Nervousness (January 30, 1863)

When Meade wrote to his wife he expressed a strong streak  of paranoia. Of course, after all the Army of the Potomac had been through and the commanders that had come and gone, it’s no surprise that he felt a little uneasy. (General George McClellan, back in New Jersey, later became convinced that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was having his mail opened, too.) In less than two months he would write to his wife, “I sometimes feel very nervous about my position, they are knocking over generals at such a rate.” Reading this letter from January 30, 1863, you get the sense that Meade was also writing for any unseen, secret readers in Washington.

A good deal of excitement exists in the army from a report prevailing that the provost marshal of Washington, or rather the head of the detective police in his department, is in the habit of systematically opening the letters received and written by officers. For my part I can hardly credit the statement, and so far as I am concerned am willing it should prove true, for I cannot see how information obtained in this manner can be used against one. I have endeavored to the best of my ability to do my duty, and I have never said a word to any one around me that the most hypercritical could find fault with. In writing to you, however, the wife of my bosom and the only confidential friend I have in the world, I have without doubt at times expressed opinions about men and things, that would not be considered orthodox, but I maintain no government in the world would take advantage of such confidential intercourse to find a man guilty, and I don’t believe that any of my letters have ever been opened.

Meade’s letters taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 1, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), p. 353.  Available via Google Books.

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