Was George Meade the best man to command the Army of the Potomac?

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#41
I don't believe so either, at least not at that point in time. Just as I don't believe that either Reynolds or Meade was considered when Burnside was replaced, although Charles Benjamin claims so in his Battles and Leaders article.
IIRC, Lincoln didn't seriously consider anyone other than Hooker to replace Burnside in early 1863.

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Andy Cardinal

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#42
d76bb99427e32def444fb42e7cf6761b.jpg

Captain George Meade
(Photograph taken between 1856 & 1861)
Meade had great confidence in McClellan's generalship. “I know McClellan well. He is one of the best men we have to handle large armies.” Like McClellan, he also hoped and believed one grand campaign would end the rebellion: “I cannot believe that eight millions of people, however great their spirit and individual gallantry may be, can hold at bay twenty millions, unless the latter are dastards and ignoramuses,” he wrote his wife. “If our men will fight, as men ought to do who pretend to be soldiers, and our resources are properly managed and directed, we must whip them so badly and distress them so much that they will be compelled to accept terms of peace dictated by us, provided we ask nothing of them but what we have a right to do, viz., to return to their allegiance under the old Constitution and agree that the will of the majority shall govern.”

“Here, however, is our great danger,” Meade continued in his letter, “and it lies in the effort the ultras are making to give a character to the war which will forbid any hope of the Southerners ever yielding as long as there is any power of resistance left in them. I still trust, however, in the good sense of the mass of the people to preserve us from a condition from which I fear it would take years to emerge."

In a similar vein, Meade wrote: “If it be proclaimed, and adhered to, that the real object of the war is the suppression of the rebellion … by a proper conduct of the war, we could carry our point … provided the door was left open for them to yield without sacrificing all their material interests,” he wrote in February 1862. “The cause of anxiety, however, now is that the object of the war will be perverted to the destruction of slavery, and, to the expectation of more fully accomplishing this, the removing of competent officers in its conduct, and the substitution of ignorant fanatics who have no qualifications to recommend them, but a fiendish hatred to gratify.”
 
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#43
I don't believe so either, at least not at that point in time. Just as I don't believe that either Reynolds or Meade was considered when Burnside was replaced, although Charles Benjamin claims so in his Battles and Leaders article.
I've always considered Benjamin's article a little strange. As I remember it (it's been a while since I last read it), he talks about an influential person in Lincoln's cabinet who seems to have been behind the decision to choose Hooker. I remember that one historian said it was Stanton, but it occurred too me that it might have been Seward, as he often stuck his nose in the business of other departments. I haven't had time to delve into this, so I'm wondering what your take is on it.
 

Andy Cardinal

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#44
I've always considered Benjamin's article a little strange. As I remember it (it's been a while since I last read it), he talks about an influential person in Lincoln's cabinet who seems to have been behind the decision to choose Hooker. I remember that one historian said it was Stanton, but it occurred too me that it might have been Seward, as he often stuck his nose in the business of other departments. I haven't had time to delve into this, so I'm wondering what your take is on it.
First, much of what Benjamin has to say should probably be taken with a grain of salt. Some of what he wrote in his article is certainly inaccurate if not outright fiction.

As to Hooker, I believe Chase was his major supporter in the cabinet. Chase visited Hooker frequently while the general was recovering from his Antietam wound. When meeting with Chase, Hooker was extremely critical of McClellan, which brought him into Chase's favor. Rumors that Hooker would replace McClellan swirled around the army camps in October. I believe Chase was in favor of this, as opposed to Burnside, who was the other logical choice. About Hooker Meade had much to say. Among my favorites (which to me captures the essence of Hooker as well as anything else I've read): "Hooker is a Democrat and anti-Abolitionist—that is to say, he was. What he will be, when the command of the army is held out to him, is more than any one can tell, because I fear he is open to temptation and liable to be seduced by flattery."

If Stanton was a supporter when Hooker was appointed, he certainly was not by June. Among cabinet members, I believe Stanton was among the most eager to see Hooker relieved.
 

Dom71

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#46
Yes I seem to recall that Chase was who backed Hooker most. Isn't it ironic in Meade's case, that no one of high import backed him, the radicals wanted him replaced, and he had multiple officers conspiring against him. Yet he impresses the new General-in-Chief enough to keep his command, and even though minimized and some what bypassed as the war closed, remains the Army commander for the rest of that army's existence. I think as it turns out IMO he was the right man.
 

Northern Light

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#47
Yes I seem to recall that Chase was who backed Hooker most. Isn't it ironic in Meade's case, that no one of high import backed him, the radicals wanted him replaced, and he had multiple officers conspiring against him. Yet he impresses the new General-in-Chief enough to keep his command, and even though minimized and some what bypassed as the war closed, remains the Army commander for the rest of that army's existence. I think as it turns out IMO he was the right man.
Was there any commander of the AoP who wasn't the victim of conspiracy? It makes me want to smack them upside the head! There's a war on, guys!
 

Joshism

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#50
Couch could have been offered command. Slocum, Reynolds, and Sedgwick all outranked Meade. Sickles was also talked about as a possibility (!), although apparently no one except the New York papers took that possibility seriously.
Couch was transferred because he didn't get along with Hooker. Bringing him back to command the army after Hooker's resignation/removal would have probably been a bad situation. Bringing him back as a corps commander would have been reasonable - especially given the AOTP needs. Yet Couch never came back for the rest of the war. I have to wonder if that was not merely a coincidence.

The thought of Sickles commanding the AOTP at Gettysburg makes me shudder. Being a political general surely worked against him at least a little when it came impossible army command.
 

Andy Cardinal

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#51
Couch was transferred because he didn't get along with Hooker. Bringing him back to command the army after Hooker's resignation/removal would have probably been a bad situation. Bringing him back as a corps commander would have been reasonable - especially given the AOTP needs. Yet Couch never came back for the rest of the war. I have to wonder if that was not merely a coincidence.

The thought of Sickles commanding the AOTP at Gettysburg makes me shudder. Being a political general surely worked against him at least a little when it came impossible army command.
Couch was definitely an avowed McClellan man and so I'm not sure he would ever have been seriously considered for the command. I can't believe Sickles was either, although the newspapers did and it created a stir among the officers about the time the talk about replacing Hooker was taking place.
 

Joshism

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#52
A very political army with far too many "Washington Generals" in it's midst. I have often likened these guys to Romans in the manner in which they ran around stabbing each other in the back.
Ironically, they were political in the sense they dabbled in politics and intrigues, but mostly not "political generals" in the sense that they were non-military officers. Sickles is the obvious exception but he did work his way up from brigade to division to corps. Was there anyone else in the AOTP who held a Major General rank that was not a West Point graduate?

(Fremont, Sigel, Butler, and Banks were all political generals in the east but not actually AOTP).

Contrast to McClernand, Crittenden, and Logan in the west in high profile roles with the AOTT & AOTC.

Crittenden had a short and forgettable stint as IX Corps division commander in 1864.
 

Andy Cardinal

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#53
Was there any commander of the AoP who wasn't the victim of conspiracy? It makes me want to smack them upside the head! There's a war on, guys!
I think the answer is no, and that is the real problem with the Army of the Potomac from the beginning. Whatever their merits and/or flaws, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, and Meade all experienced a conspiracy of generals who were or had been under their command. Only Meade survived.
 

Dom71

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#54
Ironically, they were political in the sense they dabbled in politics and intrigues, but mostly not "political generals" in the sense that they were non-military officers. Sickles is the obvious exception but he did work his way up from brigade to division to corps. Was there anyone else in the AOTP who held a Major General rank that was not a West Point graduate?

(Fremont, Sigel, Butler, and Banks were all political generals in the east but not actually AOTP).

Contrast to McClernand, Crittenden, and Logan in the west in high profile roles with the AOTT & AOTC.

Crittenden had a short and forgettable stint as IX Corps division commander in 1864.
I should clarify, my term "Washington Generals" was in discussing the officers that readily used Washington political, and newspaper connections to advance their agenda. Fitz John Porter comes to mind. I did not intend to say politicians turning General.
 

Andy Cardinal

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#56
When McClellan set off on his grand campaign to end the war, the Pennsylvania Reserves were not among them. They remained with McDowell's corps in the Fredericksburg vicinity. In June, the Reserves received orders to join McClellan in front of Richmond. Assigned to Fitz John Porter’s 5th Corps, the Pennsylvania Reserves assumed a position north of the Chickahominy River near Mechanicsville, on the right flank of McClellan's army.

Lee’s army attacked on June 26 in the opening battle of what would be called the Seven Days. Although the 5th Corps had successfully defended their position at Mechanicsville, Porter's men withdrew the next morning to a position behind Boatswain’s Swamp. The Pennsylvania Reserves took a reserve position behind this new line. The Battle of Gaines’s Mill was fought on June 27. The Confederate assaults began at about 2:30 that afternoon and continued all day. As the reserve, McCall’s regiments were fed into the fighting in a piecemeal fashion. By evening, Stonewall Jackson’s men were finally in a position to outflank Porter, and John Bell Hood’s furious frontal assault had finally pierced the Union center. The bluecoats were in full retreat toward the Chickahominy bridges. In the confusion, one of Meade's regiments, the 11th Pennsylvania Reserves, was surrounded and captured. Reynolds was also separated from his command and taken prisoner.

During the next week the Army of the Potomac continued its retreat toward the James River, fighting a significant engagement nearly every day. The Pennsylvania Reserves were assigned to escort the Artillery Reserve through White Oak Swamp to the Quaker Road on June 29.
battle-of-glendale-2009.jpg.w300h402.jpg

The Reserves were ordered to take a position on June 30 to allow the army’s trains to pass to the rear. The Confederates launched an attack. If properly coordinated and executed, the resulting Battle of Glendale offered Robert E. Lee perhaps the finest opportunity he would ever have to destroy a large portion of the Army of the Potomac and perhaps end the war. Edward Porter Alexander, who would rise to prominence in the Confederate army, would later wrote of the fighting at Glendale: “No more desperate encounter took place in the war; and nowhere else, to my knowledge, so much actual fighting with bayonet and butt of gun.” Meade later asserted that “It was only the stubborn resistance offered by our division, prolonging the contest till after dark, and checking till that time the advance of the enemy, that enabled the concentration during the night of the whole army on the James River, that saved it.” one of Meade's aides, Lieutenant Hamilton Kuhn, was killed during the fighting, and another (Lieutenant Watmough) wounded.

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Battle of Glendale​

During the fighting, Meade was severely wounded when a bullet struck him in the upper right side, traveling down and exiting above his hip. He was also hit in the right arm. He began to ride to the rear before growing faint from the loss of blood. He was placed in a small wagon and continued to the rear. After midnight, Meade arrived at Haxall’s Landing where Brigadier General Seth Williams, the Army of the Potomac’s adjutant general, gave Meade his tent. Later that day, Meade wrote a short note to his wife: "After four days' fighting, last evening, about 7 P. M., I received a wound in the arm and back. Fortunately I met Dr. Stocker, and got hold of a little cart I had, in which I was brought here. Dr. Stocker says my wounds are not dangerous, though they require immediate and constant medical attendance. I am to leave in the first boat for Old Point, and from thence home. Kuhn, I fear, is killed. Willie Watmough was not hurt, the last I saw of him. Good-by!" Someone addes a postscript: "The ball entered the side and came out at the back. In the hurried examination he probably heard, or was told, that he had been struck in the back. This seemed to worry him more than the fact of being wounded, for all through the watches of the long night he would revert to the thought, saying to Dr. Stocker, “Just think, doctor, of my being shot in the back!”
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Seth Williams​

Meade was evacuated from the Peninsula, arriving at his home in Philadelphia on July 4. After a few weeks of rest and recovery, Meade returned to the Reserves on August 17, now at Aquia Creek and assigned to McDowell’s Corps in John Pope's Army of Virginia. The division command went to Reynolds, and Meade was assigned to command the First Brigade (3rd, 4th, 7th, 8th, and 13th Pennsylvania Reserves).

Meade's brigade played a prominent part in the disastrous Second Battle of Bull Run. The Reserves occupied a position on Henry House Hill, blunting the momentum of Longstreet's assault on August 30 and allowing Pope’s defeated army to retreat safely toward Washington. “In a few words we have been, as usual out-manoeuvred and out-numbered,” Meade reported to his wife, “and though not actually defeated, yet compelled to fall on Washington for its defense and our own safety.” Meade believed his performance at Second Bull Run warranted a promotion to command of a division.
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2nd Bull Run​

With Union forces around in Washington in disarray, Lee took the opportunity to cross the Potomac and invade the North for the first time. As the Army of the Potomac marched north and west from Washington with McClellan back in command, Joseph Hooker assumed command of the redesignated First Corps and Meade found himself in command of the Pennsylvania Reserves when Reynolds was sent to Pennsylvania to assume command of the state militia.
 
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#57
Agreed. You can also have the charisma and not be sucessful. Charisma is not necessary.
To gain political heights yes charisma is vital. Can one be an effective leader without charisma? Yes but it's easier to be an effective leader with charisma. A semi modern example would be Omar Bradley vs George Patton.
Leftyhunter
 

Andy Cardinal

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#58
Yes I seem to recall that Chase was who backed Hooker most. Isn't it ironic in Meade's case, that no one of high import backed him, the radicals wanted him replaced, and he had multiple officers conspiring against him. Yet he impresses the new General-in-Chief enough to keep his command, and even though minimized and some what bypassed as the war closed, remains the Army commander for the rest of that army's existence. I think as it turns out IMO he was the right man.
Chase is someone I should find out more about. Any good biographies?

Chase was involved I think (supported at least) the attempt to oust Meade and replace him with Hooker in March 1864. One real problem with this maneuver is that Grant hated Hooker.

Without knowing much (need to study it some more I guess) it seems to me that Chase was the straw that stirred the political intrigue drink in the Army of the Potomac. At various times he was also a strong backer of McDowell & McClellan.
 
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#60
First, much of what Benjamin has to say should probably be taken with a grain of salt. Some of what he wrote in his article is certainly inaccurate if not outright fiction.
Thanks for your reply, Andy! I was aware that Chace was Hooker's patron, largely because he thought (probably correctly) that Hooker didn't have any presidential ambitions that would get in Chace's way to get that slot for himself. I have to confess, though, that it never occurred to me that Chace had that much influence with Lincoln. I also knew that Stanton didn't like Hooker. Maybe that's what made me consider Seward. I guess there's no way to know for sure.
 



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