Nobody Hurt (November 17, 1864)

Meade's aide Frederick Rosenkrantz, in a detail from Alexander Gardner's photo "Studying the Art of War" (Library of Congress).

Meade’s aide Frederick Rosenkrantz, in a detail from Alexander Gardner’s photo “Studying the Art of War.” About Rosenkrantz, Gardner wrote, “A very reliable soldier, and one of the best Aids on the Staff, his genial disposition, unfailing amiability, and keen appreciation of humor, made him acceptable everywhere. He was probably as well known as any officer in the field.” (Library of Congress).

George Meade writers to his oldest son, who is slowly dying of tuberculosis back in Philadelphia. He covers some of the same topics he had written about to his wife previously. “Owen Meredith” was the pen name for Robert Bulwer-Lytton, an English author who also served as the Viceroy of India. He was the son of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the man for whom the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, for the best bad writing, is named. “Lucille” was one of the younger Bulwer-Lytton’s most popular poems.

Theodore Lyman also wrote home about the story of Meade aide Frederick Rosenkrantz and the British visitors.

Well, the election is over, and nobody hurt. In the army it passed off very quietly, Mr. Lincoln receiving two votes to McClellan’s one. This result was fully anticipated by me—indeed, McClellan’s vote was larger than I expected.

The election being over, it is now to be hoped the earnest attention and best energies of the Government and people will be devoted to raising and sending men enough so to swell our armies that our onward movement will be irresistible, and the Confederacy convinced that further resistance is useless. There are significant signs that our enemies are beginning to feel the exhaustion and effects of a three years’ war. Among these the most important is the proposition of Mr. Davis to arm forty thousand slaves, who are to receive their freedom as a boon for faithful services. They are to be employed, it is ingeniously said, as engineer troops, and to act as a reserve to be called on in an emergency. This is a plausible disguise, to sound the temper of the Southern people on the question of arming and freeing the slaves. Nothing but the conviction of the necessity of this measure could ever have justified its enunciation. It has produced the most violent discussions pro and con in the Southern journals, and bids fair to be as great a firebrand with them as it has been with us. My own judgment is it will be abandoned, for although the number as yet is fixed at forty thousand, as a test, to see if the negroes can be relied on and will fight, I believe that the experiment will prove that the arming the slaves is more dangerous to the Confederacy than to us. I have no doubt that many will be faithful to their masters, but the great body will, after being armed, desert to us or go back to their homes. Now, in view of the position the South has always taken on this subject the change of ground can only be attributed to desperation, and a conviction that the war in its present gigantic proportions cannot much longer be carried on by the whites at the South. Should this theory be correct, the end cannot be far distant, when we have such armies in the field, as we ought to and I hope soon will have.

I have recently picked up a story in verse by Owen Meredith, called “Lucille.” I don’t suppose you are well enough to read a great deal. The story is quite interesting, and told with much pathos, though I don’t think the poetry very superior.

We have recently had an influx of John Bulls in the form of officers and others. You would have been delighted to see the admirable display of whiskers, fine clothes, etc. An amusing incident occurred with Rosencrantz, who was showing a couple of them our lines. On finding him a foreigner, they were delighted and said, now you can tell us what the American officers really think of us. “Veil,” said Rosey, “they no like you, they say,’ven this war be over they vill take Canada.'” “God bless me, you don’t say so,” they exclaimed, and did not ask Rosey any more questions of this nature. Approaching a part of the lines, where it was dangerous from sharpshooters, Rosey said they had better not go, but they pooh-poohed him, and he started on. Pretty soon the balls began to fly pretty thick and close, when they changed their mind, expostulated, and finally begged Rosey to turn back, but he had his dander up and replied, “No, ve vill go on, ve vill go on,” and go on he did, and return, fortunately without any one being hit.

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. 242-3. Available via Google Books.