Mere Canards (July 23, 1864)

General E.O.C. Ord. His soldiers called him "Old Alphabet." Meade had served with him early in the war (Library of Congress).

General E.O.C. Ord. Thanks to the profusion of initials, his soldiers called him “Old Alphabet.” Meade had served with him early in the war (Library of Congress).

The peace movement Meade mentions in this letter is the one undertaken by newspaper publisher Horace Greely, in which he met with Confederate commissioners at the Canadian border. Greeley, often a thorn in Lincoln’s side, ended up being outmaneuvered by the president, who made sure the conditions Greeley offered for talks required  restoration of the Union and an end to slavery, conditions he knew the Confederates would not accept.

It’s true that Meade professed great friendship for Winfield Scott Hancock. It’s also probably true that he never had a quarrel with the recently departed William F. “Baldy” Smith, but there was certainly no longer any friendship there. Earlier Meade had said he and Smith were “avowed antagonists.” David Birney, formerly a division commander in the II Corps under Hancock, was no friend, either, although Meade did admire his fighting abilities.

The stories you hear about me, some of which have reached camp, are mere canards, I have never had any quarrel with either General Hancock or Smith. Hancock is an honest man, and as he always professes the warmest friendship for me, I never doubt his statements; and I am sure I have for him the most friendly feeling and the highest appreciation of his talents. I am perfectly willing at any time to turn over to him the Army of the Potomac, and wish him joy of his promotion.

We have been very quiet since I last wrote; there are signs of approaching activity. The army is getting to be quite satisfied with its rest, and ready to try it again.

It would appear from the news from Niagara Falls that the question of peace has been in a measure mooted. The army would hail an honorable peace with delight, and I do believe, if the question was left to those who do the fighting, an honorable peace would be made in a few hours.

Ord has been placed in Smith’s place in command of the Eighteenth Corps, and General Birney has been assigned to the Tenth Corps, largely composed of colored troops.

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. 215. Available via Google Books.

Advertisements

More Reviews (April 16, 1864)

The headquarters of Joseph B. Carr in Culpeper, Virginia. Carr commanded the 3rd division of the III Corps but was transferred to the Army of the James just before the Overland Campaign began (Library of Congress).

The headquarters of Joseph B. Carr in Culpeper, Virginia. Carr commanded the 3rd division of the III Corps but was transferred to the Army of the James just before the Overland Campaign began. You can read more about this building and its fate here (Library of Congress).

General Grant returned yesterday. The papers will tell you I was present the other day when [Winfield Scott] Hancock reviewed Birney’s division, and the next day, when he reviewed [Joseph B.] Carr’s and [John] Gibbon’s divisions. These troops all looked splendidly, and seemed, officers and men, in fine spirits.

The reorganization, now that it is over, meets with universal approbation, and I believe I have gained great credit for the manner in which so disagreeable an operation was made acceptable to those concerned. Even General [David] Birney, of the smashed up Third Corps, is, I believe, reconciled.

How much I should like to see you all. At times I feel very despondent about the termination of this war and the prospect of my return, but I try to keep up my spirits and hope for the best.

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. 190. Available via Google Books.