Anecdotes (March 6, 1865)

Samuel Crawford (Library of Congress).

Samuel Crawford (Library of Congress).

In his letter today, Theodore Lyman tells some amusing stories about Generals Crawford and Grant. Samuel Crawford was one of Meade’s fellow Pennsylvanians. A military surgeon, he had been at Fort Sumter when it was attacked and eventually rose to command of a division in the V Corps. In his book Campaigning with Grant, Horace Porter tells a story of a general who must be Crawford, but whom Porter identified only as “an officer serving in the Army of the Potomac who had formerly been a surgeon.” One day the officer arrived at Meade’s headquarters “in a high state of indignation.” As he had been riding over, some of the men had called him “Old Pills,” and he thought that was a great affront to his dignity. “I would like to have it stopped,” he said.

Meade put on his eyeglasses and glared through them at the complainer. “Well, what of that?” he demanded. “How can I prevent it? Why, I hear that, when I rode out the other day, some of the men called me a ‘damned old goggle-eyed snapping-turtle,’ and I can’t even stop that!”  Like Meade, Crawford is buried in Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery.

I think I must relate to you a small story which they have as a joke against Major-General Crawford. As the story will indicate, the Major-General has some reputation for possessing a decided admiration of the looks and figure of his own self. There came to the army a young artist, who was under a certain monied person. The young artist was to make models for bronze medallions, and the monied person was to sell the same and take the profits, if any. He proposed to model the commander of the army, and each of the corps commanders, and General Webb, but no one else. As the artist was modelling away at General Webb, he asked: “Isn’t General Crawford rather an odd man?” “What makes you ask that?” says the Chief-of Staff?” “Why, he waked me up in the middle of the night, and asked what I could make a statuette of him for! I told him $400 and he said he thought he would have it done!” Webb, who is a cruel wag, said naught, but, the next time he met C, asked him if he had seen the young sculptor who had come down. “Seen him!” quoth C. “My dear fellow, he has done nothing but follow me round, boring me to sit for a statuette!”

General Hunt was telling me an anecdote of Grant, which occurred during the Mexican War and which illustrates what men may look for in the way of fame. It was towards the last of the fighting, at the time when our troops took by assault the works immediately round the City of Mexico. Grant was regimental quartermaster of the regiment commanded by Colonel Garland; and, it appears, at the attack on the Campo Santo, he, with about a dozen men, got round the enemy’s flank and was first in the work. Somewhat after, he came to the then Lieutenant Hunt and said: “Didn’t you see me go first into that work the other day?” “Why, no,” said Hunt, “it so happened I did not see you, though I don’t doubt you were in first.” “Well,” replied Grant, “I was in first, and here Colonel Garland has made no mention of me! The war is nearly done; so there goes the last chance I ever shall have of military distinction!” The next time, but one, that Hunt saw him, was at Culpeper, just after he was made Lieutenant-General. “Well, sir!” cried our Chief-of-Artillery, “I am glad to find you with some chance yet left for military distinction!”

Theodore Lyman’s letter is from Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox, pp. 312-13. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

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Distinguished Foreigners (November 22, 1864)

George Meade did not vote in the presidential election. In 1860 he had voted for John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party. Bell’s running mate was Edward Everett. On November 19, 1863, Everett was the featured speaker at the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg. President Abraham Lincoln also spoke there.

I do not know how the fact of my not voting has reached Philadelphia, or is there considered a matter of importance. One of the Republican agents, formerly an officer in the Reserves, came to see me and desired I would vote at the polls of the regiment where he was going to be. I declined going to his polls, but did not intimate to him whether I was or was not going to vote. It is probable, however, that some zealous partisan has watched to see what I did. I cannot but be flattered that so much importance is attached to my action, particularly as nearly all other general officers, including Grant, did the same—that is, not vote.

I should like to see the article in the British Military Review you refer to. It is some consolation to know that distinguished foreigners think well of you.

Theodore Lyman takes the army’s British visitors out on a tour. In his notebooks he also mentions at stop at Winfield Scott Hancock’s headquarters. Andrew Humphreys is supposed to replace Hancock at the head of the II Corps. Lyman noted, “Hancock has not yet his orders, and Gen. Humphreys is fussing and fuming, afraid that he shan’t have any fighting this autumn–as he is to command the 2d Corps.”

As it was fine, after three days’ rain, General Humphreys bestirred himself to give rational entertainment to the two Englanders; and so General Meade ordered a couple of brigades of cavalry turned out and a horse-battery. We first rode along the rear line and went into a fort there. It made quite a cortege, for, besides the Generals and their officers and orderlies, there followed Mr. Lunn in a four-horse spring waggon, with General [Henry] Hunt to bear him company; for Lunn had received the horseback proposition with mild horror. So he followed in a waggon, much as Mr. Pickwick was wheeled after the shooting party, when he finally turned up in the pound. In the fort was a company of soldiers that you might know beforehand were Germans, so dirty and especially so grimy — they have a great facility for looking grimy do the Germans. It was funny to see the different chaps among them: one, evidently a ci-devant Prussian soldier, was seized with rigidity in all his muscles on beholding a live brace of Generals. There was another who was an unmistakable student; he had a moustache, a poetically fierce air, a cap with the brim turned up, and a pair of spectacles. There he stood, a most out-of-place individual, with our uniform on, watching anxiously the progress of a pot, boiling on a fire. The cavalry looked what I have learned to consider as very well; that is, the men looked healthy, the horses in good flesh, and the arms and equipments in proper repair. To a European they must have been fearful; very likely so to Major Smyth, though he was silently polite—no polish, horses rough and woolly, and of all sizes and colors; men not sized at all, with all kinds of beards and every known species of hat; but as I know that men do not fight with their hats and beards, I was satisfied to see evidences of good discipline. Thereafter we called on General Gregg, where I had a treat in form of some Newton pippins, of which excellent apple there was a barrel on hand.

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. 244-5. 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. 277-8. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.