The Two Dans (February 13, 1863)

Major General George Stoneman and his staff, photographed in Falmouth, Virginia, sometime in February 1863.

Major General George Stoneman and his staff, photographed in Falmouth, Virginia, sometime in February 1863. (Library of Congress)

In this letter from February 13, 1863, General Meade expresses distaste for some fellow generals who would later pose major problems for him: the two Dans, Sickles and Butterfield. In his landmark book, Gettysburg: A Study in Command, Edward Coddington wrote, “There is something strange, if not uncanny, about the way Meade got into difficulty with those two cronies of Hooker, Generals Butterfield and Sickles.” Sickles was a political general with strong ties to New York City’s powerful Tammany Democratic machine. He had also gained a measure of renown when, as a New York congressman, he killed his wife’s lover in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square, within sight of the White House. At this point he commanded the Army of the Potomac’s III Corps. Butterfield had commanded the V Corps until Meade rightly pointed out that he, Meade, had seniority.

The new cavalry head was George Stoneman. His tenure in that position did not last long following a lackluster effort before Chancellorsville. He later served as governor of California. The George whom Meade mentions is his son, who was serving in the cavalry. Pope is John Pope, who commanded the Army of Virginia during the disastrous Second Bull Run (Second Manassas to the South).

I have not seen General Hooker for several days, indeed his course towards me is so inexplicable in refusing me leave of absence, and not vouchsafing any reason for it, that I feel indisposed to see him. Besides, I do not like his entourage. Such gentlemen as Dan Sickles and Dan Butterfield are not the persons I should select as my intimates, however worthy and superior they may be. I rode over to George’s camp to-day and paid him a short visit. The regiment, since the breaking up of the grand divisions, has been placed under Stoneman, who has command of all the cavalry. This will give them a much better chance of seeing service than when attached to Headquarters, which is a lazy, loafing sort of duty. Have you read General Pope’s famous report? I see he says I did my duty in all fidelity to the Government, for which, of course, I am truly grateful.

Meade’s letter 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 354. Available via Google Books.

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