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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Pure Inventions (April 4, 1864)

Ulysses S. Grant, in a print based on an illustration by Thomas Nast (Library of Congress).

Ulysses S. Grant, in a print based on an illustration by Thomas Nast (Library of Congress).

George Meade was never a fan of the press and here he vents a bit about the false stories being told about Ulysses S. Grant.

If you believe all you see in the papers about Grant, you will be greatly deceived. All that I have seen are pure inventions. I mean such stories as his being opposed to reviews, balls, etc., having given orders to stop them; of inviting soldiers into his car; of announcing his displeasure at the luxury of the officers of the Army of the Potomac, that all he wanted was soldiers’ fare, pork and beans; of the enthusiasm with which he is received by the soldiers, etc., etc. All these are humbugs, and known to the writers to be without foundation, but are persistently put forth for some purpose unknown. When he first came down he said he wished to keep out of Washington as much as possible, and it was his intention while in this part of the country to remain with my army, and he asked me where he could find a good house for his headquarters. I told him his only chance was either in Warrenton or Culpeper; that the former was rather out of the way, and that I thought he could readily get one in the latter place, which he did; whereupon the newspapers announced him as establishing his headquarters eight miles nearer the enemy than even I did. Not content with puffing him, they must have a fling at me. Grant is very much annoyed at the foolish way they are mentioning his name; but it is a matter he cannot very well notice. As I have before told you, he is very well disposed towards me, and has talked very freely and properly about my particular friends Hooker, Sickles and Butterfield.

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. 187. Available via Google Books.

Before the Committee (April 2, 1864)

The United States Capitol Building in July 1863 (Library of Congress).

The United States Capitol Building in July 1863 (Library of Congress).

Meade continues to chew over his difficulties in Washington. For the letter he mentions (and Lincoln’s response), see the correspondence regarding Historicus. Pennie is his son Spencer.

I left Washington this morning, bidding dear Pennie good-bye at the hotel, which he was to leave half an hour after me. He has had a pretty pleasant time, and his visit has been a source of great happiness to me.

I enclose you a letter I addressed the Department, with an autograph reply from the President. I feel quite sure the President meant to be very kind and complimentary in paying me the distinguished honor of writing a reply in his own hand, and under this conviction I am bound to be satisfied. You will perceive, however, that the main point of my request is avoided, namely, my desire that the letter of Historicus should be submitted, with my letter, to General Sickles, and if he acknowledged or endorsed it, then I wished a court of inquiry, not otherwise. However, Mr. Stanton told me the true reason, which was that it was concluded submitting the letter to Sickles was only playing into his hands; that a court of inquiry, if called at my request, although it might exonerate me, yet it would not necessarily criminate him; and that, on the whole, it was deemed best not to take any action. [Daniel] Butterfield, I hear, was very bitter in his testimony, and made wonderful revelations. I went before the committee yesterday and replied only to his assertion that I instructed him to draw up an order to retreat. This I emphatically denied; also denied any knowledge of his having drawn up such an order; presented documentary evidence to show that, if I had any such idea, that my orders and despatches were contradictory, and referred to numerous officers who ought to have and would have known if I entertained any idea of the kind.

Michigan's Senator Zachariah Chandler. (National Archives.)

Michigan’s Senator Zachariah Chandler. (National Archives.)

I find I have three warm friends on the committee—[Moses] Odell of New York, [Daniel] Gooch of Massachusetts, and [Benjamin] Harding of Oregon. It is believed [Bnjamin] Wade, of Ohio, is favorably inclined. If either he or one of the others should prove so, it would make a majority in my favor. Old Zach Chandler is my bitterest foe and will show me no quarter. While going up to Washington I had a long and satisfactory talk with Grant, who has expressed himself and acted towards me in the most friendly manner. Among other things he said he heard Horace Greeley had been in Washington, demanding my removal, and that [George] Thomas be brought here. Grant said, if he saw Greeley he should tell him that when he wanted the advice of a political editor in selecting generals, he would call on him. The President, Secretary, indeed every one I met, were civil and affable to 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. 186-7. Available via Google Books.

A Strong Denial (April 1, 1864)

Daniel Butterfield has one of the most elaborate tombs in the Military Academy at West Point's cemetery. Unlike Meade, Butterfield did not go to school here (Tom Huntington photo).

Daniel Butterfield has one of the most elaborate tombs in the Military Academy at West Point’s cemetery. Unlike Meade, Butterfield did not go to school here (Tom Huntington photo).

Meade’s troubles in Washington continue, as he testifies before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War about Daniel Butterfield’s accusations that Meade had asked him to prepare orders for the retreat of the army from Gettysburg. While Meade was willing to admit he may have asked Butterfield to familiarize himself with the local roads in case a retreat became necessary, he strongly denied that he had anything else in mind. He vehemently refuted Butterfield’s implications that he had planned to retreat from Gettysburg. “I utterly deny, under the full solemnity and sanctity of my oath, and in the firm conviction that the day will come when the secrets of all men shall be made known—I utterly deny every having intended or thought, for one instant, to withdraw that army, unless the military contingencies which the future should develop during the course of the day might render it a matter of necessity that the army should be withdrawn,” he said.

I came up yesterday with Grant, am going to-day before the committee to answer Dan Butterfield’s falsehoods. Shall return tomorrow. I am all right, and every one is most civil to me. I will write more fully on my return.

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. 186. Available via Google Books.