“They Say He’s a Brick”

The 124th New York’s monument at Gettysburg stands above Devil’s Den. There’s also a smaller marker off Pleasonton Avenue.

I just came across another interesting reference to General Meade in a memoir written by a veteran of the 124th New York. Known as the Orange Blossoms because it hailed from the Empire State’s Orange County, the regiment saw hard fighting at Devil’s Den on July 2. This excerpt deals with the change of command from Joe Hooker to George Meade, which took place on June 28.

Just after muster, orders which announced a change of commanders and stated that Hooker had given place to General Meade, of the Fifth corps, were read at the head of each regiment. Now every intelligent soldier believed that we were on the eve of a great, if not a decisive battle, and at first quite a number shook their heads as if saying to themselves, “There is something wrong somewhere.” But the majority remembering that Hooker had been found wanting at Chancellorsville, expressed their feelings in regard to the change of commanders at that critical period, in such terms as the following, “I’m satisfied. It’s all right boys. That’s ‘Old Pennsylvania Reserves,’—they say he’s a brick.” These remarks came in whispered tones from the ranks behind me, just after the orders referred to had been read. Half an hour later a man in Company F, who had just finished boiling a cup of coffee, raised it toward his lips, and striking a sort of stage attitude, shouted “Soldiers of the army of the Potomac; take out your little Mammy Random books; I am neither a prophet, nor yet the son of a prophet, nevertheless, I am about to prophesy, so draw pencils, ready! aim! The traitor army of Northern Virginia, in the trackless forests of Virginia, surrounded on all sides by traitorous Virginians, and commanded by the arch traitors Lee and Jackson of Virginia, is one thing. But Lee and his army, without Jackson, on open northern soil, surrounded by loyal men, women and children of the north, is another thing. The next battle is on the free soil of old Pennsylvania, and Lee is whipped, no matter who commands us—do you hear me? shoulder pencils. Parade is dismissed.”

This bombastic semi-comical speech, in reality expressed the profound convictions of not only the man who uttered it, but of nineteen out of every twenty in the army of the Potomac; and when a Pennsylvanian standing near replied—“You are right, my boy,” and proposed “three cheers for the sentiment,” they were given with a will by all who heard him.

From History of the One Hundred and Twenty-fourth Regiment: N.Y.S.V. by Charles H. Weygant. Newburgh, New York, Journal Printing House, 1877. You can find the whole book online at Google Books here.

And you can find Weygant’s obituary here.

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