Old Baldy Goes Home (April 24, 1864)

Old Baldy, in a photo taken after the war. The horse survived his master and marched, riderless, in Meade's funeral procession (Library of Congress).

Old Baldy, in a photo taken after the war. The horse survived his master and marched, riderless, in Meade’s funeral procession (Library of Congress).

The spring campaign is about to begin, and Meade decides to part with an old campaigner. It’s time for Old Baldy, Meade’s long-suffering horse, to head to retirement. Baldy suffered his first wound during First Bull Run, when Gen. David Hunter owned him. Meade bought Baldy from the quartermaster for $150 in 1861. His aides learned to dislike Baldy because the horse moved at an awkward pace somewhere between a walk and a run, making it difficult to keep pace, but Meade thought him a loyal and steadfast mount.

Baldy received a second wound at Second Bull Run; at Antietam he was so badly injured that Meade gave him up for dead. Baldy suffered his final wound during the second day at Gettysburg. He carried the Confederate bullet he received there inside him for the rest of his life. “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,” Meade wrote to his wife back in Philadelphia.

On November 11, 1872, Baldy marched, riderless, in Meade’s funeral procession. The horse lived for another ten years, until the ailing steed was put down at the ripe old age of 30 on December 16, 1882. That Christmas Day two Union veterans received permission to remove his head and have it mounted. They attached the relic to a wooden plaque outlining Baldy’s war record and presented it to the George Meade Post of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) in Philadelphia.

A pin from Old Baldy's "grand unveiling."

A pin from Old Baldy’s “grand unveiling.”

I have a soft spot for the horse, which Meade referred to as “the old brute.” I first became acquainted with the General Meade Society of Philadelphia when my wife and I attended the “grand unveiling” of Old Baldy’s head at the Grand Army of the Republic Museum and Library. The museum had just won a custody battle to get the head back into its collections and a bunch of people showed up to celebrate. It was a fun day and my wife got her picture, gazing respectfully at Old Baldy, in the Philadelphia Inquirer the next day.

In this letter Meade mentions Cram, who was Henry A. Cram, his wife’s brother-in-law. John Cadwalader was another Philadelphia resident and later a U.S. District Court judge. Like many others, Meade is still trying to get an accurate impression of Ulysses S. Grant. Zachary Taylor was the general under whom Meade served in Mexico and comparing Grant to him was high praise indeed.

Cram and John Cadwalader arrived yesterday afternoon. To-day Cram went to church with me, where we heard an excellent sermon from a Mr. Adams, a distinguished Presbyterian clergyman from New York. After church I drove Cram and Cadwalader to Culpeper, where we paid a visit to General Grant. After coming away, I plainly saw Cram was disappointed. Grant is not a striking man, is very reticent, has never mixed with the world, and has but little manner, indeed is somewhat ill at ease in the presence of strangers; hence a first impression is never favorable. His early education was undoubtedly very slight; in fact, I fancy his West Point course was pretty much all the education he ever had, as since his graduation I don’t believe he has read or studied any. At the same time, he has natural qualities of a high order, and is a man whom, the more you see and know him, the better you like him. He puts me in mind of old Taylor, and sometimes I fancy he models himself on old Zac.

Old Baldy as he appears at his current home in Philadelphia.

Old Baldy as he appears at his current home in Philadelphia.

Yesterday I sent my orderly with old Baldy to Philadelphia. He will never be fit again for hard service, and I thought he was entitled to better care than could be given to him on the march.

I have just had a visit from a very intelligent young Englishman, named Stanley, a son of Lord Stanley, of Alderney. He is no relative, I believe, to the Earl of Derby, though his father is in the Ministry as Secretary for the Colonies. He is quite young (only twenty-four) but highly educated, very smart and clever, and full of information. He brought me a letter from Mr. Seward, and spent a day with us seeing the army sights.

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), p. 191. Available via Google Books.

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