God’s Will (June 6, 1864)

Timothy O'Sulivan took this image, which he identified as "Cold Harbor, Virginia. Camp in the woods," on June 6, 1864. The landscape looks much like this today  (Library of Congress).

Timothy O’Sullivan took this image, which he identified as “Cold Harbor, Virginia. Camp in the woods,” on June 6, 1864. The landscape looks much like this today (Library of Congress).

Even as he commands the Army of the Potomac during its relentless campaign against Robert E. Lee, George Meade is a husband and his father. Here he attempts to discharge some of his responsibilities in those fields. He soothes his wife, collects items she can contribute to the Sanitary Fair in Philadelphia, and he worries about his son, John Sergeant. The Meades’ oldest child, “Sargie” suffered from tuberculosis. His failing health will be a continual theme in his father’s letters, although his son and grandson cut much of that personal agony from the letters when editing them for publication.

Do not be deceived about the situation of affairs by the foolish despatches in the papers. Be not over-elated by reported successes, nor over-depressed by exaggerated rumors of failures. Up to this time our success has consisted only in compelling the enemy to draw in towards Richmond; our failure has been that we have not been able to overcome, destroy or bag his army.

His success has been in preventing us from doing the above, and in heading us off every time we have tried to get around him. In the meantime, both sides have suffered great losses, probably proportionate to our original relative strength, and it is highly probable that both sides have repaired their losses by reinforcements, so that we stand now in the same relative proportion, three to two, with original numbers. The great struggle has yet to come off in the vicinity of Richmond. The enemy have the advantages of position, fortifications, and being concentrated at their centre. We shall have to move slowly and cautiously, but I am in hopes, with reasonable luck, we will be able to succeed.

I am sorry, very sorry, to hear what you write of Sergeant, but God’s will must be done, and we must be resigned.

I am trying to collect some trophies from our recent battle-fields to send you for your fair.

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. 201-2. Available via Google Books.

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