That Crazy Old Man (April 8, 1864)

Count Adam Gurowski (via Wikipedia).

Count Adam Gurowski (via Wikipedia).

In this letter from April 8, Meade mentions one Gurowsky, whom he describes as “that crazy old man.” Adam Gurowski was indeed one of the eccentric characters who enlivened Washington during the Civil War. (You can read more about him here.) His emotional and sometimes almost unhinged behavior on the city streets even made President Lincoln eye him as a potential assassin. A Polish count, Gurowski had come to the United States in 1849 after a life of radical (and inconstant) political agitation. As the Civil War approached, the excitable Polish count allied himself with the Radical Republicans. Once the war began, he pestered Lincoln with numerous hectoring letters about war policy. “He was the perfect radical type, an uncompromising Puritan in the fold,” wrote Leroy H. Fischer in the article linked above. As such, George McClellan—whom Gurowski described as “that half ass half traitor”—and anything associated with him, including Meade, would have been anathema.

The fair that Meade mentions is the Great Central Sanitary Fair, held in June 1864 to raise money for the Sanitary Commission, which provided care for wounded soldiers. In his book Philadelphia and the Civil War, Anthony Waskie described the fair as “probably the greatest purely civic act of voluntary benevolence ever attempted in Philadelphia.” By the time it closed on June 28 the fair had raised $1,261,822.55.

The New York Tribune of yesterday informs the world it has been positively ascertained that I am and have been in constant correspondence with McClellan, and that this fact has destroyed all my chances for nomination as major general in the regular army, but it is not believed it will remove me from command. I know where this canard comes from. Grant told me that he had received several visits and innumerable letters from that old crazy man Gurowsky, all to the effect that I was completely under the influence of McClellan, and in constant correspondence with him, and urging Grant to relieve me. I saw Historicus’s last effort, and was greatly amused at the very powerful position that he assigned me in the despotism he asserts I have exercised in the face of the lieutenant general and others. I am sure I ought to be flattered that I am allowed to exercise such powers. It is a redeeming trait in the powers that be, and in my countrymen, that the base and persistent attacks on me have so signally failed, principally from the bad standing of my assailants. As to my being nominated for the regular army, I never dreamed of it, though I always believed the secret of some of the attacks on me was to remove a rival from some one who did want and expected to be nominated.

The Philadephia fair's dining saloon, in one of the temporary buildings erected in Logan Square (Library of Congress).

The Philadephia fair’s dining saloon, in one of the temporary buildings erected in Logan Square (Library of Congress).

I think it a pity Philadelphia was so late in getting up its fair. The subject will be so thoroughly exhausted that people will be tired with such matters. Still, there seems to be great spirit evinced by those who have it in charge.

I have now as a guest Lieutenant Colonel Strave, of the Russian Engineers, who seems a young man of intelligence. He came down with letters from Mr. Seward and Mr. Stanton.

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. 188-9. Available via Google Books.

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More Historicus (March 22, 1865)

In this print, titled "Grant and his Generals," George Meade does make an appearance off to Grant's right (Library of Congress).

George Meade does appear in this print, titled “Grant and his Generals,” off to Grant’s right, next to William Sherman (Library of Congress).

In this letter Meade mentions the newspaper article by “Historicus” and the replies by a V Corps staff officer and General James Barnes. You can read those items here.

Grant is emphatically an executive man, whose only place is in the field. One object in coming here is to avoid Washington and its entourage. I intend to give him heartiest co-operation, and so far as I am able do just the same when he is present that I would do were he absent.

[Winfield Scott] Hancock is in Washington and will be down to-morrow. He was before the committee to-day. [Andrew] Humphreys has returned, having been before the committee, where he gave testimony about Gettysburg. Have you seen the article in the Herald, signed “Staff Officer, Fifth Corps,”  and one in Monday’s (yesterday’s) paper signed by General Barnes? I think Historicus after awhile will be sick of his only true and authentic account of the battle.

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. 182. Available via Google Books.

No Ordinary Man (March 16, 1864)

Meade’s battles have shifted from Congress to the press, specifically an article, signed “Historicus,” that appeared in the New York Herald. You can read the Historicus article and its follow-ups here.

 

Daniel Sickles (Library of Congress).

Daniel Sickles (Library of Congress).

My Gettysburg fight is at present in statu quo, except that I have enclosed to the War Department the letter from the New York Herald, of the 12th, signed Historicus, saying I believed it was written, or dictated, by General Sickles, and that I desire he may be called on to state whether he authorized it, or endorses it; and should he reply in the affirmative, I then ask for a court of inquiry. If the department is not disposed to accede to this, I then ask permission to make public such official documents as I deem necessary to my defense.

George has gone to a ball to-night, given in the Fifth Corps. I thought I had better keep quiet at home, and not expose myself, as my cold, though better, still hangs about me. These balls were always against my judgment, and I see they are beginning to be animadverted on by those who are unfriendly to this army, and who are ready to catch at anything to find fault with.

As I told you, I was much pleased with Grant, and most agreeably disappointed in his evidence of mind and character. You may rest assured he is not an ordinary man.

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. 180-1. Available via Google Books.