Worthless Material (August 9, 1863)

Samuel Crawford, the former army surgeon who became indignant when soldiers called him "Old Pills" (Library of Congress).

Samuel Crawford, the former army surgeon who became indignant when soldiers called him “Old Pills” (Library of Congress).

The long affair of the Pennsylvania Reserves’ presentation sword is finally approaching its end. (See the entry for April 5, 1863, for more about the saga.) General Crawford is Samuel Crawford, who began the war as an army surgeon at Fort Sumter when war began. He is buried in Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery, not far from Meade. Theodore Lyman, who served as an aide to Meade later in the war and left behind richly detailed journals and letters, told an amusing story about Crawford, who, in Lyman’s words, had “some reputation for possessing a decided admiration of the looks and figure of his own self.” This is what Lyman had to say in a letter published in Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Lt. Col. Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox (edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922, available via Google Books):

There came to the army a young artist, who was under a certain monied person. The young artist was to make models for bronze medallions, and the monied person was to sell the same and take the profits, if any. He proposed to model the commander of the army, and each of the corps commanders, and General [Alexander] Webb, but no one else. As the artist was modelling away at General Webb, he asked: ‘Isn’t General Crawford rather an odd man?’ ‘What makes you ask that?’ says the Chief-of Staff? ‘Why, he waked me up in the middle of the night, and asked what I could make a statuette of him for! I told him $400 and he said he thought he would have it done!’ Webb, who is a cruel wag, said naught, but, the next time he met C, asked him if he had seen the young sculptor who had come down. ‘Seen him!’ quoth C. ‘My dear fellow, he has done nothing but follow me round, boring me to sit for a statuette!'”

General Crawford, commanding Pennsylvania Reserves, has notified me that the sword which they desire to present me with is ready, and asked me to allow an officer to go to Philadelphia to get it, and make the necessary arrangements, which I have done; so this affair of long standing will soon come off.

I note what you say reports as the secession talk of New York; the same thing has been said in the Times, Tribune and Herald; but I was ahead of all these gentlemen, as in the despatch I sent General Halleck, urging to be permitted to advance, I told him that in my judgment, reasoning from the past, and in view of the power hitherto exercised over the people of the Confederacy, and the fertility of resources exhibited by them, I was of the opinion delay would be more advantageous to the enemy than to us, and that Lee would be reinforced more rapidly than I would be. Every day confirms me in this view. Up to the present time they have taken from this army over twenty regiments, between eight and ten thousand men, and as yet have sent only one hundred and twenty miserable creatures, substitutes for drafted men, to a Pennsylvania regiment; a dozen of whom it is already ascertained were discharged from old regiments for physical disability; four of them had delirium tremens the day they joined, and several have already deserted. Such worthless material, as these men, are no addition to this army, but only a clog, and if the draft is not heartily responded to, the Government had better make up its mind to letting the South go. Don’t misunderstand me; I am nothing of a copperhead. I am for a vigorous prosecution of the war; but the war cannot be prosecuted with any hope of success, not only without men, but a great many willing men; men who have their hearts in the business and who are determined to fight and to conquer, or die. I have had [Gouverneur] Warren made a major general, and George’s friend, Colonel Ganard, a brigadier.

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.142-3. Available via Google Books.

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