Reputation (April 6, 1864)

The Army of the Potomac's head of artillery, Henry Hunt. He said he would have known if Meade had been planning a retreat from Gettysburg (Library of Congress).

The Army of the Potomac’s head of artillery, Henry Hunt. He said he would have known if Meade had been planning a retreat from Gettysburg (Library of Congress).

Henry Hunt, the Army of the Potomac’s head of artillery, was one witness who testified in Meade’s favor for the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. Since moving his ammunition trains was an important logistical consideration when moving the army, Hunt said he would certainly have known if Meade was planning a retreat from Gettysburg. Hunt had also met with Daniel Sickles at Gettysburg on July 2 before that III Corps commander moved his men forward. Sickles had told Hunt he wanted to move out of the general depression along the Union line where Cemetery Ridge ceased being a ridge, and take a position on the higher ground alongside the Emmitsburg Road. He had been especially concerned about a peach orchard that would offer Confederate artillery an excellent position to wreak havoc on the Union line. Hunt had agreed that the forward line had some advantages but felt it also had some serious drawbacks. Then Hunt had heard firing from the direction of Cemetery Hill and prepared to ride off and investigate. Sickles had asked him if he should move his troops forward. “Not on my authority; I will report to General Meade for instructions,” replied Hunt. He found Meade and told him that Sickles’s proposed line had favorable offensive possibilities but that he would not recommend it. Sickles had moved forward without permission.

David Birney had been one of Sickles’ division commanders at Gettysburg and took corps command after Sickles was wounded. He had no love for Meade and sought to see him replaced by either Joe Hooker or, even better, Dan Sickles.

General Grant returned yesterday, and I have seen him to-day. Nothing new or important has transpired.

General Hunt has been up to Washington and before the committee. He says, after questioning him about the famous order of July 2, and his telling them he never heard of it, and from his position and relations with me would certainly have heard of it, they went to work and in the most pettifogging way, by a cross-examination, tried to get him to admit such an order might have been issued without his knowing anything about it. This, after my testimony, and that of Warren, Hancock, Gibbon and Hunt, evidently proves they are determined to convict me, in spite of testimony, and that Butterfield’s perjury is to outweigh the testimony of all others. I suppose you have seen the last effusion of Historicus. There is no doubt now about the author, as he quotes a private letter from [David Bell] Birney, which could not have been written to any one but Sickles. The best joke is that Barnes, it is said, has a letter from Birney, denying that he ever made any statements of the kind quoted in his letter to Historicus. Is it not too bad that one’s reputation should be in the hands of such men?

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. 187-8. Available via Google Books.

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