2015 Meade Symposium

This is one of the images I used in my talk. Garry Adleman of the Center for Civil War Photography tipped me off about it. This is a detail from a photograph of the reviewing stand at the Grand Review of the Armies. It was probably taken on May 23, 1865, the day the Army of the Potomac marched. In it you can see Ulysses Grant, the blurred figure of Edwin Stanton, President Andrew Johnson, Wesley Merritt (commanding the cavalry corps in Philip Sheridan's absence), George Meade, Sumner Wells, Postmaster General William Dennison, William T. Sherman, and Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs. Quite extraordinary. As far as I know, this is the only photo in which Grant and Meade appear together. Click to enlarge (Library of Congress).

This is one of the images I used in my talk. Garry Adleman of the Center for Civil War Photography tipped me off about it. This is a detail from a photograph of the reviewing stand at the Grand Review of the armies in Washington. It was probably taken on May 23, 1865, the day the Army of the Potomac marched. In it you can see Ulysses Grant, the blurred figure of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, President Andrew Johnson, Wesley Merritt (commanding the cavalry corps in Philip Sheridan’s absence), George Meade, Secretary of the Navy Sumner Wells, Postmaster General William Dennison, William T. Sherman, and Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs. Quite extraordinary. As far as I know, this is the only photo in which Grant and Meade appear together. Click to enlarge (Library of Congress).

The man of the hour.

The man of the hour.

It’s safe to say that the 2015 Meade Symposium was a great success. There must have been at least 60 people present, despite severe cold and strong winds. The weather had been so bad, in fact, that one of the speakers, Ralph Peters, couldn’t make the trip to Philadelphia from his home in Virginia. Held in the beautiful conservatory building at West Laurel Hill Cemetery on Sunday, February 15, the symposium featured four speakers (myself included) who provided a cradle-to-grave summary of George Gordon Meade’s life. Dr. John Selby of Roanoke College spoke about Meade’s life up until the Civil War; Jerry McCormick picked up the story through the Battle of Chancellorsville; and Dr. Andy Waskie, the founder and president of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia, stood in for Col. Peters and covered the rest of the Civil War. I wrapped things up by talking about the last seven years of Meade’s life, which included incidents of murder, torture, armies of Irishmen, and the difficulties of Reconstruction.

Of course, I had to get a Meade bicentennial tee shirt!

Of course, I had to get a Meade bicentennial tee shirt!

If that weren’t enough, Jim Schmick of Civil War and More was there with a large selection of Civil War books for sale, and the Kearney Kommissary was on hand to provide a delicious lunch (plus wine and beer).

The conservatory provided an extremely picturesque setting for the day’s events, with large windows looking out over the cold and windswept cemetery. Just 200 yards away was the grave of Meade’s West Point classmate Herman Haupt, the Union’s railroad mastermind (and one of Meade’s critics). I wish I had the time to find his grave, as well as those of other notables buried there. One of those eternal residents is Francis Adams Donaldson, who journal of his experiences in the 118th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry provided the material for the book Inside the Army of the Potomac. I had used that book when I researched Searching for George Gordon Meade. It’s fascinating. Donaldson hated his commanding officer, so he contrived to get kicked out of the army, with the plan of visiting Abraham Lincoln in Washington and having the president give him an honorable discharge. It sounded like a far-fetched plan, but that is exactly what Donaldson did.

And we also bought a couple of Meade bicentennial champagne glasses. They will be perfect for the birthday celebration on December 31.

And we also bought a couple of Meade bicentennial champagne glasses. They will be perfect for the birthday celebration on December 31.

Other celebrity residents include musicians Grover Washington, Jr., and Teddy Pendergrass. West Laurel Hill is a big, sprawling cemetery, with dozens of elaborate mausoleums, and I hope to go back on a warmer, greener day and explore.

As the last speaker of the day, I am about to kill off George Gordon Meade.

As the last speaker of the day, I am about to kill off George Gordon Meade. The general watches me with trepidation.

As I said, this was a great event. It’s truly gratifying to see so many people with this kind of interest in history. And it wasn’t all seriousness, either. There were plenty of laughs and a sense of camaraderie. History should always be so much fun!

This is George Meade’s bicentennial year and I have a lot of talks scheduled. Next up are appearances before the round tables in Milwaukee and Chicago, and then talks at Pamplin Historical Park outside Petersburg, Virginia, and Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Later in the year I’m scheduled to speak in Richmond, at a Meade bicentennial event in Gettysburg, and at the Civil War Round Table at Philadelphia’s Union League in December. The year will end at the Meade 200th birthday commemoration at Laurel Hill Cemetery on December 31. Check out the event calendar for details.

paperback scanThe paperback edition of Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg is now available! You can purchase it through Stackpole Books, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

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An Action-Packed Bicentennial Year!

The cover of the paperback edition.

The cover of the paperback edition.

With George Meade’s 199th birthday ceremony rapidly receding in the rear view, it’s time to look forward at the next big events in the Meade universe. There are several coming right up. The first will take place way across the Atlantic Ocean on January 30, when the city of Cadiz, Spain will unveil a plaque on the house where the future general was born on December 31, 1815. The event, sponsored by the Literary, Artistic and Scientific Athenaeum of Cadiz, will take place at noon at the Plaza de España n.4. The American ambassador to Spain, the mayor of Cadiz, and the U.S. Naval commander at Rota will attend. I wish I had the budget to get there myself! I will try to obtain some photos from the ceremony and post them here.

The next big event—from my standpoint, anyway—will be the paperback publication of Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg. That will be available on February 1, for the very affordable price of $19.95. If you don’t already have the book, here’s your chance to correct the oversight.

February is also the month for the annual Meade Symposium, sponsored by the General Meade Society of Philadelphia. The date this year will be Sunday, February 15, and the venue West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. Bad snowstorms last year forced the cancellation of the event, so keep your fingers crossed that the weather goods are feeling more beneficent in 2015. It should be a fun and fascinating day (I’ve posted the program below. Click on the image to enlarge.) Dr. Andy Waskie will talk about Meade’s early life, Jerry McCormick will discuss Meade’s military career through Fredericksburg, Ralph Peters will handle the rest of the Civil War, and I’ll talk about Meade’s post-war life. Jim Schmick of Civil War and More will be on hand with a fine selection of books, and the always dependable Kearney Kommissary will provide food. Make your reservation now!

The program for the 2015 Meade Symposium. Click to enlarge.

The program for the 2015 Meade Symposium. Click to enlarge.

2015 is, of course, Meade’s bicentennial year, and already my calendar is filling with Meade-centric events. I have talks scheduled for Chicago, Milwaukee, Petersburg, Chambersburg, Richmond, Gettysburg and Philadelphia. You can keep abreast of events right here.

And if you want a place to write things down, boy, do I have a calendar for you!