What’s Wrong with this Picture?

The Antrim 1844 Inn in Taneytown, Maryland.

The Antrim 1844 Inn in Taneytown, Maryland.

My wife and I stayed last night in Taneytown, Maryland, at the beautiful Antrim 1844 inn. George Meade also stayed in Taneytown for one night, the night of June 30, 1863. He had been in command of the Army of the Potomac for two days at that point. The next day fighting erupted some 14 miles north, outside Gettysburg. We all know what happened there.

North of Taneytown on Route 94 there’s a historical marker. “Meade’s Headquarters,” it reads. “Major General George G. Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, maintained headquarters on the nearby Shunk Farm from June 30 until the night of July 1, 1863.”

Whitelaw Reid, a correspondent for the Cincinnati Gazette, passed through this “pleasant Maryland hamlet” on July 1 and noted the confused activity of an army on the move. “Army trains blocked up the streets,” he wrote; “a group of quartermasters and commissaries were bustling about the principal corner; across on the hills and along the road to the left, as far as the eye could reach, rose the glitter from the swaying points of bayonets as with steady tramp the columns of our Second and Third corps were marching northward.” He found Meade’s headquarters at the Shunk farm. “In a plain little wall tent, just like the rest, pen in hand, seated on a camp-stool and bending over a map, is the new ‘General Commanding’ for the Army of the Potomac.” Reid went on to describe Meade: “Tall, slender, not ungainly, but certainly not handsome or graceful, thin-faced, with grizzled beard and moustache, a broad and high but retreating forehead, from each corner of which the slightly-curling hair recedes, as if giving premonition of baldness–apparently between forty-five and fifty years of age–altogether a man who impresses you rather as a thoughtful student than a dashing soldier–so General Meade looks in his tent.”

Not a book about George Gordon Meade, the victor of Gettysburg.

Not a book about George Gordon Meade, the victor of Gettysburg.

The Antrim Inn says that it’s rumored that Meade established his headquarters there, but that’s not the case. It’s certainly possible that he stopped at the house as he entered town. It would have looked much as it does today, a dignified brick building with white wood trim. Inside, the rooms have soaring ceilings and antique furnishings. It’s really quite an elegant place. My wife and I decided we had to stay in the Meade Room. It’s on the second floor, its tall windows looking out over the edge of Taneytown. It’s a beautiful room but there’s nothing about Meade in it. There is, however, a book about—wait for it—Robert E. Lee. And in the gift shop/reception room, there are twin portraits of Lee and Ulysses S. Grant.

I tell you, poor Meade gets no respect.

Our dinner with Meade.

Our dinner with Meade.

However, we did find Meade in the restaurant, a cool, brick-lined space on the Inn’s lower level. He shared the expansive dining area with a number of his fellow generals from both sides. Grant was here, too. So were Lee, Jeb Stuart, Joshua Chamberlain, James Longstreet, and Lewis Armistead. We dined beneath Meade’s portrait, satisfied to see that the Old Goggle-eyed Snapping Turtle received some recognition in Taneytown.

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The Battle Begins (July 1, 1863)

Whitelaw Reid, a correspondent for the Cincinnati Gazette, passed through Taneytown, Maryland, on July 1 and noted the confused activity of an army on the move. “Army trains blocked up the streets,” he wrote; “a group of quartermasters and commissaries were bustling about the principal corner; across on the hills and along the road to the left, as far as the eye could reach, rose the glitter from the swaying points of bayonets as with steady tramp the columns of our Second and Third corps were marching northward.” He found Meade’s headquarters at the Shunk farm. “In a plain little wall tent, just like the rest, pen in hand, seated on a camp-stool and bending over a map, is the new ‘General Commanding’ for the Army of the Potomac.” Reid went on to describe Meade: “Tall, slender, not ungainly, but certainly not handsome or graceful, thin-faced, with grizzled beard and moustache, a broad and high but retreating forehead, from each corner of which the slightly-curling hair recedes, as if giving premonition of baldness–apparently between forty-five and fifty years of age–altogether a man who impresses you rather as a thoughtful student than a dashing soldier–so General Meade looks in his tent.”
It was while at Taneytown on July 1 that Meade issued what became known as his Pipe Creek Circular. The pages of the Official Records with that order are below.
Pipe Creek1
Pipe Creek2

To Taneytown (June 30, 1863)

On June 30, 1863, Meade moved north from Middleburg, Maryland, to Taneytown, where he established his headquarters at the Shunk farm. Officers of the 11th Pennsylvania Reserves, who had served in Meade’s brigade, division and corps, arrived there to congratulate him on his new position. “We found him in close conference with Generals Reynolds, Hancock, Sedgwick and others,” recalled Samuel Jackson. “He seemed delighted in welcoming us back to the army. Thanked us for our congratulations, but said that he did not know whether he was a subject of congratulation or commiseration. He appeared anxious and showed that he fully realized the responsibility of his position. He said however that he had all confidence in the bravery of the officers and men of the army and felt assured that we would achieve a glorious victory in the coming conflict.”

From Taneytown Meade sent out orders, via his chief of staff Daniel Butterfield or his assistant adjutant general Seth Williams, to his corps commanders. One order went to John Reynolds, giving him command of the army’s left wing, comprising the I, III and XI Corps. Another circular read:

John Fulton Reynolds

John Fulton Reynolds

The Commanding General has received information that the enemy are advancing, probably in strong force, on Gettysburg. It is the intention to hold this army pretty nearly in the position it now occupies, until the plans of the enemy shall have been more fully developed.

Three corps, 1st, 3d and llth, are under the command of Major General Reynolds, in the vicinity of Emmettsburg, the 3d Corps being ordered up to that point. The 12th Corps is at Littlestown. General Gregg’s division of cavalry is believed to be now engaged with the cavalry of the enemy, near Hanover Junction.

Corps commanders will hold their commands in readiness at a moment’s notice, and upon receiving orders, to march against the enemy. Their trains (ammunition trains excepted) must be parked in the rear of the place of concentration. Ammunition wagons and ambulances will alone be permitted to accompany the troops. The men must be provided with three-days’ rations in haversacks, and with sixty rounds of ammunition in the boxes and upon the person.

Corps commanders will avail themselves of all the time at their disposal to familiarize themselves with the roads communicating with the different corps.

Another circular, requesting that the corps commanders communicate to their troops how important the upcoming battle would be, ended with this chilling note: “Corps and other commanders are authorized to order the instant death of any soldiers who fails in his duty at this hour.”

Sometime during the day Meade wrote home. He said:

All is going on well. I think I have relieved Harrisburg and Philadelphia, and that Lee has now come to the conclusion that he must attend to other matters. I continue well, but much oppressed with a sense of responsibility and the magnitude of the great interests entrusted to me. Of course, in time I will become accustomed to this. Love, blessings and kisses to all. Pray for me and beseech our heavenly Father to permit me to be an instrument to save my country and advance a just cause.

It was June 30, 1863.

Meade’s letter 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. 15-18. Available via Google Books.