In Transit (February 26, 1863)

General George Sykes. (Library of Congress photo.)

General George Sykes. (Library of Congress photo.)

Although it seems churlish to resent Meade’s opportunity to obtain leave and spend some time with his family in Philadelphia, we do regret the absence of any correspondence with his wife during that period. The gap finally ends on February 26 when Meade wrote home to detail his travails attempting to return to his command. He wrote this letter from the Bureau of Topographical Engineers in Washington, D.C.

The Cram he mentions is Henry A. Cram, his wife’s brother-in-law. When Theodore Lyman met him in 1864 he said, “Cram is a queer man–never saw one exactly like him. He has a jerky, theatrical style that made me at first suppose he had had a toddy or two.” Sykes is Maj. Gen. George Sykes, who commanded a division of Meade’s V Corps . As I describe him in the book, “Sykes was yet another West Point graduate, a Delaware native who had been fighting since First Bull Run. He looked like a cartoon general, with a big beard that jutted out in front of his chin and a firm, determined nose like the prow of a ship.” His photo (right) will give you an idea of what I mean. When Meade took command of the Army of the Potomac Sykes replaced him at the head of the V Corps.

The train never reached this place until ten o’clock, instead of six-thirty as due. In consequence I missed the boat. As there is none till to-morrow morning at 8 A. M., thus detaining me here all day. This is annoying, because I wished to set the example of a prompt and punctual return within the time allowed me, whereas now I shall be one day behind time, and this is the more disagreeable because there is a report in town that the enemy’s cavalry have appeared in force this side of the Rappahannock. This is only a raid, as they cannot possibly be so foolish as to attempt any advance this side of the river, at this season of the year. The first person I met at the hotel was Cram, and I am going to dine with him to-day. I next met Sykes, who is up here on a court-martial. I am now writing a few lines to give you the news, am going to see Mrs. Turnbull and then shall dine with Cram.

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. 355. Available via Google Books.

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