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

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#81
Those are both true. Perhaps because of the concussion, he missed a golden opportunity on May 3.
No doubt about the concussion and no clear plan to promptly relive Hooker.
I just read the Wiki Article on Meade and Meade was certainly treated well post ACW as a top US General up to his death at only age 56 in 1872. Meade certainly had a remarkable career but somehow is still relatively obscure go figure.
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Dom71

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#82
No doubt about the concussion and no clear plan to promptly relive Hooker.
I just read the Wiki Article on Meade and Meade was certainly treated well post ACW as a top US General up to his death at only age 56 in 1872. Meade certainly had a remarkable career but somehow is still relatively obscure go figure.
Leftyhunter
Grant casts a very large shadow
 

Andy Cardinal

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#83
The nature of the war changed dramatically during the summer and fall of 1862. The decisive act was Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued in the immediate aftermath of the Battle at Antietam. It was a truly revolutionary document which attacked the South’s greatest source of wealth, inaugurated a massive change in the political, economic and social orders, and revolutionized the congressional balance of power. In military terms, it marked the definitive end of the conciliatory approach to subduing the rebellion. The Emancipation marked a point of no return; the Lincoln administration was committed to a policy of “hard war.” As Ethan Rafuse writes in McClellan's War, “From that point forward, the Union war effort would be conducted in a manner consistent with the principle that Southerners were enemies to be vanquished, rather than brothers to be reconciled.” Philosophically and temperamentally, McClellan had no place in this new war, and Lincoln removed him permanently from command on November 7, 1862.

Many of the army's top officers did not hide their opposition to the proclamation. William Franklin, for example, noted his pleasure when his 6th Corps did not cheer the President during his visit: "I understand all the other Corps cheered him except mine. They were entirely silent much to my pleasure." Others, like Fitz-John Porter, were much more vocal in their opposition.

Despite the misgivings he had expressed earlier, however, Meade seems to have accepted Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation -- at least he expressed no outward opposition, even to his wife. He also recognized the fundamental change that had taken place in the conduct of the war, and its revolutionary implications. “The day for compromise, for a brotherly reconciliation for the old Union in reality as well as name, has passed away,” he wrote, “and the struggle must be continued till one side or the other is exhausted & willing to give up.” This does not mean that Meade had become a radical abolitionist, but as always, he believed his duty was to execute his government’s orders to the best of his ability. As a military professional, it was not his place to determine, or even to question (at least publicly) policy.

download.jpeg

McClellan's Farewell​

Meade believed that McClellan’s removal was itself a political act: “If he had been relieved immediately after the Battle of Antietam, or at any period before he moved, I could have seen some show of reason on military grounds.” The removal of McClellan and the cashiering of Fitz-John Porter were abject lessons to those officers of more conservative views -- Gibbon, Warren, Humphreys, Hancock, Sedgwick, Reynolds and Meade among the most prominent -- who remained with the army. Their careers survived in large part because they kept their political views for the most part to themselves. Those commanders who did not accept the new war, or at least those who were unable to conceal their disapproval, would find their careers derailed.

Meade did not say much in his correspondance (at least not the edited version that was published) about slavery, emancipation, or the enlistment of blacks into the army. However, in February 1863, he did recount a conversation that sheds some light on his attitude about it:

"I had seen Hudson (McClellan's aide) in the morning, and he asked me to come at six and dine with the general. I declined the invitation on the ground of previous engagements, but said I would drop in after dinner. As it was past eight o'clock when I got back, I went in to the private parlor where McClellan was dining, and found a party of some dozen or more, all officers but one, a Mr. Cox, Democratic member of Congress from Ohio. Among the party were Andrew Porter, Sykes, Buchanan, General Van Allen and others. McClellan received me with much distinction and seated me alongside of himself, and asked very kindly after you and the children, etc. The subject of conversation at the table was general, and referred principally to military matters and pending acts of legislation. My friend, who doubtless had heard of my confirmation and was in consequence disgusted, said he heard I was to be given an Army Corps of ******s. I laughingly replied I had not been informed of the honor awaiting me, but one thing I begged to assure, that if the ******s were going into the field and really could be brought heartily to fight, I was ready to command them, and should prefer such duty to others that might be assigned me. As this was a fair hit at's position, it silenced him, and I heard nothing further about commanding ******s."
 

Andy Cardinal

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#86
With McClellan’s removal, the war in East entered a new phase. Not only had the war aims changed from conciliation to subjugation, but the strategic objectives of the Army of the Potomac changed as well. With McClellan's exit, a return to the Peninsula was off the table. The army and its new commander would be tied to Lincoln’s preference for the overland route. In this opinion, Lincoln was seconded by Halleck.

265px-Henry_Halleck_by_Scholten,_c1865.jpg

Halleck
Meade was frustrated with this strategic change and the political interference he saw as responsible for it. He, like many of the rest of the army’s leading military men, continued to believe that the James River was the only “true and practicable line of approach to Richmond.” Meade believed the proper way to attack the Confederates and end the war was “to take possession of the great lines of railroad leading to it from the South and Southwest, cut these and stop any supplies going there, and their army will be compelled to evacuate it and meet us on the ground we can select ourselves.” Such a movement was, however, politically impossible. “The blind infatuation of the authorities in Washington, sustained, I regret to say by Halleck, who as a soldier who ought to know better, will not permit the proper course to be adopted, and we shall have to take the consequences.” The consequences in this case would include continued offensive efforts against Lee with little prospect of decisive results and a great prospect of heavy casualties. Meade had a low opinion of the current line of operations. The Confederate “policy” would be “to draw us as far as possible from the Potomac and then attack our rear, cut off if possible our lines of communication and supply.”
 
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#87
The nature of the war changed dramatically during the summer and fall of 1862. The decisive act was Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued in the immediate aftermath of the Battle at Antietam. It was a truly revolutionary document which attacked the South’s greatest source of wealth, inaugurated a massive change in the political, economic and social orders, and revolutionized the congressional balance of power. In military terms, it marked the definitive end of the conciliatory approach to subduing the rebellion. The Emancipation marked a point of no return; the Lincoln administration was committed to a policy of “hard war.” As Ethan Rafuse writes in McClellan's War, “From that point forward, the Union war effort would be conducted in a manner consistent with the principle that Southerners were enemies to be vanquished, rather than brothers to be reconciled.” Philosophically and temperamentally, McClellan had no place in this new war, and Lincoln removed him permanently from command on November 7, 1862.

Many of the army's top officers did not hide their opposition to the proclamation. William Franklin, for example, noted his pleasure when his 6th Corps did not cheer the President during his visit: "I understand all the other Corps cheered him except mine. They were entirely silent much to my pleasure." Others, like Fitz-John Porter, were much more vocal in their opposition.

Despite the misgivings he had expressed earlier, however, Meade seems to have accepted Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation -- at least he expressed no outward opposition, even to his wife. He also recognized the fundamental change that had taken place in the conduct of the war, and its revolutionary implications. “The day for compromise, for a brotherly reconciliation for the old Union in reality as well as name, has passed away,” he wrote, “and the struggle must be continued till one side or the other is exhausted & willing to give up.” This does not mean that Meade had become a radical abolitionist, but as always, he believed his duty was to execute his government’s orders to the best of his ability. As a military professional, it was not his place to determine, or even to question (at least publicly) policy.

View attachment 294036
McClellan's Farewell​

Meade believed that McClellan’s removal was itself a political act: “If he had been relieved immediately after the Battle of Antietam, or at any period before he moved, I could have seen some show of reason on military grounds.” The removal of McClellan and the cashiering of Fitz-John Porter were abject lessons to those officers of more conservative views -- Gibbon, Warren, Humphreys, Hancock, Sedgwick, Reynolds and Meade among the most prominent -- who remained with the army. Their careers survived in large part because they kept their political views for the most part to themselves. Those commanders who did not accept the new war, or at least those who were unable to conceal their disapproval, would find their careers derailed.

Meade did not say much in his correspondance (at least not the edited version that was published) about slavery, emancipation, or the enlistment of blacks into the army. However, in February 1863, he did recount a conversation that sheds some light on his attitude about it:

"I had seen Hudson (McClellan's aide) in the morning, and he asked me to come at six and dine with the general. I declined the invitation on the ground of previous engagements, but said I would drop in after dinner. As it was past eight o'clock when I got back, I went in to the private parlor where McClellan was dining, and found a party of some dozen or more, all officers but one, a Mr. Cox, Democratic member of Congress from Ohio. Among the party were Andrew Porter, Sykes, Buchanan, General Van Allen and others. McClellan received me with much distinction and seated me alongside of himself, and asked very kindly after you and the children, etc. The subject of conversation at the table was general, and referred principally to military matters and pending acts of legislation. My friend, who doubtless had heard of my confirmation and was in consequence disgusted, said he heard I was to be given an Army Corps of ******s. I laughingly replied I had not been informed of the honor awaiting me, but one thing I begged to assure, that if the ******s were going into the field and really could be brought heartily to fight, I was ready to command them, and should prefer such duty to others that might be assigned me. As this was a fair hit at's position, it silenced him, and I heard nothing further about commanding ******s."
Interesting . Who was the " friend" Meade referred to?
Leftyhunter
 
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#89
I'm not sure, although the way it's written seems to be sarcastic to me.
It does seem that Meade was being sarcastic in referring to him as a friend.

I would think McClellan can be ruled out in that Meade seemed pleased that McClellan had asked him to sit next to him, and stated that he was very kind in asking after his wife and children.

Might it have been Sykes? He would later be shipped off to Kansas by Grant following complaints from Meade about his performance as a Corps commander.
 

Andy Cardinal

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#90
It does seem that Meade was being sarcastic in referring to him as a friend.

I would think McClellan can be ruled out in that Meade seemed pleased that McClellan had asked him to sit next to him, and stated that he was very kind in asking after his wife and children.

Might it have been Sykes? He would later be shipped off to Kansas by Grant following complaints from Meade about his performance as a Corps commander.
I think Meade thought well of Sykes as he tried to retain him as a divisional commander in 1864.

I don't know who Van Allen is. Buchanan had commanded a brigade in Sykes division and, incidentally, was the commanding officer who disliked Grant in 1854 and forced him from the army.

Andrew Porter commanded a brigade at Bull Run and then was McClellan's Provost Marshal. Porter was originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and married a Biddle. Meade was acquainted with the Biddles, so as a guess (and just a guess) I'd say Andrew Porter.

Others present (who are mentioned in other parts of Meade's letter) are George McCall, George Cadwalader, and George Hartsuff. McCall was the original commander of the Pennsylvania Reserves. Cadwalader was from a prominent Philadelphia family and was also well know to Meade (His mother was also a Biddle) and might also be the "friend" in question.
 

Andy Cardinal

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#91
Here is more about George Cadwalader (thanks @OldReliable1862).

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/major-general-george-cadwalader.152668/

It appears from my quick examination that Cadwalader and Meade had close ties, which it makes me think he may well be the friend Meade is referring to. Perhaps the comment was not sarcastic after all but a sort of code for his wife to know who he was talking about.

Interestingly George Cadwalader played a role in an embarrassing episode for Meade regarding his opinion of Hooker after Chancellorsville: "I have been very much worried to-day by very extraordinary conduct on the part of Governor Curtin. He came to see me, and in the familiarity of private conversation, after expressing himself very much depressed, drew out of me opinions such as I have written to you about General Hooker, in which I stated my disappointment at the caution and prudence exhibited by General Hooker at the critical moment of the battle; at his assuming the defensive, when I thought the offensive ought to have been assumed; and at the withdrawal of the army, to which I was opposed. This opinion was expressed privately, as one gentleman would speak to another; was never intended for the injury of General Hooker, or for any other purpose than simply to make known my views. Imagine, then, my surprise when General Hooker, who has just returned from Washington, sent for me, and said that General Cadwalader had told him that Governor Curtin had reported in Washington that he (General Hooker) had entirely lost the confidence of the army, and that both Generals Reynolds and Meade had lost all confidence in him. Of course, I told Hooker that Governor Curtin had no warrant for using my name in this manner. I then repeated to Hooker what I had said to Governor Curtin, and told him that he knew that I had differed with him in judgment on the points above stated, and that he had no right to complain of my expressing my views to others, which he was aware I had expressed to him at the time the events were occurring. To this Hooker assented and expressed himself satisfied with my statement."
 
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#94
I think Winfield Scott Hancock should have been offered the command of the AoP... He was an aggressive commander and I believe would have run down Lee's AoNV after the battle the Gettysburg before he crossed the Potomac River...

Here is a link to a book where between Dec 1863 and Oct 1864 Hancock was being mentioned to replace Meade as commander of the AoP... Even Grant wrote a letter to Stanton about such actions...

https://books.google.com/books?id=U...r command of the Army of the pomtomac&f=false
 

Andy Cardinal

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#95
Hancock was seriously considered as a replacement to Meade in December 1863 after the failed Mine Run campaign, and again during 1864 when Meade expected to be reassigned to command in the Shenandoah Valley (which eventually went to Sheridan instead). I do not believe he was seriously considered as a replacement for Hooker (instead of Meade) in June 1863.

If Hancock had replaced Meade in either December 1863 or 1864, I find it doubtful he would have had much success or satisfaction with the job. He too would have been under "Grant's shadow," not to mention that his Gettysburg would made it difficult and at times impossible to exercise his corps command.
 
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#96
I haven't read all of this thread, but I can't help but wonder how John F. Reynolds would have done as commander of the AotP. The consensus seems to have been that he was a good, but not great corps commander, so not too sure how he would have done in army command.
 

kevikens

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#99
Had Meade been killed on the morning of July 1 and Reynolds somehow wound up in command of the AoP, I think that the battle would have been won tactically but that the conclusion of the battle would have been a Confederate Army trapped by a rising Potomac with an aggressive Reynolds pushing them into the rising waters. In other words, under Reynolds the Confederate Army would have suffered the kind of strategic defeat that would have made Lincoln a very happy man. Reynolds would have closed his fingers whereas Meade would not.
 
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I think Winfield Scott Hancock should have been offered the command of the AoP... He was an aggressive commander and I believe would have run down Lee's AoNV after the battle the Gettysburg before he crossed the Potomac River...

Here is a link to a book where between Dec 1863 and Oct 1864 Hancock was being mentioned to replace Meade as commander of the AoP... Even Grant wrote a letter to Stanton about such actions...

https://books.google.com/books?id=UOCdkV5USV4C&pg=PA204&dq=General+Windfield+Hancock+offer+command+of+the+Army+of+the+pomtomac&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj9vaDC59XgAhVO5awKHT8sC1IQ6AEIKjAA#v=onepage&q=General Windfield Hancock offer command of the Army of the pomtomac&f=false
I agree that Hancock was a good leader but would disagree with the assumption that Hancock would have "run down" Lee after the third day of fighting. The imperial troops were as used up as the rebels were and the weather was terrible.
 



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