Recalled (January 10, 1865)

One of the wharves at City Point, in a photograph taken during January 1865 (Library of Congress).

One of the wharves at City Point, in a photograph taken sometime in January 1865 (Library of Congress).

General Meade has returned to camp. He left the army for Philadelphia on December 30 and stayed there until he received a message recalling him on January. The visit home was tinged with sadness because of the failing health of his oldest son, John Sergeant. The return trip was not uneventful, as Meade describes in his letter of January 10. He also mentions the dismissal of Benjamin Butler. Grant had long longed to rid himself of the cockeyed political general, and Butler finally gave him the opportunity the general-in-chief sought by bungling an attack on Fort Fisher in North Carolina. Grant sent him packing.

I reached City Point at 6 p.m. to-day. I found the cause of my recall to be as I expected. General Grant had received information of Lee’s sending off two divisions of troops, and was, and is, under the impression that it is the commencement of the evacuation of Richmond. Should this prove to be the case, or should Lee materially weaken his force, we will take the initiative, and for this contingency I was required. I explained to General Grant Sergeant’s condition and my earnest desire to remain with him. He expressed regret he had not known all I told him, and promised to let me return to Philadelphia as soon as this affair was settled. As I do not believe Lee is going to give us any chance, I am in hopes it will not be long before I return. I telegraphed you this morning from Fortress Monroe, because we had last night an accident on the bay, which I feared might be exaggerated in the papers, and you alarmed. The night was dark and foggy, and we were run into by a schooner. Fortunately the damage was confined to the upper works, and although four lives were lost, and several bruised, we received no material injury, and our boat continued on. For a time, however, before the extent of the injury was known, there was much alarm and excitement on board our boat, which was unusually crowded, owing to the ice on the Potomac.

The great subject of discussion in the army is the recent relieving of General Butler. He was relieved by the President, on Grant’s request. The particular cause had not been made public.

It is hardly necessary I should tell you how much I have suffered since I left you. All I can do is earnestly to pray God to have mercy on dear Sergeant and yourself, and to give you strength to bear up under the affliction you are visited with. My heart is too full to write more.

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. 255. Available via Google Books.

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