Flowers from Mrs. Lincoln (April 20, 1863)

First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln (Library of Congress)

First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln (Library of Congress)

Here Meade continues his discussion of Samuel Du Pont’s failure to subdue Charleston with navy ironclads. The Seymour to whom he refers is Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour, serving as Maj. Gen. David Hunter’s chief of staff in South Carolina. Hunter had hoped he navy would use their ironclads to support a landing by his troops. Meade knew—and disliked—Seymour when they both commanded brigades under John Reynolds. Meade particularly resented the way he thought Seymour was sucking up to Reynolds in hopes of advancement.

Meade’s story about getting flowers from Mary Todd Lincoln displays a fine touch of self-deprecation, which I enjoy.

The note about son George hints at one of the upcoming problems with Hooker’s Chancellorsville campaign. George Stoneman’s cavalry, to which young George Meade’s regiment belonged, was supposed to range behind the Confederate army and disrupt its communications and supplies. Torrential storms raised the rivers and severely delayed Stoneman’s operation, putting an early kink in Hooker’s plans.

I can see by the public journals that the navy are in the affair at Charleston about to imitate the bad example of the army by squabbling among themselves after a battle with greater energy than they display fighting the enemy. DuPont will undoubtedly have to bear the brunt of the failure at Charleston, but as I see the Tribune most warmly and energetically espouses his cause, I presume he is all safe. I never had any idea the ironclads would be able to do much more than they did. They are simply able to stand fire, but have no more offensive power, indeed not as much as ordinary vessels of war.

I see Seymour has been sent by Hunter to endeavor to have countermanded the order sending the ironclads to the Mississippi. This order, if ever given, was in my judgment very injudicious, for these vessels will be of no use on that river in reducing the works of Vicksburg and Port Hudson. The only service they can be put to there would be to patrol the river between the two places, and prevent supplies to the rebels from the Red River Country.

Yesterday the Richmond papers announced the fall of Suffolk, and we were all pretty blue; but this morning we have a telegram from General Peck reporting that he has stormed and carried a battery of six guns that the enemy had built, and had captured a portion of an Alabama regiment that was defending it. This is great news, not so much for the actual amount of the success, as for the facts—first, that it is the reverse of what the rebels had reported, and, second, because it is the first time in this war that our troops have carried a battery in position at the point of the bayonet, an example, I trust, will be speedily and often imitated by us.

Day before yesterday, I was astonished at receiving a very beautiful bouquet of flowers, which had attached to it a card on which was written, “With the compliments of Mrs. A. Lincoln.” At first I was very much tickled, and my vanity insinuated that my fine appearance had taken Mrs. L’s eye and that my fortune was made. This delusion, however, was speedily dissolved by the orderly who brought the bouquet inquiring the road to General Griffin’s and Sykes’s quarters, when I ascertained that all the principal generals had been similarly honored.

I understand George joined his regiment up the river, the day after he arrived. He went up in a violent storm.

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. 367-8. Available via Google Books.

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