Recruiting (August 19, 1863)

In this letter Meade mentions William “Baldy” Smith. They were apparently on good terms at this point but would have a falling out by the end of the war. After Fredericksburg Smith and William Franklin, who had commanded the Left Grand Division under Ambrose Burnside there, went to Washington to complain about Burnside’s leadership. Franklin was exiled out West. Smith would eventually follow. There he would earn the confidence of Ulysses S. Grant and when Grant came east to become general-in-chief in 1864 there was talk that Smith would get command of the Army of the Potomac. Instead he received command of the XVIII Corps in the Army of the James. Meade aide Theodore Lyman described Smith as “a short, quite portly man, with a light-brown imperial and shaggy mustache, a round, military head, and the look of a German officer, altogether.” He possessed “unusual powers of caustic criticism” and quarreled incessantly with his superior officers.

Lee finds it as hard to recruit his army as I do mine. I do not hear of any reinforcements of any consequence joining him. At the same time it is very difficult to obtain any minute or reliable intelligence of his movements.

William F. "Baldy" Smith was a Meade friend who eventually turned enemy. (Library of Congress)

William F. “Baldy” Smith was a Meade friend who eventually turned enemy. (Library of Congress)

I saw to-day a note from Baldy Smith, who is at Hagerstown, commanding four hundred men and a “secesh” hospital. He says he is afraid to make any stir, for fear they should serve him as they have Franklin, who is at Baton Rouge, commanding a division under Banks. This is pretty hard for Franklin, and I feel sorry for him.

I had a visit yesterday from a Mrs. Harris, a lady belonging to the Sanitary and Christian Commissions, who has been connected with the army for a long time, and who, every one says, does a great deal of good. She talked a great deal about Philadelphia, where she belongs, and where she was going on a visit, and said every one would be inquiring about me, so that she had to come and see me.

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.143-4. Available via Google Books.

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