General George Gordon Meade

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General George Gordon Meade

General George Gordon Meade
Compiled Military Service Record

George Gordon Meade  (Union)

Biographical data and notes:
- Born Dec. 31, 1815, in Cadiz, Spain
- Pre-enlistment occupation: US Army Officer
- George Gordon Meade died on Nov. 6, 1872
- Graduate USMA 07/01/1835
- Died Nov. 6, 1872, in Philadelphia, PA

- Enlisted on May 19, 1856, as Captain

Mustering information:
- Commissioned into 1st Battn Eng (Regular Army)
on May 19, 1856
- Commissioned into General Staff (U.S. Volunteers)
on Aug. 31, 1861
- Discharged due to promotion from 1st Battn Eng (Regular Army)
on Jul. 3, 1863 (Prior service in US Army since 07/01/1835)
- Discharged due to promotion from General Staff (U.S. Volunteers)
on Jul. 3, 1863
- Commissioned into General Staff (Regular Army)
on Jul. 3, 1863

- Promoted to Brig-Gen (Full, Vol) on Aug. 31, 1861
- Promoted to Major (Full, Army) on Jun. 18, 1862
- Promoted to Major-Gen (Full, Vol) on Nov. 29, 1862
- Promoted to Brig-Gen (Full, Army) on Jul. 3, 1863
- Promoted to Major-Gen (Full, Army) on Aug. 18, 1864
General George Gordon Meade
Biography and History

Meade, George G. major-general, was born at Cadiz, Spain,
during the consulship of his father at that port, in 1815. At
an early age, he was sent to the boys' school in Washington, D.
C., at that time kept by Salmon P. Chase, afterward chief-
justice of the United States supreme court. Subsequently, he
attended the military academy near Philadelphia, and in 1831,
entered the academy at West Point, whence he graduated in 1835,
as brevet second lieutenant of the 3d artillery. The same year,
he was made second lieutenant, and served in Florida in the
Seminole war. The state of his health induced him to resign
his commission in 1836, and he became a civil engineer, but, in
1842, he again entered the army, as second lieutenant in the
corps of topographical engineers, and in that capacity served
in the Mexican war. During this campaign, he was attached to
the staff of Gen. Taylor, and afterward to that of Gen. Scott
distinguishing himself at Palo Alto and Monterey, and
receiving, as an acknowledgment of his gallantry, a brevet of
first lieutenant, dated Sept 23, 1846, and also upon his return
to Philadelphia, a splendid sword from his townsmen. During
the interim between the Mexican war and the Civil War, having
been promoted to a full first lieutenancy in Aug., 1851, and to
a captaincy of engineers in May, 1855, he was engaged in the
particular duties of his department, more especially in the
survey of the northern lakes; but upon the call of the
government for men in 1861, he was ordered to report at
Washington, and upon the organization of the Pennsylvania
reserve corps, was made a brigadier-general of volunteers and
assigned the command of the 2nd brigade, his commission dating
Aug. 31, 1861. During the Seven Days battles, Gen. Meade was
severely wounded, but soon recovered and, in Sept., 1862, took
command of a division in Reynolds' 1st army corps, which he
conducted with great skill and bravery during the Maryland
campaign. At Antietam, when Gen. Hooker was wounded, Gen.
Meade was placed in command of the corps and fought bravely the
remainder of the day, receiving a slight wound and having two
horses killed under him. He received the appointment of major-
general of volunteers on Nov. 29, and took part in the battle
of Fredericksburg, displaying courage and coolness during the
engagement. In June, 1863, when Lee was advancing up the
Shenandoah valley to invade Maryland and Pennsylvania, Gen.
Meade was suddenly and unexpectedly called to succeed Gen.
Hooker in the command of the Army of the Potomac, and he
displayed masterly ability throughout the three days' battle of
Gettysburg. Following this engagement, about July 18, he moved
his army across the Potomac into Virginia, where he had several
skirmishes with the enemy in October and November, and he was
in command of the Army of the Potomac during the operations
against Richmond in 1864. On June 18, 1862, Gen. Meade was
promoted to the rank of major of engineers in the regular army,
and on July 3, 1863, was advanced by the several grades of
lieutenant-colonel and colonel to the brigadier-generalship in
the regular army. During the session of 1863-64, he received
the thanks of Congress, and was on Feb. 1, 1865, promoted a
major-general in the regular army, his commission dating from
Aug. 18, 1864. In the reconstruction of the military divisions
after the war, Gen. Meade was given the command of the division
of the Atlantic, with headquarters at Philadelphia, where he
resided in the house presented to his wife by his fellow-
citizens, in grateful recognition of his eminent services. He
died at this residence in Philadelphia, Nov. 6, 1872.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 8

Recommended Reading: George Gordon Meade and the War in the East (Civil War Campaigns and Commanders Series) (Hardcover). Description: Even though he defeated Robert E. Lee in the Civil War's greatest battle, George Gordon Meade has never enjoyed a prominent place in the pantheon of Union war heroes. To most students of the Civil War, he is merely the man who was lucky enough to benefit from Confederate mistakes at Gettysburg, but whose shortcomings as a commander compelled Abraham Lincoln to bring in Ulysses S. Grant from the West to “achieve victory.” Continued below.

In this, the first book-length study of the general to appear in a generation, Ethan S. Rafuse challenges the notion that Meade was simply the last in a long line of failed Union commanders in the East. Instead, George Gordon Meade and the War in the East offer a balanced, informative, and complete, yet concise, reconsideration of the general's life and career. It also provides keen analysis of the military and political factors that shaped operations in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, and delineates the sources of tension between Washington and the Army of the Potomac high command that played such an important role in shaping the war in the Eastern Theater. This study will appeal to anyone with an interest in Meade, American history, and the politics of command in the Civil War, and encourage reconsideration of traditional interpretations of the Union war effort in the East.

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Recommended Reading: The Union Generals Speak: The Meade Hearings on the Battle of Gettysburg (Hardcover). From Publishers Weekly: Remembered now as a grand patriotic epic, the Battle of Gettysburg was a source of disappointment and controversy in the North because of the Union army's failure to head off and destroy Lee's army in the wake of the clash. This superbly edited collection of transcripts from the ensuing Congressional hearings sheds fascinating light on the conduct of the battle and the convoluted politics of the war in the North. Continued below.

The Radical Republicans in Congress used the hearings to attack their political enemies in the army, pressing allegations of faint-heartedness and pro-Southern sympathies on the part of Union commander George Meade and the Democrats and West Pointers in the officer corps. Meanwhile, the Union generals who testified brought their own faulty memories and hidden agendas to the hearings, using them to play up their roles in the battle and settle scores with rivals. The picture that emerges is of an army beset by personal vendettas, factional infighting, resentments between political appointees and professional soldiers and rancorous divisions over military policy. Hyde, an amateur Civil War historian, annotates the transcripts with engaging background material on the personalities, careers and machinations of the participants and a running commentary that corrects and analyzes the many errors, deceptions and obfuscations of the raw testimony. The result is a highly detailed, often vivid account of the high points of the battle and its aftermath, one that eschews the typical Gettysburg hagiography and points up the blunders, miscommunication and character flaws of the principals. Although a little arcane for casual readers, Civil War buffs will find it an engrossing supplement to Gettysburg lore.


Recommended Reading: Meade's Army: The Private Notebooks of Lt. Col. Theodore Lyman (Civil War in the North) (Hardcover: 518 pages) (Kent State University Press) (May 30, 2007). Description: The Private Notebooks of Lt. Col. Theodore Lyman is perhaps the most valuable insight into General Meade, because Lyman, without any reservation, “freely expresses his beliefs, thoughts, and observations from the pen to the paper.” Continued below.

Meade's Army is more that just an edited version of Theodore Lyman's experience with the Army of the Potomac. As one glides through the pages of Lyman's journal and flips back to the accompanying footnotes, one begins to appreciate the relationship between the editor and Lyman. While Lyman provides astute observations on everything from the flora and fauna of the battlefield to the chaos of fighting, the editor's annotations serve to link Lyman back to his social milieu. Classmates, relatives, and the social elite of Harvard University and Boston all meet at various times during the war and even on the battlefield. And the editor reminds the reader that Lyman is a product of his era--the social status which colors his observations. Such insights provide a deeper contextual layer to what is already a fascinating real-time account of the war.  


Recommended Reading: With Grant and Meade from the Wilderness to Appomattox. Description: The letters of Theodore Lyman, an aide-de-camp to General George Meade, offer a witty and penetrating inside view of the Civil War. Scholar and Boston Brahmin, Lyman volunteered for service following the battle at Gettysburg. From September 1863 to the end of the war, he wrote letters almost daily to his wife. Colonel Lyman’s early letters describe life in winter quarters. Those written after General Grant assumes command chronicle the Army of the Potomac’s long-awaited move against the Army of Northern Virginia. Lyman covered the field, delivering messages. Continued below.

As a general’s aide, he was privy to headquarters planning, gossip, and politics. No one escaped his discerning eye—neither "the flaxen Custer" nor Abraham Lincoln, who struck him as "a highly intellectual and benevolent Satyr." After capably serving General Meade ("Old Peppery"), Lyman accompanied him to Appomattox Court House and there observed the dignified, defeated General Lee.


Recommended Reading: Meade's Reprise (Hardcover). From Publishers Weekly: Merriam rewrites the ending to the Civil War in his vividly imaged debut novel, which elevates Union Maj. Gen. George Meade to the status of military genius after his trouncing of Lee at Gettysburg. In Merriam's revisionist history, Meade is ably assisted by a pair of Negro spies, Henry Prediger and Josephus Alexander, who provide Meade with so much advance notice about Confederate strategy that Meade is able to outflank Lee at every turn. Continued below.

Nevertheless, Meade's conquest of Richmond proves to be a debacle, with Lincoln pushing to end the war and several of Meade's military colleagues seeking to undermine Meade's ongoing efforts. Merriam puts his impeccable research to good use, offering impressive portraits of Lincoln, and Generals Longstreet and Sickles. He also brings the war and military intrigue to life, although Lee's military talent is noticeably shortchanged. Even given the license of speculative fiction, however, Merriam pushes the bounds of credibility in two important ways. His account of the ease with which Prediger and Alexander gain access to Meade to funnel information seems unimaginable, and his investment of Meade with the personal brilliance to match his military acumen goes against most portrayals of the leader, which found him overwhelmed and out of his element in the political arena. Moreover, Merriam's account of the efforts to put African-Americans on equal footing with whites smacks of modern-day political correctness, and he conveniently ignores much of the vitriol that plunged the South into chaos after the war. This volume presents some compelling historical material, but the unfettered nature of the speculation undermines the storytelling.

Recommended Viewing: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns. Review: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns is the most successful public-television miniseries in American history. The 11-hour Civil War didn't just captivate a nation, reteaching to us our history in narrative terms; it actually also invented a new film language taken from its creator. When people describe documentaries using the "Ken Burns approach," its style is understood: voice-over narrators reading letters and documents dramatically and stating the writer's name at their conclusion, fresh live footage of places juxtaposed with still images (photographs, paintings, maps, prints), anecdotal interviews, and romantic musical scores taken from the era he depicts. Continued below...
The Civil War uses all of these devices to evoke atmosphere and resurrect an event that many knew only from stale history books. While Burns is a historian, a researcher, and a documentarian, he's above all a gifted storyteller, and it's his narrative powers that give this chronicle its beauty, overwhelming emotion, and devastating horror. Using the words of old letters, eloquently read by a variety of celebrities, the stories of historians like Shelby Foote and rare, stained photos, Burns allows us not only to relearn and finally understand our history, but also to feel and experience it. "Hailed as a film masterpiece and landmark in historical storytelling." "[S]hould be a requirement for every student."

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