The Old Brute (July 7, 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).

Mrs. Meade sends a good report about Old Baldy, Meade’s horse. Meade sent Baldy back to Philadelphia back in April. “Mr. Ewell” is Gen. Richard Ewell (coincidentally, known to his men as “Old  Bald Head”). Jubal Early, who had marched north to attack Washington’s outer defenses, had belonged to Ewell’s corps.

I am glad to hear the good news about Baldy, as I am very much attached to the old brute.

Matters seem to be at a standstill for the present, and will continue so until the arrival of expected reinforcements. I see a tendency to despondency in some of the public journals. This arises from the folly of expecting one man to perform miracles, and then being depressed because unreasonable anticipations are not realized. Things have occurred very much as I expected. I had hoped for better success at the beginning, but after we failed to defeat Lee at the Wilderness, I took it for granted we should have to manoeuvre him into the fortifications of Richmond, and then lay siege to that place. I knew this, with the men we had, would be a formidable undertaking, requiring time and patience, and the final result depending very much upon the support we obtained from the Government and people in the way of reinforcements. I always knew the enemy would fight desperately, and would be skillfully handled. I still think, if the men are furnished promptly, that we shall eventually succeed in overcoming Lee’s army, and when that is done the Rebellion is over.

I presume you will all be excited again in Philadelphia at the appearance of the rebel army in Maryland and Pennsylvania. If it stirs the people up to turning out and volunteering, I shall thank Mr. Ewell very much, even if he does rob and steal some. The apathy of our people is our stumbling block. This move of Lee’s is an ingenious effort to get Grant to send troops from here, but I think he will be disappointed.

In the meantime, Theodore Lyman pays a visit to “that eccentric general,” Francis Barlow.

Francis C. Barlow (Library of Congress).

Francis C. Barlow (Library of Congress).

I paid a visit to Brigadier-General Barlow, who, as the day was hot, was lying in his tent, neatly attired in his shirt and drawers, and listening to his band, that was playing without. With a quaint hospitality he besought me to “take off my trousers and make myself at home”; which I did avail of no further than to sit down. He said his men were rested and he was ready for another assault! — which, if of real importance, he meant to lead himself; as he “wanted no more trifling.” His ideas of “trifling,” one may say, are peculiar. It would be ludicrous to hear a man talk so, who, as De Chanal says, “a la figure d’un gamin de Paris,” did I not know that he is one of the most daring men in the army. It would be hard to find a general officer to equal him and Joe Hayes—both my classmates and both Massachusetts men. Hayes now commands the Regulars. He could not have a higher compliment.

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. 210-11. 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, p. 186. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922. Available via Google Books.

Advertisements

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.

Return to Frederick (July 8, 1863)

Old Baldy, in a photo taken after the war (Library of Congress).

Old Baldy, in a photo taken after the war (Library of Congress).

On July 7 Meade left Gettysburg and traveled all the way to Frederick, not far from the spot where Colonel Hardie had arrived to bring him trouble just nine days earlier. For Meade it seemed like a lifetime. He had been living in “a great state of mental anxiety,” he wrote his wife. “Indeed, I think I have lived as much in this time as in the last thirty years.” Since taking command he had not changed his clothes, had a full night’s sleep, eaten a regular meal, or even had much chance to wash his face and hands.

Meade found the streets of Frederick crowded with people eager to get a glimpse of him. The citizens treated him “like a lion,” but he did not allow it to go to his head. After the botched opportunities of Antietam, George McClellan had written to his wife that he had fought a “masterpiece of war.” Meade was cut from a different cloth.

Baldy, of course, is Meade’s horse. He not only survived his wounds, he went on to outlive his master by 10 years.

I arrived here yesterday; the army is assembling at Middletown. I think we shall have another battle before Lee can cross the river, though from all accounts he is making great efforts to do so. For my part, as I have to follow and fight him, I would rather do it at once and in Maryland than to follow into Virginia. I received last evening your letters of the 3d and 5th inst., and am truly rejoiced that you are treated with such distinction on account of my humble services. I see also that the papers are making a great deal too much fuss about me. I claim no extraordinary merit for this last battle, and would prefer waiting a little while to see what my career is to be before making any pretensions. I did and shall continue to do my duty to the best of my abilities, but knowing as I do that battles are often decided by accidents, and that no man of sense will say in advance what their result will be, I wish to be careful in not bragging before the right time. George is very well, though both of us are a good deal fatigued with our recent operations. From the time I took command till to-day, now over ten days, I have not changed my clothes, have not had a regular night’s rest, and many nights not a wink of sleep, and for several days did not even wash my face and hands, no regular food, and all the time in a great state of mental anxiety. Indeed, I think I have lived as much in this time as in the last thirty years. Old Baldy is still living and apparently doing well; the ball passed within half an inch of my thigh, passed through the saddle and entered Baldy’s stomach. 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.

The people in this place have made a great fuss with me. A few moments after my arrival I was visited by a deputation of ladies, and showers of wreaths and bouquets presented to me, in most complimentary terms. The street has been crowded with people, staring at me, and, much to my astonishment, I find myself a lion. I cannot say I appreciate all this honor, because I feel certain it is undeserved, and would like people to wait a little while. I send you a document1 received yesterday afternoon. It will give you pleasure I know. Preserve it, because the terms in which the General in Chief speaks of the battle are stronger than any I have deemed it proper to use myself. I never claimed a victory, though I stated that Lee was defeated in his efforts to destroy my army. I am going to move as soon as I can get the army supplied with subsistence and ammunition.

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. 132-3. Available via Google Books.