Back in Camp (September 10, 1864)

George Gordon Meade has returned to his army but his thoughts remain fixed on Philadelphia. In particular he is depressed about the health of his oldest son, John Sergeant. “Sargie” suffers from tuberculosis and his health is failing. The situation torments his parents.

The Secretary is Edwin Stanton, secretary of war.

I reached here about 4 p.m. to-day, very sad and dispirited, as I reflect on Sergeant’s ill health and your embarrassing position. I wrote you a few hurried lines from Washington by Willie Gerhard. I spent about half an hour with the President and some four hours with the Secretary. Both were very affable, apparently very glad to see me, and said many flattering things. The Secretary, particularly, kept me in his private room, to the exclusion of all other visitors, and was very sociable. I think I wrote you that when I told him of dear Sargie’s ill health, he at once said if I wanted to send him to Cuba or New Orleans, he would place at my disposition a Government steamer to take him out there, which I considered very handsome.

We left Washington at 6 p.m. in a special steamer, which, although quite comfortable, was a very slow one, and we did not reach City Point till 12 m. to-day, though the ordinary run would have brought us there at 6 p.m. yesterday. I saw Grant for a little while before coming here, and he told me he was near telegraphing me to come back on Monday, as on that day there were indications the enemy was going to attack; but they passed away, and he let me alone.

I have thought a great deal about you, and the more I think, the more I am puzzled. I really do not see anything that can be done except your accompanying Sergeant, and I think the best place to go is the Island of Madeira. This would not diminish our expenses any; still I don’t see what other arrangement can be made. If you could only hear of some kind friend who was going to Europe, who would take care of Sergeant, and thus render your going unnecessary, it would be a great relief, as your leaving the younger children is a very great disadvantage. Still, we must accommodate ourselves to things as they are, and not as we would have them, and yield everything in the hope that dear Sargie will be benefitted by the change of scene and air, and under the blessing of God his health restored. I dream about you all the time, and cannot dismiss you from my thoughts day or night.

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. 226-27. Available via Google Books.

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