A Party of Ladies and Gentlemen (March 8, 1865)

This photo is identified only as a view from a signal tower at Petersburg. Perhaps it's from the tower at Fort Fisher that Lyman mentions in his letter of March 8. It appears to have been taken after the line had been abandoned because the fort appears deserted and all the tent roofs of the cabins have been removed. Click to enlarge and see details (Library of Congress).

This photo is identified only as a view from a signal tower at Petersburg. Perhaps it’s from the tower at Fort Fisher that Lyman mentions in his letter of March 8. It appears to have been taken after the line had been abandoned because the fort appears deserted and all the tent roofs of the cabins have been removed. Click to enlarge and see details (Library of Congress).

When the army was not fighting, it was often entertaining visitors. Here, Meade writes about the efforts made for one party of civilians, which included the wife of General Grant, the niece of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and future Supreme Court Justice Joseph Bradley. It also included Mr. and Mrs. George Harding. Harding was a patent lawyer; his father had founded the Philadelphia Inquirer. Harding also occupies a footnote in presidential history as one of the many men who underestimated Abraham Lincoln. In 1855, Harding was one of the lawyers defending John H. Manny in a patent infringement suit brought by Cyrus McCormick over mechanical reapers. Feeling the legal team needed a local, Midwestern lawyer purely for reasons of appearance, they hired Abraham Lincoln sight unseen, but then refused to let him participate in the legal work. “Why did you bring that d____d long armed Ape here,” another lawyer on the team asked Harding; “he does not know any thing and can do you no good.” That other lawyer was Edwin Stanton. Although the legal team stayed at the same Cincinnati hotel during the trial, Harding said of Lincoln that neither he nor Stanton “ever conferred with him, ever had him at our table or sat with him, or, in fact, had any intercourse with him.” Lincoln was quite pained by this ill treatment at the hands of these elite Eastern lawyers.

Following Meade’s letter, Theodore Lyman provides a more detailed account of the same outing.

George Harding (Library of Congress).

George Harding (Library of Congress).

Yesterday about 11 A. M.. Mr. and Mrs. George Harding, with a party of ladies and gentlemen, arrived at these headquarters. Mr. Harding had telegraphed me from City Point he was coming. I took them to see the camps and works, and turned out some of the troops for them to see. Then brought them back here and gave them a lunch, with some of Lyman’s champagne, and sent them back to City Point, quite delighted with their trip and all they saw. The day was a beautiful one and the roads in fine order. Mrs. Grant accompanied them and seemed as much pleased as the rest. I was glad to have it in my power to be civil to Mr. Harding, as some slight return for all he has done for me.

You will have heard of Sheridan’s success in the Valley, which I trust will be continued. We are now looking with interest for news from Sherman, and to know what force the enemy have been able to collect to confront him.

Julia Grant, in a photo taken after the war (Library of Congress).

Julia Grant, in a photo taken after the war (Library of Congress).

Theodore Lyman, as is his habit, provides a much more detailed account of the outing Meade mentions almost in passing. Thanks to David W. Lowe’s editing for his book Meade’s Army: The Private Notebooks of Lt. Col. Theodore Lyman, we can identify the people who Lyman’s previous editors kept anonymous, and make some corrections. For example, the Miss Stanton described below was actually the niece, not the daughter, of the secretary of war. In his journals, Lyman described Mrs. Grant as “very even and quiet, with a pleasant expression though she has a tremendous cast in one eye.” He noted that Miss Bradlee [sic] “was the best looking,” and made an observation that he probably felt was not appropriate for a letter to his wife: “[O]n the whole they were comeliest lot we have ever had.”

Yesterday, as I hinted in my last, we had a toot, of much duration. At ten A.m. the General got a telegraph (one of those charming City Point surprises) saying that a train was just then starting, holding a dozen of womenkind and a certain force of the male sex; that they would arrive in an hour or so, and that we would please rather to entertain them pretty well! We telegraphed to the 5th Corps to turn out some troops, and to General Wright, to say we were coming that way, and ordered out ambulances to go to the station, and turned out officers to go over also. Your hub, not without growls of a private sort, girded hisself with a sash and ordered the charger saddled. In due time they kim: Colonels Badeau and Babcock to guide them. As sort of chief of the honorable committee of reception, I took off my cap and was solemnly introduced to twelve distinct ladies, whose names I instantly forgot (ditto those of distinguished gentlemen accompanying), all except Mrs. General Grant, who was, of course, too well known to slip from memory. However, at the end of the day, I began to have a flickering and vague idea who some of them were. . . . Then Miss Stanton—of course I was brilliant about her. After I had more or less helped her over puddles and into ambulances for an hour or two, it occurred to me that the name of the Secretary of War was also Stanton. Then, after a period of rest, my mind roused itself to the brilliant hypothesis that this young lady might be the daughter of the Stanton who was Secretary of War. Once on this track, it did not take me over thirty minutes to satisfy myself that I actually had been rendering civilities to the offspring of him who holds the leash of the dogs of war! She is not a roarer, like her paternal, but very subdued and modest, and reminded me of the ci-devant Newport belle, Miss L C[lark]. . . . Likewise, may we here mention Bradlee père, a dried-up lawyer of New Jersey, after the fashion of the countenance of Professor Rogers. He was valiant and stuffed his trousers in his boots and clomb an exceeding tall horse, which so pleased another old party, Judge Woodruff, that he did likewise, and subsequently confessed to me that his last equestrian excursion was in 1834; from which I infer, that, at this present writing, Judge Woodruff’s legs are more or less totally useless to him as instruments of progression. He had a complement, his daughter, to whom I did not say much, as she had somebody, I forget who it was. Then we must mention, in a front place, the Lady Patroness, Mrs.H[arding], and the Noble Patron, Mr. H[arding]. These two seemed to take us all under their protection, and, so to speak, to run the machine. Mrs. was plump, fair, and getting towards forty. Mr. was of suitable age, stout, looked as if fond of good dinners, and apparently very tender on Mrs., for he continually smiled sweetly at her. Also he is a large legal gun and part proprietor of the Philadelphia Enquirer. Then there was a pale, no-account couple, Dr.and Mrs. G[rier]. The Doctor’s sister was Mrs. Smith, to whom Rosie attached himself with devotion that threatened the tranquillity of the absent S. All these, and more, were carted over to the Headquarters, where the General bowed them into his tent and cried out very actively: “Now Lyman, where are all my young men? I want all of them.” So I hunted all that were not already on hand, and they were introduced and were expected to make themselves as agreeable as possible. Without delay we were again en voyage (I, being sharp, got on a horse, which tended much to my physical comfort, prevented my conversation from being prematurely played out) and took the party to see the glories of the engineer camp and the chapel thereof; after which, to the model hospitals of the 6th Corps, of which Dr. [Silas Atherton]Holman is the Medical Director, who prides himself on doing everything without aid from the Sanitary, which he doubtless can do, when in winter quarters. It was like packing and unpacking so many boxes, to “aussteigen” and “einsteigen” all the females. We descended them, for the third time, at Fort Fisher, whence we showed them the Reb line and the big guns, and the signal tower of trestle work, 140 feet high. The next pilgrimage was a long one, as far as the 5th Corps Headquarters, on the left of the line. General Warren issued forth and welcomed the ladies to oranges, apples, grapes, crackers, cheese, ale, and cider, into the which the visitors walked with a vigor most commendable. By the time the males had made a considerable vacuum in the barrel of ale, Griffin’s division was ready for review, and thither we all went and found the gallant Humphreys, whom I carefully introduced to the prettiest young lady there, and expect to be remembered in his will for that same favor! A review of Crawford’s division followed, very beautiful, with the setting sun on the bayonets; and so home to an evening lunch, so to speak, whereat I opened my “pickles,” to the great delectation of both sexes. All this was dreamland novelty concentrated to the visitors, who departed with vehement thanks to us, well expressed by Mrs. Grant: “General Meade, I would far rather command an army, as you do, than live at City Point and have the position of Mr. Grant!” They were to have a dance that night on their boat at City Point, and politely and earnestly asked me to go down with them; but the point was not noticed by your loving hub.

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. 266. Available via Google Books.

Theodore Lyman’s letter is from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, pp. 314-16. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

paperback scanThe paperback edition of Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg is now available! You can purchase it through Stackpole Books, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

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