drew his sword, and saluted. He then joined the dignitaries to watch his army pass.

An artist's conception of the reviewing stand (Library of Congress).

An artist’s conception of the reviewing stand (Library of Congress).

Sheridan was absent. Grant had sent him west to deal with matters there. However, Charles Wainwright suspected that Sheridan had left early because he did not want to appear in the Grand Review under Meade. Wesley Merritt led the cavalry in Sheridan’s absence. When Custer passed the reviewing stand, a spectator tossed him a wreath, which made his horse bolt. Custer went galloping past before he could regain control and wheel back into position. Some people suspected that Custer was showing off for the crowd.

The photograph of the reviewing stand from which the top image was taken. Click to enlarge (Library of Congress).

The photograph of the reviewing stand from which the top image was taken. Click to enlarge (Library of Congress).

The cavalry followed Meade, then the IX, V, and II Corps. Cannons rumbled down Pennsylvania Avenue, and engineers hauled pontoon boats along the parade route. “The men preserved their alinement and distances with an ease which showed their years of training in the field,” Porter noted with satisfaction. “Their movements were unfettered, their step was elastic, and the swaying of their bodies and the swinging of their arms were as measured as the vibrations of a pendulum. Their muskets shone like a wall of steel. The cannon rumbled peacefully over the paved street, banks of flowers almost concealing them.” No African American soldiers were in the parade, as the black units were going west with Sheridan. The entire VI Corps was still in Virginia and unable to attend. But even with these absences, it took six hours for the eighty thousand men from the Army of the Potomac to pass in review.

Washington’s residents had draped the buildings along the parade route with flags and banners, replacing the black symbols of mourning that had gone up following Lincoln’s assassination. Charles Wainwright noticed one banner in particular: “The only debt we can never repay,” it read; “what we owe to our gallant defenders.” Wainwright eyed it cynically. “I could not help wondering whether, having made up their minds that they can never pay the debt, they will think it useless to try.”

But this was not a day for cynicism. “Everything went off to perfection,” said Wainwright, who had his men shine their artillery until it gleamed and paid particular attention to the appearance of the horses. Of all the brigades in the army, Wainwright thought his artillery looked best.

paperback scanThe paperback edition of Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg is now available! You can purchase it through Stackpole Books, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Proposed New Duties (May 18, 1865)

The Meade statue at Gettysburg (Tom Huntington photo).

The Meade statue at Gettysburg (Tom Huntington photo).

With this letter from George Gordon Meade, we come to the end of a road.

This is the final letter that appears in Meade’s Life & Letters. The remainder of volume II, which provides a summation of Meade’s post-war life, does include some excerpts from his correspondence, but the “letters” part of Meade’s story essentially ends here. From this point o, the general will spend much of his life back home in Philadelphia (interrupted by one long stay in Atlanta), so there will be no need to write to his wife.

With Meade’s and Theodore Lyman’s published correspondence at an end, this blog will slow down a bit. I will continue to post things—especially as we move through George Meade’s bicentennial year—but the posts won’t be as frequent as they have been in the past.

It’s been a lot of fun to follow Meade and Lyman through their war experiences. It’s also been quite an educational experience. I’ve learned a lot as I investigated the references Meade and Lyman made in their letters. It’s been a valuable project for me. I hope all of you who have accompanied me on this journey have found it to be as rewarding as I have. Thanks for reading.

I depended on the boys to tell you all the news. You will see by the papers that the great review is to come off next Tuesday. On that day, the Army of the Potomac, consisting of the cavalry, Ninth, Fifth and Second Corps, will, under my command, march through Washington and be reviewed by the President. To-day’s paper contains an announcement of the fact, in a telegram from Mr. Stanton to General Dix, which it is expected will bring the whole North to Washington.

I have heard nothing further about the proposed new duties, or about going to West Point. The order reducing the armies is published, and I suppose the reduction will take place immediately after the review, so that it will not be long before the question is settled.

Meade’s correspondence taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 279-80. Available via Google Books.

paperback scanThe paperback edition of Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg is now available! You can purchase it through Stackpole Books, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Washington (May 12, 865)

George Gordon Meade and his staff, photographed outside Washington in June 1865 (library of Congress).

George Gordon Meade and his staff, photographed outside Washington in June 1865 (library of Congress).

George Meade and the Army of the Potomac have reached Washington. The review he mentions will happen, on May 23 and 24. The Army of the Potomac will be disbanded, but not until June 28, 1865, two years to the day from the time Meade took command.

I reached here last evening in time to pitch camp on the banks of the Potomac. To-day I have been in town at the Department, and waiting to see General Grant, who has been all day before the Committee on the Conduct of the War. I have not yet seen him, so am not able to give you any news. From what I gather, I infer the armies are to be disbanded at once. The review or parade has been talked about, but there appears to be nothing settled, and I rather think it will fall through. I have received your letters up to the one dated the ninth.

We had a delightful march from Richmond; some rain towards the end of the journey, which impeded our progress.

Meade’s correspondence taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), p. 279. Available via Google Books.

paperback scanThe paperback edition of Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg is now available! You can purchase it through Stackpole Books, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

A Visit with Lee (May 5, 1865)

Robert E. Lee at 707 E. Franklin Street with son George Washington Custis Lee (left) and staffer Walter H. Taylor (Library of Congress).

Robert E. Lee at 707 E. Franklin Street with son George Washington Custis Lee (left) and staffer Walter H. Taylor (Library of Congress).

George Meade has reached Richmond, and he drops in on his old adversary, Robert E. Lee. After Appomattox, Lee was living at 707 E. Franklin Street. This is where Mathew Brady had shot now-iconic images of Lee with staffer Walter Taylor and eldest son George Washington Custis Lee on April 16. Lee did sign an Amnesty Oath, on October 2, and sent it on to Washington, but rather than act on it, Secretary of State William Seward gave it to a friend, apparently as a souvenir. Lee did not receive a formal pardon or get his citizenship restored, at least not during his lifetime. His amnesty oath was rediscovered in the National Archives in 1970, and President Gerald Ford signed the act that restored Lee’s citizenship in 1975.

The newspaper article by Theodore Lyman appeared in the Boston Daily Advertiser on May 2 and May 4. In it, Lyman laid out the case that Philip Sheridan was receiving too much for victories during the Appomattox campaign, and Meade too little. “It is the object of this brief review not to depreciate the unquestioned merits of General Sheridan, but to show that the whole credit by no means belongs to him,” wrote Lyman. “In no one engagement did General Sheridan handle one-half as many troops as were commanded by General Meade. It was Meade’s troops that carried the rebel lines by assault, and it was his troops again that made the decisive charge at Sailor’s Run. At no period during the toilsome pursuit were they wanting in the right place and at the right moment. But General Sheridan is fortunate in his arm of the service, the swift-moving cavalry; and the cavalry are fortunate in their music—the trumpet.” The entire article appears in Meade’s Army: The Private Notebooks of Lt. Col. Theodore Lyman, edited by David W. Lowe.

It was intended we should march through the city to-day, but the condition of the men after their long march from Burksville, and the appearance of the weather, threatening a storm, the march was postponed till to-morrow. I think it will take us from eight to ten days to march across. I hope to be in Alexandria by the fourteenth or fifteenth. I have not seen anyone here except the Wises and Tuckers. I have heard of a great many people here whom I formerly knew, but besides my occupation, I have been indisposed to visit any of them, because I know they all feel bitter, and many are really in distress, which I am powerless to relieve.

The house at 707 E. Franklin Street (Library of Congress).

The house at 707 E. Franklin Street (Library of Congress).

Last evening Markoe Bache, who had been to see his friend Custis Lee, was told by him that his father, General Lee, would be glad to see me. I called there to-day and had a long talk with him. I endeavored to convince him of the expediency and propriety of his taking the oath of allegiance, not only on his own account, but for the great influence his example would have over others. General Lee said he had personally no objections, that he was willing, and intended to submit to the Constitution and laws of the United States, but that now he was a paroled prisoner of war, and he was unwilling to change his present status until he could form some idea of what the policy of the Government was going to be towards the people of the South. I argued with him that it was impossible for the Government to decide how they were to be treated, until it was satisfied they had returned to their allegiance, and that the only practicable way of showing this was by taking the oath. He admitted that the military power of the Confederacy had been destroyed, and that practically there was now no Confederate Government. The Government of the United States was the only one having power and authority, and those who designed living under it, should evince their determination by going through this necessary form. He also spoke a great deal of the status of the negro, which is really the great and formidable question of the day; but I did not devise any very practicable suggestions. I had a long and interesting talk, and left him, really sad to think of his position, his necessities, and the difficulties which surround him.

Lyman has sent me a Boston paper, with a very excellent article written by himself, which I will send you.

Meade’s correspondence taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 278-9. Available via Google Books.

Family Ties (May 3, 1865)

Ruins in Richmond, photographed in May 1865 (Library of Congress).

Ruins in Richmond, photographed in May 1865 (Library of Congress).

On May 3, 1865, George Meade wrote home from Richmond with news about some of his wife’s relatives. As previously mentioned, one of Mrs. Meade’s sisters had married Henry Wise, later governor of Virginia and then a Confederate general. The “Mrs. Dr. Garnett” mentioned in this letter is Mary, one of Henry Wise’s daughters. Another of Mrs. Meade’s sisters, Mariamne, had married Thomas Huger, who had served in the Confederate navy and died in 1862. Alfred Huger was postmaster of Charleston; he and Meade will both die in 1872.

I arrived here about 11 a. m. to-day, in advance of the army, to make arrangements for its passing through this city. It is to have a triumphal march through, and be received by all the troops now in the city.

As soon after getting here as I could arrange business matters, I went to see Nene Wise, whom I found living with Mrs. Dr. Garnett.

At Mrs. Garnett’s I saw Mrs. Tully Wise, who was all last summer in Columbia, South Carolina, and there met Mrs. Alfred Huger with Mariamne’s children. She says the children are all sweet, and that Mr. and Mrs. Huger are devoted to them, but that Mr. Huger has lost everything, and is now very poor, that he is old and infirm, and will not probably live long. She says Mr. Huger’s house in Charleston was burned in the great fire of 1862, and everything in it destroyed, all the old pictures, and all the clothes, jewels and everything belonging to Mariamne’s children. Mr. Huger at this time was Postmaster of Charleston, and used to come up and spend Sundays at Columbia. Mrs. Wise had not heard from them since Sherman’s occupation.

I have already written you that I expect to be in Washington by the 18th inst. It is generally believed that after the army is assembled in Washington it will be disbanded. In that case I shall undoubtedly be allowed some relaxation before again being assigned to duty, and will then have an opportunity of being home for awhile.

Meade’s correspondence taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 277-8. Available via Google Books.

On to Richmond (May 1, 1865)

A Currier & Ives print fro 1862 depicts Henry Halleck in a heroic pose (Library of Congress).

A Currier & Ives print fro 1862 depicts Henry Halleck in a heroic pose (Library of Congress).

The Army of the Potomac prepares to move north. George Meade wrote this letter from the Virginia town of Burkeville. No doubt Meade felt a degree of schadenfreude at the short life of the Military Division of the James (which will actually exist until June). He had complained bitterly when Henry Halleck took command of the division and relocated from Washington to Richmond, putting “Old Brains” directly over Meade. In August, Halleck will receive command of the Military Division of the Pacific and depart for San Francisco.

We are under marching orders for Alexandria, via Richmond, so the grand military division of the James, including the Army of the Potomac, has just existed about one week. I presume this army is ordered to Alexandria, as a preliminary measure to its disbandment.

I shall leave here to-morrow for Richmond, and after spending a day or two there, putting the army en route for Alexandria, shall proceed to that point, which I expect to reach before the middle of the month. I will write you from Richmond.

George and myself are both well, and greatly delighted with the idea of getting so near home as Washington, with the hope that, whatever turns up, I shall be able to spend a little time at home.

Meade’s correspondence taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), p. 277. Available via Google Books.

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