Enough Human Weakness (September 22, 1884)

Philip Sheridan (Library of Congress).

Philip Sheridan (Library of Congress).

The victory of Sheridan’s to which Meade refers in this letter is Third Winchester, a.k.a. the Battle of Opequon Creek, in which Philip Sheridan and his men repulsed Jubal Early’s II Corps. In this letter Meade refers to Ulysses S. Grant’s indications that Grant was going to assign Meade to the command that he eventually gave to Sheridan. Meade and Sheridan had a mutual dislike that dated back to at least the Wilderness in May. During the Union army’s movement towards Spotsylvania Sheridan and Meade had held a heated conversation about the cavalry’s activities. Since then, Sheridan’s star—aided by Grant—had risen while Meade’s had, at best, remained static.

To-day we have Mr. Stanton’s despatch announcing Sheridan’s brilliant victory. I am very glad for the cause and glad for Sheridan’s sake; but I must confess to enough human weakness to regret this opportunity of distinction was denied me, who was, I think, from previous service and present position, entitled to it. It is all settled, however, now, as I see Mr. Stanton announces Sheridan has been permanently assigned to the Middle Military Division, and that he has been made a brigadier general in the regular army. This last piece of disingenuous news will be amusing to those who know he was appointed to this place six weeks ago, in advance of his present well-merited laurels. My time I suppose has passed, and I must now content myself with doing my duty unnoticed.

George and I both continue very well. I did not intend to alarm you about the health of the army. I only meant to say we were beginning to experience in a slight degree the effects of a residence in this not very healthy location. Still, taking all things into consideration, the health of the army is wonderful. The enemy predicted we would never be able to pass the summer here, and counted largely on the fevers of the country driving us away.

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. 229-30. Available via Google Books.

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