Visitors (September 25, 1864)

Congressman Eli Washburne of Illinois, a great supporter of Ulysses S. Grant (Library of Congress).

Congressman Eli Washburne of Illinois, a great supporter of Ulysses S. Grant (Library of Congress).

Secretary of State William Seward and Congressman Elihu Washburne drop in on the Army of the Potomac. I would like to hear more about Meade’s reactions to Washburne. The Illinois congressman was Ulysses S. Grant’s political patron and Meade suspected that Washburne had been responsible for spreading the rumor—reported by Edward Crapsey (or Cropsey)—that the commander of the Army of the Potomac had wanted to retreat after the Battle of the Wilderness but Grant had overruled him. When he saw Crapsey’s article, Meade had thrown the reporter out of the army and vowed to his wife that he would show Washburne “no quarter” if the rumor of his involvement turned out to be true.

To-day we had a visit from Mr. Secretary Seward and Mr. Congressman Washburn. I had some little talk with Mr. Seward, who told me that at the North and at the South, and everywhere abroad, there was a strong conviction the war would soon terminate, and, said he, when so many people, influenced in such different ways, all unite in one conviction, there must be reason to believe peace is at hand. He did not tell me on what he founded his hopes, nor did I ask.

Sheridan’s defeat of Early will prove a severe blow to the rebs, and will, I think, compel them to do something pretty soon to retrieve their lost prestige. There have been rumors they were going to evacuate Petersburg, and I should not be surprised if they did contract their lines and draw in nearer Richmond. I never did see what was their object in defending Petersburg, except to check us; it had no other influence, because, if we were able to take Richmond, we could take Petersburg; and after taking the one when resisted, the other would be more easily captured.

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. 230. Available via Google Books.

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