Mortifying (January 21, 1865)

Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts. Meade considered him a supporter in Washington (Library of Congress).

Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts. Meade considered him a supporter in Washington (Library of Congress).

Although George Meade had received word that he would be promoted to major general in the regular army, the U.S. Senate has still not given its approval. The politicians in Washington had handled Meade roughly in the past, so he remains wary of the way he will be treated again. That is evident in this letter he wrote to his wife’s brother-in-law, Henry A. Cram, about the situation in Washington. Republican Senator Morton S. Wilkinson of Minnesota had already displayed his hostility toward Meade when he made a speech on the Senate floor in March 1864 alleging that the general had intended to retreat from Gettysburg. Word of this speech had been Meade’s first warning that the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War had him in its sights. Henry Wilson was a Republican Senator from Massachusetts. Earlier in the war he had briefly served as an aide-de-camp to George McClellan, which may have made him less hostile than other Republicans to Meade’s former ties to McClellan. Wilson’s Senate Committee on Military Affairs was separate from the Joint Committee, and it acted with less hostility toward Union generals. Wilson later served as Grant’s second vice president.

Following Meade’s letters are the ones that Ulysses S. Grant wrote to further Meade’s cause. The Washburne to whom Grant wrote was his political patron, Congressman Elihu Washburne of Illinois.

Senator Morton S. Wilkinson. He was no friend to Meade  (Library of Congress).

Senator Morton S. Wilkinson. He was no friend to Meade (Library of Congress).

I have received yours of the 18th, with enclosures. The intelligence conveyed in Mr._____’s letter is not news to me, except that I have not been able to believe I was in danger of rejection. I, of course, expected opposition, and that it would be violent and malignant, being based on falsehood and personal hostility; but I did not suppose it would be formidable in numbers, and I have been relying on the truth, my record, and the fact that I was sustained by the Administration and Grant. I have, I know, some friends in the Senate, but they are few in number, being only such as I have accidentally met in the few visits I have paid to Washington. The Military Committee reported favorably on my nomination, but it is a rule of the Senate, when acting on nominations, to lay aside any name as soon as objection is made, so as to avoid discussion until they get through the list of those names to whom there is no objection offered. One man can thus postpone action in any case, and I take it this is all that has yet been done with me. Undoubtedly, when my name came up, either Mr. Wilkinson, of Minnesota, or Anthony, of Rhode Island, has objected, and under the rule I was laid aside. I expect to meet the opposition of the Tribune and Independent clique, then all such as can be influenced by ____, ____, ____,and others, each one of whom, of course, has some friends.

Whether they can concentrate enough votes to defeat me, remains to be seen. Grant is now in Washington. He promised to see Wilson, the Chairman of the Military Committee (who is friendly), and write a letter, to be read in the Senate, urging my confirmation. One difficulty I have to contend with is that those who are disposed to hit the President, Secretary or Grant, think they are doing so in hitting me. The nomination is, after all, only a compliment, and of no real practical value, as it will not deprive me of my superior rank in the volunteer service or my present command, the largest in the field. It is, nevertheless, mortifying to have a compliment thus detracted from.

LETTERS FROM GENERAL GRANT TO MR. WILSON, CHAIRMAN OF THE MILITARY COMMITTEE, AND MR. WASHBURNE, AT WASHINGTON, D. C., URGING GENERAL MEADE’S CONFIRMATION AS MAJOR-GENERAL IN THE REGULAR ARMY, MENTIONED IN LETTER OF JANUARY 21,1865.

Grant to Wilson:

City Point, Va., Jan. 23, 1865.

I see that Generals Thomas and Sheridan have been confirmed as Major Generals in the Regular Army, whilst no mention is made of General Meade’s confirmation to the same rank. From this I infer objections have been raised. This I regret.

General Meade was appointed at my solicitation after a campaign the most protracted, and covering more severely contested battles, than any of which we have any account in history.

I have been with General Meade during the whole campaign, and not only made the recommendation upon a conviction that this recognition of his services was fully won, but that he was eminently qualified for the command such rank would entitle him to.

I know General Meade well. What the objections raised to his confirmation are, I do not know. Did I know, I would address myself directly to these objections.

Hoping that your Honorable Body will consider this case favorably, etc.

Grant to Washburne (in part):

City Point, Va., Jan. 23, 1865.

I see some objections are raised to Meade’s confirmation as Major-General in the regular army. What the objections are I do not know and cannot therefore address myself to them. General Meade is one of our truest men and ablest officers. He has been constantly with that army confronting the strongest, best appointed and most confident army in the South. He therefore has not had the same opportunity of winning laurels so distinctly marked as have fallen to the lot of other Generals. But I defy any man to name a commander who would do more than he has done with the same chances.

I am satisfied, with a full knowledge of the man, what he has done, and the circumstances attending all his military acts, all objections would be removed. I wrote a letter to Senator Wilson to day in his behalf, which I hope will have some weight. If you can put in a word with some of the Senators particularly those who oppose his confirmation and are willing to do it, I will feel much obliged.

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. 256-7. Grant’s letters are from pp. 343-4. Available via Google Books.

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