A “Pleasant Task” (June 27, 1864)

Letterhead from Philadelphia's Great Central Sanitary Fair (Library of Congress).

Letterhead from Philadelphia’s Great Central Sanitary Fair (Library of Congress).

General Meade writes a letter to his oldest son, John Sergeant, whose health fills him with trepidation. “Sargie” suffers from tuberculosis and his fate increasingly weighs on his parents’ minds. Once again Meade mentions the sword competition at the Great Central Sanitary Fair in Philadelphia. (Spoiler alert: Meade wins it. The sword is now in the collections of the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent and is on temporary display at the Union League in Philadelphia.) It appears that Meade shares Theodore Lyman’s taste for irony, at least to a certain extent, as evidenced by his reference to “the pleasant task of sending people to eternity.”

Should I get the Philadelphia Fair sword, and the one from the City Councils, I think I shall be well off for weapons to wield in my country’s cause.

Hancock and myself are anxiously awaiting the decision in the great sword case, he having hopes some one will come down at the last moment in a sealed envelope with a clincher.

The weather has been so intensely hot, dry and dusty, that both sides were compelled to cease for awhile the pleasant task of sending people to eternity, which for the last fifty days we have been so successfully pursuing. The rest was much needed by both armies, and has been particularly enjoyed by myself.

I have now as guests two French officers sent by the Emperor, to see all they can; one of them, Colonel de Chenal, married a relative of the Hopkinsons. They are both intelligent gentlemen, and their visit has been very pleasant and agreeable.

I can hardly tell you what we are going to do next, whether to lay siege to Petersburg or something else; a few days I suppose will tell.

George continues quite well; Jim Biddle, Cadwalader and all the rest are in fine health and spirits.

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. 209. Available via Google Books.


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