Sherman (April 27, 1865)

An Alexander Gardner photo of Lincoln's coffin in New York City (Library of Congress).

An Alexander Gardner photo of Lincoln’s coffin in New York City (Library of Congress).

In today’s letter, George Meade comments on the controversy William T. Sherman created with the surrender terms he offered to Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. Sherman had overreached, and the terms he and Johnston agreed to included agreements about citizenship and recognition of state governments. There was an immediate outcry from Washington, with some calling for Sherman’s removal from command. Edwin Stanton was harshly critical of Sherman’s actions, something the general would not forgive. Grant had hurried down to North Carolina to straighten out the mess.

I have received your letters of the 22d and 23d insts. Such exhibitions as are now being made of the body of Mr. Lincoln, are always in my judgment in bad taste, and are never solemn or impressive. Still, as public ceremonies, I suppose they always will be, as they ever have been, necessary for the masses of people.

William T. Sherman (Library of Congress).

William T. Sherman (Library of Congress).

I cannot understand Sherman’s course.1 I am very sorry for Sherman, no one can dispute that his services have been pre-eminent, and though he may have erred in judgment, and have mistaken the temper of the North, he is entitled to the considerations due to his past services, which should have shielded him from having his motives and loyalty impugned. I am curious to see whether Grant, when he joins him, will smother him as he did me.

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. 277. Available via Google Books.

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Vulgar and Ignorant People (April 24, 1865)

Photograph shows Abraham Lincoln's casket conveyed by funeral car through the crowd on Broad Street in Philadelphia, April 22, 1865 (Library of Congress).

Photograph shows Abraham Lincoln’s casket conveyed by funeral car through the crowd on Broad Street in Philadelphia, April 22, 1865 (Library of Congress).

It sounds as though the Meades’ home in Philadelphia narrowly avoided becoming the target of mob action during the excitement that ensued when Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train reached the city. I do not know about the identities of Major Henry and Mr. Gratz. A Robert H. Gratz did present a portrait of Meade to the city in 1866.

I received last evening your letter of the 20th, and was sorry to learn you had so narrowly escaped being mobbed, particularly after the credit you had gained for being the first to display mourning. It certainly was very culpable on the part of ______, after taking upon himself the duty of decorating your house, to neglect it as he did. In such times of excitement some allowance must be made for vulgar and ignorant people, and you must be over careful to avoid giving offense, whether justly or otherwise.

Major Henry’s letter is very handsome and very creditable to him; I return it herewith. Some one had sent me an extract from the proceedings of the City Councils, containing Mr. Gratz’s letter to Councils, and the resolution accepting Mr. Gratz’s gift. No letter came with this printed slip, but it posted me up in the great honor that had been conferred upon me.

Some days ago the Ninth Corps was detached from this army and ordered to Washington—destination unknown (but surmised to be Missouri). Yesterday the Sixth Corps was ordered to Danville, to be there under Sheridan’s orders; so that I am reduced to two corps—one the Fifth, guarding the railroad from here to Petersburg; the other, the Second, at this point. I presume one of them will soon be ordered away, probably the Second, to guard the railroad from here to Danville. Being reduced then to one corps, I trust the common sense of my superiors will see the absurdity of calling me the commander of an army, and that I shall be relieved and some other duty assigned me.

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. 276. Available via Google Books.

The Most Cruel and Humiliating Indignity (April 23, 1865)

Major General Henry Halleck, a.k.a. "Old Brains" (Library of Congress).

Major General Henry Halleck, a.k.a. “Old Brains” (Library of Congress).

Meade continues his complaints about being placed under Henry Halleck, the new commander of the division to which the Army of the Potomac reports. He has finally decided that he can’t look to Grant for advancement. For Meade, though, the ultimate blow will come in 1869, after Grant becomes president and promotes Philip Sheridan to the rank of lieutenant general, over Meade. “The blow has been struck and our worst fears realized,” Meade will write to his wife on March 6, 1869, when he hears that news.

I like Meade’s comments about Theodore Lyman.

An order came yesterday constituting Virginia into the Military Division of the James, assigning Major General Halleck to the command, and putting myself and the Army of the Potomac under him.

This is the most cruel and humiliating indignity that has been put upon me. (It is General Grant’s work, and done by him with a full knowledge of my services and the consideration due to them, all of which have been ignored by him to suit his convenience). The order is a perfectly legitimate one, and to which, as a soldier, I have no right to make any objection, General Halleck being my senior in the regular army. I understand, however, the whole affair. After the assassination of the President, General Grant, who had previously determined to return here, made up his mind to remain in Washington. He wished to find a place for Halleck. His first order assigned Halleck to the command of the Department of Virginia, in [Edward] Ord’s place, sending Ord to South Carolina. I presume Halleck demurred at this, as a position not equal to what he was entitled. At Halleck’s remonstrance, and to render acceptable his removal from Washington, this order was rescinded, and the order issued making the Military Division of the James, and putting both Ord and myself under him. I feel quite confident that, if I had been in Washington and my remonstrances could have been heard, I either would have frustrated this plan, or have been provided for in some way more consistent with my past services, but les les absens ont toujours tort was fully illustrated in this instance, and there is nothing left me but the submission which a good soldier should always show to the legitimate orders of his superiors. I, however, now give up Grant.

I am glad Lyman called to see you. He is an honest man and a true friend. He has a healthy mental organization, which induces him to look on all matters in the most favorable light.

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. 275-6. 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.

Very Much Demoralized (April 22, 1865)

Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck. He had a talent for irritating his subordinates (Library of Congress).

Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck. He had a talent for irritating his subordinates (Library of Congress).

Henry A. Cram, Mrs. Meade’s brother-in-law, often served as the general’s sounding board. Here, Meade’s letter to Cram touches on a variety of topics, including the assignment of Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck to Richmond. Meade and Halleck did not get along. Back in the fall of 1863, when “Old Brains” had yet to be supplanted by Grant as the army’s general-in-chief, Meade had been so irked by telegram’s from Washington that he sent a message to Halleck that read, ““If you have any orders to give me I am prepared to receive and obey them. But I insist on being spared the infliction of such truisms in the guise of opinions as you have recently honored me with, particularly as they were not asked for.” Not exactly the basis for a healthy working relationship. Meade will vent more about Halleck in tomorrow’s letter to Mrs. Meade.

I shall be most delighted to pay Katharine and yourself a visit in Irving Place, but the prospect of such felicity does not seem very near.

I am at present very much demoralized by a recent order which places me and my army under the command of General Halleck, who has been transferred from Washington to Richmond. In order to make General Halleck’s removal from Washington acceptable to him, and appear necessary to the public, the services of myself and army are ignored, and this indignity put upon us; and this by Grant, who wrote the letter he did last winter, and who professes the warmest friendship. All this entre nous.

We of the army have done our work; the military power of the Rebellion is shattered. It remains for statesmen, if we have any, to bring the people of the South back to their allegiance and into the Union. How and when this will be accomplished, no one can tell. In the meantime, I presume our armies will have to occupy the Southern States. I am myself for conciliation, as the policy most likely to effect a speedy reunion. If we are going to punish treason, as perhaps strict justice would demand, we shall have to shed almost as much blood as has already been poured out in this terrible war. These are points, however, for others to adjust.

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. 274-5. Available via Google Books.

Back to the Union (April 20, 1865)

Charles J. Faulkner (Library of Congress).

Charles J. Faulkner (Library of Congress).

With the military aspects of the war wrapping up, the difficult task of reconstruction begins. George Meade will be involved with that process in one way or another for pretty much the rest of his life. Here he writes home about Charles J. Faulkner. Before the war, Faulkner had served in Virginia’s House of Delegates, as U.S. Congressman, and as minister to France for President James Buchanan. He was arrested in 1861 for arranging to have arms sold to the Confederates. After he was exchanged, Faulkner joined the Confederate army and served for a time as one of Stonewall Jackson’s staffers.

I am glad you were so prompt in putting your house in mourning for the loss of the President, and I am also glad to see the press in Philadelphia take so much notice of you.

Lyman, much to my sorrow and regret, leaves me to-day, he considering the destruction of Lee’s army as justifying his return home. Lyman is such a good fellow, and has been so intimately connected personally with me, that I feel his separation as the loss of an old and valued friend.

I have had for the last two days as guest at my headquarters Mr. Charles J. Faulkner, late Minister to France. He is on his way to Richmond, to assist in bringing back Virginia to the Union. He acknowledges the Confederacy destroyed, is in favor of a convention of the people to rescind the ordinance of secession, abolish slavery, and ask to be received into the Union. This is in my judgment the best course to be pursued. Mr. Faulkner goes from here to Richmond. We also had yesterday the arrival of a Confederate officer from Danville, who reported the rumored surrender of Johnston, and the flight of Jeff. Davis to the region beyond the Mississippi, from whence I have no doubt he will go into Mexico, and thence to Europe.

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. 274. Available via Google Books.

Politicians and Newspaper Editors (April 18, 1865)

"Lincoln's body lying in state in the East room White house," a sketch by Alfred Waud. Click to enlarge (Library of Congress).

“Lincoln’s body lying in state in the East room White house,” a sketch by Alfred Waud. Click to enlarge (Library of Congress).

In the aftermath of Lee’s surrender, George Meade tells his wife the little news he has heard. At least the New York Herald has some good things to say about him.

Day before yesterday I sent Captain Emory to Richmond to see after his relatives. I have to-day a telegram from him, stating he had reached Richmond and found our friends all well.

I have heard nothing from General Grant since he left here, and am in complete ignorance of what is going to be done with this army. I note what you say about public opinion in Philadelphia and New York, but if you saw the Herald of the 14th, you ought to be satisfied with what is there said of the feeling of the army towards me. [see below]. So long as the soldiers appreciate my services, I am indifferent to the opinion of politicians and newspaper editors.

I see the Radicals are down on Grant for the terms he granted Lee. This I expected, but I trust they are in a miserable minority, and that the country will sustain him.

I send you a copy of an order I published announcing the death of the President. It has been well received. I also enclose a letter from an anonymous friend, which was accompanied by an elegant pair of gauntlets.

The Order mentioned in last letter:

Head-quarters, Army Of The Potomac, April 16, 1865. General Orders, No. 15.

The Major General Commanding announces to the Army that official intelligence has been received of the death, by assassination, of the President of the United States. The President died at 7.22 on the morning of the 15th instant.

By this Army, this announcement will be received with profound sorrow, and deep horror and indignation. The President, by the active interest he ever took in the welfare of this Army, and by his presence in frequent visits, especially during the recent operations, had particularly endeared himself to both officers and soldiers, all of whom regarded him as a generous friend.

An honest man, a noble patriot, and sagacious statesman has fallen! No greater loss, at this particular moment, could have befallen our Country. Whilst we bow with submission to the unfathomable and inscrutable decrees of Divine Providence, let us earnestly pray that God, in His infinite mercy, will so order, that this terrible calamity shall not interfere with the prosperity and happiness of our beloved Country!

Geo. G. Meade,
Major General Commanding

NEWSPAPER ARTICLE, IN FAVOR OF GENERAL MEADE, MENTIONED IN LETTER OF APRIL 18, 1865

(New York Herald, April 14, 1865)

GENERAL MEADE

The impression seems to have gotten out at the North that General Meade is not very popular with his army. This is a great mistake, and has been fully verified in the past two days. I never saw so much enthusiasm displayed for any man as was for him after the surrender of Lee’s army.

Our troops were drawn up on either side of the road and when General Meade rode through they seemed nearly crazed with joy. Cheer followed cheer, and hats were thrown up in the air with apparent disregard of where they should land or what became of them.

General Meade was equally excited. He seemed for the time to throw off his reserve and dignity and enter fully into the spirit of the occasion.

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. 273-4. Newspaper article from p. 350. Available via Google Books.

Boiling and Fuming (April 17, 1865)

Theodore Lyman

Theodore Lyman

On April 17, 1865, Theodore Lyman pens one more defense of his chief, but not without touching on Meade’s flaws—especially his legendary temper.

Sadly, this marks the end of Lyman’s letters. With Lee’s army defeated, Meade’s loyal aide-de-camp returned to Boston. He had served Meade well, and provided one of the best accounts of life with the Army of the Potomac ever written. He and Meade remained in contact. In July, the Lymans hosted the Meades for an extended stay in Boston. When Meade died in 1872, Lyman helped raise money to support the family he left behind. Elected to Congress in 1883, Lyman served only one term. By this time he was feeling a numbness in his extremities, a gradually worsening condition that eventually left Lyman bedridden. It sounds like a neurodegenerative disease of some sort—perhaps amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known today as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. As one biographer wrote, “His brave spirit in this growing isolation, which at last withdrew him from the sight of almost all except his own family, surmounted all barriers. . . . When his hand could no longer hold the pen, he spoke through his tender amanuensis words full of the same high courage and cheerful humor which had been his charm in earlier life.”

He died in September 1897. “Theodore Lyman—man of science—soldier—and man of the world—touched life at many points,” wrote George Agassiz, who edited his letters for publication. “He could draw easily on his varied experience, from a well-trained and well-stored mind. This, added to good looks, charm, and good humor, a ready wit and great tact, made him a striking and telling personality, whether in the camp, a scientific meeting, or social gathering.” Something of Lyman’s personality will always survive as long as people can read his lively and vibrant writing, and I hope everyone who has read these posts has enjoyed Lyman’s company as much as I have.

The Cadwallader Lyman mentions is Sylvanus Cadwallader, who covered the latter portion of the war for the New York Herald. He was the reporter who claimed credit for lifting the press boycott of Meade following the Edward Crapsey/Crospey incident. In an account of his war experiences completed in 1896 but not published until 1955 (as Three Years with Grant), Cadwallader expressed a high opinion of Meade. “Unavoidable circumstances growing out of the emergencies of war, often made him the military ‘football’ of these days,” he wrote: “but sober second thought of the American people ought to have corrected, long before this, much injustice there done him. That he was a great soldier, is scarcely denied by any one. But Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Wilson, and even Logan became for a time popular idols, and made it difficult to give Gen. Meade the place in the list that his services deserved . . . .” Cadwallader even said he had never seen any instances of Meade’s temper.

How wicked we are in this world!—Now, when I should be only overflowing with joy and thankfulness at these great results, I keep finding myself boiling and fuming over the personal neglect of General Meade and the totally undeserved prominence given to Sheridan. Yet Meade is really of no more consequence in this vast question of all time, than a sailor, who pulls a good oar, compared with the Atlantic Ocean. The truth will stand out in sober history, even for him—in the future Motleys and Prescotts. The plain truth about Meade is, first, that he is an abrupt, harsh man, even to his own officers, when in active campaign; and secondly, that he, as a rule, will not even speak to any person connected with the press. They do not dare to address him. With other generals, how different: at Grant’s Headquarters there is a fellow named Cadwalader, a Herald man, and you see the Lieutenant-General’s Staff officers calling, “Oh, Cad; come here a minute!” That is the style! With two or three exceptions, Grant is surrounded by the most ordinary set of plebeians you ever saw. I think he has them on purpose (to avoid advice), for he is a man who does everything with a specific reason; he is eminently a wise man. He knows very well Meade’s precise capacity and strong points. For example, if Meade says a certain movement of troops should be made, Grant makes it, almost as a matter of course, because he is so wise as to know that there is one of Meade’s strong points.

Theodore Lyman’s letter is from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, pp. 358-9. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

A Farewell (April 19, 1865)

Meade (sitting at left) and Lyman (standing in the rear at right) at Cold Harbor (Library of Congress).

Meade (sitting at left) and Lyman (standing in the rear at right) at Cold Harbor (Library of Congress).

Headquarters Army of Potomac
April 19, 1865

Lt.-Col. Theo. Lyman, A. D. C.

Colonel:—In parting with you after an association of over twenty months, during which time you have served on my Staff, I feel it due to you to express my high sense of the assistance I have received from you, and to bear testimony to the zeal, energy, and gallantry you have displayed in the discharge of your duties. Be assured I shall ever preserve the liveliest reminiscences of our intercourse, and wherever our separate fortunes may take us, I shall ever have a deep interest in your welfare and happiness, which, by the blessing of God, I trust may be long continued.

Most Truly Your Friend
Geo. G. Meade
Maj.-Genl. U.S.A.

Meade’s letter to Theodore Lyman is from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, p. 362. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

Foul Deeds (April 16, 1865)

President Abraham Lincoln (Library of Congress).

President Abraham Lincoln (Library of Congress).

George Meade writes to his wife about hearing of Lincoln’s assassination and consoles her about the death of her brother, Willie. Lewis Powell, one of John Wilkes Booth’s fellow conspirators, had attacked Secretary of State William Seward as part of the plot. Although badly wounded, Seward survived. The assistant secretary of state was Seward’s son, Frederick, who had also been wounded in Powell’s attack. He, too, survived.

I received to-day your letter of the 12th, giving an account of the Union League serenade, and of your having learned of the death of Willie. I am glad for your sake some notice has been taken of my services.

As to Willie, I have written to you how shocked I was to hear of his death. This will, of course, be a terrible blow to his poor wife and the dear children. Your mother also, at her time of life, will necessarily feel it deeply.

Yesterday we were shocked by the announcement of the assassination of the President, Secretary and Assistant Secretary of State. I cannot imagine the motives of the perpetrators of these foul deeds, or what they expect to gain. The whole affair is a mystery. Let us pray God to have mercy on our country and bring us through these trials.

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. 272-3. Available via Google Books.

This Dreadful War (April 13, 1865)

Earlier, George Meade had written home to his wife about her brother William “Willie” Sergeant, the colonel of the 210th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. He had been wounded in the fighting at on March 31. In his History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5, Samuel Bates wrote, “On the 27th of March, the movement upon Gravelly Run commended, the Two Hundred and Tenth taking the advance, and during the fierce actions of the three days which succeeded, it was at the fore front, displaying a stubborn bravery, which was unsurpassed, and sustaining losses which unmistakably show the fiery struggle through which it was called to pass. Colonel Sergeant was mortally wounded while gallantly leading his command.” Meade had reported the wounding to his wife, but it appeared that young Sergeant was improving, but today Meade writes to his wife with the tragic news. Willie Sergeant is buried with the Meades and Sergeants at Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Yesterday, as soon as I reached here, where there is a telegraph, I telegraphed to City Point to enquire about Willie, and received a reply from the medical officer in charge of the hospital that Willie had left the day before for Washington, doing well, the ball having been extracted. You can therefore imagine how shocked I was about midnight to get a despatch from Sandy Dallas, at Washington, stating Willie had died on the passage. I presume he must have died of hemorrhage, or some of those secondary causes that suddenly occur in gun-shot wounds. What a dreadful shock for his poor wife and your mother, and how it will mar the exultation of our recent victories!

Willie had established a high character for himself, and was doing so well that it seems hard he should be thus suddenly taken off. My God, what misery this dreadful war has produced, and how it comes home to the doors of almost every one!

I have written you fully, urging on you patience and resignation. Popular fame is at best but ephemeral, and so long as one has a clear conscience that he has done his duty, he can look, or at least should look, with indifference on the clamor of the vulgar.

I have received a very kind letter from Cortlandt Parker, and I enclose you one received to-day from Mr. Jay, of New York, so that I am not entirely without friends, though the few I have render them the more valuable. But, with or without friends, we ought to be happy so long as God spares our lives and blesses us with health, and our consciences are clear that we have done all we could. I trust we will soon have peace, and then I may be permitted to return to you and the children. This will compensate me for all I have gone through.

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. 272. 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.