Aldie (June 20, 1863)

Judson Kilpatrick. As one of Meade's aides later described him, “His colorless eye, big nose, and narrow forehead, with an indescribable air between a vulgarian & a crack-brain, combine to render him almost laughable. He is pushing & managing in the extreme, but I don’t believe he is worth a fig as a general.” (Library of Congress)

Judson Kilpatrick. As one of Meade’s aides later described him, “His colorless eye, big nose, and narrow forehead, with an indescribable air between a vulgarian & a crack-brain, combine to render him almost laughable. He is pushing & managing in the extreme, but I don’t believe he is worth a fig as a general.” (Library of Congress)

On June 20 Meade wrote from Aldie, Virginia, which three days earlier had been the setting for a spirited cavalry battle. Jeb Stuart’s Confederate cavalry had been screening Robert E. Lee’s army as it advanced north through the Shenandoah Valley. Stuart sought to keep the prying eyes of the Union cavalry away from any of the gaps in the Blue Ridge Mountains where they could observe Lee’s activity in the valley. At Aldie a Union brigade under Judson Kilpatrick fought for four hours against Confederate cavalry under Thomas Munford. When Kilpatrick received reinforcements from David McMurtrie Gregg’s division, the Confederates retired. (Gregg, incidentally, was cousin to Pennsylvania’s Governor Andrew Gregg Curtin.)

We came here yesterday afternoon to sustain Pleasanton, who has had several brilliant skirmishes with the enemy’s cavalry in this vicinity, and who thought they were bringing up infantry. To-day we hear Ewell has crossed the Potomac at Williamsport. This indicates an invasion of Maryland, of which I have hitherto been skeptical. If this should prove true, we will have to rush after them. I had almost rather they would come here and save us marches. I am in pretty good spirits—a little disgusted at the smallness of my corps, only ten thousand men, but I believe they will do as much as any equal numbers.

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. 386. Available via Google Books.

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