Living historians of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia pose in front of Alexander Calder’s statue on October 27, 2012. They had gathered to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the statue’s unveiling.

The General Meade Society of Philadelphia does not like to pass up an opportunity to celebrate its favorite general. Last weekend members of the society gathered to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the unveiling of Alexander Calder’s statue of Meade that stands in the city’s Fairmount Park. Dr. Anthony Waskie, the society’s founder and president, served as master of ceremonies for the commemoration. Waskie often appears at events as Meade, but since the general had been dead for some 15 years when his statue was dedicated on October 18, 1887, he appeared instead as Philadelphia mayor Edwin Fitler, who played a similar role 125 years earlier. Also present were representatives of the ladies of Philadelphia, members of the 3rd United States Colored Troops, the 98th Pennsylvania, and two colorfully garbed members of the 114th Pennsylvania. Also known as Collis’ Zouaves, the 114th PA served for a time as Meade’s headquarters guard. General John Gibbon, in the twenty-first century person of Bob Hanrahan, delivered the oration—all 7,300 words of it.

Here’s what I say about the original ceremony in the book:

Alexander Milne Calder's Meade Statue

Two members of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry (Collis’s Zouaves) flank Calder’s statue of Meade.

This Meade is an equestrian statue by Alexander Milne Calder, whose huge William Penn stands atop the masonry tower of Philadelphia’s City Hall. Calder’s Meade has a much lonelier posting behind a sprawling Beaux-Arts style building called Memorial Hall. Calder created this Meade for $30,000, raised by the Fairmount Park Art Association, and cast it with metal from captured Confederate cannons. “The design is a spirited one, and the execution all that could be desired,” wrote a reporter for the New York Times when the statue was unveiled at a gala ceremony on October 18, 1887. The general’s grandsons performed the actual unveiling “amid tumultuous cheering” from a crowd estimated at twenty thousand. John Gibbon was the featured speaker, and his listeners included Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, now a former governor of Maine; Fitz John Porter, who had successfully challenged the court-martial over his actions at Second Bull Run; William Franklin, Meade’s superior at Fredericksburg; and a number of other aging soldiers who had fought with the Army of the Potomac.

The cheers and speeches, as well as the soldiers, have long since faded away, replaced now by the rush of traffic from nearby I-76. Meade sits on his horse, a spirited steed that has its head down as it bites at its bridle, and he gazes in the direction of his grave up the Schuylkill. I agree with the New York Times assessment that statue is a good likeness—better, I think, than the one at Gettysburg. Behind it a quiet and empty park stretches back to Memorial Hall, a behemoth constructed for the nation’s centennial in 1876. It now houses the Please Touch Museum.

Brigadier General John Gibbon as he appeared during the war.

Gibbon was a close friend of Meade’s and delivered a detailed outline of his career.  “Nearly forty years ago the Seminole Indians broke out and commenced murdering the settlers in Florida,” he began. “Troops were sent into the country and a line of camps was established across the Peninsula. Into one of these camps, late one afternoon, rode a horseman attended by a single orderly. He was a gaunt, thin man, with a hatchet face and a prominent aquiline nose. He introduced himself as Lieutenant Meade, Topographical Engineers, just from a reconnaissance on the hostile border. He was wet, tired, and hungry. It was my good fortune to be able to offer dry clothes, food, and a bed of blankets to one whose name was destined fourteen years later to render famous the little town of Gettysburg, in the southern part of Pennsylvania.

“It was the first time I had met him,” Gibbon continued. “He was then about thirty-four years of age, had accompanied our army into Mexico, served in the war with that country in a subordinate position and without any especial notice. The next time we met he was a Brigadier-General of volunteers, commanding a brigade of the Pennsylvania Reserves in front of Washington in the fall of 1861.”

Bob Hanrahan, as General Gibbon, delivers the oration.

At the time, Meade’s reputation still suffered from the rumor that he had intended to retreat from Gettysburg, and Gibbon addressed that, too. “It is worth no man’s while to attempt to defend General Meade from a charge which came very near being made the pretext for depriving him of the command of the army,” he said. “Those who knew the character of the man will not hesitate to accept as conclusive his adjuration made before the Committee on the conduct of the war, and repeated in other places with the same earnestness. ‘I deny (he says), under the full solemnity and sanctity of my oath, and in the firm conviction that the day will come when the secrets of all men shall be known—I utterly deny ever having intended, or thought for one instant, to withdraw that army, unless the military contingencies, which the future should develop during the course of the day, might render it a matter of necessity that the army should be withdrawn.’

Members of the 3rd USCT serve as a color guard while members of the 98th Pennsylvania Infantry salute Meade with a volley.

“But, whilst not deeming it necessary to attempt any defense against this charge of an intended retreat, I believe the time has now come, and that this is a suitable occasion, to emphatically declare, no matter what errors or misconceptions may have existed in the minds of others, that there is not the slightest evidence tending to show any intention in the mind of General Meade to retreat from the field of Gettysburg on the morning of the 2d of July, or at any other time during the continuance of the battle.”

Andy Waskie appeared at the commemoration as Philadelphia’s Mayor Edwin H. Fitler. Like Meade, the real Fitler is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery, but the mayor’s monument there is much more grandiose than Meade’s.

Time has marched on since the statue’s dedication and now this section of Fairmount Park is a bit of a backwater. That’s why Waskie and the General Meade Society have been trying to get the Meade statue relocated to a more prominent spot in Philadelphia. If you’d like to sign the petition, you can find it here.

If you’d like to read Gibbon’s entire oration, plus some other background on the original ceremony, you can find it on Google Books here.


Charles F. Benjamin wrote the account of Meade’s accension to command of the Army of the Potomac that appeared in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. (You can find it in volume III, pages 239-243).

Several Rosengartens are buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery, not far from Meade’s grave. The grave of Major Adolph Rosengarten, who died at the Battle of Stones River, is in the foreground. The grave of his brother, Joseph, is in the background, also marked by a flag.

While doing research with the microfilmed version of Meade’s papers at the Army Heritage Center in Carlisle, I recently came across a typescript copy of a letter that this same Charles Benjamin had written on August 7, 1883 to Major Joseph G. Rosengarten of Philadelphia. Rosengarten had fought with the 121st Pennsylvania and later served on Major General John F. Reynolds’ staff. (Like George Meade, he was buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery. It’s a small world.) No doubt the Reynolds connection explains Rosengarten’s interest in the subject matter of Benjamin’s letter.

Benjamin had been serving under Major General Seth Williams in the days leading up to Gettysburg. (Like me, Williams was a native of Augusta, Maine. He was well liked and efficient and served as Meade’s assistant adjutant general.) This is what Benjamin wrote to Rosengarten:

At the time mentioned I was serving as a clerk at the general Head Quarters and was employed in close attendance upon Seth Williams, the Adjutant General of the Army of the Potomac.

Shortly after taking notice of Genl. Meade in front of his tent, with a group of visiting officers, together with Butterfield, Ingalls, Hunt, Williams and others of our staff about him, I went back in our own little office tent to continue some writing I was doing for General Williams. While so engaged the open tent flap was pushed further back, and Genl. Meade came in, ushering Genl. Reynolds. The first thing that struck me was the contrast between Meade, in soldiers trousers and blouse with the rim of a slouched hat turned down to screen his eyes, (or spectacles) from the sun, and the neat figure of Reynolds, who had a close fitting frock coat (I think it was—if a blouse it was dressy looking and tight fitting) and a kepi which he held in his hand during the conversation. When I saw who the visitors were I wanted to leave the tent, but being screened by the travelling desk which stood on the table between me and the door, I had not been perceived and Meade began so soon and talked so fast, that I concluded the best thing to do was to keep on writing and pay no attention to what was said. But Meade being a man of impetuous speech always and doubtless having in mind that Williams was at the Commanding General’s tent, made me a listener in spite of myself. He began immediately on getting inside, in language substantially as follows: “Reynolds, I have been very anxious to have a talk with you since I have been put in command – I assure you I never dreamed that the command was to be given to me. I had supposed, as everybody in the army did, that it would fall to you when a change was made. I never would have accepted it if there had been a choice left me, but it as put upon me as an imperative order and I had to take it. I wanted you to understand this, that I am not here by my will, and I count on you, above all others, for the support that I would have given you, if you had been placed in the situation that I am in.”

The reply of Reynolds, naturally, did not so much interest me, as what I had heard said by Meade, but I am (sure) that the following gives the spirit and substance if not the very words –“General in my opinion the command has fallen where it ought to fall. If it had come to me in the same way, I should have been obliged to take it, but I am glad that it did not. I understand the difficulties of your position and you may rely upon me to serve you faithfully.” They then entered upon a conversation, in which Meade explained the position of the troops en route; the nature of the communications he had received from Washington, and such information as had come in about the enemy. These were matters that did not at the moment interest me, as I knew them already and hence I have retained scarcely any recollection of the language used. But when Meade summed up the words I have quoted in “The Nation”, I was interested of course, as indicating where the battle was likely to be fought. I had heard so much of Pipe Creek as the probable site of the coming engagement during the last days of Hooker and the first days of Meade, that the mention of Gettysburg as a probably battle-field was a revelation to me and hence this part of the conversation was impressed upon me. Furthermore, when Meade’s failure to arrest Lee’s retreat led to charges which (in their ultimate form) alleged that Meade had never thought about Gettysburg at all, and that his surprise and ignorance of the ground were sufficient to explain his desire to retreat to Pipe Creek, I thought it proper to mention to Seth Williams what I had heard Meade say to Reynolds, as quoted in “The Nation.” Shortly afterwards, Williams went out and when he came back, he asked me to write out a careful memorandum of Meade’s exact words, as nearly as I could recall them – I did so, and am morally certain that the memorandum was for Meade himself, as anybody would be who knew the characteristics of Seth Williams.


Colonel James Hardie, the man Secretary of War Edwin Stanton sent to tell Meade he had been placed in command of the Army of the Potomac.

P.S. In my printed biographical sketch of the late Col. Hardie, who bore the order to Genl. Meade to take over command from Genl. Hooker, I mention Meade’s surprise at seeing Hardie in his tent with a message from Washington, his incredulity at the nature of the order and his excited demand to know why he was chosen instead of Reynolds. Hardie told the story in full; the anxiety of Secy. Stanton lest Hooker might evade compliance with the order till after the battle, if opportunities were given him; the extraordinary course of sending Hardie to privately to Meade and making Meade go immediately and take command before Hooker could now what was afloat and all the rest of the details of the unusual episode.

(You can find that biographical sketch here.)

The next week Benjamin wrote a follow-up to Rosengarten to fine-tune his recollections. The text is here. I have yet to find Benjamin’s letter in The Nation, but I assume it concerns his memory of Meade mentioning Gettysburg as a potential point of battle in his conversation with Reynolds.

Meade’s Report

The statue of George Gordon Meade atop Old Baldy at Gettysburg.

Since I’ve been quoting various Gettysburg reports from the Official Records, including some responses to Meade’s report on Gettysburg, I thought it would be helpful and informative to post Meade’s entire report here. I have eliminated some footnotes; otherwise this is what appeared in the Official Records, Series I, Volume XXVII, Part 1, pages 114-119.

Headquarters Army Of The Potomac,
October 1, 1863.

General: I have the honor to submit herewith a report of the operations of this army during the month of July last, including the details of the battle of Gettysburg, delayed by the failure to receive until now the reports of several corps and division commanders, who were severely wounded in the battle.

On June 28, I received the orders of the President of the United States placing me in command of the Army of the Potomac. The situation of affairs at that time was briefly as follows:

The Confederate army, commanded by General R. E. Lee, estimated at over 100,000 strong, of all arms, had crossed the Potomac River and advanced up the Cumberland Valley. Reliable intelligence placed his advance (Ewell’s corps) on the Susquehanna at Harrisburg and Columbia; Longstreet’s corps at Chambersburg, and Hill’s corps between that place and Cashtown. My own army, of which the most recent return showed an aggregate of a little over 100,000, was situated in and around Frederick, Md., extending from Harper’s Ferry to the mouth of the Monocacy, and from Middletown to Frederick.

June 28 was spent in ascertaining the position and strength of the different corps of the army, but principally in bringing up the cavalry, which had been covering the rear of the army in its passage over the Potomac, and to which a large increase had just been made from the forces previously attached to the Defenses of Washington. Orders were given on that day to Major-General French, commanding at Harper’s Ferry, to move with 7,000 men of his command to occupy Frederick and the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and, with the balance of his force, estimated at 4,000, to remove and escort the public property to Washington.

On the 29th, the army was put in motion, and on the evening of that day was in position, the left at Emmitsburg and the right at New Windsor. Buford’s division of cavalry was on the left flank, with the advance at Gettysburg. Kilpatrick’s division was in the front at Hanover, where he encountered this day General Stuart’s Confederate cavalry, which had crossed the Potomac at Seneca Creek, and, passing our right flank, was making its way toward Carlisle, having escaped Gregg’s division, delayed in taking position on the right flank by the occupation of the roads by columns of infantry.

On the 30th, the right flank of the army was moved up to Manchester, the left still being at Emmitsburg, in the vicinity of which place three corps (the First, Eleventh, and Third) were collected, under the orders of Major-General Reynolds. General Buford having reported from Gettysburg the appearance of the enemy on the Cashtown road in some force, General Reynolds was directed to occupy Gettysburg.

On reaching that place on July 1, General Reynolds found Buford’s cavalry warmly engaged with the enemy, who had debouched his infantry through the mountains on the Cashtown road, but was being held in check in the most gallant manner by Buford’s cavalry. Major General Reynolds immediately moved around the town of Gettysburg, and advanced on the Cashtown road, and without a moment’s hesitation deployed his advanced division and attacked the enemy, at the same time sending orders for the Eleventh Corps (General Howard) to advance as promptly as possible. Soon after making his dispositions for the attack, Major-General Reynolds fell, mortally wounded, the command of the First Corps devolving on Major-General Doubleday, and the command of the field on Major-General Howard, who arrived about this time, 11.30 a. m., with the Eleventh Corps, then commanded by Major-General Schurz. Major-General Howard pushed forward two divisions of the Eleventh Corps to the support of the First Corps, now warmly engaged with the enemy on the ridge to the -north of the town, and posted his Third Division, with three batteries of artillery, on the Cemetery Ridge, on the south side of the town.

Up to this time the battle had been with the forces of the enemy debouching from the mountains on the Cashtown road, known to be Hill’s corps. In the early part of the action, success was on our side, Wadsworth’s division, of the First Corps, having driven the enemy back some distance, capturing numerous prisoners, among them General Archer, of the Confederate army. The arrival of re-enforcements for the enemy on the Cashtown road, and the junction of Ewell’s corps, coming on the York and Harrisburg roads, which occurred between 1 and 2 p. m., enabled the enemy to bring vastly superior forces against both the First and Eleventh Corps, outflanking our line of battle, and pressing it so severely that about 4 p. m. Major-General Howard deemed it prudent to withdraw these two corps to the Cemetery Ridge, on the south side of the town, which operation was successfully accomplished; not, however, without considerable loss in prisoners, arising from the confusion incident to portions of both corps passing through the town, and the men getting confused in the streets.

About the time of this withdrawal, Major-General Hancock arrived, whom I had dispatched to represent me on the field, on hearing of the death of General Reynolds. In conjunction with Major-General Howard, General Hancock proceeded to post the troops on the Cemetery Ridge, and to repel an attack that the enemy made on our right flank. This attack was not, however, very vigorous, and the enemy, seeing the strength of the position occupied, seemed to be satisfied with the success he had accomplished, desisting from any further attack this day.

About 7 p. m., Major-Generals Slocum and Sickles, with the Twelfth Corps and part of the Third, reached the ground, and took post on the right and left of the troops previously posted. Being satisfied from the reports received from the field that it was the intention of the enemy to support with his whole army the attack already made, and the reports from Major-Generals Hancock and Howard on the character of the position being favorable, I determined to give battle at this point; and, early in the evening of the 1st, issued orders to all the corps to concentrate at Gettysburg, directing all trains to be sent to the rear, at Westminster.

At 10 p. m. of the 1st, I broke up my headquarters, which until then had been at Taneytown, and proceeded to the field, arriving there at 1 a. in. of the 2d. So soon as it was light, I proceeded to inspect the position occupied, and to make arrangements for posting tip several corps as they should reach the ground.

By 7 a. m. the Second and Fifth Corps, with the rest of the Third, had reached the ground, and were posted as follows: The Eleventh Corps retained its position on the Cemetery Ridge, just opposite the town; the First Corps was posted on the right of the Eleventh, on an elevated knoll, connecting with a ridge extending to the south and east, on which the Twelfth Corps was placed, the right of the Twelfth Corps resting on a small stream at a point where it crossed the Baltimore pike, and which formed, on the right flank of the Twelfth, something of an obstacle. The Cemetery Ridge extended in a westerly and southerly direction, gradually diminishing in elevation until it came to a very prominent ridge called Round Top, running east and west. The Second and Third Corps were directed to occupy the continuation of the Cemetery Ridge on the left of the Eleventh Corps. The Fifth Corps, pending the arrival of the Sixth, was held in reserve.

While these dispositions were being made, the enemy was massing his troops on an exterior ridge, distant from the line occupied by us from 1 mile to l£ miles.

At 2 p. m. the Sixth Corps arrived, after a march of 32 miles, accomplished from 9 p. m. the day previous. On its arrival being reported, I immediately directed the Fifth Corps to move over to our extreme left, and the Sixth to occupy its place as a reserve for the right.

About 3 p. m. I rode out to the extreme left, to await the arrival of the Fifth Corps and to post it. when I found that Major-General Sickles, commanding the Third Corps, not fully apprehending the instructions in regard to the position to be occupied, had advanced, or rather was in the act of advancing, his corps some half a mile or three-quarters of a mile in front of the line of the Second Corps, on the prolongation of which it was designed his corps should rest. Having found Major-General Sickles, I was explaining to him that he was too far in advance, and discussing with him the propriety of withdrawing, when the enemy opened on him with several batteries in his front and on his flank, and immediately brought forward columns of infantry and made a most vigorous assault. The Third Corps sustained the shock most heroically. Troops from the Second Corps were immediately sent by Major-General Hancock to cover the right flank of the Third Corps, and soon after the assault commenced the Fifth Corps most fortunately arrived and took position on the left of the Third, Major-General Sykes, commanding, immediately sending a force to occupy the Round Top Ridge, where a most furious contest was maintained, the enemy making desperate but unsuccessful efforts to secure it.

Notwithstanding the stubborn resistance of the Third Corps, under Major-General Birney (Major-General Sickles having been wounded early in the action), the superiority of numbers of the enemy enabling him to outflank the corps in its advanced position, General Birney was compelled to fall back and reform behind the line originally designed to be held.

In the meantime, perceiving the great exertions of the enemy, the Sixth Corps, Major-General Sedgwick, and part of the First Corps (to the command of which I had assigned Major-General Newton), particularly Lockwood’s Maryland brigade, together with detachments from the Second Corps, were all brought up at different periods, and succeeded, together with the gallant resistance of the Fifth Corps, in checking and finally repulsing the assault of the enemy, who retired in confusion and disorder about sunset, and ceased any further efforts on the extreme left. An assault was, however, made about 8 p. m. on the Eleventh Corps from the left of the town, which was repelled, with the assistance of troops from the Second and First Corps.

During the heavy assault upon our extreme left, portions of the Twelfth Corps were sent as re-enforcements. During their absence, the line on the extreme right was held by a very much reduced force. This was taken advantage of by the enemy, who, during the absence of Geary’s division of the Twelfth Corps, advanced and occupied a part of his line.*

On the morning of the 3d, General Geary (having returned during the night) attacked at early dawn the enemy, and succeeded in driving him back and reoccupying his former position. A spirited contest was, however, maintained all the morning along this part of the line, General Geary, re-enforced by Wheaton’s brigade, Sixth Corps, maintaining his position, and inflicting very severe losses on the enemy.

With this exception, the quiet of the lines remained undisturbed till 1 p. m. on the 3a, when the enemy opened from over one hundred and twenty-five guns, playing upon our center and left. This cannonade continued for over two hours, when our guns, in obedience to my orders, failing to make any reply, the enemy ceased firing, and soon his masses of infantry became visible, forming for an assault on our left and left center. The assault was made with great firmness, directed principally against the point occupied by the Second Corps, and was repelled with equal firmness by the troops of that corps, supported by Doubleday’s division and Stannard’s brigade of the First Corps. During the assault, both Major-General Hancock, commanding the left center, and Brigadier-General Gibbon, commanding Second Corps, were severely wounded. This terminated the battle, the enemy retiring to his lines, leaving the field strewn with his dead and wounded, and numerous prisoners in our hands.

Buford’s division of cavalry, after its arduous service at Gettysburg on the 1st, was on the 3d sent to Westminster to refit and guard our trains. Kilpatrick’s division, that on the 29th, 30th, and 1st had been successfully engaging the enemy’s cavalry, was on the 3d sent on our extreme left, on the Emmitsburg road, where good service was rendered in assaulting the enemy’s line and occupying his attention. At the same time, General Gregg was engaged with the enemy on our extreme right, having passed across the Baltimore pike and Bonaughtown road, and boldly attacked the enemy’s left and rear.

On the morning of the 4th, reconnaissances developed that the enemy had drawn back his left flank, but maintained his position in front of our left, apparently assuming a new line parallel to the mountains.

On the morning of the 5th, it was ascertained the enemy was in full retreat by the Fairfield and Cashtown roads. The Sixth Corps was immediately sent in pursuit on the Fairfield road, and the cavalry on the Cashtown road and by the Emmitsburg and Monterey Passes.

July 5 and 6 were employed in succoring the wounded and burying the dead. Major-General Sedgwick, commanding the Sixth Corps, having pushed the pursuit of the enemy as far as the Fairfield Pass, in the mountains, and reporting that the pass was a very strong one, m which a small force of the enemy could hold in check and delay for a considerable time any pursuing force, I determined to follow the enemy by a flank movement, and, accordingly, leaving Mclntosh’s brigade of cavalry and Neill’s brigade of infantry to continue harassing the enemy, put the army in motion for Middletown, Md. Orders were immediately sent to Major-General French at Frederick to reoccupy Harper’s Ferry and send a force to occupy Turner’s Pass, in South Mountain. I subsequently ascertained Major-General French had not only anticipated these orders in part, but had pushed a cavalry force to Williamsport and Falling Waters, where they destroyed the enemy’s pontoon bridge and captured its guard. Buford was at the same time sent to Williamsport arid Hagerstown.

The duty above assigned to the cavalry was most successfully accomplished, the enemy being greatly harassed, his trains destroyed, and many captures of guns and prisoners made.

After halting a day at Middletown to procure necessary supplies and bring up the trains, the army moved through the South Mountain, and by July 12 was in front of the enemy, who occupied a strong position on the heights of Marsh Run, in advance of Williamsport. In taking this position, several skirmishes and affairs had been had with the enemy, principally by the cavalry and the Eleventh and Sixth Corps.

The 13th was occupied in reconnaissances of the enemy’s position and preparations for attack, but, on advancing on the morning of the 14th, it was ascertained he had retired the night previous by a bridge at Falling Waters and the ford at Williamsport. The cavalry in pursuit overtook the rear guard at Falling Waters, capturing two guns and numerous prisoners.

Previous to the retreat of the enemy, Gregg’s division of cavalry was crossed at Harper’s Ferry, and, coming up with the rear of the enemy at Charlestown and Shepherdstown, had a spirited contest, in which the enemy was driven to Martinsburg and Winchester and pressed and harassed in his retreat.

The pursuit was resumed by a flank movement, the army crossing the Potomac at Berlin and moving down the Loudoun Valley. The cavalry were immediately pushed into the several passes of the Blue Ridge, and, having learned from scouts the withdrawal of the Confederate army from the lower valley of the Shenandoah, the army, the Third Corps, Major-General French, in advance, was moved into the Manassas Gap, in the hope of being able to intercept a portion of the enemy.

The possession of the gap was disputed so successfully as to enable the rear guard to withdraw by way of Strasburg, the Confederate army retiring to the Rapidan. A position was taken with this army on the line of the Rappahannock, and the campaign terminated about the close of July.

The result of the campaign may be briefly stated in the defeat of the enemy at Gettysburg, his compulsory evacuation of Pennsylvania and Maryland, and withdrawal from the upper valley of the Shenandoah, and in the capture of 3 guns, 41 standards, and 13,021 prisoners; 24,978 small-arms were collected on the battle-field.

Our own losses were very severe, amounting, as will be seen by the accompanying return, to 2,834 killed, 13,709 [13,713] wounded, and 6,643 missing; in all, 23,186 [23,190].*

It is impossible in a report of this nature to enumerate all the instances of gallantry and good conduct which distinguished such a hard-fought field as Gettysburg. The reports of corps commanders and their subordinates, herewith submitted, will furnish all information upon this subject. I will only add my tribute to the heroic bravery of the whole army, officers and men, which, under the blessing of Divine Providence, enabled a crowning victory to be obtained, which I feel confident the country will never cease to bear in grateful remembrance.

It is my duty, as well as my pleasure, to call attention to the earnest efforts of co-operation on the part of Maj. Gen. D. N. Couch, commanding Department of the Susquehanna, and particularly to his advance, 4,000 men, under Brig. Gen. W. F. Smith, who joined me at Boonsborough just prior to the withdrawal of the Confederate army.

In conclusion, I desire to return my thanks to my staff, general and personal, to each and all of whom I was indebted for unremitting activity and most efficient assistance.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GEO. G. MEADE, Major-General, Commanding.

*The numbers in brackets refer to a revised report on casualties.

Paper Battles

The official reports that officers submitted following a battle often created their own conflicts, wars of letters waged by their own comrades in arms. Other officers in the army scoured the reports to see what had been said about their units. Those who felt slighted often made their displeasure felt.

Brigadier General John Robinson’s division fought bravely at Gettysburg but the general was miffed to receive no mention in Meade’s official report.

If George Meade wasn’t aware of this before he submitted his report on the Battle of Gettysburg, he certainly was afterwards. One of officers his report ticked off was Brigadier General John C. Robinson, who commanded the Second Division of the I Corps during the battle but received no mention. He made his feelings known in a letter he wrote on November 15, 1863. “General,” wrote Robinson, “I feel it is my duty to inform you of the intense mortification and disappointment felt by my division in reading your report of the battle of Gettysburg.

“For nearly four hours on July 1 we were hotly engaged against overwhelming numbers, repulsed repeated attacks of the enemy, captured three flags and a very large number of prisoners, and were the last to leave the field.

“The division formed the right of the line of battle of the First Corps, and during the whole time had to fight the enemy in front and protect our right flank (the division of the Eleventh Corps being at no time less than half a mile in rear). We went into action with less than 2,500 men and lost considerably more than half our number.

We have been proud of our efforts on that day, and hoped that they would be recognized. It is but natural we should feel disappointed that we are not once referred to in the report of the commanding general.”

Nicknamed “Slow Come” for his supposedly dilatory behavior at Gettysburg, Henry Slocum did not like Meade’s report on the battle.

The commanders of the XII Corps were even angrier. Meade had lacked some reports from that corps when he wrote his report, which explains some of his oversights. But Henry Slocum was still incensed, particularly by Meade’s failure to mention that at one point Slocum had command of not just the XII Corps, but a wing of the army that also included the VI and the V. “I allude to this fact for the purpose of refreshing your memory on a subject which you had apparently entirely forgotten when you penned your report,” Slocum complained, “for you have not failed to notice the fact of General Schurz and others having held, even for a few hours, commands above that previously held by them.” Perhaps I am not alone in thinking that Slocum comes across as just a bit petty here.

Brigadier General  Alpheus S. Williams, a XII Corps division commander who had temporarily taken corps command when Slocum held the reins of the wing, wrote to Slocum with similar complaints on December 26, 1863. “I know General Meade to be a high-toned gentleman, and I believe him to be a commander of superior merit and of honest judgment, and I confess to have read that part of his official report relating to the Twelfth Corps with a mixed feeling of astonishment and regret,” said Williams.

Alpheus Williams of the XII Corps shared Slocum’s displeasure.

Meade wrote to Slocum the next February, granting some points, disputing others. “I very much regret that any injustice should have been done in my official report of the battle of Gettysburg to any part of the Twelfth Corps or any officer in it,” he wrote. “I do assure you most sincerely that nothing was further from my intentions, and that what has occurred was the result of accident and not of design, the occurrence of which I will endeavor to explain.” He admitted to some mistakes but was not willing to take blame for some errors of omission. It was just not possible to credit every brigade and division, he explained. As for omitting George Greene’s stubborn defense of Culp’s Hill on July 2, Meade said, “I am willing to admit that, if my attention had been called to the services of Greene’s brigade in the pointed manner it now is, I would have given it credit for this special service.” In other words, if it was so important to you, why didn’t you say more in your official report? He had a point. While Slocum had praised Greene in his report, he hadn’t gone overboard. “Although General Greene handled his command with great skill, and although his men fought with gallantry never surpassed by any troops under my command, the enemy succeeded in gaining possession of a portion of our intrenchments,” Slocum had noted. “After a severe engagement of nearly three hours’ duration, General Greene remained in possession of the left of our line of works, while the right, which had previously been held by the First Division, was in possession of the enemy. During this engagement, General Greene was re-enforced by three regiments from the First Corps and three from the Eleventh Corps, all of which did good service.”

It wasn’t easy being command of the Army of the Potomac, even between the real battles.

 For the correspondence relating to these issues, see Official Records, Series I, Volume XXVII, Part 1, Meade’s report in on pages 114-119; Robinson’s complaint is on page 119; Slocum’s letter is on pages 763-765; Williams’ letter appears on pages 765-768, and Meade’s reply is on pages 769-770. The entire volume is available via Google Books here.

Fall Cleanup

Members of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia clean up around the Lydia Leister House on September 30, 2012.

Every fall members of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia troop over to Gettysburg and clean up around the Lydia Leister House, the little white building where General Meade established his headquarters for the battle. Last weeekend I went down to help out. There was a pretty good turnout, with more than a dozen people weeding, trimming, and cleaning in the little herb garden and around the house. I pitched in and trimmed the ugly flat bush that squats in between the house and Taneytown Road and, I must say, it looked a lot better when I was done.

Afterwards the whole crew went over to the Farnsworth House for lunch, a traditional part of the day. We ate pizza, drank beer and soda, toasted the general, and chatted. The Farnsworth House was standing here during the battle and still bears the battle scars to prove it. Inside a big glass case opposite the bar there’s a display of artifacts from the movie Gettysburg, including the hat that Richard Anderson wore as Meade. Truth be told, I can’t even remember Anderson in the movie (I’ll have to watch it again). To me he’ll always be Oscar Goldman, Steve Austin’s boss on The Six Million Dollar Man.

There should be another Meade appearing on screens sometime in 2013. A mini-series, formerly titled To Appomattox and now called Grant vs. Lee, should begin shooting late this year. Country singer Dwight Yoakam will play Meade. That’s . . . interesting casting. Yoakam has acted before, most notably in Sling Blade, so maybe he can carry it off. We’ll have to see. Rob Lowe will play Grant (again, the word for that is “interesting”) and the rest of the big cast includes a few other recognizable names. You can find out more at the official website,  or at the fan website.

After lunch at the Farnsworth House I headed off to the battlefield. I was determined to find the little marker that indicates the position that Company B of the 20th Maine held on July 2. After a little searching in the woods just east of the regiment’s main monument I found the small stone marker, up against a stone wall. It’s one of the more obscure monuments on the battlefield. Then I followed a trail around the east side of Little Round Top. Union regiments came rushing through these same woods on July 2, 1863, most notably Colonel Patrick O’Rorke’s 140th New York. General Gouverneur Warren had found O’Rorke’s men, who had served under Warren when he was a brigade commander earlier in the war, and sent them to the undefended Little Round Top. O’Rorke got there just in time and soon fell dead with a bullet in the neck.

I could almost sense the ghosts as I followed the path through the woods.  Eventually I emerged and headed back up Little Round Top on Sykes Road . I veered off to walk across the hill and stopped by the monument to the 146th New York Infantry, which stands on Round Top’s northern shoulder. Engraved on one side of the monument are these words: “From this position Maj. Gen. Meade observed the battle for a time on July 3d.”

The monument to the 146th New York on the north shoulder of Little Round Top.

That intrigued me. I know that after the repulse of Pickett’s Charge Meade rode along his lines down to Round Top, and I assume that’s what the monument is alluding to. After a little searching online I found the Google Books version of Campaigns of the One Hundred and Forty-sixth Regiment New York State Volunteers, Also Known as Halleck’s infantry, the Fifth Oneida, and Garrard’s Tigers (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1915). It doesn’t say much about Meade’s presence on July 3, except for this passage (which I have read elsewhere) by Colonel David P. Jenkins about his musing as he stood on Little Round Top after the war:

“I have often thought I would give anything for an oil painting by a good artist of that scene which I shall never forget while life lasts. There was that high bluff, covered with rocky crags, among and on which our brave zouaves were disposed in every possible position. On the central rock was the signal flag telling the story of the battle. And there was Warren, the master mind, it seemed, of the field, with his neck patched up from the wounds received on that spot. There were Sykes and Bartlett and Garrard, as cool as if witnessing a review, while those rifled guns of Hazlett’s were within fifteen yards of the same place, and firing directly over their heads at the Rebel lines, which broke into confusion every time a shell was thrown. And then if the group of Meade and his staff, who came there later, were added, it seems to me it would make an excellent position to locate an historic picture of the battle.”

By then it was starting to spit rain, so I figured it was time to head home and leave the ghosts alone.

Quote from Brainard, Mary Genevie Green, Campaigns of the One hundred and forty-sixth regiment New York state volunteers, also known as Halleck’s infantry, the Fifth Oneida, and Garrard’s Tigers. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1915. Available from Google Books here.