152 Years Later

A marker indicates the spot where Hancock fell at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 (Photo by Tom Huntington).

A marker indicates the spot where Hancock fell at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 (Photo by Tom Huntington).

Steve Weatherbee as Meade (Tom Huntington photo).

Steve Weatherbee as Meade (Tom Huntington photo).

I met my fourth George Gordon Meade yesterday.

I know Andy Waskie, of course, the founder and president of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia. Waskie often portrays Meade at talks and living history events. He was out of the country during the 2013 anniversary commemorations, so Jerry McCormick—who usually portrays Gen. Andrew Humphreys—stood in for him as Meade at Gettysburg with the Confederation of Union Generals. I talked to Bob Creed at a Gettysburg reenactment when I was working on Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg. And today I met Steve Weatherbee, who portrays Meade for the Civil War Heritage Foundation. That doesn’t come close to matching the profusion of Robert E. Lees you will find at Civil War events, but it’s a beginning.

I talked with Weatherbee while we waited for advancing Confederates at the stone wall at Gettysburg’s Bloody Angle. The Angle was considerably less bloody today, and the crowd gathered here 152 years after the Union soldiers along this line repulsed Lee’s attack—Pickett’s Charge—was considerably smaller than it had been in 2013, when some 47,000 people showed up for the 150th anniversary.

Over the past couple days I had watched several of the Gettysburg Battlewalks on the Pennsylvania Cable Network, which made me realize I must get down to Gettysburg myself on July 3. So I packed a lunch and set out. It was a fine, pleasant day for a visit, with a light cloud cover blocking the July sun, and a cool breeze blowing through. My goal was to take the 10:00 walk, which covered Winfield Scott Hancock at Gettysburg. A large crowd gathered at the white Abraham Brian farm buildings. As we waited, I overhead some people talking favorably about George Meade. I pointed out the Meade Society cap I was wearing, and we agreed that the general had never really received his due.

Ranger Matt Atkinson talks about Hancock at the Copse of Trees (tom Huntington photo).

Ranger Matt Atkinson talks about Hancock at the Copse of Trees (Tom Huntington photo).

Park ranger Matt Atkinson led the Hancock walk, and he added a distinctive Southern flavor to it. At the start, he admitted that he didn’t often do Union-themed talks, and that he had grown up in the South looking up to Confederate heroes as a boy. Still, he told us that Hancock was one of his favorite generals, and that he was “a natural-born leader.” From the Brian buildings, we moved south down Cemetery Ridge. We made a stop at the monument that marks the spot where Confederate General Lewis Armistead fell on July 3 1863. Armistead and Hancock had been friends before the war—a friendship portrayed as a full-blown bromance in the book Killer Angels and the movie Gettysburg. We finished across the road from the monument that marks the spot where Hancock fell, taken down by a bullet that went through the pommel of his saddle and into his thigh. Atkinson provided a fairly graphic account of Hancock’s wound and the various attempts to remove the musket ball. Maybe that’s what led to our only casualty of the morning, when a woman went faint and had to be helped to the ground (and later to an air conditioned park vehicle).

Alonzo Cushing's belt at the National Civil War Museum (Beth Ann Huntington photo).

Alonzo Cushing’s belt at the National Civil War Museum (Beth Ann Huntington photo).

After the talk, I whiled away some time reading the new book by Jim Hessler and Wayne Motts, Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg: A Guide to the Most Famous Attack in American History. My wife and I had attended the book launch event the previous Sunday at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, where Wayne serves as CEO. Jim and Wayne both spoke, and the two of them, plus cartographer Steven Stanley, signed copies of the book afterwards. Wayne had also put out a collection of artifacts related to Pickett’s Charge, including the belt worn by Alonzo Cushing, the Union artillerist who had been cut down at his guns as Armistead approached them. Cushing was just recently awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions that day.

One of two Lewis Armisteads at Gettysburg on July 3. The real George Pickett never got this far (Tom Huntington photo).

One of two Lewis Armisteads at Gettysburg on July 3. The real George Pickett never got this far (Tom Huntington photo).

Back at Gettysburg, I walked over to the Angle to wait for the Confederates with Weatherbee and other reenactors. I spotted only one Robert E. Lee, but two Armisteads.

It seemed to me that the day felt politically charged in the wake of the debate over the Confederate flag sparked by the church shootings in Charleston. (“Keep flying it,” I heard one woman remark to a Confederate reenactor as he passed her with a Rebel flag.) I’ve written about the flag issue elsewhere. I have no problems with Confederate flags in a historical context. I do have issues with it in a political context, whether it’s being flown at a statehouse or in the back of a pickup truck.

Anyone who has read Searching for George Gordon Meade knows that I have little patience for Lost Cause rhetoric. Here’s one thing I wrote:

During the war and in the years since, Lee has been lionized. Entire bookshelves groan beneath the weight of the volumes dedicated to him. He has come to symbolize a glorious “lost cause,” a world of “cavaliers and cotton fields,” as Gone with the Wind put it. In this view of the Civil War, the noble, freedom-loving South fought a valiant but doomed battle against the institutionalized and bureaucratic forces of the North. The Southern generals, men like Lee, Jackson, and Stuart, tend to be remembered as glamorous and noble warriors. The generals in the North come across more like CEOs of major corporations, faceless and colorless. Except perhaps for Ulysses S. Grant, who gained a reputation as a “butcher” willing to exchange his soldiers’ lives for victory. Who wants to cheer for those guys, especially today, when public distrust of the federal government seems to have reached an all-time high? No, it’s much cooler to cheer for the rebels.

Modern rebels at Gettysburg, 152 years later (Tom Huntington photo).

Modern rebels at Gettysburg, 152 years later (Tom Huntington photo).

Yet there’s one thing that tarnishes this glamorous view of the rebellious South, an elephant in the room that many try to ignore. And that is slavery. The South fought to preserve a culture that rested on a foundation of human bondage. Don’t take it from me–take it from the vice president of the Confederate States of America, Alexander Stephens. In a famous speech he made in March 1861, less than a month before the attack on Fort Sumter ignited the Civil War, Stephens declared that slavery “was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.” Furthermore, he added, the foundation of the Confederate government—its very cornerstone, in fact—“rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.” Claiming that slavery did not cause the Civil War is like clearing the iceberg of any responsibility for sinking the Titanic. That’s why I find it galling to see the Sons of Confederate Veterans contend that the South’s “motivating factor” for war was “the preservation of liberty and freedom.” Except, of course, for the approximately four million people of African descent whom the slave-holding states kept in bondage. It’s a stain that will forever sully the story of the Confederate States of America. There’s no escaping it.

The recent discussions have dragged the unsavory side of Confederate banners into the light, which is a good thing. People forget that South Carolina started flying the stars and bars over its state capitol in 1962, not to salute the courage of Confederate soldiers, but to symbolize its resistance to civil rights. “Heritage not hate,” is what flag supporters tell us the banners symbolize. But that’s not quite right. “Heritage AND hate,” would be a more accurate motto.

So I sensed that subtext percolating beneath the day’s events at Gettysburg. The present has a way of forcing its way into these things, photo bombing history.

Hands across the wall (Tom Huntington photo).

Hands across the wall (Tom Huntington photo).

After watching Union and Confederate reenactors grasp hands across the stone wall, I headed up to the Meade statue for the start of a short “real time” talk about Alexander Webb and the Philadelphia Brigade, led by ranger Emma Murphy. By the walk’s end we were down at the Copse of Trees by the monument to the 69th Pennsylvania. She read us excerpts from Lt. Frank Haskell’s account of the battle and the final repulse of the Confederates on July 3, 1863. “The line springs,” Haskell had written; “the crest of the solid ground, with a great roar, heaves forward its maddened load,–men, arms, smoke, fire, a fighting mass; it rolls to the wall; flash meets flash; the wall is crossed; a moment ensues of thrusts, yells, blows, shots, an undistinguished conflict, followed by a shout universal, that makes the welkin ring again; and the last and bloodiest fight of the great battle of Gettysburg is ended and won.”

As far as I’m concerned, the right side won at Gettysburg. But as all the debate about the Confederate flag has shown us, in some people are still fighting the Civil War.

Advertisements

The President (March 26, 1865)

President Abraham Lincoln (Library of Congress).

President Abraham Lincoln (Library of Congress).

Robert E. Lee’s attack on Fort Stedman interrupted the visit by Mrs. Meade and the Meade children. Meade was with his family on the steamer Thomas Collyer at City Point when word of the attack arrived. “Meade was greatly nettled by the fact that he was absent from his command at such a time, and was pacing up and down with great strides, and dictating orders to his chief of staff, General Webb, who was with him, in tones which showed very forcibly the intensity of his feelings,” recalled Horace Porter, Grant’s aide-de-camp. President Lincoln had come down to visit Grant. The next day, when word arrived that the Confederate attack had been repulsed, he accepted Grant’s offer to visit the Petersburg front.

Following Meade’s letter to his wife is Theodore Lyman’s letter from the same day. He has some interesting observations about the president.

Your visit seems so like a dream I can hardly realize you have been here.

The orderly who took Meta McCall’s saddle down says he arrived just in time to put it on board, so I presume you started soon after

12 M. To-day is a fine day, without wind, and I trust you will have a pleasant journey up the Potomac and get safe home.

After I arrived here, the President and party came about 1 p.m. We reviewed Crawford’s Division, and then rode to the front line and saw the firing on Wright’s front, at the fort where you were, where a pretty sharp fight was going on. Indeed, Humphreys and Wright were fighting till eight o’clock, with very good results, taking over one thousand prisoners from the enemy, and inflicting heavy losses in killed and wounded. The day turned out to be a very successful one, we punishing the enemy severely, taking nearly three thousand prisoners and ten battle flags, besides the morale of frustrating and defeating his plans.

Mrs. Lincoln spoke very handsomely of you and referred in feeling terms to our sad bereavement. The President also spoke of you, and expressed regret that your visit should have been so abruptly terminated. I suppose Mrs. Hopkinson and yourself will have great fun in recalling the incidents of your trip. Altogether, your expedition was very successful, and I am very glad you came.

I expect we shall have stirring times before long. The fighting yesterday proved the enemy has still some spirit left in him, and Lee, having once begun, is likely to try his hand again; and if he don’t, I suppose we shall have to take the matter in hand.

Here is Lyman’s letter. His impressions of Lincoln certainly come filtered through his own Boston snobbery, yet overall it’s a favorable portrait. Lyman does not include his impressions of Mrs. Meade in his letters, but he did in his journals. “Mrs. Meade has a pleasant and still good looking face, for her age, and very fine hair,” he wrote. “She has a little of the languid, half southern way, and is wanting in force, somewhat.”

My letter of yesterday only gave a part of the day’s work. Our train went briskly up to the front and stopped not far from the little rustic chapel you saw; for there was General Parke with his Staff, waiting to receive the General and report the morning’s work. . . . Brevet Brigadier McLaughlen got taken in trying to maintain his line—a good officer. He was the one who had been five days in Boston and told me he was so tired that he thought he should go right back. A certain Major Miller was captured and sent, with a guard of four men, a little to the rear. They sat in a bomb-proof for protection and Miller did so describe the glories of Yankeedom to his captors, that, when we retook the work, they all deserted and came over with him! Then we kept on and got out at our own domus, where General Meade (it being then about 11.30 a.m.)telegraphed sundry orders to his generals; wherefrom resulted, at 12.15, the greatest bang, bang, whang, from good Duke Humphrey, who, spectacles on nose, rushed violently at the entrenched skirmish line of the enemy and captured the same, with the double view of making a reconnaissance and a diversion, and furthermore of showing the Johns that we were not going to be pitched into without hitting back.

Then there was a lull, filled by the arrival of a long grey procession of some 1500 prisoners from the 9th Corps. Really these men possess a capacity for looking “rough” beyond any people I ever saw, except the townsmen of Signor Fra Diavolo. They grew rougher and rougher. These looked brown and athletic, but had the most matted hair, tangled beards, and slouched hats, and the most astounding carpets, horse-sheets and transmogrified shelter-tents for blankets, that you ever imagined. One grim gentleman, of forbidding aspect, had tempered his ferocity by a black, broad-brimmed straw hat, such as country ministers sometimes wear—a head-dress which, as Whittier remarked, “rather forced the season!” Singularly enough, the train just then came up and the President and General Grant, followed by a small party, rode over to the Headquarters. “I have just now a despatch from General Parke to show you,” said General Meade. “Ah,” quoth the ready Abraham, pointing to the parade-ground of the Provost-Marshal, “there is the best despatch you can show me from General Parke!” The President is, I think, the ugliest man I ever put my eyes on; there is also an expression of plebeian vulgarity in his face that is offensive (you recognize the recounter of coarse stories). On the other hand, he has the look of sense and wonderful shrewdness, while the heavy eyelids give him a mark almost of genius. He strikes me, too, as a very honest and kindly man; and, with all his vulgarity, I see no trace of low passions in his face. On the whole, he is such a mixture of all sorts, as only America brings forth. He is as much like a highly intellectual and benevolent Satyr as anything I can think of. I never wish to see him again, but, as humanity runs, I am well content to have him at the head of affairs. . . . After which digression I will remark that the President (who looks very fairly on a horse) reviewed the 3d division, 5th Corps, which had marched up there to support the line, and were turned into a review. As the Chief Magistrate rode down the ranks, plucking off his hat gracefully by the hinder part of the brim, the troops cheered quite loudly. Scarcely was the review done when, by way of salute, all those guns you saw by Fort Fisher opened with shells on the enemy’s picket line, which you could see, entrenched, from where you stood. Part of the 6th Corps then advanced and, after a sharp fight, which lasted, with heavy skirmishing, till sunset, drove off the Rebels and occupied their position, driving them towards their main line. At four and at seven P.m. the enemy charged furiously on Humphreys, to recover their picket line, but were repulsed with great loss; our men never behaved better. Both Wright and Humphreys took several hundred prisoners, swelling the total for the day to 2700, more than we have had since the noted 12th of May. Our total loss is from 1800 to 2000; while that of the enemy must be from 4000 to 5000 plus a great discouragement. Isn’t it funny for you to think of the polite Humphreys riding round in an ambulance with you Friday, and, the next day, smashing fiercely about in a fight?

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. 267-8. 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. 323-6. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

Matinee Musicale (March 10, 1865)

Another view of the very photogenic Poplar Grove Church, with the headquarters of the 50th New York Engineers next to it. Some of the engineers are visible in the photo. Click to enlarge (Library of Congress).

Another view of the very photogenic Poplar Grove Church, with the headquarters of the 50th New York Engineers next to it. Some of the engineers are visible in the photo. Click to enlarge (Library of Congress).

Theodore Lyman returns to the Poplar Grove Church for another entertainment. War isn’t always hell, apparently. Perhaps someone can explain why the wife of Alexander Webb (Meade’s chief of staff) refers to her husband as Andrew.

What think you we did yesterday? We had a “Matinee Musicale,” at the Chapel of the 50th New York Engineers. Nothing but high-toned amusements, now-a-day, you will perceive. In truth I was very glad to go to it, as good music always gives me pleasure. The band was the noted one of the New Jersey brigade, and consisted of over thirty pieces. But the great feature was Captain Halsted, aide-de-camp to General Wright, in capacity of Max Maretzek, Carl Bergmann, Muzio, or any other musical director you please. It appears that the Captain is a fine musician, and that his ears are straight, though his eyes are not. There was a large assemblage of the fashion and nobility of the environs of Petersburg, though most of the first families of Virginia were unavoidably detained in the city. We had a batch of ladies, who, by the way, seem suddenly to have gone mad on visiting this army. No petticoat is allowed to stay within our lines, but they run up from City Point and return in the afternoon. Poor little Mrs. Webb accompanied the General to our monkish encampment and tried, in a winning way, to hint to General Meade that she ought to remain a day or two; but the Chief, though of a tender disposition towards the opposite sex, hath a god higher than a hooped skirt, to wit, orders, and his hooked nose became as a polite bit of flint unto any such propositions. And so, poor little Mrs. Webb, aforesaid, had to bid her Andrew adieu. The batch of ladies above mentioned were to me unknown! I was told, however, there was a daughter of Simon Cameron, a great speck in money, to whom Crawford was very devoted. Then there was Miss Something of Kentucky, who was a perfect flying battery, and melted the hearts of the swains in thim parts; particularly the heart of Lieutenant Wm. Worth, our companion-in-arms, to whom she gave a ring, before either was quite sure of the other’s name! In fact, I think her parents must have given her a three-week vacation and a porte-monnaie and said: “Go! Get a husband; or give place to Maria Jane, your next younger sister.” The gallant Humphreys gave us a review of Miles’s division, on top of the concert; whereat General Meade, followed by a bespattered crowd of generals, Staff officers and orderlies, galloped wildly down the line, to my great amusement, as the black mare could take care of herself, but some of the more heavy-legged went perilously floundering in mud-holes and soft sands.

Theodore Lyman’s letter is from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, pp. 317-18. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

General Webb (March 3, 1865)

Alexander Webb, Meade's chief of staff (Library of Congress).

Alexander Webb, Meade’s chief of staff (Library of Congress).

When Andrew Humphreys received command of the II Corps, he was replaced by Alexander Webb as Meade’s chief of staff. Webb had been a hero at Gettysburg when, nearly in command of the Philadelphia Brigade in John Gibbon’s division of the II Corps, he had played a pivotal role in repulsing Pickett’s Charge. He later received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the battle. Prior to that he had served as chief of staff for the V Corps when Meade had commanded that unit.

In his letter of March 3, Theodore Lyman describes yet another foreign visitor to the Army of the Potomac, this time a captain from Romania. Those who believe that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a work of non-fiction might find Captain Botiano to be especially intriguing, and wonder if he wasn’t traveling from Transylvania under an alias.

Our evanescent Chief-of-Staff, General Webb, has gone to Washington for a day or two, to see his wife. He insisted, before he went, that the Rebs were not going to evacuate Petersburg at present, on any account. “Ah!” said General Meade, “Webb is an anti-evacuationist, because he wants to go to see his wife, and so wants to prove there isn’t going to be any move at present.” General Webb is a good piece of luck, as successor to General Humphreys. He is very jolly and pleasant, while, at the same time, he is a thorough soldier, wide-awake, quick and attentive to detail. In fact, I believe him much better for the place than Gen. H. from the very circumstance that he was such a very superior man, that General Meade would take him as a confidential adviser, whereas the General does much better without any adviser at all. My only objection to General Webb is that he continually has a way of suddenly laughing in a convulsive manner, by drawing in his breath, instead of letting it out —the which goes to my bones.

It is not too much to say that yesterday was a day without striking events, as it was characterized by a more or less steady rain, from the rising to the going down of the sun. I wrote you a letter, I entertained the chronic Duane, and I entertained — oh, I forgot to tell you about him. I entertained the officer from Roumania, the one whom General Meade could not make out because he had no map of Europe. This Roumania, as I have ascertained by diligent study, is what we call Wallachia and Moldavia, and is a patch of territory lying north of the Danube, and running from its mouth, on the Black Sea, to the northwest, into the Carpathian mountains. As to the Roumanians themselves, they have the misfortune to be tremendously protected by everybody. Imprimis, they pay to the Porte an “honorary tribute” of 600,000 crowns, in return for which his word is pledged to protect them against all comers, which is a good joke, seeing he can’t protect himself against any comer at all! Then the Emperor Nap considers them “une nation Latine,” and so he is to protect them. Then the British protect them for fear the Russians should invade Turkey on that side. Then the Russians protect them because they want their land as a high road to Constantinople; and finally, the Austrians and Italians protect them, just to keep in the mode. Meanwhile the Roumanians seem to dislike all their kind friends, but still keep smiling and bowing round at them, hoping these protectors will one day get into a shindy, when they, the protected, propose to discontinue the honorary tribute, grab Bulgaria from the Turks, Bessarabia from the Russians, the Banat and part of Transylvania from the Austrians, and make a grand pan-Roumanian empire, with no protectors at all. All of which we shall know when they do it. Captain Botiano (that’s his name) informed me that his countrymen were descended from Roman colonists, led thither by Trajan. To judge from the gallant Cappy, as a specimen, the colonists must have intermarried considerably with various Gentiles; for his face denotes a combination of Greek, Italian, and Turk, with a dash of Tartar and a strain of some other barbarian, whose features are to me not familiar. On the whole, I felt like saying to him: “Oh, fiddle! don’t come humbugging round here. Just put on a turban, and stick five silver-mounted pistols and seven oriental daggers in your cashmere sash, and look like yourself!” For you must know he has received his education in the French army, and now appears trussed in a modern uniform, a cross between a British Grenadier Guard and a Prussian Chasseur. He talks good French and is sufficiently intelligent, and apparently well educated. We aired our Gallic for a long time together and discussed many mighty topics. He, of course, like all those who have the French way of thinking, was mildly horrified at the want of central power in this country and thought the political power delegated to the states was highly dangerous. They ought only to have power to look out for the bien publique. All of which was edifying to me, as coming from a descendant of a colonist of Trajan.

Theodore Lyman’s letter is from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, pp. 307-9. 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.

Unmerited Censure (January 14, 1865)

The relationship between George Meade and Ulysses Grant is often portrayed as antagonistic, with Meade complaining about the general-in-chief. That wasn’t always the case. Here we have another example of Meade defending Grant against charges he hadn’t done enough. Meade, of course, knew all too well what that kind of criticism felt like.

John Gibbon had commanded a division in the II Corps. Webb is Alexander Webb, who had commanded a brigade under Gibbon at Gettysburg and had been serving as Meade’s chief of staff.

John Gibbon (Library of Congress).

John Gibbon (Library of Congress).

I am sorry to hear what you write people say of Grant, because it is unjust, and I do not approve of injustice to any one. Grant undoubtedly has lost prestige, owing to his failure to accomplish more, but as I know it has not been in his power to do more, I cannot approve of unmerited censure, any more than I approved of the fulsome praise showered on him before the campaign commenced. Butler’s removal has caused great excitement everywhere. He will have some very powerful influences exerted in his favor, and he will use them efficiently. I see Wilson has moved in the Senate that the Committee on the Conduct of the War enquire and report on the Wilmington fiasco. This is the beginning of a war on Grant.

Gibbon has been assigned to the Twenty-fourth Corps, in Ord’s place, who takes Butler’s army. This has pleased him very much, and when here to-day to say good-by he was in quite a good humor. I shall probably have to send Webb to Gibbon’s division, although I believe he would prefer remaining on my staff.

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. 256. Available via Google Books.

Circular (May 25, 1863)

General Gouverneur K. Warren, the Army of the Potomac's chief engineer, supported Meade's claim that he had not encouraged Hooker to retreat from Chancellorsville. Later in the war Warren and Meade would develop a rancorous relationship (Library of Congress).

General Gouverneur K. Warren, the Army of the Potomac’s chief engineer, supported Meade’s claim that he had not encouraged Hooker to retreat from Chancellorsville. Later in the war Warren and Meade would develop a rancorous relationship (Library of Congress).

Joe Hooker claimed that Meade had helped persuade him to retreat from Chancellorsville during the meeting in Hooker’s tent that started around midnight on May 4. This claim infuriated Meade. When Hooker told this to Meade the conversation became so heated that Meade’s chief-of-staff, Alexander Webb, departed and took Meade’s staff with him because he worried that Meade’s intemperate language might lead to a court-martial. Meade told Hooker that he had been emphatically in favor of advancing and would poll the generals who were present that night to see how they recalled the conversation. In Meade’s papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania I found a copy of the circular he sent, as well as the handwritten replies from Reynolds, Sickles, and Howard. There was also a letter that Gouverneur Warren sent in 1888 to Meade’s son George, with a page from Warren’s own Chancellorsville report. “There is no doubt in my mind that Genl Meade was opposed to retiring across the river,” Warren wrote.

The news from Ulysses S. Grant in Mississippi was that, after a daring but successful campaign,  his army had placed Vicksburg under siege.

I have addressed a circular letter to each of the officers present at the much-talked-of council of war, asking them to give me their recollections of what I said, and unless I am terribly mistaken, their answers will afford me ample means of refuting Hooker’s assertion that my opinion sustained him in withdrawing the army.

We have to-day the glorious news from Grant. It is in sad contrast with our miserable fiasco here, the more sad when you reflect that ours was entirely unnecessary, and that we have never had such an opportunity of gaining a great victory before.

Did I tell you that Curtin promptly answered my letter, saying that General Cadwalader had entirely misapprehended what he said to him; that he (Curtin) had never so understood me, or repeated to Cadwalader that I had lost all confidence in Hooker?

Meade’s letter taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 1, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 381. Available via Google Books.