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George Gordon Meade, 1815-1872

George Gordon Meade, 1815-1872


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George Gordon Meade, 1815-1872

The victor of Gettysburg, Meade had not originally intended to peruse an army career. Financial problems forced him to study at West Point (1831-5) (rather than a more expensive college), from where he graduated 19th of 56. After a year in Florida, he resigned from the army on 26 October 1836.

Over the next six years he worked as a surveyor and engineer, before rejoining in 1842, again for financial reasons. On his return to the army, he was appointed a second lieutenant of Topographical Engineers. During the Mexican War he served first with Taylor, taking part in the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, and then under Scott at the siege of Vera Cruz. He did not accompany the army to Mexico City, instead being sent back to Philadelphia. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Meade remained in the army between the Mexican War and the outbreak of the Civil War – there was always interesting work for an engineer in the army. In those years he was involved in lighthouse building, saw active service in Florida, and from 1857 was in charge of the Northern Lake Surveys.

At the outbreak of the civil war, he was promoted to brigadier-general of volunteers (although his regular rank was only captain), and given command of a brigade of Pennsylvania troops. This was the first time in his entire military career that he had command of a combat unit, and he performed well in the new role. His brigade served in the defence of Washington, in the Shenandoah Valley and on the Peninsula campaign under McClellan. He was badly wounded at the battle of Glendale (30 June 1862), but was determined to return to action, getting back just in time for the defeat at Second Bull Run (29-30 August 1862).

Meade had now earned himself an impressive reputation. During the Antietam campaign he was twice given important temporary commands, of Reynolds’ division at South Mountain (14 September 1862), and of the entire I Corps after Hooker was wounded at Antietam (16-17 September). When Reynolds was promoted to command the I Corps, Meade was given command of his division, and promoted to major-general of volunteers.

After the battle of Fredericksburg he was promoted to command of the V Corps (25 December 1862). Between January 26 and 5 February 1863 he had command of the Center Grand Division (III and VI Corps) under Burnside, before returning to the V Corps when Hooker abolished the Grand Divisions. In that capacity he took part in the battle of Chancellorsville (2-5 May 1863), emerging from the defeat with his reputation intact.

He was about to be promoted once again. After Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee launched his invasion of Pennsylvania. Hooker set off in pursuit, while also conducting an argument with Washington. On 28 June Hooker resigned, and Meade was appointed to command the Army of the Potomac. His appointment could hardly have come at a worse time, in the middle of the biggest Confederate invasion of the north and after two major defeats.

The two armies came together at Gettysburg (1-3 July 1863), only three days after Meade’s promotion. Meade worked well with his subordinates. The Union army took up a strong position, and over three days held off Lee’s army of veterans. Gettysburg was the high-point of Meade’s career. After the battle he missed a chance to catch Lee before he could cross back into Virginia. His Rapidan campaign in the autumn of 1863 was entirely inconclusive, although at least he avoided any disasters.

After Gettysburg Meade was finally promoted to brigadier-general in the regular army. He retained command of the Army of the Potomac until the end of the war. However, U.S. Grant, who had been promoted to Lieutenant-General, and placed in command of all Union forces on 12 March 1864, decided to accompany the Army of the Potomac on the overland campaign against Richmond. This placed Meade in the awkward position of having his superior officer peering over his shoulder at all times. Grant maintained the formalities of command, normally issuing his orders for the Army of the Potomac to Meade. However, with Grant so close at hand, those orders were rather more detailed than normal – Meade merely had to carry them out. Despite some inevitable tension, this arrangement normally worked well, although it may have been responsible for a missed change to capture Petersburg (15-18 June 1864), when orders to Hancock’s corps did not arrive in time.

Meade’s background as a topographical engineer may have played a major role in his success at Gettysburg. U.S. Grant rated him highly as an officer who could see any advantages to be gained from the terrain in front of him, sometimes even to the extent where he would attempt to take advantage of the terrain even if that didn’t entirely fit with the overall intentions of the army. However, at Gettysburg, where the main intention was to stand on the defensive, that ability to judge terrain was a great strength. His later career in command suggests that he was not quite so able when on the attack, but for the last year of the war he was serving under U.S. Grant, where his ability to carry out other people’s plans with enthusiasm was invaluable.

After the war he serviced in command of the Military District of the Atlantic, then of the East, before being appointed to command of the third military district of the South (Georgia, Alabama and Florida) from 2 January 1868 to 12 March 1869. There he was in charge of the reconstruction effort, performing a decent job in very difficult circumstances. His final appointment was a return to the Department of the Atlantic. He was still serving in that role at the time of his death, on 6 November 1872. His determined defence at Gettysburg was crucial for the Union, ending as it did Robert E. Lee’s best and last chance of winning a major victory on northern soil.


George Gordon Meade, 1815-1872 - History

George Gordon Meade (1815-1872)

George Gordon Meade (December 31, 1815 - November 6, 1872) was an American military officer during the American Civil War. He is best known for defeating the Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by Robert E. Lee, at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Meade was born to American parents in Cádiz, Spain. At the time, his father had run into financial and legal difficulties due in part to the Napoleonic Wars. Meade graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point) in 1835. For a year, he served with the 3rd U.S. Artillery in Florida, fighting against the Seminole Native Americans, before resigning. He was a civil engineer for the Alabama, Georgia, and Florida Railroad and for the Department of War. Finding steady civilian employment was difficult, so he reentered the army in 1842 as a Second Lieutenant in the corps of topographical engineers.

Meade served in the Mexican War, assigned to the staffs of Generals Zachary Taylor, William J. Worth, and Robert Patterson, and was brevetted to first lieutenant for gallant conduct at the Battle of Monterrey. His career as a military engineer, chiefly involved in lighthouse construction in Florida and New Jersey (Meade designed Barnegat Lighthouse on Long Beach Island, Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City, and Cape May Lighthouse in Cape May) , was uneventful until the 1861 eruption of the Civil War.

Meade's Civil War assignments included: captain, Topographical Engineers (since May 19, 1856) brigadier general, USV (August 31, 1861) commanding 2nd Brigade, McCall's Division, Army of the Potomac (October 3, 1861 - March 13, 1862) commanding 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 1st Corps, Army of the Potomac (March 13 - April 4, 1862) commanding 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Department of the Rappahannock (April 4 - June 12, 1862) commanding 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 5th Corps, Army of the Potomac June 18-30, 1862) major, Topographical Engineers June 18, 1862) commanding lst Brigade, 3rd Division, 3rd Corps, Army of Virginia (August 26 - September 12, 1862) commanding 3rd Division, lst Corps, Army of the Potomac (September 12-17 and September 29-December 25, 1862) commanding the corps (September 17-29, 1862) major general, USV (November 29, 1862) commanding 5th Corps, Army of the Potomac (December 25, 1862 - January 26, 1863 and February 5-16 and February 28-june 28, 1863) commanding Center Grand Division, Army of the Potomac January 1863) commanding Army of the Potomac June 28, 1863 - December 30, 1864 and January 11 - June 27, 1865) brigadier general, USA July 3, 1863) and major general, USA (August 18, 186

Meade was appointed a Brigadier General of Volunteers a few months after the start of the Civil War. He was assigned command of a brigade of Pennsylvania Reserves, which he led competently. During the Seven Days Battles, Meade was severely wounded at the Battle of Glendale. He recovered in time for the Second Battle of Bull Run, after which he received a divisional command. Meade distinguished himself during the Battle of South Mountain. In the Battle of Antietam, he replaced the wounded Major General Joseph Hooker in command of I Corps, performing well.

During the Battle of Fredericksburg, Meade's division made the only breakthrough of the Confederate lines, spearheading through a gap in General "Stonewall" Jackson's lines. For this action, Meade was promoted to Major General of Volunteers. However, his attack was not reinforced, resulting in the loss of much of his division. After the battle, he received command of V Corps, and during the short tenure of the system of Grand Divisions after Fredericksburg, Meade commanded the Center Grand Division. General Hooker, like one of Meade's previous superiors, Major General George B. McClellan, was too timid in his force deployment, leaving Meade's effective division in reserve for most of the Battle of Chancellorsville, contributing to the Union defeat.

After Hooker resigned from command of the Army of the Potomac, Meade replaced him on June 28, 1863, three days before the Battle of Gettysburg, where he won the battle that is considered a turning point of the war. Meade skillfully deployed his forces in a defensive battle, reacting swiftly to fierce assaults on his line's left, right, and center. He made excellent use of capable subordinates, such as John F. Reynolds and Winfield S. Hancock, to whom he delegated great responsibilities. (Unfortunately for Meade's reputation, he did not skillfully manage the political manipulators he inherited from Hooker. Generals Daniel Sickles, III Corps commander, and Daniel Butterfield, Meade's chief of staff, caused him difficulty after the war, questioning his command decisions and courage.)

Following his severe losses in Pickett's Charge, General Robert E. Lee's army retreated back into Virginia. Meade was criticized by President Abraham Lincoln and others for not aggressively pursuing the Confederates during their retreat. At one point, the Army of Northern Virginia was extremely vulnerable with their backs to the almost impassable Potomac River, but they were able to erect strong defensive positions before Meade could organize an effective attack. Lincoln believed that this wasted an opportunity to end the war. Nonetheless, Meade received the Thanks of Congress and a belated promotion to Brigadier General of Regulars (which was separate from his promotions in the Volunteer army). During both the Bristoe Campaign and the Mine Run Campaign, Meade was outmaneuvered by Lee and withdrew after fighting minor, inconclusive battles, due to his reluctance to attack entrenched positions.

When Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant was appointed commander of all Union armies in 1864, Meade and the Army of the Potomac became subordinate to him. Grant made his headquarters with Meade for the remainder of the war. Following an incident in June, 1864, in which Meade disciplined a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper for an unfavorable article, all of the press assigned to his army agreed to mention Meade only in conjunction with setbacks. Most certainly, Meade knew nothing of this arrangement, and the reporters apparently giving all of the credit to Grant angered Meade. He fought effectively during the Overland Campaign (including the Battle of the Wilderness), and the Battle of Petersburg, after which Grant requested that he be promoted to Major General of the Regular Army. Although he fought during the Appomattox Campaign, Meade felt slighted that Grant and cavalry commander Major General Philip Sheridan received most of the credit. He commanded the Army of the Potomac until the Union victory in 1865.

Meade's decisions in command of the Army of the Potomac have been the focus of controversy. He has been accused of not being aggressive enough in pursuit of Confederate forces, and being reluctant to attack on occasion. (It should be noted that Meade never badly lost a battle he initiated himself. Most of the bloody repulses his army suffered in the Overland Campaign were ordered by Grant.) Gen. Robert E. Lee some years after the war commented, "Meade, in my judgment, had the greatest ability. I feared him more than any man I ever met upon the field of battle." Meade would later be criticized for his failure to follow up his victory at Gettysburg with a knockout blow to Lee's beleaguered army. However, President Lincoln gave Meade his just due for his success at Gettysburg, when he wrote in a letter to O. O. Howard on July 21, 1863. "A few days having passed, I am profoundly grateful for what was done, without criticism for what was not done"

Meade's short temper earned him notoriety, and while he was respected by most of his peers, he was not well-loved by his army. Some referred to him as "a damned old goggle-eyed snapping turtle". But most damaging was Daniel Sickles's vicious postwar campaign against Meade's character. Sickles had developed a personal vendetta against Meade due to his allegiance to Joseph Hooker, whom Meade replaced, and because of violent disagreements at Gettysburg. (Sickles's grossly insubordinate actions as the commander of the III Corps almost lost the battle, and perhaps the war, for the Union.) Meade's reputation among the public and nineteenth century historians suffered as a result. Recent historical works have portrayed him in a better-deserved positive light. They have acknowledged that Meade displayed and acted upon an understanding of the necessary changes in tactics brought about by improvements in weapons technology. His decisions to entrench when practicable and not launch frontal assaults on entrenched positions should have been more carefully studied they were lessons that could have been used to great effect on the Western Front during World War I.

A London reporter recorded this description of Meade after meeting him in the summer of 1863: "He is a very remarkable looking man- tall, spare, of a commanding figure and presence, his manner pleasant and easy but having much dignity. His head is partially bald and is small and compact, but the forehead is high. He has the late Duke of Wellington class of nose, and his eyes, which have a serious and almost sad expression, are rather sunken, or appear so from the prominence of the curved nasal development. He has a decidedly patrician and distinguished appearance."

Colonel Haskell described him as "A tall, spare man, with full beard, which, with his hair, originally brown, is quite thickly sprinkled with gray, has a Romanish face, a very large nose, and a white large forehead, prominent and wide over the eyes, which are full and large and quick in their movements, . . ."

General Francis A. Walker described Meade at the Grand Review in Washington on May 23, 1865: "Tall and gaunt, scholarly yet knightly in aspect, General Meade on this proudest day of his life bears himself like a true captain who has struggled and has conquered, only victory remains and a fame forever secure."

General A. S. Webb called him "The soul of honor, the soldier, scholar and gentleman"

One of Meade's staff officers, Colonel James C. Biddle stated in an address in May of 1888, "He will be remembered with admiration not only for his military achievement . . . but also for the purity of his character, for his unselfishness, for his freedom from jealousies and envies so common among distinguished soldiers, and for his patient and uncomplaining endurance of injustice."


Photo, Print, Drawing Major General Geo. G. Meade

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Featured Article


George Meade with Staff in June 1865. Library of Congress.

Where Is Meade?
How Union General George G. Meade became the Rodney Dangerfield of the Civil War

The near-cloudless July skies promise a hot, sunny day for the people gathered in a large field near Gettysburg. The loud crump of a mortar sounds from the nearby pasture. Men&mdashand a few women&mdashin Union blue and Confederate gray make their way through the crowds moving among the tents.

I find some Yankees beneath a tent that hail from the Federal General Officer Corps. There&rsquos an odd mix present today, including Clara Barton and photographer Mathew Brady. General William Tecumseh Sherman is here too, even though he was actually in far-off Vicksburg, Miss., in July 1863. General John Buford, the tough-as-nails cavalry commander who held off the Confederates at Gettysburg on the morning of the first day, is in evidence, along with General John Reynolds, who arrived with his I Corps just in time to support Buford&mdashand receive a fatal bullet in the head.

I notice one major absence among the Union generals. Where is Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, commander of the Union army at Gettysburg? Certainly he should be here too?

In one way his absence makes sense, since it seems as though Meade has largely disappeared from history books. Sure, Civil War buffs know about him. Yet Meade has somehow missed being enshrined in the pantheon of greats in­hab­ited by Lee, Stonewall Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart, Grant and Sherman. Maybe Phil Sheridan has a seat in the hall, too, although that would surely make Meade grind his teeth. But the general who won what is perhaps the Civil War&rsquos most important battle has been shunted aside.

Meade is the Rodney Dangerfield of Civil War generals. He gets no respect. Grant became president and occupies the $50 bill. Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, James Garfield and William McKinley also reached the White House. As for Meade, after Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter chiding him for not immediately counterattacking Lee&rsquos army. Adding insult to injury, Meade later had to testify about Gettysburg before a congressional committee, mainly because the man who had almost cost him the battle&mdashMaj. Gen. Daniel Sickles&mdashwas spreading rumors that Meade had intended to retreat from the battlefield. Even before the war ended Meade sensed his reputation was in eclipse. &ldquoI suppose after awhile it will be discovered I was not at Gettysburg at all,&rdquo he griped in a letter to his wife.

Then too, in the last year or so of the war Meade had Grant, by then general-in-chief of Union forces, traveling with his army and looking over his shoulder. Grant got credit for any victories. That situation was exacerbated by a conspiracy among newspaper reporters, angry that the hot-tempered Meade had kicked a reporter out of his camp. As a result they agreed to omit Meade from their dispatches.

Meade seemed an unlikely general. Balding and beaky, with big pouches under his eyes that gave him an air of melancholy, he was famously described by one soldier as &ldquoa damned old goggle-eyed snapping turtle.&rdquo As Frank Haskell, who fought with Meade&rsquos army at Gettysburg and died with it at Cold Harbor, wrote, &ldquoMeade is a tall spare man, with full beard, which with his hair, originally brown, is quite thickly sprinkled with gray&mdashhas a Romanish face, very large nose, and a white, large forehead, prominent and wide over the eyes, which are full and large, and quick in their movements, and he wears spectacles&hellip.His habitual personal appearance is quite careless, and it would be rather difficult to make him look well dressed.&rdquo

His sloppy appearance underscored the fact that Meade was no prima donna. He had not sought command of the Army of the Potomac, nor did he engage in the kind of backstabbing often seen among generals. He was also a fighter, badly wounded in one battle and with plenty of shot horses and hats to testify to his courage. He took delight in a conversation overheard by an aide during a trip to Washington. &ldquoWhat major general is that?&rdquo a man had asked his companion. &ldquoMeade,&rdquo said the other. &ldquoI never saw him before.&rdquo The reply was, &ldquoNo, that is very likely, for he is one of our fighting generals, is always on the field, and does not spend his time in Washington hotels.&rdquo


Gen. George Meade at his headquarters, June 1865. Library of Congress.

Hooker had grand plans to finally defeat Lee, but when he put them to work at Chancellorsville it turned into yet another Union defeat. Meade argued with Hooker about going on the offensive, but Hooker opted to retreat. Desperate for supplies and eager for a victory on Northern soil, Lee then headed north to Pennsylvania. Hooker began to shadow him, but on June 28 a messenger arrived from Washington to relieve him of command and give the army to Meade.

It says something about the state of affairs that Meade&rsquos first thought when the messenger entered his tent was that he was about to be placed under arrest. The Army of the Potomac had always been buffeted by political currents. Following his defeat at the Battle of Ball&rsquos Bluff back in October 1861, Brig. Gen. Charles Stone spent six months in prison without learning what the charges were against him. But Meade abruptly found himself commanding the army that Lee had manhandled pretty effectively in the past. As he said with a bit of rueful humor to the officer who brought him his orders, &ldquoWell, I&rsquove been tried and condemned without a hearing and I suppose I shall have to go to execution.&rdquo

Although he was in command for only three days before the Armies of the Potomac and Northern Virginia col­lided in Pennsylvania, Meade emerged from Gettysburg with a clear victory. That wasn&rsquot enough to win President Lincoln&rsquos admiration. Meade&rsquos exhausted army pursued the defeated Confederates to Williamsport, Md., where the surging Potomac River forced Lee to halt. By the time Meade was ready to attack, Lee had slipped across the river. Some people&mdashMeade&rsquos own generals included&mdashthought his army would have been slaughtered had it tried to take on Lee&rsquos strong defenses, much as Lee had been defeated when he made his frontal attack at Gettysburg. Lincoln believed otherwise. &ldquoYour golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it,&rdquo the president wrote in a letter to the general that he would file rather than sending. Meade had already angrily offered his resignation when General-in-Chief Henry Halleck sent him a similar message Lincoln couldn&rsquot afford to replace the man who had beaten Lee at Gettysburg. Lincoln never did replace Meade, who remained in command of the Army of the Potomac until it was dissolved after the war.

His health broken by war wounds, Meade succumbed to pneumonia in 1872 at age 61. By that time his reputation had further eroded. He didn&rsquot get a statue in Washington, D.C., until 1927. It was one of the last Civil War memorials erected in the nation&rsquos capital, arriving after years of bureau­cratic wrangling.

Another reason for Meade&rsquos lack of stature lay in his personality. He was not flamboyant. Content to do his duty, he believed his virtue would one day be recognized&mdashand he was wrong about that. Toward the end of the war Meade watched angrily as one-time subordinate Philip H. Sheridan grasped for glory and found it, often to the detriment of the Army of the Potomac. Although Grant and Meade got along well enough in the course of the war, during his presidency Grant passed Meade over for advancement, preferring Sherman and Sheridan.

Meade also had a ferocious temper, &ldquowhich under irritating circumstances became almost ungovernable,&rdquo as one officer noted. &ldquoHe is a slasher, is the General, and cuts up people without much mercy,&rdquo wrote the general&rsquos aide-de-camp Theodore Lyman. &ldquoHis family is celebrated for fierceness of temper and a sardonic sort of way that makes them uncomfortable people but the General is the best of them, and exhausts his temper in saying sharp things.&rdquo The temper sometimes created problems and enemies, as it did with the newspapermen.

I wonder if there&rsquos also another reason for Meade&rsquos relative eclipse, one that lies in the way we remember the war. A visit to Gettysburg gives us a clue to what&rsquos going on here. There is a statue to Meade standing on Cemetery Ridge, the middle of the Union lines here. There is another statue directly across the broad field, over which the Confederate forces massed for Pickett&rsquos Charge. This is the State of Virginia memorial, which towers 41 feet above the battlefield. Crowning it is an equestrian statue of Lee. Compare that memorial to the more modest one of Meade and you might think that Lee won the battle.

Both during and after the war, Lee has been lionized. He has come to symbolize a glorious Lost Cause, a world of &ldquocavaliers and cotton fields,&rdquo as Gone With the Wind put it. In this view of the war, the noble South fought a valiant but doomed battle against the institutionalized, bureaucratic forces of the North. Southern generals like Lee and Jackson and Stuart tend to be remembered as glamorous warriors. Northern leaders come across more like CEOs of major corporations, faceless and colorless. Who wants to cheer for those guys? No, it seems much cooler to cheer for the underdog Rebels.

As I wander through the sutlers&rsquo tents at the Gettysburg reenactment I find plenty of books and items related to Lee and Stonewall Jackson&mdashbooks, postcards, posters, paintings&mdashbut at first I see nothing related to Meade. Finally I see a Meade postcard, and later purchase a coffee mug and bookmark.

The next morning when the Union generals gather for a presentation, Winfield Scott Hancock steps forward. &ldquoGeneral Meade was not able to be here this morning,&rdquo he announces. Meade arrives later that day, and I finally discover him sitting with some other officers. It&rsquos not really Meade, of course. It&rsquos a fellow by the name of Bob Creed, who seems more pleasant-natured than the real Meade must have been. He talks to me about the tight-knit military fraternity of the war years, which so often found friends, family and acquaintances fighting on opposite sides. &ldquoWhile in Mexico I got to know an artillerist by the name of Thomas Jackson,&rdquo this faux-Meade says. &ldquoAnd also John Pope, whom General Buford&rdquo&mdashhe acknowledges the cavalry commander with a nod&mdash&ldquodidn&rsquot much care for.&rdquo

&ldquoNot after what he did,&rdquo the faux-Buford growls.&rdquo Pope, of course, was the general responsible for the Union rout at the Battle of Second Manassas.

As I walk away I&rsquom still wondering why admiring crowds flock around Lee but leave Meade alone. A &ldquodamned old goggle-eyed snapping turtle&rdquo could win the Battle of Gettysburg, but he lost the war of reputation.

Tom Huntington is the author of Pennsylvania Civil War Trails: The Guide to Battle Sites, Monuments, Museums and Towns.


George Gordon Meade (1815-1872)

The victor of Gettysburg, George G. Meade does not rank with the great captains of the Civil War in part because of his eclipse in the last year of the conflict by the presence of Grant with his army, and a journalistic conspiracy of silence. Born of American parents in Cadiz, Spain, December 31, 1815-where his father had run into financial and legal difficulties as a result of the Napoleonic Wars-he was appointed to West Point from Pennsylvania. Graduating in 1835, he served a year in the artillery before resigning to become a civil engineer. After some difficulty in finding employment he reentered the army in 1842 and earned a brevet in Mexico.

His Civil War assignments included: captain, Topographical Engineers (since May 19, 1856) brigadier general, USV (August 31, 1861) commanding 2nd Brigade, McCall's Division, Army of the Potomac (October 3, 1861 - March 13, 1862) commanding 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 1st Corps, Army of the Potomac (March 13 - April 4, 1862) commanding 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Department of the Rappahannock (April 4 - June 12, 1862) commanding 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 5th Corps, Army of the Potomac June 18-30, 1862) major, Topographical Engineers June 18, 1862) commanding lst Brigade, 3rd Division, 3rd Corps, Army of Virginia (August 26 - September 12, 1862) commanding 3rd Division, lst Corps, Army of the Potomac (September 12-17 and September 29-December 25, 1862) commanding the corps (September 17-29, 1862) major general, USV (November 29, 1862) commanding 5th Corps, Army of the Potomac (December 25, 1862 - January 26, 1863 and February 5-16 and February 28-june 28, 1863) commanding Center Grand Division, Army of the Potomac January 1863) commanding Army of the Potomac June 28, 1863 - December 30, 1864 and January 11 - June 27, 1865) brigadier general, USA July 3, 1863) and major general, USA (August 18, 1864).

Serving on a survey of the Great Lakes at the outbreak of the Civil War, he received a volunteer brigadier's star in the first summer of the war and was assigned to the division of Pennsylvania Reserves. After training and service near Washington and in northern Virginia, the command joined the Army of the Potomac on the Peninsula. During the Seven Days he fought at Beaver Dam Creek and Gaines' Mill before falling wounded at Glendale. He led his brigade at 2nd Bull Run, following his recovery, and the division at South Mountain and Antietam. At the latter he succeeded the wounded Hooker in command of the lst Corps and received his second star before Fredericksburg. In that action his division broke through the Confederate right but was thrown back after his supports failed to arrive. Transferred to the direction of the 5th Corps, he briefly commanded the Center Grand Division after the Mud March until that cumbersome organization was disbanded. At Chancellorsville he led his corps well but was held back by Hooker's timidity.

With the invasion of Pennsylvania, Meade was chosen to relieve Hooker in army command only three days before Gettysburg. Originally planning to fight farther to the rear along Pipe Creek, he dispatched General Winfield S. Hancock to Gettysburg-following the death of General John F. Reynolds-to determine if it would be an acceptable battlefield. Accepting that officer's opinion, he ordered a continued concentration there. During the next two days he masterfully shifted his troops from one threatened sector to another. He received the, thanks of Congress and an appointment as a brigadier in the regulars. However, he soon came in for criticism for allowing Lee to escape to Virginia without another battle.

His handling of the Bristoe and Mine Run campaigns was not shining. In the spring of 1864 newly appointed General-in-Chief U.S. Grant set up his headquarters with Meade's army. This cumbersome arrangement worked out surprisingly well. However, since Meade was known for his temper and had come into conflict with a number of correspondents, there was an agreement not to mention him in dispatches except in reference to setbacks. He fought through the Overland and Petersburg campaigns, earning Grant's respect and being considered for command in the Shenandoah.

At Grant's request he was advanced to major general in the regular army. He served in the Appomattox Campaign but felt slighted by the reports which seemed to give all the credit to Grant and Sheridan. Mustered out of the volunteer service, he continued in the regular army, performing Reconstruction duty in the South. In 1866, he became commissioner of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, a post he held until his death. He died in Philadelphia November 6, 1872 as a result of old war wounds complicated by pneumonia.


George Gordon Meade: The Hispanic Victor Of The Battle Of Gettysburg

What connection is there between the battle of Gettysburg, Hispanic Heritage and citizenship? Only a surprising twist of historical fate, of chance, and little else but it shows that one event leads to another and to that we never know how things will turn out.

Richard Worsom Meade (1778-1828) was a merchant and businessman who ended up in Spain when this country was at a low ebb in its historical tack.

He arrived in Spain in 1800 and was able to make a successful career and lots of money, to the point that he funded several Spanish Government Agencies. He became a prominent figure in Spain, in the city of Cádiz, in the southernmost part of the Peninsula. He was able to represent the American navy before the Court and later, supposedly, was appointed Consul of the United States of America in that Andalusian city.

He married a foreign-born lady in that city with whom she had offspring. Due to Napoleon’s French Army’s invasion of Spain, Mr. Meade’s fortunes reversed and had to return to Philadelphia where he died in 1828 leaving the family behind and in dire financial straits.

The victor of the Battle of Gettysburg

The couple were well-established in their adopted city of Cádiz where they had several children, one of them was born in the barrio de San Carlos in December 31, 1815 and baptized –the family was Catholic- in the Iglesia del Rosario on the 8th of January 1816. The boy’s name was George Gordon Meade, later known as Major General Meade, the victor of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The family moved back to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and George entered a military academy. The rest is history.

Tom Huntington has written a book on General Meade entitled Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg, still in print. This forgotten victor of that famous battle and the ensuing address that President Abraham Lincoln delivered on the battlefield in commemoration of the dead, is almost an obscure historical figure. Most biographies of him fail to mention the city of his birth, the fact that he had been born Spanish, in a typical city of Andalucía.

The failure to mention his foreign birth should not escape us because it was the cause of controversy during his lifetime. Whether he was or not a citizen of the United States was an issue at the time. Brooks D. Simpson says:

“What… people overlook is that there was some discussion about George G. Meade’s citizenship status back in 1863 when he was named to command the Army of the Potomac in June 1863. You see, Meade was born in Cadiz, Spain, in December 31, 1815. His father, Robert W. Meade, was serving at the time as the US consul there.” (“George Gordon Meade’s Birther Controversy,” May 18, 2013).

Doubtless he was a citizen of Spain, having been born in that country, like his brothers, of course. The question is: did his father formally register him at the Embassy of the United States in Madrid? Was his father actually a bona fide Consul of the United States? Was he in reality a spy for the U.S. Navy, as some say?

Hispanic Heritage of George Gordon Meade

Years later we are still debating who is a U.S. citizen, just as one hundred and fifty years ago. In a letter to the Editor of the New York Times on General Meade’s citizenship, in 1863, someone wrote: “Act of Congress of 14th of April, 1802, says that the children of citizens of the United States shall, though born out of the limits and jurisdictions of the United States, be considered as citizens of the United States.” Still, the controversy lingers.

Be it as it may, the fact remains that the general who won the Battle of Gettysburg over General Lee was a Hispanic who never renounced his citizenship of origin, no matter the attempts to hide that historical and biographical fact. A gaditano a hero in Pennsylvania.


George Gordon Meade: The Hispanic Victor Of The Battle Of Gettysburg

What connection is there between the battle of Gettysburg, Hispanic Heritage and citizenship? Only a surprising twist of historical fate, of chance, and little else but it shows that one event leads to another and to that we never know how things will turn out.

Richard Worsom Meade (1778-1828) was a merchant and businessman who ended up in Spain when this country was at a low ebb in its historical tack.

He arrived in Spain in 1800 and was able to make a successful career and lots of money, to the point that he funded several Spanish Government Agencies. He became a prominent figure in Spain, in the city of Cádiz, in the southernmost part of the Peninsula. He was able to represent the American navy before the Court and later, supposedly, was appointed Consul of the United States of America in that Andalusian city.

He married a foreign-born lady in that city with whom she had offspring. Due to Napoleon’s French Army’s invasion of Spain, Mr. Meade’s fortunes reversed and had to return to Philadelphia where he died in 1828 leaving the family behind and in dire financial straits.

The victor of the Battle of Gettysburg

The couple were well-established in their adopted city of Cádiz where they had several children, one of them was born in the barrio de San Carlos in December 31, 1815 and baptized –the family was Catholic- in the Iglesia del Rosario on the 8th of January 1816. The boy’s name was George Gordon Meade, later known as Major General Meade, the victor of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The family moved back to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and George entered a military academy. The rest is history.

Tom Huntington has written a book on General Meade entitled Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg, still in print. This forgotten victor of that famous battle and the ensuing address that President Abraham Lincoln delivered on the battlefield in commemoration of the dead, is almost an obscure historical figure. Most biographies of him fail to mention the city of his birth, the fact that he had been born Spanish, in a typical city of Andalucía.

The failure to mention his foreign birth should not escape us because it was the cause of controversy during his lifetime. Whether he was or not a citizen of the United States was an issue at the time. Brooks D. Simpson says:

“What… people overlook is that there was some discussion about George G. Meade’s citizenship status back in 1863 when he was named to command the Army of the Potomac in June 1863. You see, Meade was born in Cadiz, Spain, in December 31, 1815. His father, Robert W. Meade, was serving at the time as the US consul there.” (“George Gordon Meade’s Birther Controversy,” May 18, 2013).

Doubtless he was a citizen of Spain, having been born in that country, like his brothers, of course. The question is: did his father formally register him at the Embassy of the United States in Madrid? Was his father actually a bona fide Consul of the United States? Was he in reality a spy for the U.S. Navy, as some say?

Hispanic Heritage of George Gordon Meade

Years later we are still debating who is a U.S. citizen, just as one hundred and fifty years ago. In a letter to the Editor of the New York Times on General Meade’s citizenship, in 1863, someone wrote: “Act of Congress of 14th of April, 1802, says that the children of citizens of the United States shall, though born out of the limits and jurisdictions of the United States, be considered as citizens of the United States.” Still, the controversy lingers.

Be it as it may, the fact remains that the general who won the Battle of Gettysburg over General Lee was a Hispanic who never renounced his citizenship of origin, no matter the attempts to hide that historical and biographical fact. A gaditano a hero in Pennsylvania.


Contents

Meade was born in Cadiz, Spain to American parents, Richard W. Meade and Margaret Coates Meade. [4] His father was an agent for the United States Navy. [4] Richard Meade died in 1828 leaving his family with very little money. [4] The family returned to the United States settling in Philadelphia. [4] In 1831, because his family was still struggling financially, Meade entered the United States Military Academy at West Point. [2] Four years later he graduated 19th in a class of 56. [a] [2]

Meade was commissioned a second lieutenant and served in the Seminole Wars in Florida. [7] He was an artillery officer for a year before resigning in 1837 to become a civil engineer. He reentered the army in 1842 after having difficulty in finding jobs. [8] Meade was a second lieutenant in the Corps of Topographical Engineers when the Mexican–American War broke out in 1846. [7] He was then placed in charge of lighthouse construction and later, surveying the Great Lakes. [4]

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Meade had risen to the rank of captain in the regular army. He was appointed a brigadier general to command a brigade of Pennsylvania volunteers. [b] [10] He was given the task of building several fortifications near Tenallytown, Maryland. [10] It was about this time he gained his nickname "The Old Snapping Turtle" for being short-tempered with junior officers and his superiors. He was especially short with civilians and newspaper reporters. His command was attached to the Army of the Potomac in March 1862. His troops fought in the Battle of Beaver Dam Creek and the Battle of Gaines's Mill. [10] Meade was seriously wounded at the Battle of Glendale. He remained on the battlefield giving orders until a loss of blood from two bullet wounds forced him to leave the field. [10] He recovered in a Philadelphia hospital and returned to duty in September. He led a division of "Pennsylvania Reserves" at the Battle of South Mountain and again three days later on September 17, 1862 at the Battle of Antietam. [10] At Antietam he took temporary command of I Corps after the corps commander was wounded. He participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg and after the battle was made commander of the V Corps. [10] In May 1863, Meade's V Corps protected the important fords on the Rappahannock River at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Despite the Union Army heavily outnumbering the Confederates, the Army of the Potomac was defeated. This led to General Hooker being replaced as commander. On June 28, 1863 Meade was given overall command of the Army of the Potomac. [1]

Gettysburg Edit

Having had command of the Army of the Potomac for only three days, and having to deal with a Confederate army which had already invaded Pennsylvania, Meade quickly reorganized his forces. [11] He moved the army towards Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to stop Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. [11]

With parts of his army already at Gettysburg, Meade arrived late in the day on July 1. He decided to fight a defensive battle. [10] His army held ground just south of Gettysburg. The next day saw some of the bloodiest fighting with the Union army holding the high ground and Lee's army attacking both flanks. Each attack was thrown back. That evening, Meade held a "council of war" with his officers. All said the army should stay and fight the Confederates. On July 3 the Confederates attacked the Union center with about 13,000 men. They broke through the center of the Union line only to be thrown back again. When Lee told General George Pickett to gather his division together and attack again, Picket replied he no longer had a division. They had been nearly wiped out during Pickett's Charge. At that point Lee realized he had been defeated. On July 4, 1863, following three days of battle at Gettysburg, the two armies watched each other from opposing ridges. [12] Meade sent out skirmishers to probe the Confederate lines. But no order was given to attack. [12] Lee was now concerned with getting his army and all their captured supplies [c] back to Virginia. [15] His army held its position while the more than 10,000 wounded men were moved by wagon train 40 miles (64 km) to Williamsport, Maryland. The train of wagons and ambulances with the wounded was some 17 miles (27 km) long. [15] Meade discovered Lee's army had left the morning of July 5. Meade then ordered his nearly exhausted army to pursue Lee. Since the Potomac River was flooded, Lee's army was delayed in crossing. But by the time Meade's forces reached the Potomac, Lee had already escaped back into Virginia.

While Meade was proclaimed the "hero of Gettysburg", President Lincoln wasn't satisfied. [11] He had expected Meade to follow and destroy Lee's army, which could have ended the war. [11] Meade offered Lincoln his resignation but Lincoln refused to accept it. [1] On July 7, 1863, Meade was promoted to brigadier general in the regular army. Both the battles of Bristoe Station and Mine Run were undecisive for the Union army under Meade. [1] In the spring of 1864, Meade again offered his resignation when General Ulysses S. Grant became general-in-chief of all Union forces and made his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac. [1] While Meade remained in command, nearly all command decisions were made by Grant. [1] This continued through the Siege of Petersburg after which Meade was promoted to major general. [1] A week later, when Lee surrendered his army to Grant at Appomattox Court House, Meade was not present. [1]

Meade commanded several military departments. One of these was the Department of the South. [7] In the fall of 1872, he came down with pneumonia. He died on November 6, 1872. [7] His funeral became a state affair with President Grant attending. [7] Thousands of people in Philadelphia lined the route of his funeral to say goodbye to the "hero of Gettysburg". [7] On July 18, 1917, by order of the United States Department of War, Camp Meade, Maryland was named in honor of George G. Meade. In 1929, to differentiate it from Fort Meade in South Dakota, the camp was renamed Fort George G. Meade. [7]


George Gordon Meade, 1815-1872 - History

[CIVIL WAR]. MEADE, George Gordon (1815-1872), General . Autograph letter signed ("Geo. G. Meade, Maj. Genl. Comg.") to an unnamed Captain, Headquarters Army of the Potomac, 2 August 1863. 2 pages, 8vo, integral blank.

THE VICTOR OF GETTYSBURG CONFESSES THAT "MY POSITION IN A VERY TRYING ONE." Writing to an old military comrade, less than a month after Gettysburg, Meade candidly voices his trepidations over his elevation to commander of the Army of the Potomac and Lee's escape: "Your letter. asking my favorable offices in behalf of Col. Bidwell was duly received. I shall be very happy to do any thing in my power for your sake. Should his name be sent up to me I will forward it with a favorable endorsement, on your recommendation. I received. your kind letter on my being assigned to the command. My position is a very trying one, and I would gladly exchange it for the command of the Old Search and the Lake Survey. Those were happy days."

Meade had spent much of his army career in the Topographical Engineers, surveying the Great Lakes (1857-1861), the Florida Keys, Delaware Bay, and even helping lay out the route for the Long Island Railroad. His success at Gettysburg is rightly seen as the turning point of the war and the defeat that sent the rebel army on its long, slow path of destruction. But Meade's timid and ultimately ineffective pursuit of Lee's defeated army angered President Lincoln and in an unmailed letter of July 14 (the day Lee recrossed the river), he predicted that "the war will be prolonged indefinitely" by Lee's escape. "Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it" (Basler, 6:328).


George Gordon Meade, 1815-1872 - History

Although Meade field-marshaled the Union victory at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 1-3, he was criticized severely after he failed subsequently vigorously to pursue the defeated Confederate Army. Meade said the army had driven “from our soil every vestige of the presence of the invader” – leading Mr. Lincoln to exclaim: “Drive the invaders from our soil! My God! Is that all?” 2 President Lincoln ordered General Meade, as Robert Todd Lincoln later recalled the order: “You will follow up and attack General [Robert E.] Lee as soon as possible before he can cross the river. If you fail, this dispatch will clear you from all responsibility and if you succeed you may destroy it.” 3

Mr. Lincoln was clearly overwrought at the failure of the Union army to overtake and destroy Confederates retreating from Gettysburg. He walked “up and down the floor [at the telegraph office in the War Department], his face grave and anxious, wringing his hands and showing every sign of distress. As the telegrams would come in he traced the positions of the two armies on the map…” 4 Historian Gabor Boritt suggests that President Lincoln sent Vice President Hamlin to convey his concerns directly to Meade.

General Henry W. Halleck, who was then Union general-in-chief, wrote Meade: “You are strong enough to attack and defeat the enemy before he can effect a crossing. Act upon your own judgment and make your generals execute your order. Call no council of war.” 5 Meade never caught up with Lee in time to prevent him from recrossing the Potomac. Mr. Lincoln was completely distraught at a cabinet meeting on July 14. “‘And that, my God, is the last of this Army of the Potomac! There is bad faith somewhere. Meade has been pressed and urged, but only one of his generals was for an immediate attack, was ready to pounce on Lee the rest held back.” 6 Lincoln complained to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles as they walked across the lawn from the White House: “Our Army held the war in the hollow of their hand & they would not close it.” 7

Civil War scholar Eric J. Wittenberg wrote: “Lincoln and Meade did not know each other. Unlike his predecessors in army command, the general and the commander in chief had no personal relationship. This made effective communications all the more difficult. The fact that nearly all of their communications were either by telegraph or letter left room for misinterpretation and misconstruction, and that only made a difficult situation worse.” 8 President Lincoln wrote a critical letter to Meade which he never sent in which he said: “I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee’s escape. He was within your easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have ended the war.” 9 The President’s concerns were submitted instead through General Henry Halleck Meade responded by submitting his resignation, which was rejected. Meade, according to historian Fletcher Pratt “was an able tactician, as witness the fact that every time he clashed with Lee, he had the better of it. But he lacked offensive spirit and, above all, any power of improvisation demanded engineering certainties, which are usually unobtainable in war kept saying he had not wished for the command and would be content to quit it.” 10

In 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant took overall charge of the Union army but the irritable and cantankerous Meade remained in command of the Army of the Potomac under him. Meade fought ably in Antietam, Fredricksburg, Chancellorsville. Meade had served in the Army twice before the Civil War and after the war continued as a military commander in Atlanta during Reconstruction.


Watch the video: The Congressional Hearings on Meade at Gettysburg in 1864 Lecture (May 2022).