2015 Meade Symposium

This is one of the images I used in my talk. Garry Adleman of the Center for Civil War Photography tipped me off about it. This is a detail from a photograph of the reviewing stand at the Grand Review of the Armies. It was probably taken on May 23, 1865, the day the Army of the Potomac marched. In it you can see Ulysses Grant, the blurred figure of Edwin Stanton, President Andrew Johnson, Wesley Merritt (commanding the cavalry corps in Philip Sheridan's absence), George Meade, Sumner Wells, Postmaster General William Dennison, William T. Sherman, and Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs. Quite extraordinary. As far as I know, this is the only photo in which Grant and Meade appear together. Click to enlarge (Library of Congress).

This is one of the images I used in my talk. Garry Adleman of the Center for Civil War Photography tipped me off about it. This is a detail from a photograph of the reviewing stand at the Grand Review of the armies in Washington. It was probably taken on May 23, 1865, the day the Army of the Potomac marched. In it you can see Ulysses Grant, the blurred figure of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, President Andrew Johnson, Wesley Merritt (commanding the cavalry corps in Philip Sheridan’s absence), George Meade, Secretary of the Navy Sumner Wells, Postmaster General William Dennison, William T. Sherman, and Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs. Quite extraordinary. As far as I know, this is the only photo in which Grant and Meade appear together. Click to enlarge (Library of Congress).

The man of the hour.

The man of the hour.

It’s safe to say that the 2015 Meade Symposium was a great success. There must have been at least 60 people present, despite severe cold and strong winds. The weather had been so bad, in fact, that one of the speakers, Ralph Peters, couldn’t make the trip to Philadelphia from his home in Virginia. Held in the beautiful conservatory building at West Laurel Hill Cemetery on Sunday, February 15, the symposium featured four speakers (myself included) who provided a cradle-to-grave summary of George Gordon Meade’s life. Dr. John Selby of Roanoke College spoke about Meade’s life up until the Civil War; Jerry McCormick picked up the story through the Battle of Chancellorsville; and Dr. Andy Waskie, the founder and president of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia, stood in for Col. Peters and covered the rest of the Civil War. I wrapped things up by talking about the last seven years of Meade’s life, which included incidents of murder, torture, armies of Irishmen, and the difficulties of Reconstruction.

Of course, I had to get a Meade bicentennial tee shirt!

Of course, I had to get a Meade bicentennial tee shirt!

If that weren’t enough, Jim Schmick of Civil War and More was there with a large selection of Civil War books for sale, and the Kearney Kommissary was on hand to provide a delicious lunch (plus wine and beer).

The conservatory provided an extremely picturesque setting for the day’s events, with large windows looking out over the cold and windswept cemetery. Just 200 yards away was the grave of Meade’s West Point classmate Herman Haupt, the Union’s railroad mastermind (and one of Meade’s critics). I wish I had the time to find his grave, as well as those of other notables buried there. One of those eternal residents is Francis Adams Donaldson, who journal of his experiences in the 118th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry provided the material for the book Inside the Army of the Potomac. I had used that book when I researched Searching for George Gordon Meade. It’s fascinating. Donaldson hated his commanding officer, so he contrived to get kicked out of the army, with the plan of visiting Abraham Lincoln in Washington and having the president give him an honorable discharge. It sounded like a far-fetched plan, but that is exactly what Donaldson did.

And we also bought a couple of Meade bicentennial champagne glasses. They will be perfect for the birthday celebration on December 31.

And we also bought a couple of Meade bicentennial champagne glasses. They will be perfect for the birthday celebration on December 31.

Other celebrity residents include musicians Grover Washington, Jr., and Teddy Pendergrass. West Laurel Hill is a big, sprawling cemetery, with dozens of elaborate mausoleums, and I hope to go back on a warmer, greener day and explore.

As the last speaker of the day, I am about to kill off George Gordon Meade.

As the last speaker of the day, I am about to kill off George Gordon Meade. The general watches me with trepidation.

As I said, this was a great event. It’s truly gratifying to see so many people with this kind of interest in history. And it wasn’t all seriousness, either. There were plenty of laughs and a sense of camaraderie. History should always be so much fun!

This is George Meade’s bicentennial year and I have a lot of talks scheduled. Next up are appearances before the round tables in Milwaukee and Chicago, and then talks at Pamplin Historical Park outside Petersburg, Virginia, and Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Later in the year I’m scheduled to speak in Richmond, at a Meade bicentennial event in Gettysburg, and at the Civil War Round Table at Philadelphia’s Union League in December. The year will end at the Meade 200th birthday commemoration at Laurel Hill Cemetery on December 31. Check out the event calendar for details.

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.

Advertisements

An Action-Packed Bicentennial Year!

The cover of the paperback edition.

The cover of the paperback edition.

With George Meade’s 199th birthday ceremony rapidly receding in the rear view, it’s time to look forward at the next big events in the Meade universe. There are several coming right up. The first will take place way across the Atlantic Ocean on January 30, when the city of Cadiz, Spain will unveil a plaque on the house where the future general was born on December 31, 1815. The event, sponsored by the Literary, Artistic and Scientific Athenaeum of Cadiz, will take place at noon at the Plaza de España n.4. The American ambassador to Spain, the mayor of Cadiz, and the U.S. Naval commander at Rota will attend. I wish I had the budget to get there myself! I will try to obtain some photos from the ceremony and post them here.

The next big event—from my standpoint, anyway—will be the paperback publication of Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg. That will be available on February 1, for the very affordable price of $19.95. If you don’t already have the book, here’s your chance to correct the oversight.

February is also the month for the annual Meade Symposium, sponsored by the General Meade Society of Philadelphia. The date this year will be Sunday, February 15, and the venue West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. Bad snowstorms last year forced the cancellation of the event, so keep your fingers crossed that the weather goods are feeling more beneficent in 2015. It should be a fun and fascinating day (I’ve posted the program below. Click on the image to enlarge.) Dr. Andy Waskie will talk about Meade’s early life, Jerry McCormick will discuss Meade’s military career through Fredericksburg, Ralph Peters will handle the rest of the Civil War, and I’ll talk about Meade’s post-war life. Jim Schmick of Civil War and More will be on hand with a fine selection of books, and the always dependable Kearney Kommissary will provide food. Make your reservation now!

The program for the 2015 Meade Symposium. Click to enlarge.

The program for the 2015 Meade Symposium. Click to enlarge.

2015 is, of course, Meade’s bicentennial year, and already my calendar is filling with Meade-centric events. I have talks scheduled for Chicago, Milwaukee, Petersburg, Chambersburg, Richmond, Gettysburg and Philadelphia. You can keep abreast of events right here.

And if you want a place to write things down, boy, do I have a calendar for you!

2014 Birthday Celebration

The scene at the Meade family plot on December 31, 2014 (Tom Huntington photo).

The scene at the Meade family plot on December 31, 2014 (Tom Huntington photo).

There are a few people who, when asked the musical question “What are you doing New Year’s Eve,” will answer, “Standing in a cemetery drinking champagne.” Those people are the folks who go to Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery each December 31 to drink a champagne toast at General George Gordon Meade’s gravesite on the general’s birthday.

Dr. Andy Waskie makes some opening remarks, helped by Jerry McCormick, the Meade Society treasurer (Tom Huntington photo).

Dr. Andy Waskie makes some opening remarks, helped by Jerry McCormick, the Meade Society treasurer (Tom Huntington photo).

I guess technically it’s not really New Year’s Eve. It’s really the day of New Year’s Eve, but why quibble? It is the last day of the old year, and the event definitely takes place in a cemetery. This year a good-sized group gathered on a bright but cold and blustery afternoon to commemorate the generals 199th birthday. Dr. Andy Waskie, the founder and president of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia, once again served as the master of ceremonies for the event, the 24th annual. After making some introductory remarks by the cemetery’s gatehouse, he led the procession of reenactors, VIPs, and ordinary civilians through the cemetery down to the gravesite.

A visitor holds a brochure about the 2014 event (Tom Huntington photo).

A visitor holds a brochure about the 2014 event (Tom Huntington photo).

Living historians prepare to fire volleys over Meade's grave (Tom Huntington photo).

Living historians prepare to fire volleys over Meade’s grave (Tom Huntington photo).

A cold wind blew across the Schuylkill River as speakers made short remarks. Beck’s band played a few numbers, including the “General Meade Funeral March.” (It could not have been easy to play brass instruments in the cold!) then there was a wreath-laying ceremony and the champagne toast. Back at the gatehouse, the visitors enjoyed a buffet luncheon and socializing.

The speakers at this year's graveside ceremony (Tom Huntington photo).

The speakers at this year’s graveside ceremony (Tom Huntington photo).

Mark your calendars for next year, which will be Meade’s bicentennial birthday celebration. It’s sure to be a big event, capping a year that will also mark the sesquicentennial of the end of the Civil War.

Volley

Instrument

Happy 199th Birthday, General Meade!

A wreath at General Meade's gravesite, from the 2013 birthday commemoration (Tom Huntington photo).

A wreath at General Meade’s gravesite, from the 2013 birthday commemoration (Tom Huntington photo).

George Gordon Meade was born on this day 199 years ago. (December 31 is also his wedding anniversary.) It has become an annual tradition for the General Meade Society of Philadelphia to hold a commemorative ceremony at the general’s grave at Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery. I encourage anyone in the Philadelphia area to attend. I plan to be there, and I will have copies of my books and the 2015 George Gordon Meade Calendar available for purchase. It’s always a fun event and a great opportunity to spend the last day of the year in a cemetery! Here’s the society’s announcement:

GENERAL MEADE BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION
The annual General Meade Birthday Celebration will mark the 199th anniversary of the birth of General George G. Meade, commander of the Union Army at the Battle of Gettysburg. A parade of Civil War re-enactors, civilians in period attire, special dignitaries, heritage groups and participants will advance to Meade’s final resting place and memorialize his services to his nation. A 21-gun salute and champagne toast will cap off the program at graveside, and will be followed by a reception in the Cemetery Gatehouse. A tour of historic Laurel Hill will be offered following the festivities (weather permitting). This year holds special significance as we continue to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War.
The event will take place on Wednesday, December 31 at 12:00pm, departing from Laurel Hill Cemetery’s Gatehouse entrance at 3822 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19132. Free parking is located in the lot across the street from the Gatehouse.
Free and open to the public; a $10 donation in support of Laurel Hill Cemetery’s work and preservation is suggested and would be much appreciated. Additional information can be found by calling (215) 228-8200.
I intend to post photos from this year’s event today or tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Old Baldy Goes Home (April 24, 1864)

Old Baldy, in a photo taken after the war. The horse survived his master and marched, riderless, in Meade's funeral procession (Library of Congress).

Old Baldy, in a photo taken after the war. The horse survived his master and marched, riderless, in Meade’s funeral procession (Library of Congress).

The spring campaign is about to begin, and Meade decides to part with an old campaigner. It’s time for Old Baldy, Meade’s long-suffering horse, to head to retirement. Baldy suffered his first wound during First Bull Run, when Gen. David Hunter owned him. Meade bought Baldy from the quartermaster for $150 in 1861. His aides learned to dislike Baldy because the horse moved at an awkward pace somewhere between a walk and a run, making it difficult to keep pace, but Meade thought him a loyal and steadfast mount.

Baldy received a second wound at Second Bull Run; at Antietam he was so badly injured that Meade gave him up for dead. Baldy suffered his final wound during the second day at Gettysburg. He carried the Confederate bullet he received there inside him for the rest of his life. “I did not think he could live, but the old fellow has such a wonderful tenacity of life that I am in hopes he will,” Meade wrote to his wife back in Philadelphia.

On November 11, 1872, Baldy marched, riderless, in Meade’s funeral procession. The horse lived for another ten years, until the ailing steed was put down at the ripe old age of 30 on December 16, 1882. That Christmas Day two Union veterans received permission to remove his head and have it mounted. They attached the relic to a wooden plaque outlining Baldy’s war record and presented it to the George Meade Post of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) in Philadelphia.

A pin from Old Baldy's "grand unveiling."

A pin from Old Baldy’s “grand unveiling.”

I have a soft spot for the horse, which Meade referred to as “the old brute.” I first became acquainted with the General Meade Society of Philadelphia when my wife and I attended the “grand unveiling” of Old Baldy’s head at the Grand Army of the Republic Museum and Library. The museum had just won a custody battle to get the head back into its collections and a bunch of people showed up to celebrate. It was a fun day and my wife got her picture, gazing respectfully at Old Baldy, in the Philadelphia Inquirer the next day.

In this letter Meade mentions Cram, who was Henry A. Cram, his wife’s brother-in-law. John Cadwalader was another Philadelphia resident and later a U.S. District Court judge. Like many others, Meade is still trying to get an accurate impression of Ulysses S. Grant. Zachary Taylor was the general under whom Meade served in Mexico and comparing Grant to him was high praise indeed.

Cram and John Cadwalader arrived yesterday afternoon. To-day Cram went to church with me, where we heard an excellent sermon from a Mr. Adams, a distinguished Presbyterian clergyman from New York. After church I drove Cram and Cadwalader to Culpeper, where we paid a visit to General Grant. After coming away, I plainly saw Cram was disappointed. Grant is not a striking man, is very reticent, has never mixed with the world, and has but little manner, indeed is somewhat ill at ease in the presence of strangers; hence a first impression is never favorable. His early education was undoubtedly very slight; in fact, I fancy his West Point course was pretty much all the education he ever had, as since his graduation I don’t believe he has read or studied any. At the same time, he has natural qualities of a high order, and is a man whom, the more you see and know him, the better you like him. He puts me in mind of old Taylor, and sometimes I fancy he models himself on old Zac.

Old Baldy as he appears at his current home in Philadelphia.

Old Baldy as he appears at his current home in Philadelphia.

Yesterday I sent my orderly with old Baldy to Philadelphia. He will never be fit again for hard service, and I thought he was entitled to better care than could be given to him on the march.

I have just had a visit from a very intelligent young Englishman, named Stanley, a son of Lord Stanley, of Alderney. He is no relative, I believe, to the Earl of Derby, though his father is in the Ministry as Secretary for the Colonies. He is quite young (only twenty-four) but highly educated, very smart and clever, and full of information. He brought me a letter from Mr. Seward, and spent a day with us seeing the army sights.

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. 191. Available via Google Books.

Annual Seminar

Every year the General Meade Society of Philadelphia holds a seminar focusing on some Meade-related aspect of the Civil War. This year the topic is “Meade and Grant–The Virginia Campaign of 1864.” It will take place on Sunday, February 16, 2014, at the conservatory at the West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. The speakers will be Ralph Peters, author of Cain at Gettysburg and Hell or Richmond; Tom Huntington (author of Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg) and Jerry McCormick (the world’s leading authority on General Andrew Humphreys). In addition, the Kearney Kommissary will serve its delicious food and Jim Schmick of Civil War and More will be on hand with a large selection of books. Like all the society events, it promises to be both informative and fun.

The $40 admission cost includes lunch. I encourage all the attend!

I’ve posted the flyer. Click on it to see a larger version.Meade seminar

Order of Merit

Order of MeritI just got home from George Gordon Meade’s home town, where I was honored and flattered to receive the Order of Merit from the General Meade Society of Philadelphia. Anyone who has read my book, Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg, should know about the General Meade Society because the book included some accounts of its activities. Among them were the “grand unveiling” of the head of Old Baldy, Meade’s horse, at the Grand Army of the Republic Library and Museum, as well as the annual birthday celebrations in Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery. Well, every year the Society awards the Order of Merit to an individual who they feel deserves to be honored for furthering the society’s mission of commemorating the memory of General Meade. I’m very pleased to say the board members picked me this year. At the annual champagne brunch and awards ceremony I received a beautiful medal (pictured). Many thanks to Andy Waskie, president and founder of the Meade Society, and to all the board members who made this possible. It was a wonderful day and, like all the Meade events I’ve attended, a lot of fun. And I guess I should extend my thanks to General Meade, too, without whom none of this–including the book–would have been possible!

Credit (December 28, 1863)

Once again George Meade complains about the press. This is not the first time he singled out the coverage from the Spirit of the Times, a New York weekly published by George Wilkes. (For another example, see this entry.)

This is Meade’s last letter from 1863. In three days he will celebrate his 48th birthday (and also his wedding anniversary). That event will be commemorated once again this year at Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery by General Meade Society of Philadelphia. I encourage all readers of this blog to attend! It is a fun event and a good way to salute the victor of Gettysburg (and I don’t mean Joe Hooker).

I was very sorry I could not be at home to spend Christmas with you and the children, but was glad to let George go. I spent a very quiet day in camp, attending to the business of re-enlisting the veteran volunteers, to which I had to give much personal attention, as I had let [Seth] Williams, [Andrew] Humphreys, and many others, go to Washington to spend the day.

Major General Winfield Scott Hancock had been wounded during the third day's fighting at Gettysburg. His wound troubled him for the rest of the war (Library of Congress).

Major General Winfield Scott Hancock had been wounded during the third day’s fighting at Gettysburg. His wound troubled him for the rest of the war (Library of Congress).

Yesterday General [Winfield Scott] Hancock arrived. He has been with me all the time since his arrival, and we have had a long talk. He says it was undoubtedly intended at first to relieve me, and it was, as I surmised, intimated to him that he would be placed in command. Such was his impression till the day before he came down, when, on reporting to Halleck, he was told the design was abandoned, and that he could go down to his old corps. Hancock further says that Halleck declares he saved me; that they were going to relieve me at once on the receipt of the intelligence that I had returned; but that he, Halleck, said, “No, an officer who gained the battle of Gettysburg is entitled to more consideration. Let us wait and hear what General Meade has to say, and if his report is not satisfactory, then we can act advisedly.” This was agreed to, and the unanimous opinion of all returning officers, together with my report, changed the whole aspect of the case. I must say I am gratified some little consideration was extended towards me and that justice was finally awarded.

I understand there is a bitter article in Wilkes’s Spirit of the Times, asserting that Hooker planned the campaign of Gettysburg, and that Butterfield wrote all the orders for the movements, in accordance with Hooker’s plans. I furthermore hear that General Sickles asserts that Hancock selected the position, and that he (Sickles), with his corps, did all the fighting at Gettysburg. So, I presume, before long it will be clearly proved that my presence on the field was rather an injury than otherwise.

The President has written me that he desires to see me upon the subject of executing deserters; so, as soon as I can get time, I shall have to go up to Washington.

The article that raised Meade’s ire, originally run in Wilkes’ Spirit of the Times, December 26, 1863)

BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG—HONOR TO WHOM HONOR IS DUE

General Halleck, in his report of the operations of our armies in the field during the past year, in commenting upon the Battle of Gettysburg, says: “To General Meade belonged the honor of a well-earned victory, in one of the greatest and best fought battles of the war.”

As a public journalist, we cannot allow such a record to be made in the face of the well-known history of the battle of Gettysburg, now made classic by the eloquence of Everett, and in view of the important part the gallant Hooker and his chief of staff performed preliminary to, and during the battle, without entering our solemn protest against it. And in doing this, we do not mean to detract in the slightest degree from the reputation and honor of General Meade.

Joseph Hooker (Library of Congress).

Joseph Hooker (Library of Congress).

It is a matter of history that the army of the Potomac was never in finer drill, or better discipline, or more thoroughly in “fighting trim” than it was when it fought at Gettysburg. So much to the credit of General Hooker.

It is a matter of history that when the advance column of the rebel army was within a day’s march of the capital of Pennsylvania, and the main body of the rebel army was in Maryland, following the advances, Lee, supposing that he had out-generaled Hooker, and made sure of Baltimore and Washington, was startled to find Hooker across the Potomac and right on his flank. So much to the credit of the latter.

It is a matter of history that when General Hooker was about to direct some of the troops in the field (on Maryland Heights) under his command to prepare for a blow upon Lee’s flank, before the latter could contract his lines, which would have resulted in cutting the rebel army in two, Hooker’s plans were interrupted by the general-in-chief, and at his (Hooker’s) own request, feeling justly indignant at the treatment he had received, he was relieved. General Lee, in his report to Jeff Davis, acknowledges he was outflanked and outgeneraled by Hooker. So much to the credit of the latter.

Daniel Buttefield. In the words of early Gettysburg historian John Bachelder, he "has never lost the occasion to stab General Meade's reputation under the fifth rib."

Daniel Buttefield. In the words of early Gettysburg historian John Bachelder, he “has never lost the occasion to stab General Meade’s reputation under the fifth rib.”

It is a matter of history that when General Butterfield made out his line of marches in Maryland, he was directed by Hooker to keep well to the right in order to cover Baltimore, intending thereby to force Lee to fight at Gettysburg or thereabouts. So much to the credit of Hooker.

It is a matter of history that Hooker had formed a general plan of battle: that his Chief of Staff had that plan; that Gen. Meade knew it; that, as Hooker’s successor, Meade had not only the benefit of Hooker’s plans and necessarily acted upon them, but he also had Hooker’s Chief of Staff (Gen. Butterfield) by his side constantly, and, if General Hooker dislikes to acknowledge the facts briefly cited above in his report, it does not detract any the less from the gentlemanly and soldierlike conduct of Gen. Meade, who, immediately after the battle of Gettysburg, in a personal letter to Gen. Butterfield, acknowledged his great indebtedness to that officer for his valuable aid, without which, he stated, he could not have succeeded. Gen. Butterfield knew all of Hooker’s plans, and was instructed by the latter to communicate them freely to Gen. Meade, and we happen to know that Gen. Meade received them, acted upon them, and, after the battle, like a true gentleman, acknowledged his gratitude. So much to the credit of Gen. Hooker.

It is not a matter of history, but it is a matter of the plainest common sense, that neither Gen. Meade or any other military chieftain living could have taken the Army of the Potomac, and in so short a time have it well enough “in hand” to hurl it successfully against such a witty, well organized, and well led host, without aid from his immediate predecessor.

Gen. Meade can ask for no higher honor than that which he acquired by winning such a victory over the best disciplined army the rebels have in the field, in a series of battles which commenced only about forty-eight hours after he assumed command of the Army of the Potomac, even upon the plans of another!

Mr. Everett, in his oration at Gettysburg, did not fail to do Gen. Hooker justice; nor did Gen. Lee, the leader of the crestfallen and defeated rebel army. We regret the more, therefore, that the General-in-Chief of the army of the United States, in making up an official report, which is now a part of the history of the present war, and to whom the country looks for a faithful chronicler of passing military events, should have omitted to do so, especially in view of the signal service Gen. Hooker has recently rendered by his dashing and daring exploits in the mountain fastnesses of the west, astonishing, even the peerless Grant, who promptly awarded to “Fighting Joe” and his brave troops the credit so justly due to him and them. Honor to whom it is due.

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. 164-5. Available via Google Books.