False Alarm? (June 8, 1863)

The cavalry push that Meade mentions in his letter of June 8 will result the next day in the Battle of Brandy Station, the largest cavalry battle on the North American continent. Although technically a victory for the Confederates, it was also a huge black eye for Rebel cavalry commander Jeb Stuart, who was surprised and embarrassed by the Union attack.

Major General John Sedgwick. His men called him "Uncle John." (Library of Congress)

Major General John Sedgwick. His men called him “Uncle John.” (Library of Congress)

I think for the present the storm has blown over. Both Lee and Hooker appear to be playing at cross-purposes. Hooker took it into his head that Lee was moving and made preparations accordingly. These preparations were construed by Lee into a movement on our part, etc. Sedgwick is still, I understand, across, below Fredericksburg, but is unmolested by the enemy. Pleasanton, with a large force of cavalry, will cross above to-day, and push his way towards Culpeper and Gordonsville, to see what they are doing in that direction.

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. 383. Available via Google Books

Advertisements

The End of Stoneman (May 26, 1863)

Alfred Pleasonton. At Gettysburg Maj. Frank Haskell described him as "quite a nice looking dandy" (Library of Congress).

Alfred Pleasonton. At Gettysburg Maj. Frank Haskell described him as “quite a nice looking dandy” (Library of Congress).

When Joe Hooker took command of the Army of the Potomac he appointed George Stoneman to command his reorganized cavalry. Stoneman, however, had not met Hooker’s expectations during the Chancellorsville campaign. His replacement would be Alfred Pleasonton. The George mentioned in this letter is Meade’s son, who will now be serving on his staff.

George’s appointment as Aide-de-Camp and Captain arrived yesterday.

We have nothing new; everything is quiet on our side. I am looking for a movement on the part of the enemy that will stir us up pretty soon. Stoneman is off on leave, and I don’t think will return here again. He does not want to, and Hooker does not want him back. Hooker is very severe on him, and says his raid amounted to nothing at all; that he was eight days going and only two coming back, and many other things of this kind tending to disparage Stoneman.

Only one officer (Reynolds) has as yet answered my circular letter, and he says: “Your opinion was decided and emphatic for an advance at daylight.” The attempt to fasten on me the responsibility of withdrawing the army is one of the shallowest inventions that Hooker could have devised, which, if he ever brings to a public issue, must recoil on him.

There are many things I would like to tell you, but cannot at present; but I have no doubt in due time they will all be made public. I have no doubt the Administration has determined to sustain Hooker, and to this I do not object, as I really believe he will do better next time, and still think there is a great deal of merit in him.

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. 381-2. Available via Google Books.