Mrs. General Meade

Northern Light

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What do we know about the women behind the generals? Sure you know about Mary Lee, Libby Custer and Sally Pickett, but most of the wives are hidden behind their husbands frock coats, and digging out any information is difficult, but I am going to try!

Margaretta Sergeant Meade

Margaretta Sergeant was born on June 26t, 1814 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania into a family that was wealthy and influential. Her father, Congressman John Sergeant, was the running mate of Henry Clay in the 1832 presidential election. She was the eldest daughter of ten children, and was named for her mother, Margaretta Watmough. Her father ensured that she was given a good education, and she grew up in the brilliant social whirl of Washington. After her mother’s death, she served as hostess for her father at his many dinners and social events.

Isn't she lovely?
1551883941187.png

Undated photo, Pinterest

It was in Washington that Margaretta and George first met. There was an instant connection between them, that grew into love. Congressman Sergeant was initially reluctant for his daughter to marry George Meade, because of his lack of prospects, but eventually grew to respect and like him and gave his consent. Margaretta married George on December 31, 1840 in St. Peter’s Church in Philadelphia, followed by a reception at her home . It was George's 25th birthday. Together they had seven children:

John Sergeant 1841-1865
George Gordon, Jr. 1843-1897
Margaret Butler 1845-1905
Spencer 1850-1911
Sarah Wise 1851-1913
Henrietta 1853-1944
William 1855-1891

Their union was a devoted one from beginning to end. George was often away as he was engaged in building lighthouses along the East Coast. Margaretta was kept busy with the children and her church. They stayed close and connected through frequent letters, building a strong and companionate marriage that lasted through their lives.

1551882179141.png

One of George's lighthouses. Sorry, I just love lighthouses.


The onset of the Civil War separated the Meades on a more permanent basis. They wrote to each other almost daily. General Meade was able to vent his frustrations to her sympathetic ear, telling her things that his sense of integrity prevented him from saying in public. In turn she gave her full support to her husband, which his letters revealed was a great source of inspiration and comfort to him. When he was recovering from his wounds received at Glendale, she nursed him back to health, and he later wrote to her that,

You were so kind & loving to me when I lay wounded & helpless that tho’ I thought I loved you as much as it was
possible for a man to love a woman I think now I love you more than ever."


Wowsers!
1551882714290.png



As the war dragged on, Margaretta, like so many other women at that time, worried about her husband’s safety, and also about the safety of their son, George Jr., who served as an aide to General Meade, and was frequently under fire as well. A further burden was the poor health of her eldest son, John Sergeant affectionately known as "Sargie", who fell ill of tuberculosis, and died in Feruary ,1865. George was not able to be with Margaretta during John’s final decline, as he was at Petersburg with the Army, but he wrote often, encouraging her and sharing her sorrow.

Following the war, the people of Philadelphia presented the General and Margaretta with a house on Delancey Street, which was theirs for the remaining years of their lives. I found this cute story about that gift, not sure if it is true.



"When General Lee was advancing on Gettysburg, it was widely supposed that his goal was to conquer Philadelphia,
the Arsenal of the North. The town was in a panic, built some forts on the Schuylkill to defend itself, and later lionized the hometown hero who had saved them. Mrs. Meade was living at the time in a modest little place, and the town fathers took
up a collection to buy General Meade a proper house.
A delegation of officials travelled down to Virginia to present him with their gift of gratitude, but Meade would have none of it.
He was only doing his duty, and could not consider for a moment accepting major gifts for his soldiering. No, he was very sorry, he had to decline.
So the delegation came home, all afluster. Someone then had the idea of offering the house to Mrs. Meade. And when they
visited her, she promptly said "Sure." http://www.philadelphia-reflections.com/blog/585.htm

Notice the name carved over the door?
1551883089147.png


The couple’s devotion was such that when the war was concluded, General Meade, now commander of the Division of the Atlantic, made his headquarters in Philadelphia to be with his family. Unfortunately George died of complications from his wounds in 1872 at the age of 56, leaving Margaretta alone again. She survived her husband by fourteen years, dying in 1886. She and George are buried together in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

1551883628734.png


www.findagrave.com/memorial/37355222/margaretta-meade
Wikipedia
https://cwfangirl.wordpress.com/tag/lighthouses/
The life and letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, by George Meade ... ed. by George Gordon Meade.
http://generalmeadesociety.org/gallery-of-images/

1551882688933.png
 

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#2
Correct me if I am wrong but was she also connected to the Biddle family of Philadelphia? Chapman and Nicholas Biddle were very influential and wealthy members of Philadelphia Society. I think the General's marriage to his very wealthy and influential wife was very instrumental in Grant's decision not to relieve Meade of his command during the Overland Campaign. David.
 

Northern Light

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Correct me if I am wrong but was she also connected to the Biddle family of Philadelphia? Chapman and Nicholas Biddle were very influential and wealthy members of Philadelphia Society. I think the General's marriage to his very wealthy and influential wife was very instrumental in Grant's decision not to relieve Meade of his command during the Overland Campaign. David.
Not within immediate two or three generations, but it might be a collateral line.
 

Andy Cardinal

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#10
Correct me if I am wrong but was she also connected to the Biddle family of Philadelphia? Chapman and Nicholas Biddle were very influential and wealthy members of Philadelphia Society. I think the General's marriage to his very wealthy and influential wife was very instrumental in Grant's decision not to relieve Meade of his command during the Overland Campaign. David.
I'm sure the Biddle & Sergeant families were well acquainted socially and they shared a political affinity, even if not related. Another Biddle connection to Meade is that Nicholas Biddle was on the Board of Examiners of the Anerican Classical and Military Lyceum at Mt. Airy (along with Meade's father), which he attended between 1826 & 1828. It is impossible for me to know if this was more than a coincidental connection.
 

Northern Light

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Meade came from a very good philadelphia family,but his grandfather and father had made some bad investments, so money was tight. He was socially accepted but he had no money. He still had strings to pull, however, Margaret's sister had married Henry Wise, who became Governor of Virginia. Wise was the one he turned to to get him back into the army after he married.
 
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#12
I'm sure the Biddle & Sergeant families were well acquainted socially and they shared a political affinity, even if not related. Another Biddle connection to Meade is that Nicholas Biddle was on the Board of Examiners of the Anerican Classical and Military Lyceum at Mt. Airy (along with Meade's father), which he attended between 1826 & 1828. It is impossible for me to know if this was more than a coincidental connection.
Very good point which is well taken. David.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#13
Great thread, thank you! We don't hear much about her- and unlike a lot of general's wives and just wives of famous men seems she wasn't picked apart- nice to see. There's this weird theme through history where wives take a hit. Of course, with a husband like Meade it was probably wiser to leave her alone- could have gotten hurt.

She was certainly quite lovely- love the photo!
 
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#14
Meade came from a very good philadelphia family,but his grandfather and father had made some bad investments, so money was tight. He was socially accepted but he had no money. He still had strings to pull, however, Margaret's sister had married Henry Wise, who became Governor of Virginia. Wise was the one he turned to to get him back into the army after he married.
A very surprising tidbit on Henry Wise. I must assume Margarette's sister went south, which puts a lot of emphasis on that family dynamic, and the personal emotions within the clan. Thanks @Northern Light.
Lubliner.
 

Andy Cardinal

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#15
A very surprising tidbit on Henry Wise. I must assume Margarette's sister went south, which puts a lot of emphasis on that family dynamic, and the personal emotions within the clan. Thanks @Northern Light.
Lubliner.
The general also had a sister who went south. Elizabeth Mary Meade married Alfred Ingraham in 1827. They lived at Ashwood near Port Gibson, Mississippi. Two of her son's were killed in Confederate service.
 
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#16
A very surprising tidbit on Henry Wise
Even more interesting -

It’s just another twist that happened quite frequently during the war. I think it was Governor Wise son John Sargent Wise was a cadet at VMI and at New Market he was held back to guard the cadet’s baggage train, but defied orders and fought in the charge during the Battle of New Market in May, 1864.

His uncle - George Meade - served on the other side.
 

Northern Light

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A very surprising tidbit on Henry Wise. I must assume Margarette's sister went south, which puts a lot of emphasis on that family dynamic, and the personal emotions within the clan. Thanks @Northern Light.
Lubliner.
Sarah Sergeant Wise died in 1850 at the age of 33, leaving behind two small children. This is her portrait.
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Mrs. V

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#20
On Mackinac Island they have the “Biddle House”..the wife there was Native American, and they will be including more of that in the interpretation..I wonder if there is a connection to the Philly Biddles?
 

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