Questions about General Meade


Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Mary763

Corporal
Joined
Jan 1, 2014
Messages
306
I have been reading Allen Guelzo's Gettysburg: The Last Invasion and I'm confused about something. I had read in the chapter "Let us have no more retreats" that General Meade was brought before a Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War. The story is that supposedly a Republican named Wilkinson along with Sickles and Doubleday had been talking about Meade's proposal to retreat on July 2nd to Pipe Creek. Now I have read the Pipe Creek circular that Meade put out to his Generals on June 30th describing the positions he wanted the army to take on Pipe Creek as a defensive position to fight the ANV. However, when Buford and later Reynolds were engaged at Gettysburg, the Pipe Creek idea was cancelled. We also know that the Army of the Potomac had, to put it mildly, a rough couple of days on July 1st and July 2nd. Now, I don't agree that Meade should have retreated to Pipe Creek and his Generals also disagreed with him so the discussion of retreat ended. Later, Sedgwick, Sykes, and Newtown all denied hearing Meade "talk" about a withdrawal which got him out of trouble with the Committee.

My question is what could the Committee have done to Meade if others did say that he discussed a withdrawal to Pipe Creek? Isn't a commanding officer always supposed to be thinking of ways to protect their army if necessary or did his actions show that Meade had lost faith in his troops? Was Sickles just trying to get Meade in trouble?

And a last thought...why is Meade not as popular as say Grant or Lee? If you ask anyone not educated in the Civil War, they almost always recognize the names Grant and Lee but most have never heard of Meade.
 

kholland

Captain
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
6,300
Location
Howard County, Maryland
One major reason is that Grant decided to stay with the Army of the Potomac even though Meade was in command of this army. Grant was overall commander but decided Lee's Army and Richmond were the key and his buddy Sherman would take care of the Western theatre. So anything that happened in the East, Grant would get the credit.
 

Jamieva

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Feb 7, 2006
Messages
4,230
Location
Midlothian, VA
One major reason is that Grant decided to stay with the Army of the Potomac even though Meade was in command of this army. Grant was overall commander but decided Lee's Army and Richmond were the key and his buddy Sherman would take care of the Western theatre. So anything that happened in the East, Grant would get the credit.
And that chapped Meade's backside too.
 

ErnieMac

Brigadier General
Moderator
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
May 3, 2013
Messages
8,909
Location
Pennsylvania
Meade was short tempered in his dealings with subordinates. When angered he often reacted harshly, tempering his outburst later when he cooled down. This also impacted his relations with the press. Example was made a journalist for the Philadelphia Enquirer named Edward Cropsey.

HDQRS. ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
June 7, 1864.

GENERAL ORDER. -- Edward Crapsey (sic), a correspondent of the Philadelphia Inquirer, having published in that journal, of the 2d instant, a libelous statement on the Commanding General of this army, calculated to impair the confidence of the army in their commanding officer, and which statement the said Crapsey now acknowledges to have been false, and to have been based on some idle camp rumor, it is hereby ordered that he be arrested and paraded through the lines of the army with a placard marked "Libeler of the Press," and be then put, without the lines and not be permitted to return.

The Provost-Marshal-General will see that this order is promptly executed.

The Commanding-General trusts that this example will deter others from committing like offences, and he takes this occasion to notify the representatives of the public press that, while he is ready at all times to extend them every facility for acquiring facts, and giving circulation to the truth, he will not hesitate to punish with the utmost rigor all instances like the above, where individuals take advantage of the privileges accorded them, to circulate falsehoods, and thus impair the confidence which the public and the army should have in their Generals and other officers.

By command of Major-General Meade.

S. WILLIAMS,
Assistant Adjutant General.

Meade later repented and made amends with Cropsey, but the incident made the rounds of the press corps and Meade's coverage suffered accordingly. From that time forward positive information concerning the AoP was attributed to Grant and Meade was given 'credit' for the problems.
 

Billy Yank

First Sergeant
Joined
May 31, 2013
Messages
1,098
Location
Putnam County, IL
One major reason is that Grant decided to stay with the Army of the Potomac even though Meade was in command of this army. Grant was overall commander but decided Lee's Army and Richmond were the key and his buddy Sherman would take care of the Western theatre. So anything that happened in the East, Grant would get the credit.
I definitely agree w/you Lt. Holland. Unlike Henry "Old Brains" Halleck, Grant did not wish to be in Washington with all the back biting and politics. I think Grant also stole alot of Meade's Thunder by accompanying the AoP. But to Cadet Mary's question, Sickles was a Washington Insider. He was an old Tammany Hall politician, had connections in the Buchanan administration, and had his sights set on the White House, in some form or fashion. Immediately following his injury at Gettysburg, Sickles found his way back to Washington and announced his indispensable heroism at the battle. Sickles felt he was treated badly by Meade the morning of Day 3 and thought Meade failed to consider his request to seek better ground for his III Corps - sending along his artillery chief to pay Sickles lip service and make sure the III Corps Commander didn't carry-out his plan to break the line on the Federal left flank. Sickles probably knew Meade would blame the tremendous bloodshed on him, so he got out in front of it when he got back to Washington by contacting his insiders, (Some say Mary Lincoln was on friendly terms with him as well as Sec. of War Stanton who defended him in the Barton Key Affair, not to mention several others in his Washington coterie.) At any rate, this most likely got the ball rolling, placing the burden on Meade to defend his actions. I think enough doubt was cast on both parties ultimately that neither Sickles or Meade ever held Lincoln's favor again to the extent of Grant. Sickles though, probably got the better of it, in my opinion, as he did have a diplomatic career following the war although he never returned to command, and the storied III Corps ceased to exist. Meade's reputation is pretty solid in the history books, while Sickles' actions are debated to this very day. Had the "Committee" found against Meade, he probably would have been removed from command much like McClellan, Burnside, Pope & Hooker.
 

Eric Wittenberg

2nd Lieutenant
Keeper of the Scales
Joined
Jun 2, 2013
Messages
3,468
Location
Columbus, OH
The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was a creation of the Radical Republicans and consisted of members of both houses of Congress. In fact, it had no power to do anything, as it had no legislative or constitutional authority. It was just an ad hoc organization that was there to create trouble for the Lincoln Administration and those who served it. It was used to second-guess Lincoln, particularly with respect to McClellan and also with respect to Meade, whom they believed did not do enough to pursue Lee after Gettysburg.

The Pipe Creek Circular was, indeed, circulated by the Army of the Potomac's chief of staff, Daniel Butterfield. Fortunately, John Fulton Reynolds never saw it and was killed before he did so, or perhaps he might not have elected to stand and fight at Gettysburg. The truth is that Meade did not make the final decision to stand and fight at Gettysburg until he convened his council of war on the night of July 2 and a majority of his corps commanders voted to stand and fight. Only then did Meade abandon his contingency plan to fall back to the Pipe Creek Line.

I have driven the entire length of the Pipe Creek Line, on both sides of the ridge, in order to understand it. It was an incredibly strong position that would have made Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg look like a speed bump. It had only one vulnerable spot, at Taneytown, and it was, if possible, a far better position than that at Gettysburg. If the opportunity to see it for yourself ever presents itself, take the opportunity. It's well worth seeing.

The insinuation was that Meade lacked the intestinal fortitude to fight it out at Gettysburg and meant to retreat. The evidence presented to the Joint Committee did not support this contention, and it gradually died away.
 

matthew mckeon

Colonel
Retired Moderator
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
13,764
One of the strengths of Guelzo's book is his discussion of the politics of the AoP's high command. The McClellan democrats vs. the Republicans.
 

Nathanb1

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Retired Moderator
Joined
Dec 31, 2009
Messages
33,019
Location
Smack dab in the heart of Texas
And a last thought...why is Meade not as popular as say Grant or Lee? If you ask anyone not educated in the Civil War, they almost always recognize the names Grant and Lee but most have never heard of Meade.
Because (unfortunately), most history textbooks used in this country only mention Grant and Lee. I'm one of those weird history teachers who makes all my kids learn a wide range of generals, but that's just me. Meade doesn't even show up in the required curriculum for most states (I wonder about PA?) because most 8th and 11th grade US History classes barely cover the war, let alone the role of generals like Meade.

And if you've ever watched Jay Leno, then you'll know most folks don't even know when the Civil War was.....

Sad, isn't it? Guys like Meade are half the fun of learning history.
 
Joined
May 27, 2008
Messages
4,862
Location
a happy farm in Maryland or a friendly Co-Op in NY
Because (unfortunately), most history textbooks used in this country only mention Grant and Lee. I'm one of those weird history teachers who makes all my kids learn a wide range of generals, but that's just me. Meade doesn't even show up in the required curriculum for most states (I wonder about PA?) because most 8th and 11th grade US History classes barely cover the war, let alone the role of generals like Meade.

And if you've ever watched Jay Leno, then you'll know most folks don't even know when the Civil War was.....

Sad, isn't it? Guys like Meade are half the fun of learning history.
Meade who? Oh... that guy.
 

pamc153PA

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Dec 28, 2008
Messages
7,451
Location
Pennsylvania
One major reason is that Grant decided to stay with the Army of the Potomac even though Meade was in command of this army. Grant was overall commander but decided Lee's Army and Richmond were the key and his buddy Sherman would take care of the Western theatre. So anything that happened in the East, Grant would get the credit.
Although I understand what Grant might have been thinking when he did this, I always sort of thought Grant's sticking with Meade was like a supervising teacher never leaving the room and letting the student teacher take control of the class. Meade was no "student" in the military--yet another reason to give him more space in command--but when you have someone supervising your every move and thought, you really don't have the opportunity to show what you can do on your own. Who knows what Meade could have done solo, but he was in charge (newly so, I might add) when the AoP won at Gettysburg, so at least he deserved a chance.

(By the way, I had a supervising teacher like that when I was a student teacher, and I always felt like I had to do her things her way, and never got to show what I was made of. So I kind of feel for Meade. :smile:)
 

Mary763

Corporal
Joined
Jan 1, 2014
Messages
306
Thanks everyone that helped answer my questions! I knew Sickles was involved in politics but I didn't realize just how well he was connected and how those connections gave him power to make such allegations. It would make sense for him to try and put the attention elsewhere. I do have the book, Sickles at Gettysburg, so that might be one of the next ones I read to give me a better understanding. Thanks Private Billy and Corporal Eric for all of your information. I might have to see Pipe Creek if I get a chance.

Nathan you are so correct about the lack of Civil War information taught in the classroom. In high school, I remember reading a couple pages on the causes and then it went right to reconstruction! I teach 7th grade Social Studies and even though I cover world history in my class, the students hardly know anything when I try to compare an event to the Civil War.

I'm realizing the more I read and start to understand about the Civil War, the more there is to read!
 

pamc153PA

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Dec 28, 2008
Messages
7,451
Location
Pennsylvania
Because (unfortunately), most history textbooks used in this country only mention Grant and Lee. I'm one of those weird history teachers who makes all my kids learn a wide range of generals, but that's just me. Meade doesn't even show up in the required curriculum for most states (I wonder about PA?) because most 8th and 11th grade US History classes barely cover the war, let alone the role of generals like Meade.

And if you've ever watched Jay Leno, then you'll know most folks don't even know when the Civil War was.....

Sad, isn't it? Guys like Meade are half the fun of learning history.
Meade is mentioned when the battle of Gettysburg rolls around, but he's given short shrift. And after that, it's all--wait for it--Grant and Lee!
 

Mary763

Corporal
Joined
Jan 1, 2014
Messages
306
Hi pamc153PA, that's a great point! I guess I just feel like Meade deserves a little more credit. I feel like everyone knows Grant but I'm starting to understand why it is that way.
 

pamc153PA

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Dec 28, 2008
Messages
7,451
Location
Pennsylvania
My first inkling of Meade had nothing to do with the Civil War: Meade, in 1858 with the Army Corps of Engineers, built this:

Expired Image Removed

It's the Barnegat Lighthouse on the northern tip of Long Beach Island, New Jersey. We went there every summer when I was a kid, and I climbed the lighthouse at least a dozen times over the years. I was impressed with what Meade could do as an engineer way before I became interested in him as a general.
 

pamc153PA

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Dec 28, 2008
Messages
7,451
Location
Pennsylvania
LOL. I think Lee, Grant and.....get this one.....Hood are all mentioned in our books. That Hood lobby is big.
Hood? Hood who? (That's what our ninth graders would say!)

Then all you'd have to do is tell them he's the one in the movie who keeps bugging the guy with the big hat and bushy beard to go around to the right, because all the Yankees would need to do is roll rocks down on his men. They might remember!
 

Nathanb1

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Retired Moderator
Joined
Dec 31, 2009
Messages
33,019
Location
Smack dab in the heart of Texas
Hood? Hood who? (That's what our ninth graders would say!)

Then all you'd have to do is tell them he's the one in the movie who keeps bugging the guy with the big hat and bushy beard to go around to the right, because all the Yankees would need to do is roll rocks down on his men. They might remember!
I will say, considering my relatives had such a poor survival record serving under him, I used to have a lot of trouble doing the glowing heroic thing. Luckily, I've been able to translate that to Hood's Brigade, which I don't mind being positive about at all! (And thanks to Eric Jacobson, I am simply a lot more positive about him). My kids remember him for having to be strapped on his horse every day. They get that!
 

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Top