George Gordon Meade (1815 - 1872)

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Birthplace: Cádiz, AL, España
Death: Died in Philadelphia, PA, USA
Cause of death: Pneumonia
Occupation: Major General, U.S. Army, commander of troops at Battle of Gettysburg.
Managed by: Geoffrey David Trowbridge
Last Updated:

About George Gordon Meade

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Meade

Maj. General George Gordon Meade (1815-1872) commanded the Army of the Potomac in the stunning defeat of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, a turning point in the US Civil War. He was a career United States Army officer and civil engineer involved in coastal construction, including several lighthouses. He fought with distinction in the Seminole War and Mexican-American War. During the American Civil War he rose from command of a brigade to command of the Army of the Potomac.

In 1864-65, Meade continued to command the Army of the Potomac through the Overland Campaign, the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, and the Appomattox Campaign, but he was overshadowed by the direct supervision of the general in chief, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. (via Wikipedia)

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[The following was downloaded in 2010 from Wikipedia]

George Gordon Meade

December 31, 1815 – November 6, 1872 (aged 56)

Nickname Old Snapping Turtle

Place of birth Cádiz, Spain

Place of death Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Place of burial Laurel Hill Cemetery

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Allegiance United States of America

Union

Service/branch United States Army

Union Army

Years of service 1835–1836; 1842–1872

Rank Major General

Commands held Army of the Potomac

Battles/wars Second Seminole War

Mexican-American War

American Civil War

   * Northern Virginia Campaign
   * Battle of Antietam
   * Battle of Fredericksburg
   * Battle of Chancellorsville
   * Battle of Gettysburg
   * Bristoe Campaign
   * Mine Run Campaign
   * Overland Campaign
   * Richmond-Petersburg Campaign
   * Appomattox Campaign

George Gordon Meade (December 31, 1815 – November 6, 1872) was a career United States Army officer and civil engineer involved in coastal construction, including several lighthouses. He fought with distinction in the Seminole War and Mexican-American War. During the American Civil War he served as a Union general, rising from command of a brigade to the Army of the Potomac. He is best known for defeating Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

In 1864–65, Meade continued to command the Army of the Potomac through the Overland Campaign, the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, and the Appomattox Campaign, but he was overshadowed by the direct supervision of the general in chief, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.

Contents

   * 1 Early life
   * 2 Civil War
         o 2.1 Early commands
         o 2.2 Army of the Potomac and Gettysburg
         o 2.3 Meade and Grant
         o 2.4 Command decisions
   * 3 Postbellum career
   * 4 In memoriam
   * 5 In popular media
   * 6 See also
   * 7 Notes
   * 8 References
   * 9 Further reading
   * 10 External links

Early life

Meade was born in Cádiz, Spain, eighth of eleven children of Richard Worsam Meade and Margaret Coats Butler Meade. His family were Pennsylvanians of Catholic Irish descent. His brother, Richard Worsam Meade II, was a future naval officer. His father, a wealthy Philadelphia merchant serving in Spain as a naval agent for the U.S. government, was ruined financially because of his support of Spain in the Napoleonic Wars and died in 1828 while Meade was a young teenager. His family returned to the United States six months after his father's death, in precarious financial straits. Young George attended the Mount Hope Institution in Baltimore and entered the United States Military Academy (West Point) in 1831, chosen primarily for financial reasons. He graduated 19th in his class of 56 cadets in 1835. For a year, he served with the 3rd U.S. Artillery in Florida, fighting against the Seminole Indians, before resigning from the Army, a career he had not intended to pursue, even while attending West Point. He worked as a civil engineer for the Alabama, Georgia, and Florida Railroad and for the War Department. On December 31, 1840, he married Margaretta Sergeant, daughter of John Sergeant, running mate of Henry Clay in the 1832 presidential election. They had seven children together (John Sergeant Meade, Col. George Meade, Margaret Butler Meade, Spencer Meade, Sarah Wise Meade, Henrietta Meade, and William Meade). Finding steady civilian employment was difficult for the newly married man, so he reentered the army in 1842 as a second lieutenant in the corps of topographical engineers.

Meade served in the Mexican-American 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. After that war he was chiefly involved in lighthouse and breakwater construction and coastal surveying in Florida and New Jersey. He designed Barnegat Light on Long Beach Island, Absecon Light in Atlantic City, Cape May Light in Cape May, Jupiter Inlet Light in Jupiter, Florida, and Sombrero Key Light in the Florida Keys. He also designed a hydraulic lamp that was adopted by the Lighthouse Board for use in American lighthouses. He was promoted to captain in 1856.

In 1857, Meade relieved Lt. Col. James Kearney on the Lakes Survey mission of the Great Lakes. Completion of the survey of Lake Huron and extension of the surveys of Lake Michigan down to Grand and Little Traverse Bays were done under his command. Prior to Captain Meade's command, Great Lakes' water level readings were taken locally with temporary gauges; a uniform plane of reference had not been established. In 1858, based on his recommendation, instrumentation was set in place for the tabulation of records across the basin. In 1860, the first detailed report of Great Lakes was published. Meade stayed with the Lakes Survey until the 1861 outbreak of the Civil War.

Civil War

Early commands

Meade was promoted from captain to brigadier general of volunteers on August 31, 1861, a few months after the start of the Civil War, based on the strong recommendation of Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin. He was assigned command of the 2nd Brigade of the Pennsylvania Reserves, recruited early in the war, which he led competently, initially in the construction of defenses around Washington, D.C. His brigade joined Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac for the Peninsula Campaign. At the Battle of Glendale, one of the Seven Days Battles, Meade was severely wounded in the arm, back, and side. He partially recovered his strength in time for the Northern Virginia Campaign and the Second Battle of Bull Run, in which he led his brigade, now assigned to Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell's corps of the Army of Virginia. His brigade made a heroic stand on Henry House Hill to protect the rear of the retreating Union Army. At the start of the Maryland Campaign a few days later, he received command of the 3rd Division, I Corps, Army of the Potomac, and distinguished himself during the Battle of South Mountain. When Meade's brigade stormed the heights at South Mountain, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, his corps commander, was heard to exclaim, "Look at Meade! Why, with troops like those, led in that way, I can win anything!" In the Battle of Antietam, Meade replaced the wounded Hooker in command of I Corps, selected personally by McClellan over other generals his superior in rank. He performed well at Antietam, but was wounded in the thigh.

During the Battle of Fredericksburg, Meade's division made the only breakthrough of the Confederate lines, spearheading through a gap in Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's corps at the southern end of the battlefield. For this action, Meade was promoted to major general of volunteers, to rank from November 29, 1862. However, his attack was not reinforced, resulting in the loss of much of his division. After the battle, he received command of V Corps, which he led in the Battle of Chancellorsville the following spring. General Hooker, then commanding the Army of the Potomac, had grand, aggressive plans for the campaign, but was too timid in execution, allowing the Confederates to seize the initiative. Meade's corps was left in reserve for most of the battle, contributing to the Union defeat. Afterwards, Meade argued strongly with Hooker for resuming the attack against Lee, but to no avail.

Army of the Potomac and Gettysburg

Commanders of the Army of the Potomac, Gouverneur K. Warren, William H. French, George G. Meade, Henry J. Hunt, Andrew A. Humphreys, and George Sykes in September 1863.

Hooker resigned from command of the Army of the Potomac while pursuing Lee in the Gettysburg Campaign. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1863, a messenger from President Abraham Lincoln arrived to inform Meade of his appointment as Hooker's replacement. Meade was taken by surprise and later wrote to his wife that when the officer entered his tent to wake him, he assumed that Army politics had caught up with him and he was being arrested. He had not actively sought command and was not the president's first choice. John F. Reynolds, one of four major generals who outranked Meade in the Army of the Potomac, had earlier turned down the president's suggestion that he take over. Reynolds later died on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Meade assumed command at Prospect Hall in Frederick, Maryland. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was invading Pennsylvania and, as a former corps commander, Meade had little knowledge of the disposition of the rest of his new army. Only three days later he confronted Lee in the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1 to July 3, 1863, where he won the battle that is considered a turning point of the war. The battle began almost by accident, as the result of a chance meeting engagement between Confederate infantry and Union cavalry in Gettysburg on July 1. By the end of the first day, two Union infantry corps had been almost destroyed, but had taken up positions on favorable ground. Meade rushed the remainder of his Army to Gettysburg and skillfully deployed his forces for a defensive battle, reacting swiftly to fierce assaults on his line's left, right, and center, culminating in Lee's disastrous assault on the center, known as Pickett's Charge.

During the three days, Meade made excellent use of capable subordinates, such as Maj. Gens. 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. Maj. Gens. Daniel Sickles, III Corps commander, and Daniel Butterfield, Meade's chief of staff, caused him difficulty later in the war, questioning his command decisions and courage. Sickles had developed a personal vendetta against Meade because of Sickles's 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 by extension almost the war, for the Union.) Radical Republicans in the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War suspected that Meade was a copperhead and tried in vain to relieve him from command.

Following their severe losses at Gettysburg, General Lee's army retreated back to Virginia. Meade was criticized by President 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 rain-swollen, 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 a promotion to brigadier general in the regular army and the Thanks of Congress, which commended Meade "... and the officers and soldiers of [the Army of the Potomac], for the skill and heroic valor which at Gettysburg repulsed, defeated, and drove back, broken and dispirited, beyond the Rappahannock, the veteran army of the rebellion."

For the remainder of the fall campaigning season in 1863, during both the Bristoe Campaign and the Mine Run Campaign, Meade was outmaneuvered by Lee and withdrew after fighting minor, inconclusive battles, because of his reluctance to attack entrenched positions.

Meade was a competent and outwardly modest man, although correspondence with his wife throughout the war suggests he was disguising his ego and ambition. A London newspaperman described Meade: "He is a very remarkable looking man—tall, spare, of a commanding figure in 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 curve nasal appearance. He has a decidedly patrician and distinguished appearance." 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."

Meade and Grant

When Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was appointed commander of all Union armies in March 1864, Meade offered to resign. Meade stated the task at hand was of such importance that he would not stand in the way of Grant choosing the right man for the job and offered to serve wherever placed. Grant assured Meade he had no intentions of replacing him. Later Grant wrote this incident gave him a more favorable opinion of Meade than the great victory at Gettysburg.

Grant made his headquarters with Meade for the remainder of the war, which caused Meade to chafe at the close supervision he received. Following an incident in June 1864, in which Meade disciplined reporter Edward Cropsey 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. Meade apparently knew nothing of this arrangement, and the reporters giving all of the credit to Grant angered Meade.

Meade and Grant had various differences that caused additional friction between them. Waging a war of attrition in his Overland Campaign against Robert E. Lee, Grant was willing to suffer previously unacceptable losses with the knowledge that the Union Army had replacement soldiers available, whereas the Confederates did not. Meade, despite his aggressive performance in lesser commands in 1862, had become a more cautious general and more concerned about the futility of attacking entrenched positions. Most of the bloody repulses his army suffered in the Overland Campaign were ordered by Grant, although the aggressive maneuvering that eventually cornered Lee in the trenches around Petersburg were Grant's initiative as well. An additional frustration for Meade was the manner in which Grant sometimes gave preferable treatment to subordinates that he brought with him from the Western Theater. A primary example of this was Grant's interference with Meade's direction of Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan's Cavalry Corps. Meade had insisted that Sheridan's troopers perform traditional cavalry functions of reconnaissance, screening, and guarding the Army's trains, but Sheridan went directly to Grant and obtained permission to conduct a strategic raid against the Confederate cavalry and Richmond.

Although Meade generally performed effectively under Grant's supervision in the Overland Campaign and the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, a few instances of bad judgment marred his legacy. During the Battle of Cold Harbor, Meade inadequately supervised his corps commanders and did not insist they perform reconnaissance before their disastrous frontal assault. Inexplicably, Meade wrote to his wife immediately after the attack and expressed pride that it was he who ordered the attack. During the initial assaults on Petersburg, Meade again failed to coordinate the attacks of his corps before General Lee could reinforce the line, resulting in the ten-month stalemate, the Siege of Petersburg. He approved the plan of Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside to plant explosives in a mine shaft dug underneath the Confederate line east of Petersburg, but at the last minute he changed Burnside's plan to lead the attack with a well-trained African-American division that was highly drilled just for this action, instructing him to take a politically less risky course and substitute an untrained and poorly led white division. The resulting Battle of the Crater was one of the great fiascoes of the war. In all of these cases, Grant bears some of the responsibility for approving Meade's plans, but Meade was not performing to the level of competence he displayed at Gettysburg.

After Spotsylvania, Grant requested that Meade be promoted to major general of the regular army. In a telegram to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton on May 13, 1864, Grant stated that "Meade has more than met my most sanguine expectations. He and [William T.] Sherman are the fittest officers for large commands I have come in contact with." Meade felt slighted that his well-deserved promotion was processed after that of Sherman and Philip Sheridan, the latter his subordinate. However, his date of rank meant that he was outranked at the end of the war only by Grant, Halleck, and Sherman. Although he fought during the Appomattox Campaign, Grant and Sheridan received most of the credit. He was not present when Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House.

Command decisions

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. His reputation among the public and 19th century historians suffered as a result of his short temper, his bad relationship with the press, his place in the shadow of the victorious Grant, and particularly the damaging fallout from the controversies with Dan Sickles. Recent historical works have portrayed him in a more 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 fortified 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.

Postbellum career

General Meade was a commissioner of Fairmount Park in Pennsylvania from 1866 until his death. The people of Philadelphia gave his wife a house at 1836 Delancey Place, where he lived. The house still has the word "Meade" over the door, but it is now used as apartments. He also held various military commands, including the Military Division of the Atlantic, the Department of the East, and the Department of the South. He replaced Maj. Gen. John Pope as governor of the Reconstruction Third Military District in Atlanta on January 10, 1868. He received an honorary doctorate in law (LL.D.) from Harvard University, and his scientific achievements were recognized by various institutions, including the American Philosophical Society and the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.

In memoriam

Meade died in Philadelphia from complications of his old wounds, combined with pneumonia, and is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery. There are statues of him throughout Pennsylvania, including a few in Gettysburg National Military Park. The United States Army's Fort George G. Meade in Fort Meade, Maryland, is named for him, as are Meade County, Kansas, and Meade County, South Dakota. The Old Baldy Civil War Round Table in Philadelphia is named in honor of Meade's horse during the war. In World War II the United States liberty ship SS George G. Meade was named in his honor.

One-thousand-dollar Treasury notes, also called Coin notes, of the Series 1890 and 1891, feature portraits of Meade on the obverse. The 1890 Series note is called the Grand Watermelon Note by collectors, because the large zeroes on the reverse resemble the pattern on a watermelon.

The George Meade Memorial, sculpted by Charles Grafly, located in front of the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, D.C.

General Meade lived at 1836 Delancey Place, Philadelphia, and died in the house, 1872, according to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker in front.

In popular media

In the film Gettysburg, an adaptation of Michael Shaara's novel The Killer Angels, Meade is portrayed by Richard Anderson. Other film, television, and video appearances:

   * The Dramatic Life of Abraham Lincoln (1924) — Alfred Allen
   * Virginia City (1940) — Thurston Hall
   * The Blue and the Gray (1982 TV miniseries) — Rory Calhoun
   * An American Story (1992 TV) — Brad Johnson
   * Gettysburg: Three Days of Destiny (2004) — Andy Waskie
   * Battlefield Detectives (2004 TV) — Mike Brown
   * No Retreat from Destiny: The Battle That Rescued Washington (2006 video) — Paul Bugelski

References

   * Coddington, Edwin B., The Gettysburg Campaign; a study in command, Scribner's, 1968, ISBN 0-684-84569-5.
   * Davis, William C., and the Editors of Time-Life Books, Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg, Time-Life Books, 1986, ISBN 0-8094-4776-2.
   * Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
   * Gallagher, Gary W., ed., Three Days at Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership, The Kent State University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-87338-629-9.
   * Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant, Charles L. Webster & Company, 1885–86, ISBN 0-914427-67-9.
   * Hunt, Harrison, Heroes of the Civil War, Military Press, 1990, ISBN 0-517-01739-3.
   * Jaynes, Gregory, and the Editors of Time-Life Books, The Killing Ground: Wilderness to Cold Harbor, Time-Life Books, 1986, ISBN 0-8094-4768-1.
   * Sauers, Richard A., "George Gordon Meade", Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, Heidler, David S., and Heidler, Jeanne T., eds., W. W. Norton & Company, 2000, ISBN 0-393-04758-X.
   * Sears, Stephen W., Controversies & Commanders: Dispatches from the Army of the Potomac, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1999, ISBN 0-395-86760-6.
   * Tagg, Larry, The Generals of Gettysburg, Savas Publishing, 1998, ISBN 1-882810-30-9.
   * Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, 1964, ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.
   * Meade family genealogy at http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~marshall/esmd29.htm
   * Meade biography at nndb.com
   * Meade biography at civilwarhome.com
   * Cape May Lighthouse history
   * Historical marker website

Further reading

   * Cleaves, Freeman, Meade of Gettysburg, University of Oklahoma Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8061-2298-6.
   * Meade, George Gordon (posthumous), The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1913.
   * Sears, Stephen W., Gettysburg, Houghton Mifflin, 2003, ISBN 0-395-86761-4.

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Maj. General George Gordon Meade (USA)'s Timeline

1815
December 31, 1815
Cádiz, AL, España
1840
December 31, 1840
Age 25
Philadelphia, PA, USA
1841
1841
Age 25
1843
November 2, 1843
Age 27
Philadelphia, PA, USA
1845
February 26, 1845
Age 29
1850
January 19, 1850
Age 34
1851
September 26, 1851
Age 35
Philadelphia, PA, USA
1853
August 3, 1853
Age 37
1856
March 18, 1856
Age 40
1861
1861
Age 45
Philadelphia, PA, USA