Return to Frederick (July 8, 1863)

Old Baldy, in a photo taken after the war (Library of Congress).

Old Baldy, in a photo taken after the war (Library of Congress).

On July 7 Meade left Gettysburg and traveled all the way to Frederick, not far from the spot where Colonel Hardie had arrived to bring him trouble just nine days earlier. For Meade it seemed like a lifetime. He had been living in “a great state of mental anxiety,” he wrote his wife. “Indeed, I think I have lived as much in this time as in the last thirty years.” Since taking command he had not changed his clothes, had a full night’s sleep, eaten a regular meal, or even had much chance to wash his face and hands.

Meade found the streets of Frederick crowded with people eager to get a glimpse of him. The citizens treated him “like a lion,” but he did not allow it to go to his head. After the botched opportunities of Antietam, George McClellan had written to his wife that he had fought a “masterpiece of war.” Meade was cut from a different cloth.

Baldy, of course, is Meade’s horse. He not only survived his wounds, he went on to outlive his master by 10 years.

I arrived here yesterday; the army is assembling at Middletown. I think we shall have another battle before Lee can cross the river, though from all accounts he is making great efforts to do so. For my part, as I have to follow and fight him, I would rather do it at once and in Maryland than to follow into Virginia. I received last evening your letters of the 3d and 5th inst., and am truly rejoiced that you are treated with such distinction on account of my humble services. I see also that the papers are making a great deal too much fuss about me. I claim no extraordinary merit for this last battle, and would prefer waiting a little while to see what my career is to be before making any pretensions. I did and shall continue to do my duty to the best of my abilities, but knowing as I do that battles are often decided by accidents, and that no man of sense will say in advance what their result will be, I wish to be careful in not bragging before the right time. George is very well, though both of us are a good deal fatigued with our recent operations. From the time I took command till to-day, now over ten days, I have not changed my clothes, have not had a regular night’s rest, and many nights not a wink of sleep, and for several days did not even wash my face and hands, no regular food, and all the time in a great state of mental anxiety. Indeed, I think I have lived as much in this time as in the last thirty years. Old Baldy is still living and apparently doing well; the ball passed within half an inch of my thigh, passed through the saddle and entered Baldy’s stomach. I did not think he could live, but the old fellow has such a wonderful tenacity of life that I am in hopes he will.

The people in this place have made a great fuss with me. A few moments after my arrival I was visited by a deputation of ladies, and showers of wreaths and bouquets presented to me, in most complimentary terms. The street has been crowded with people, staring at me, and, much to my astonishment, I find myself a lion. I cannot say I appreciate all this honor, because I feel certain it is undeserved, and would like people to wait a little while. I send you a document1 received yesterday afternoon. It will give you pleasure I know. Preserve it, because the terms in which the General in Chief speaks of the battle are stronger than any I have deemed it proper to use myself. I never claimed a victory, though I stated that Lee was defeated in his efforts to destroy my army. I am going to move as soon as I can get the army supplied with subsistence and ammunition.

Meade’s correspondence taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 132-3. Available via Google Books.

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