About Solomon Meredith
Solomon Meredith (May 29, 1810 – October 2, 1875) was a prominent Indiana farmer, politician, and lawman who was a controversial Union Army general in the American Civil War. He gained fame as one of the commanders of the Iron Brigade of the Army of the Potomac, leading the brigade in the Battle of Gettysburg.
Solomon Meredith was born in Guilford County, North Carolina, to David and Mary Farrington Meredith. The Merediths were Quaker and educated young Solomon at home. Meredith's grandfather, James Meredith, fought at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse during the American Revolutionary War. In 1829, Solomon traveled to Wayne County, Indiana, where he found work chopping wood and working on a farm. He later clerked in a general store in Centerville.
In 1834, he became the Sheriff of Wayne County, serving for two years. He was subsequently elected to the Indiana House of Representatives for four terms. In the mid-1850s, he was the U.S. Marshal for Indiana. He owned a sprawling farm, "Oakland," near Cambridge City. He was nicknamed "Long Sol" for his towering 6' 7" body.
When the Civil War erupted in early 1861, Meredith recruited hundreds of men from his county and organized them into a volunteer regiment of infantry. Governor Oliver P. Morton appointed Meredith as the first colonel of the newly named 19th Indiana, despite his lack of previous military experience. The regiment traveled by train to Washington, D.C., where it would eventually join the Army of the Potomac and be brigaded with three Wisconsin regiments in what became famous as the Iron Brigade.
Meredith and his Hoosiers fought during the Northern Virginia Campaign at Brawner's Farm, where his horse was shot from under him, crushing him and breaking several ribs. As a result of the injury and taking a leave of absence in Washington, he missed the Battle of Antietam in September, drawing the ire of the Iron Brigade commander, Brig. Gen. John Gibbon. Gibbon was upset that Meredith had taken part in the Battle of South Mountain but had missed Antietam. Meredith's replacement, Lt. Col. Alois O. Bachman, was killed while leading a charge near the Cornfield at Antietam, further fueling Gibbon's resentment towards Meredith. A month later, Meredith received a promotion to brigadier general and replaced Gibbon (promoted to a different division) as the commander of the Iron Brigade, against the latter's advice. In November, Meredith led the brigade in combat for the first time at Fredericksburg, where he drew the ire of division commander Maj. Gen. Abner Doubleday, who temporarily replaced Meredith with Col. Lysander Cutler.
In the spring of 1863, Meredith's brigade participated in the Chancellorsville Campaign, but saw relatively little combat. That would change in July, when the Iron Brigade suffered significant casualties during the first day's fighting at Gettysburg in Herbst's Woods and on Seminary Ridge. They were one of the first infantry brigades to reach the field and in the morning they routed the shocked brigade of Brig. Gen. James J. Archer and captured Archer. However, in the afternoon the brigade was ravaged by a flanking maneuver by the 11th North Carolina and a frontal assault by the 26th North Carolina, of Confederate Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew's brigade. Meredith was wounded when he was struck in the head by shrapnel, fracturing his skull and giving him a severe concussion. The blow killed his horse, which then fell on him, breaking his ribs and injuring his right leg. He was disabled and unfit for any further field command.
Meredith performed administrative duty for the rest of the war, commanding garrisons protecting Union river ports along the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois, and Paducah, Kentucky. While still on Army duty in mid-1864, Meredith unsuccessfully ran against George Julian for the United States House of Representatives. Openly feuding with his opponent, Meredith beat Julian unconscious with a whip, but used his political influence to have charges of assault and battery dropped.
With the war over in 1865, Meredith mustered out from the volunteer army with the brevet rank of major general and returned home to Indiana, where he resumed farming. From 1867 to 1869, he was the surveyor general of the Montana Territory. He retired to his farm and raised prize-winning long-horn cattle, sheep, and horses.
Death and legacy
Solomon Meredith died on his farm in 1875. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Cambridge City, Indiana.
The Grand Army of the Republic Post in Richmond, Indiana, was later named in his honor.