The End of Stoneman (May 26, 1863)

Alfred Pleasonton. At Gettysburg Maj. Frank Haskell described him as "quite a nice looking dandy" (Library of Congress).

Alfred Pleasonton. At Gettysburg Maj. Frank Haskell described him as “quite a nice looking dandy” (Library of Congress).

When Joe Hooker took command of the Army of the Potomac he appointed George Stoneman to command his reorganized cavalry. Stoneman, however, had not met Hooker’s expectations during the Chancellorsville campaign. His replacement would be Alfred Pleasonton. The George mentioned in this letter is Meade’s son, who will now be serving on his staff.

George’s appointment as Aide-de-Camp and Captain arrived yesterday.

We have nothing new; everything is quiet on our side. I am looking for a movement on the part of the enemy that will stir us up pretty soon. Stoneman is off on leave, and I don’t think will return here again. He does not want to, and Hooker does not want him back. Hooker is very severe on him, and says his raid amounted to nothing at all; that he was eight days going and only two coming back, and many other things of this kind tending to disparage Stoneman.

Only one officer (Reynolds) has as yet answered my circular letter, and he says: “Your opinion was decided and emphatic for an advance at daylight.” The attempt to fasten on me the responsibility of withdrawing the army is one of the shallowest inventions that Hooker could have devised, which, if he ever brings to a public issue, must recoil on him.

There are many things I would like to tell you, but cannot at present; but I have no doubt in due time they will all be made public. I have no doubt the Administration has determined to sustain Hooker, and to this I do not object, as I really believe he will do better next time, and still think there is a great deal of merit in him.

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), pp. 381-2. Available via Google Books.

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Circular (May 25, 1863)

General Gouverneur K. Warren, the Army of the Potomac's chief engineer, supported Meade's claim that he had not encouraged Hooker to retreat from Chancellorsville. Later in the war Warren and Meade would develop a rancorous relationship (Library of Congress).

General Gouverneur K. Warren, the Army of the Potomac’s chief engineer, supported Meade’s claim that he had not encouraged Hooker to retreat from Chancellorsville. Later in the war Warren and Meade would develop a rancorous relationship (Library of Congress).

Joe Hooker claimed that Meade had helped persuade him to retreat from Chancellorsville during the meeting in Hooker’s tent that started around midnight on May 4. This claim infuriated Meade. When Hooker told this to Meade the conversation became so heated that Meade’s chief-of-staff, Alexander Webb, departed and took Meade’s staff with him because he worried that Meade’s intemperate language might lead to a court-martial. Meade told Hooker that he had been emphatically in favor of advancing and would poll the generals who were present that night to see how they recalled the conversation. In Meade’s papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania I found a copy of the circular he sent, as well as the handwritten replies from Reynolds, Sickles, and Howard. There was also a letter that Gouverneur Warren sent in 1888 to Meade’s son George, with a page from Warren’s own Chancellorsville report. “There is no doubt in my mind that Genl Meade was opposed to retiring across the river,” Warren wrote.

The news from Ulysses S. Grant in Mississippi was that, after a daring but successful campaign,  his army had placed Vicksburg under siege.

I have addressed a circular letter to each of the officers present at the much-talked-of council of war, asking them to give me their recollections of what I said, and unless I am terribly mistaken, their answers will afford me ample means of refuting Hooker’s assertion that my opinion sustained him in withdrawing the army.

We have to-day the glorious news from Grant. It is in sad contrast with our miserable fiasco here, the more sad when you reflect that ours was entirely unnecessary, and that we have never had such an opportunity of gaining a great victory before.

Did I tell you that Curtin promptly answered my letter, saying that General Cadwalader had entirely misapprehended what he said to him; that he (Curtin) had never so understood me, or repeated to Cadwalader that I had lost all confidence in Hooker?

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), pp. 381. Available via Google Books.

Defending Hooker (May 23, 1863)

Joseph Hooker and his staff, photographed in Falmouth in June 1863. That's Daniel Butterfield seated to Hooker's left (Library of Congress).

Joseph Hooker and his staff, photographed in Falmouth in June 1863. That’s Daniel Butterfield seated to Hooker’s left (Library of Congress).

Meade may have been disappointed with Joe Hooker, but it appears he was not willing to actively undercut his army commander. His letter of May 23 is an exercise in restraint, in which Meade corrects his wife’s mistaken impressions of Hooker’s conduct at Chancellorsville.

The story of Hooker losing his head, and my saving the army, is a canard, founded on some plausible basis. When Hooker was obliged to give up Chancellorsville and draw in his lines, I fortunately had anticipated this, and was prepared with my troops to take up the new line in a very short time, and to receive within it the broken columns from the old line. About this time Hooker, who had just been stunned by being struck with a pillar of a house, hit by a shot, felt himself fainting and had to dismount from his horse and lie on his back for ten or fifteen minutes. During this time he was constantly calling for me, and this operation above referred to was executed by me. Outsiders, particularly his staff, not knowing my previous preparations and expectation of having to do this, and seeing it so well and quickly done, were astonished, and gave me more credit than I was entitled to, and hence arose the story that I saved the army. Hooker never lost his head, nor did he ever allow himself to be influenced by me or my advice. The objection I have to Hooker is that he did not and would not listen to those around him; that he acted deliberately on his own judgment, and in doing so, committed, as I think, fatal errors. If he had lost his head, and I had been placed in command, you may rest assured a very different result would have been arrived at, whether better or worse for us cannot be told now; but it certainly would have been more decisive one way or the other. Secretary Chase was in camp day before yesterday at headquarters. He neither honored me with a visit, nor did he invite me to visit him; of course I did not see him. He returned in the afternoon, accompanied by Wilkes, of the Spirit of the Times. It is understood that the Cabinet is divided, Chase upholding Hooker, Blair and Seward in opposition. I have always thought Hooker would be allowed another chance, and I sincerely trust and hope, and indeed believe, he will do better, as I think he now sees the policy of caution is not a good one. Until our recent imbroglio, he has always spoken of me very warmly, though he has never asked my advice, or listened to my suggestions. What he is going to do or say now I don’t know, but I shall not count on any very friendly offices from him. Still, I should be sorry to see him removed, unless a decidedly better man is substituted.

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), pp. 380-1. Available via Google Books.

Miserable Failure (May 20, 1863)

"Lord Abinger (William F. Scarlett, 3d Baron Abinger, Lt. Col. Scots Fusilier Guards) and group at headquarters, Army of the Potomac" (Library of Congress).

“Lord Abinger (William F. Scarlett, 3d Baron Abinger, Lt. Col. Scots Fusilier Guards) and group at headquarters, Army of the Potomac” (Library of Congress).

In this letter to his wife Meade sums up his opinions on Hooker and the Battle of Chancellorsville. It is, to say the least, an unfavorable view of Fighting Joe. Meade also talks a bit more about the visit of Lord Abinger. He often had to deal with foreign visitors who came to America with a view to observing military operations.

The battle of Chancellorsville was a miserable failure, in which Hooker disappointed me greatly. His plan was admirably designed, and the early part of it, entrusted to others, was well executed; but after he had assembled his army on the other side near Chancellorsville, instead of striking at once vigorously and instantly, before the enemy, who were surprised, could concentrate, he delayed; gave them thirty-six hours to bring up and dispose of their troops; permitted them to attack him, and after their doing so, failed to take advantage of their error in dividing and separating their forces, but allowed them to engage only about half his army and to unite their forces after driving back a portion of ours. He then assumed the defensive, doing nothing for two days, while we could hear Sedgwick’s guns, and knew they were trying to crush him and must succeed. Finally he withdrew to this side, giving up all the advantages gained, and having to recross with all the obstacles and difficulties increased.

Notwithstanding these are my views, I have abstained from making them known to any one, out of consideration for Hooker, who has always pretended to be very friendly to me. I declined to join Couch in a representation to the President, when he was down here, and I refused to join Slocum, who desired to take action to have Hooker removed. I told both these gentlemen I would not join in any movement against Hooker, but that if the President chose to call on me officially for my opinions, I would give them. I have spoken to no one but Governor Curtin, and to him only because he came to see me and spoke so freely and bitterly against Hooker, that I allowed myself to say a part of what I have above written. I considered my conversation with Governor Curtin private, and did not expect he would repeat it or quote me. I have seen Senators Wade, Chandler, Wilson and Doolittle, all of whom have been down here to find out what they could, but I have abstained from saying anything, as they did not think proper to ask me any questions. Hooker is safe, I think, from the difficulty of finding a successor, and from the ridiculous appearance we present of changing our generals after each battle. He may, and I trust he will, do better next time; but unless he shows more aptitude than in the last affair, he will be very apt to be defeated again. Lee committed a terrible blunder in allowing us to come back; he might have destroyed us by a vigorous attack while we were retreating.

The review of my corps passed off very well yesterday, and Lord Abinger expressed himself greatly pleased. After the review I had a collation at my quarters, which seemed to be equally pleasing to his lordship. He said that if he had time to stop in Philadelphia, he would hunt you up.

Turnbull, who was at the review, showed me a few lines he had received from Proctor Smith, by a flag of truce that went after the wounded. Smith is Chief Engineer on Lee’s staff. He begs to be remembered to you and me. Beckham is major of artillery and commands a battery with Stuart’s cavalry. Smith is colonel.

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), pp. 379-80. Available via Google Books.

Open War (May 19, 1863)

Edwin Forbes drew this sketch of the Chancellorsville house, where Hooker had his headquarters during the battle. He was on the front porch when a cannonball hit the house, striking Hooker with debris. The general although knocked unconscious and probably severely concussed, retained command after awakening. (Library of Congress)

Edwin Forbes drew this sketch of the Chancellorsville house, where Hooker had his headquarters during the battle. He was on the front porch when a cannonball hit the house, striking Hooker with debris. The general although knocked unconscious and probably severely concussed, retained command after awakening. (Library of Congress)

The rupture between Meade and Hooker is now complete. Meade wasn’t the only person harboring serious doubts about Fighting Joe’s abilities, though. As I write in Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg:

After Chancellorsville the New York Tribune sent George W. Smalley to Virginia to determine what had gone wrong. “If I am to be investigated, it might as well be by you as anybody,” Hooker told him. Smalley like Hooker, but he put his personal feelings aside. During the course of his investigation decided that the general had lost his army’s confidence. Several staff officers even urged Smalley to tell Meade he was their choice to command. Smalley agreed to speak to him and found Meade just as the general was getting on his horse. The general invited the reporter to ride along with him.

As Smalley began to explain his mission, Meade turned and looked sharply at him. “I don’t know that I ought to listen to you,” he said. Smalley told the general that he was not acting in any official capacity; he intended only to explain what he had heard. Meade allowed him to continue. “I said my say,” Smalley related. “From beginning to end, General Meade listened with an impassive face. He did not interrupt. He never asked a question. He never made a comment. When I had finished I had not the least notion what impression my narrative had made on him; nor whether it had made any impression. He was a model of military discretion. Then we talked a little about other things. I said good-bye, rode away, and never again saw General Meade.”

 I am sorry to tell you I am at open war with Hooker. He yesterday came to see me and referred to an article in the Herald, stating that four of his corps commanders were opposed to the withdrawal of the army. He said this was not so, and that Reynolds and myself had determined him to withdraw. I expressed the utmost surprise at this statement; when he said that I had expressed the opinion that it was impracticable to withdraw the army, and therefore I had favored an advance, and as he knew it was perfectly practicable to withdraw, he did not consider my opinion as being in favor of an advance. I replied to him that this was a very ingenious way of stating what I had said; that my opinion was clear and emphatic for an advance; that I had gone so far as to say that I would not be governed by any consideration regarding the safety of Washington, for I thought that argument had paralyzed this army too long. I further said that if the enemy were considered so strong that the safety of the army might be jeopardized in attacking them, then I considered a withdrawal impracticable without running greater risk of destroying the army than by advancing, and that it seemed rather singular that he should set me down as the advocate of a measure which he acknowledged I asserted to be impracticable. He reiterated his opinion and said he should proclaim it. I answered I should deny it, and should call on those who were present to testify as to whether he or I was right. The fact is, he now finds he has committed a grave error, which at the time he was prepared to assume the responsibility of, but now desires to cast it off on to the shoulders of others; but I rather think he will find himself mistaken. At any rate, the entente cordiale is destroyed between us, and I don’t regret it, as it makes me more independent and free. I also told him that it was my impression at the time, but that of course it could only be known to himself and his God, that he had made up his mind to withdraw the army before he had heard the opinions of his corps commanders. To this he did not make any reply, and I am satisfied that such was the case. I have not seen Reynolds, or any of the others present on the occasion, since I had this conversation with him, but I intend to address each a letter and ask for their impressions of what I did say. Such things are very painful and embarrassing, but I have always feared the time would come when they would be inevitable with Hooker; for I knew no one would be permitted to stand in his way. I suppose he has heard some of the stories flying round camp in regard to my having the command, and these, in connection with what George Cadwalader told him Governor Curtin said, have induced him to believe that I am manoeuvering to get him relieved, that I may step in his shoes. God knows the injustice he does me, and that I have never spoken a word to any one except Governor Curtin, and to him I never referred to Hooker’s being relieved, but only criticised his recent operations, saying nothing more, or if as much, as I have written to you. I can tell him that if he had no stronger enemy than I am, he might rest much more secure than he can, knowing all that I do. I wish he could hear what some others say; he would look on me very differently.

There are two English officers on a visit to the camp. One of them, Lord Abinger (formerly Mr. Scarlett), Lieutenant Colonel of the Scots Fusileer Guards, brought me a letter from George Ramsay. I am going to-morrow to review my corps, and have invited them to be present. Lord Abinger seems a very nice fellow. He was in Philadelphia in 1857, and speaks a great deal about his visit and the people there. He recognized Major Biddle, asked after his mother, and altogether appears quite at home in Philadelphia society.

I have lost nearly a division by the expiration of service of the two-years’ and nine-months’ men, so that I have had to break up Humphreys’s division, and he is going to take command of the division recently commanded by General Berry, in Sickles’s corps. I am very sorry to lose Humphreys. He is a most valuable officer, besides being an associate of the most agreeable character.

My relations with Hooker are such that I cannot ask for the necessary leave to go up to Washington, to receive my sword; so unless they take some action and get the Secretary to authorize my going up, I fear it will be some time before I come into possession.

Just think, it is nearly two years, indeed over two years, since we have been separated.

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), pp. 377-379. Available via Google Books.

Fathers and Sons (May 17, 1865)

Meade wrote his letter  of May 17, 1863 to his oldest son, John Sergeant. We hear more about his son George than we do of John Sergeant, mainly because the eldest son’s health kept him out of the military. Over the next year and a half Meade’s letters home to his wife will become increasingly concerned about John Sergeant, because the boy suffered from tuberculosis and would suffer declining health until his death in February 1865.

There is nothing specially new here. We have lost many men by the casualties of the recent battle, and many more since by reason of the expiration of service. In the meantime, the enemy have been largely reinforced from the army recently on the Blackwater. Under these circumstances I don’t see how we can advance without additional troops, and as yet I do not hear of any coming. Still, the talk is that we are to move very soon. Yesterday I went to see General Stoneman and Lieutenant Colonel Smith, to thank them for their kindness to George, which I did, and said a great many fine things on the part of your mother. Stoneman said he was afraid George would have considered him rough and harsh, as he had to change him in a dark, rainy night from a buggy to a wagon, in a great hurry, and had to speak very sharply. I told him that George remembered nothing but his exceeding kindness.

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), pp. 376-7. Available via Google Books.

Measles (May 15, 1863)

Meade’s son, George, belonged to the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry (Rush’s Lancers) and was going to take part in George Stoneman’s attempt to get behind Lee’s lines before the battle of Chancellorsville. But George fell ill with a severe case of measles, a very real concern in the nineteenth century, and was sent back.

In his letter of May 12 Meade mentioned a meeting with Pennsylvania’s Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin. Here he writes about the unexpected consequence of that meeting. It would help drive a wedge between Meade and Joseph Hooker, the commander of the Army of the Potomac. I have to think that Meade was either incredibly naïve or perhaps being disingenuous when he says that he thought he was merely expressing his views privately to Curtin, who was, after all, the governor of Pennsylvania.

I received to-day your letter of the 12th instant, advising me of George’s arrival at home, which relieved me greatly, although I only yesterday learned of his being sick and having gone to Washington. In utter ignorance of his being sick, and supposing him with his regiment, I saw Hooker and got the order issued assigning him to duty on my staff. It was only my accidentally meeting Lieutenant Furness, of George’s regiment, on Stoneman’s staff, who first told me George had been very sick on the expedition, but that he was better, and that he (Furness) had seen George and Benoni Lockwood both in the cars on their way to Washington.

I have been very much worried to-day by very extraordinary conduct on the part of Governor Curtin. He came to see me, and in the familiarity of private conversation, after expressing himself very much depressed, drew out of me opinions such as I have written to you about General Hooker, in which I stated my disappointment at the caution and prudence exhibited by General Hooker at the critical moment of the battle; at his assuming the defensive, when I thought the offensive ought to have been assumed; and at the withdrawal of the army, to which I was opposed. This opinion was expressed privately, as one gentleman would speak to another; was never intended for the injury of General Hooker, or for any other purpose than simply to make known my views. Imagine, then, my surprise when General Hooker, who has just returned from Washington, sent for me, and said that General Cadwalader had told him that Governor Curtin had reported in Washington that he (General Hooker) had entirely lost the confidence of the army, and that both Generals Reynolds and Meade had lost all confidence in him. Of course, I told Hooker that Governor Curtin had no warrant for using my name in this manner. I then repeated to Hooker what I had said to Governor Curtin, and told him that he knew that I had differed with him in judgment on the points above stated, and that he had no right to complain of my expressing my views to others, which he was aware I had expressed to him at the time the events were occurring. To this Hooker assented and expressed himself satisfied with my statement.

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), pp. 375-6. Available via Google Books.

Reports (May 13, 1863)

Report croppedMeade did not have a great deal to communicate on May 13, but since he mentions his official report on Chancellorsville this seems like a good place to post it. I’ve downloaded the page images from Cornell University’s online version of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol 25, pages 505-512. Simply click on each thumbnail below to see the full-size image.

I have not been a great deal at headquarters, being occupied with my command, particularly writing my official report. I have completed this and gotten it off my hands, which is a great relief. There is much talking in the army, but I doubt very much whether Hooker is in any danger of losing his command. The Government seems to be satisfied with him, judging from the tone of those papers known to be connected with it.

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. 375. Available via Google Books.

Meade's Chancellorsville Page 1

Meade’s Chancellorsville Report, Page 1

Meade's Chancellorsville Report, Page 2

Meade’s Chancellorsville Report, Page 2

Meade's Chancellorsville Report, Page 3

Meade’s Chancellorsville Report, Page 3

Meade's Chancellorsville Report, Page 4

Meade’s Chancellorsville Report, Page 4

Meade's Chancellorsville Report, Page 5

Meade’s Chancellorsville Report, Page 5

Meade's Chancellorsville Report, Page 6

Meade’s Chancellorsville Report, Page 6

Meade's Chancellorsville Report, Page 7

Meade’s Chancellorsville Report, Page 7

Meade's Chancellorsville Report, Page 8

Meade’s Chancellorsville Report, Page 8

Disappointments (May 12, 1863)

This photograph is titled "Removing wounded across Rappahannock River after battle of Chancellorsville - under flag of truce" (Library of Congress).

This photograph is titled “Removing wounded across Rappahannock River after battle of Chancellorsville – under flag of truce” (Library of Congress).

This analysis of the repercussions of Chancellorsville bears a small load of historical irony. Meade writes that Hooker “has on this occasion missed a brilliant opportunity of making himself,” which is what Meade’s critics would be seeing after Lee army escaped over the Potomac following Gettysburg. I have to assume that son George’s presence with Stoneman’s cavalry blinded the father to the fact that Stoneman did not perform well at all. In fact, the cavalry’s rather feeble efforts provided one reason why Hooker’s campaign failed. (Young George Meade played a limited role at Chancellorsville, having fallen ill with a severe case of measles.)

Meade’s meeting with Pennsylvania governor Andrew Gregg Curtin will have repercussions later. Meade was free with his criticisms of Hooker when he spoke with the governor and Curtin indiscreetly reported the conversation in Washington, which soon got back go Hooker.

“Forney’s Press” is a reference to the Philadelphia Press, published by John Wien Forney. “During the war, Forney spent most of his time in Washington performing his duties as Secretary of the Senate; entertaining celebrities in his commodious quarters at the Mills House on Capitol Hill; giving some attention to supervising a newspaper property which he had founded there; and contributing letters to the Press under the pseudonym of ‘Occasional,’” noted J. Cutler Andrews in The North Reports the Civil War.

I did not suppose you would credit the canard in the papers about our crossing and Lee’s retreating. This story, however, with minute details, I see is published in Forney’s Press, an Administration organ, that must have known and did know better. It has been circulated for some purpose, and is doubtless considered a great piece of strategy. There is no doubt Hooker assured the President that he would soon cross again and repair all disaster, but I fear he finds the execution of this promise more difficult than the making. The enemy have all returned to their old positions and they have been seen to-day busily engaged throwing up dirt and strengthening all the crossings by additional works, though one would suppose, from the work they had previously executed, there was no room for more.

To-day I had a visit from Governor Curtin. The Governor is very much depressed, and I tried to put him in better spirits.

I cannot write you fully in relation to all the recent operations. All I can say is that Hooker has disappointed the army and myself, in failing to show the nerve and coup d’ceil at the critical moment, which all had given him credit for before he was tried. It is another proof of what a sense of responsibility will do to modify a man’s character, and should be a warning to all of us to be very cautious how we criticise our neighbors, or predict what we would do ourselves if placed in similar circumstances. My only fear is that Hooker, goaded by the attacks that are now made on him, may be induced to take some desperate step in the hope of retrieving his waning fortunes. At the same time, as I have already told you, he was fully aware when he ordered the withdrawal of the army, that he was running the risk, and great risk, of self-sacrifice. For he said he knew his personal interests were involved in advancing. I believe he acted sincerely, and for what he considered the interests of the army and the country, but I differed with him in judgment, and I fear events will confirm my view. I was clearly in favor of tempting the hazard of the die, and letting Washington take care of itself. I am sorry for Hooker, because I like him and my relations have always been agreeable with him; but I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that he has on this occasion missed a brilliant opportunity of making himself. Our losses are terrible; they are said to exceed fifteen thousand men, greater than in any other battle or series of battles, greater than in the whole of the celebrated six days’ fighting before Richmond, and greater than McClellan’s Maryland campaign. This large loss, together with the loss of over twenty thousand nine-months’ and two-years’ men, will very materially reduce this army, and unless it be speedily reinforced will paralyze its movements.

Stoneman’s success was very complete, and his whole operation brilliant in the extreme. The enemy acknowledge he has beaten Stuart, and that the latter’s laurels are faded. Alas, that we should not have taken advantage of his success! As it is, before we can advance or press them back, they will have repaired all the damages Stoneman inflicted on them.

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), pp. 374-5. Available via Google Books.

Fallout (May 10, 1863)

Did Meade really believe there was no possibility that the Administration might elevate him to command of the Army of the Potomac? Perhaps he truly did.

Darius Couch, who commanded the II Corps at Chancellorsville did, in fact, say he would not serve under Hooker. He received command of the Department of the Susquehanna, with headquarters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The traces of fortifications, hastily thrown up on hills on the opposite side of the Susquehanna from Harrisburg and named Fort Couch, still remain in the town of Lemoyne. The Camp Curtin Historical Society and Civil War Round Table erected a fine monument there a few years ago.

Darius Couch, who had had enough of Joe Hooker (Library of Congress).

Darius Couch, who had had enough of Joe Hooker (Library of Congress).

There is a great deal of talking in the camp, and I see the press is beginning to attack Hooker. I think these last operations have shaken the confidence of the army in Hooker’s judgment, particularly among the superior officers. I have been much gratified at the frequent expression of opinion that I ought to be placed in command. Three of my seniors (Couch, Slocum and Sedgwick) have sent me word that they were willing to serve under me. Couch, I hear, told the President he would not serve any longer under Hooker, and recommended my assignment to the command. I mention all this confidentially. I do not attach any importance to it, and do not believe there is the slightest probability of my being placed in command. I think I know myself, and am sincere when I say I do not desire the command; hence I can quietly attend to my duties, uninfluenced by what is going on around me, at the same time expressing, as I feel, great gratification that the army and my senior generals should think so well of my services and capacity as to be willing to serve under me. Having no political influence, being no intriguer, and indeed unambitious of the distinction, it is hardly probable I shall be called on to accept or decline. I see the papers attribute Hooker’s withdrawal to the weak councils of his corps commanders. This is a base calumny. Four out of six of his corps commanders were positive and emphatic in their opposition to the withdrawal, and he did it contrary to their advice. Hooker, however, I should judge, feels very secure, and does not seem concerned. I have no idea what his next move will be. For my part it would seem that all projects based on pursuing this line of operations having been tried and failed, we should try some other route. Yet the Administration is so wedded to this line that it will be difficult to get authority to change.

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), pp. 373-4. Available via Google Books.