Washington (May 12, 865)

George Gordon Meade and his staff, photographed outside Washington in June 1865 (library of Congress).

George Gordon Meade and his staff, photographed outside Washington in June 1865 (library of Congress).

George Meade and the Army of the Potomac have reached Washington. The review he mentions will happen, on May 23 and 24. The Army of the Potomac will be disbanded, but not until June 28, 1865, two years to the day from the time Meade took command.

I reached here last evening in time to pitch camp on the banks of the Potomac. To-day I have been in town at the Department, and waiting to see General Grant, who has been all day before the Committee on the Conduct of the War. I have not yet seen him, so am not able to give you any news. From what I gather, I infer the armies are to be disbanded at once. The review or parade has been talked about, but there appears to be nothing settled, and I rather think it will fall through. I have received your letters up to the one dated the ninth.

We had a delightful march from Richmond; some rain towards the end of the journey, which impeded our progress.

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. 279. Available via Google Books.

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A Visit with Lee (May 5, 1865)

Robert E. Lee at 707 E. Franklin Street with son George Washington Custis Lee (left) and staffer Walter H. Taylor (Library of Congress).

Robert E. Lee at 707 E. Franklin Street with son George Washington Custis Lee (left) and staffer Walter H. Taylor (Library of Congress).

George Meade has reached Richmond, and he drops in on his old adversary, Robert E. Lee. After Appomattox, Lee was living at 707 E. Franklin Street. This is where Mathew Brady had shot now-iconic images of Lee with staffer Walter Taylor and eldest son George Washington Custis Lee on April 16. Lee did sign an Amnesty Oath, on October 2, and sent it on to Washington, but rather than act on it, Secretary of State William Seward gave it to a friend, apparently as a souvenir. Lee did not receive a formal pardon or get his citizenship restored, at least not during his lifetime. His amnesty oath was rediscovered in the National Archives in 1970, and President Gerald Ford signed the act that restored Lee’s citizenship in 1975.

The newspaper article by Theodore Lyman appeared in the Boston Daily Advertiser on May 2 and May 4. In it, Lyman laid out the case that Philip Sheridan was receiving too much for victories during the Appomattox campaign, and Meade too little. “It is the object of this brief review not to depreciate the unquestioned merits of General Sheridan, but to show that the whole credit by no means belongs to him,” wrote Lyman. “In no one engagement did General Sheridan handle one-half as many troops as were commanded by General Meade. It was Meade’s troops that carried the rebel lines by assault, and it was his troops again that made the decisive charge at Sailor’s Run. At no period during the toilsome pursuit were they wanting in the right place and at the right moment. But General Sheridan is fortunate in his arm of the service, the swift-moving cavalry; and the cavalry are fortunate in their music—the trumpet.” The entire article appears in Meade’s Army: The Private Notebooks of Lt. Col. Theodore Lyman, edited by David W. Lowe.

It was intended we should march through the city to-day, but the condition of the men after their long march from Burksville, and the appearance of the weather, threatening a storm, the march was postponed till to-morrow. I think it will take us from eight to ten days to march across. I hope to be in Alexandria by the fourteenth or fifteenth. I have not seen anyone here except the Wises and Tuckers. I have heard of a great many people here whom I formerly knew, but besides my occupation, I have been indisposed to visit any of them, because I know they all feel bitter, and many are really in distress, which I am powerless to relieve.

The house at 707 E. Franklin Street (Library of Congress).

The house at 707 E. Franklin Street (Library of Congress).

Last evening Markoe Bache, who had been to see his friend Custis Lee, was told by him that his father, General Lee, would be glad to see me. I called there to-day and had a long talk with him. I endeavored to convince him of the expediency and propriety of his taking the oath of allegiance, not only on his own account, but for the great influence his example would have over others. General Lee said he had personally no objections, that he was willing, and intended to submit to the Constitution and laws of the United States, but that now he was a paroled prisoner of war, and he was unwilling to change his present status until he could form some idea of what the policy of the Government was going to be towards the people of the South. I argued with him that it was impossible for the Government to decide how they were to be treated, until it was satisfied they had returned to their allegiance, and that the only practicable way of showing this was by taking the oath. He admitted that the military power of the Confederacy had been destroyed, and that practically there was now no Confederate Government. The Government of the United States was the only one having power and authority, and those who designed living under it, should evince their determination by going through this necessary form. He also spoke a great deal of the status of the negro, which is really the great and formidable question of the day; but I did not devise any very practicable suggestions. I had a long and interesting talk, and left him, really sad to think of his position, his necessities, and the difficulties which surround him.

Lyman has sent me a Boston paper, with a very excellent article written by himself, which I will send you.

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. 278-9. Available via Google Books.

Family Ties (May 3, 1865)

Ruins in Richmond, photographed in May 1865 (Library of Congress).

Ruins in Richmond, photographed in May 1865 (Library of Congress).

On May 3, 1865, George Meade wrote home from Richmond with news about some of his wife’s relatives. As previously mentioned, one of Mrs. Meade’s sisters had married Henry Wise, later governor of Virginia and then a Confederate general. The “Mrs. Dr. Garnett” mentioned in this letter is Mary, one of Henry Wise’s daughters. Another of Mrs. Meade’s sisters, Mariamne, had married Thomas Huger, who had served in the Confederate navy and died in 1862. Alfred Huger was postmaster of Charleston; he and Meade will both die in 1872.

I arrived here about 11 a. m. to-day, in advance of the army, to make arrangements for its passing through this city. It is to have a triumphal march through, and be received by all the troops now in the city.

As soon after getting here as I could arrange business matters, I went to see Nene Wise, whom I found living with Mrs. Dr. Garnett.

At Mrs. Garnett’s I saw Mrs. Tully Wise, who was all last summer in Columbia, South Carolina, and there met Mrs. Alfred Huger with Mariamne’s children. She says the children are all sweet, and that Mr. and Mrs. Huger are devoted to them, but that Mr. Huger has lost everything, and is now very poor, that he is old and infirm, and will not probably live long. She says Mr. Huger’s house in Charleston was burned in the great fire of 1862, and everything in it destroyed, all the old pictures, and all the clothes, jewels and everything belonging to Mariamne’s children. Mr. Huger at this time was Postmaster of Charleston, and used to come up and spend Sundays at Columbia. Mrs. Wise had not heard from them since Sherman’s occupation.

I have already written you that I expect to be in Washington by the 18th inst. It is generally believed that after the army is assembled in Washington it will be disbanded. In that case I shall undoubtedly be allowed some relaxation before again being assigned to duty, and will then have an opportunity of being home for awhile.

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. 277-8. Available via Google Books.

On to Richmond (May 1, 1865)

A Currier & Ives print fro 1862 depicts Henry Halleck in a heroic pose (Library of Congress).

A Currier & Ives print fro 1862 depicts Henry Halleck in a heroic pose (Library of Congress).

The Army of the Potomac prepares to move north. George Meade wrote this letter from the Virginia town of Burkeville. No doubt Meade felt a degree of schadenfreude at the short life of the Military Division of the James (which will actually exist until June). He had complained bitterly when Henry Halleck took command of the division and relocated from Washington to Richmond, putting “Old Brains” directly over Meade. In August, Halleck will receive command of the Military Division of the Pacific and depart for San Francisco.

We are under marching orders for Alexandria, via Richmond, so the grand military division of the James, including the Army of the Potomac, has just existed about one week. I presume this army is ordered to Alexandria, as a preliminary measure to its disbandment.

I shall leave here to-morrow for Richmond, and after spending a day or two there, putting the army en route for Alexandria, shall proceed to that point, which I expect to reach before the middle of the month. I will write you from Richmond.

George and myself are both well, and greatly delighted with the idea of getting so near home as Washington, with the hope that, whatever turns up, I shall be able to spend a little time at home.

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.

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.

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.