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.

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