The Road to Gettysburg: Meade Takes Command


Major General George Gordon Meade

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

For those that have followed my writing for some time you know that I teach military history and ethics at the Joint Forces Staff College. One of the great joys that I have is leading the Gettysburg Staff Ride, which is an optional event for students that want to participate. When I took the position here I took some of my older writings on Gettysburg and put them into a student study guide and text. That was two years ago. Then the text was about 70 pages long. It is now about 870 pages long and eventually I hope to get it published. When and if that happens I expect it to become two, and possibly three books.

This is the second of a series of articles that I will be posting potions of a chapter that I have rewritten about the surprises that various commanders experienced on June 28th 1863. The lessons for today are that war, any war, is the realm of chance, as such, surprises always happen. It is said that no plan survives first contact with the enemy, but some plans don’t survive that long. As you read this don’t just look at the events, but look at the people, and their reaction to the surprises that they encountered, for that is where we come to understand history.

So even if you are not a Civil War buff, or even a history buff, take the time to look at the people, their actions, and the things that made them who they were, and influenced what they did. History is about people.

So please enjoy,


Padre Steve+

About the time that Lee was confidently discussing the campaign with Isaac Trimble Major General George Meade, commander of V Corps the night of June 27th George Meade was simply one of seven Corps Commanders in the Army of the Potomac, but before the night was over he would be its commander on the eve of the most decisive battle of the war in the east.

George Gordon Meade was the son of an American merchant who served as the naval agent for the U.S. government in that country until 1817. Meade was born in Cadiz on December 31st 1815 and grew up in Pennsylvania and Maryland. His father had been ruined financially in Spain when supporting the Spanish government by loaning it over $375,000 in the Peninsular War against Napoleon. Meade’s father remained in Spain to try to recover his lost fortune he sent his wife and children back to the United States where the family lived on the margins of poverty. The money should have been reimbursed to him under the terms of the Treaty of Florida “which obligated the American government to assume any Spanish obligations to American citizens.” However “the U.S. government discovered loopholes that it allowed it to dodge all responsibility to an increasingly bitter and disappointed Richard Meade.” [1] It was a crushing blow to the elder Meade.

Meade’s father returned to the U.S. and the family moved from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. were Richard Meade, “worn down physically and mentally by his struggles” [2] died in 1828 when George was just 12 years old and attending “a boarding-school at Mount Airy, a few miles from Philadelphia, known as the American Classical and Military Lyceum.” [3] It was here that Meade got his first taste of military discipline as the school was modeled after West Point and in addition to their studies the students participated in military drill.

At the Lyceum, Meade was known for being “an amiable boy, full of life, but rather disposed to avoid the rough-and-tumble frolics of youths his age; quick at his lessons, and popular with both teachers and scholars.” [4] The family ran out of money to keep him at the school and he returned to Baltimore where he was enrolled in the Mount Hope School in Baltimore as his mother sought to gain him an appointment at West Point. At Mount Hope he studied Latin, English composition and mathematics. A certificate from the headmaster of the school obtained by his mother discussed Meade’s academic acumen.

“The knowledge he has gained…is far greater than is usually acquired by young men of his age in a single year. He possesses an uncommon quickness of perception and is, therefore, capable of acquiring knowledge with great rapidity….” [5]

Meade entered West Point in 1831 when he was just sixteen years old after being nominated by Andrew Jackson. The financial condition of his family was mostly responsible for this as “West Point was the one place where the young Meade could obtain a free college education.” [6] At West Point Meade did not excel in his studies and due to “his lack of attention to details of dress and equipment and apparent disinterest in drill, demerits began to pile up in his third year.” [7] While he graduated in the top half of his class his performance in some subjects such as military engineering gave no indication of how he would excel later in life. He graduated nineteenth of fifty-six in the class of 1835.

Unlike many classes which were crowded with men destined for greatness, there were few notables in this class. Other than Meade there was Lincoln’s Postmaster General Montgomery Blair, Brigadier General Herman Haupt, who directed the transportation system of the Union army in the East during the war and John Pemberton, who as a Confederate general would surrender Vicksburg to Grant as Meade was defeating Lee.

Meade was commissioned as a Brevet Second Lieutenant and assigned to the artillery. He spent most of that year in Florida where he was sick and assigned less demanding duties. He resigned his commission after serving his one year obligation and entered civilian life as a topographic engineer. Such was not an unusual occurrence in the tiny army of that era, as “over the previous two years more than a hundred West Point graduates had left the army.[8]

He found civilian employment with the Bureau of Topographical Engineers and over the next five years took part in surveying the Texas-Louisiana boundary line, followed by an assignment on the Mississippi River Delta. He finally worked on the survey of the Canadian-United States boundary, an area of perpetual dispute from the time of American independence.

It was during his time of civilian work with the Bureau that he met and married his wife Margaret Sergeant Wise, the daughter of Congressman John Sergeant, who had been the running mate of Henry Clay in the 1832 presidential election. The young woman was well educated and “developed a wide range of cultural interests including facility in four languages and proficiency at the piano.” [9] They had had seven children together, three sons and four daughters and through much of his career was forced to raise the children alone. Despite this, the marriage appeared to be happy and would last until his death in 1872.

In 1842 Congress passed a measure which limited topographic survey to officers of the Topographic Engineer Corps. For Meade this was a godsend, for with the assistance of Margaret’s brother-in-law Congressman Henry A. Wise of Virginia Meade was reappointed as a Second Lieutenant in the Topographic Engineers on May 19th 1842. He had lost nearly six years of seniority, but “he had fairly earned his rank of Second Lieutenant of Topographic Engineers.” [10] His first assignments included surveying the Aroostook River in Maine and the design and construction of a lighthouse for Brandywine Shoals, Delaware.

In 1845 with a war with Mexico looming due to the annexation of Texas, Lieutenant Meade reported to the headquarters of General Zachary Taylor in Corpus Christi. Here he conducted surveys of the Nueces River and other inland waterways. Meade accompanied Taylor to the disputed border area around between the Nueces and the Rio Grande where some of the first actions of the war took place in 1846. During the war he served in Mexico “principally with Taylor’s army, where he won a brevet for gallantry at Monterrey.” [11] During his time in Texas and Mexico Meade became disgusted with the political machinations that surrounded the war and in a letter home he wrote “the mighty engine of influence, that curse of our country, which forces party politics into everything.” [12]

Meade was transferred to the army of Winfield Scott where he was no longer the senior Topographic Engineer but the junior. He chafed at his inactivity with Scott and complained about it. Major Turnbull, the senior Topographic Engineer told Scott that Meade was “Meade was unexpectedly with the army and that he had quite enough officers without him.” [13] In light of this Scott sent Meade back, where he returned to building lighthouses missing the bulk of the campaign. That assignment was cut short in 1849 when Meade was ordered to Florida “amid an outbreak of violence by the Seminoles.” [14] In Florida he survey a line of forts and upon completion returned to lighthouse work at Brandywine Shoals and then in Key Largo.

When the Army established the Lighthouse Board, Meade was appointed t the Seventh District where he continued his work in Florida. Among the lighthouses that he built was the Sand Key lighthouse at Key West which stands to this day. Meade was still just a First Lieutenant but he was rising in terms of the work that he was doing and was “promoted to superintendent of the Seventh Lighthouse District.” [15] He took over the Fourth District as well when its superintendent was transferred to the West Coast. In this work Meade prospered. The most impressive monument to Meade’s work is the 163 foot tall Barnegat Bay Light in New Jersey. Meade was justifiably proud of his accomplishments and after the war noted that “I have always thought my services in the construction of lighthouses, and subsequently on the Lake Survey were of considerable importance.” [16]

In 1856 Meade was promoted to Captain and given charge over the vast Great Lakes survey. In Meade’s words he work involved:

“the delineation of the shores, and bottom of the lakes, bringing to light the hidden dangers; obtaining the evidence and capacity and depth of water in all the harbors and rivers and consequently the most practical mode of improving them; furnishing the evidence of the wants of navigation in reference to lighthouses, beacons and buoys and the proper sites for same.” [17]

Meade had to lobby Congress for funding and expanded the number of officers and personnel involved until by 1860 he had ten teams, some working on land and some aboard ships with a budget which he expanded from $25,000 to $75,000 in three years. It was a remarkable job, but then Meade had matured as an officer and as a leader.

Meade was still involved with this mission when Fort Sumter was attacked. To the consternation of local leaders in Detroit, he and his officers refused to be part of a mass meeting where the locals were insisting the Federal officers publically renew their oaths. This decision was part of Meade’s innate conservatism. Meade felt that doing so without the order of the War Department was not within his prevue.

Meade was not a firebrand, conservative and logical thought that the best course would for both sides to step back and catch their breath. He was “dismayed at the arrogance of the fire-eaters, to whom Southern secession seemed like a simple riot which would be suppressed by the mere appearance of Federal troops.” [18] The decision angered Senator Zach Chandler who had organized the event and Chandler would remain an opponent of Meade throughout the war.

He had never been a political officer and was determined to avoid becoming one, he wrote “as a soldier, holding a commission, it has always been my judgement that duty required that I should disregard all political questions, and obey orders.” [19] Thus he avoided some of the more overtly political displays in Michigan but wrote:

“I have ever held it to be my duty…to uphold and maintain the Constitution and resist the disruption of this Government. With this opinion I hold the other side responsible for this existing condition of affairs.” [20]

He was viewed with suspicion by Radical Republicans as “another politically unreliable McClellan Democrat” and William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator noted that his look “reveals a character that never yet efficiently and consistently served a liberal cause.” [21]

He immediately volunteered for field duty, but it his request was not answered due to resistance in the Corps of Topographic Engineers. It was not until after the debacle at Bull Run when he would be appointed a Brigadier General of Volunteers, even as he was preparing to resign his commission to take command of a Michigan Regiment.

Meade was appointed to command a brigade of the Pennsylvania Reserves and saw much action at the head of his brigade on the Peninsula, serving alongside his friend John Reynolds who commanded another brigade in the division. Meade exhibited a coolness under fire that earned the respect of his soldiers and officers. His fearless nature had “resulted in his being wounded twice by bullets almost simultaneously at the Battle of Glendale on the Peninsula” [22] and incurring other wounds and close calls at South Mountain, Antietam and Fredericksburg.

In September 1862 he was promoted to command the division and after Fredericksburg he was promoted to command Fifth Corps. His promotions “from brigade commander in the Pennsylvania Reserve Division to corps command had been earned on battlefields.” [23] Serving in almost all of the army’s campaigns in the East Meade “gained increasing distinction as a highly competent and skillful officer. At Fredericksburg his division was the only unit to achieve any kind of success in a battle that otherwise was known as the worst fiasco in the history of the Army of the Potomac.” [24]

Like many of the commanders at Gettysburg Meade’s personality, temperament and character were complex, leading to people who met him or served with him to different conclusions. He possessed little flair for the dramatic or the theatrical. He was quietly religious and modest and “he usually kept aloof and made no effort to make himself popular” especially with reporters and “they exacted a toll for this treatment, and as a result Meade’s reputation suffered from a poor press.” [25]

He did not fit the stereotype of a commanding general of an army, he possessed none of McClellan’s style, Hooker’s dash or Reynold’s handsomeness. Some of his critics in the ranks referred to him as “a damned old goggle-eyed snapping turtle” while others called him “Old Four Eye” based on the glasses that he wore.[26] Meade handled such comments well for he had few delusions about himself, he remarked to an officer “I know they call me a damned old snapping turtle.” [27] As for his physical appearance a reporter noted that Meade “is colorless, being of a ghostly pale,” and “his nose of the antique bend.” [28] Another noted that he looked more like “a learned pundit than a soldier” [29] while his attire did not help, an aide noted “as for clothes, General Meade was nowhere.” Another officer remarked, “it would be rather hard to make him look well dressed.” [30]

Meade was sharp minded and quick tempered, “irritable and touchy in camp, possessed of a famous temper and imperfect means of controlling it.” [31] His temper was rooted in his sense of perfectionism and truthfulness. Theodore Lyman wrote that “I never saw a man in my life who was so characterized by straightforward truthfulness as he is.” [32] But Meade’s often volcanic temper and abject truthfulness were that of a logical man who could not abide “stupidity, negligence or laziness.” [33] Lyman observed “I don’t know any thin old gentleman, with a hooked nose and cold blue eye, who, when he is wrathy, exercises less of Christian charity than my well-beloved Chief!” [34]

Unlike some leaders whose temper led them to make unwise decisions with the lives of their troops, “in matters involving the safety of the army or the lives of thousands of men he exercised self-control and showed great moral courage in his decisions.” [35] At the same time he was a man who if after an angry outburst was full of regret, and as introspective as he was had “a cordial desire, if he had been wrong to make amends.” [36]

He was a man who in the war did not lose his humanity either towards the soldiers that he commanded or the victims of war. He was moved to acts of compassion when he saw suffering women and children whose lives had been upended by war. During the campaign of 1864 Meade:

“happened upon a poorly dressed woman fringed by several crying children – a family which the cavalry had robbed – he pulled out a five-dollar bill and also saw that food was provided for the day’s neediest. “The soft-hearted General…though of his own small children,” Colonel Lyman reflected. “He is a tender hearted man.” [37]

It was this complex man, a modest, conservative perfectionist, prone to volcanic eruptions of temper, but possessing of a strong sense of honesty even in regard to himself, who in the early morning hours of June 28th 1863 would have the fate of the Union thrust upon his shoulders.

“I Bring You Trouble” Meade Takes Command

As Trimble left and Lee settled in for the night, Meade, Commander of V Corps, was at his new headquarters located at Robert McGill’s farm outside of Frederick. Meade was asleep in his tent, was unaware that Colonel James A. Hardie, Halleck’s Assistant Adjutant General, was on a train from Washington with orders that would change the course of the war. Hardie arrived in Fredericksburg after midnight and instead of remaining for the night rented a carriage and made his way directly to Meade’s headquarters, bearing in his hand “General Orders 194…relieving General Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac and appointing General Meade in his place.” [38]

Meade, though he desired the appointment as commander of the Army did not expect it. Meade, a career soldier “possessed ambition but had never allowed it to consume him as Joseph Hooker had.” [39] Meade believed that if Hooker was relieved of command that John Reynolds of First Corps or another would receive it. Meade was outranked by his fellow Corps commanders Reynolds and John Sedgwick of VI Corps, and he felt that Reynolds was the ideal man to command the army.

Meade wrote to his wife the reasons he believed that he would not get command a few days before: “because I have no friends, political or others, who press or advance my claims or pretentions.” [40] The latter was not because Meade did not have friends, but because unlike Hooker, Sickles and so many others he stayed out of the various political cabals in the army and their constant intrigues. Meade, though on bad terms with Hooker was not one of the Generals who conspired against Hooker in the weeks following Chancellorsville. He told Governor Andrew Curtain of Pennsylvania that “I should be very sorry to see him removed, unless a decidedly better man is substituted.” [41]

On June 25th Meade had written his wife Margaret, who was uneasy with the rumors that her husband might be named head of the army. Earlier in the month when it was rumored that he might be offered command she “reacted to the news with vigor and urgency: “Do not accept it!” She was convinced that it would ruin his career.” [42] Reiterating his belief that he did not have the necessary political connections, and that there were others at least as competent or more to lead the army, he wrote:

“For these reasons I have never indulged in any dreams of ambition, contented to await events, and do my duty in the sphere it pleases God to place me in…and I really think that it would be well for you to take the same philosophical view; but do you know, I think your ambition is being roused and that you are beginning to be bitten with the dazzling prospect of having for a husband a commanding general of an army. How is this?” [43]

At 3:00 A.M. Hardie arrived. “Led to Meade’s tent, Hardie greeted the suddenly awakened general by saying he brought “trouble.” [44] Meade wrote his wife:

“At 3:00 A.M. I was roused from my sleep by an officer from Washington entering my tent…and after waking me up, saying he had come to give me trouble. At first I thought that it was to either relieve or arrest me, and promptly replied to him, that my conscience was clear, void of offense towards any man; I was prepared for his bad news. He then handed me a communication to read: which I found was an order relieving Hooker from the command and assigning me to it.” [45]

Meade was “given a brief order from Lincoln assigning him the high command, and a detailed message outlining his course. The army was to cover Washington and Baltimore; Harpers Ferry and its garrison would come under Meade’s own jurisdiction, etc.” and Halleck noted that “the transfer was being made at a critical time.” [46]

Meade agitatedly stated his objections to Hardie, again reiterating his belief that Reynolds should command the army but Hardie explained that the decision had been made and that Meade had no choice but to obey his orders or resign. Hardie provided Meade a letter from Halleck which said “Considering the circumstances…no one ever received a more important command; and I cannot doubt that you will firmly justify the confidence that the Government has reposed in you.” [47]

The order gave Meade command of the troops at Harper’s Ferry which had been denied to Hooker just days before. It also gave him freedom of command. It read: “You will not be hampered by any minute instructions from these headquarters” and “you are free to act as you deem proper under the circumstances as they arise.” [48] Likewise Meade was authorized to take command General Couch’s forces along the Susquehanna. A further power given to Meade which had not been given to previous commanders of the Army of the Potomac was the authority to relieve from command and dismiss officers from the army, or appoint to command officers regardless of seniority as he saw fit. It was a power that during the tumult of battle that he would use well in the coming days.

Meade went by horseback with Hardie and his son Captain George Meade to Hooker’s headquarters at Prospect Hall.

The previous night Hooker, who after hearing nothing after Halleck’s terse response to his request to be relieved “had convinced himself that the ensuing silence meant that he had beaten Halleck.” [49] But now, Hooker, aware that Hardie was in the camp, correctly assumed that he was through as the commander of the Army of the Potomac. Hooker greeted his visitors in his full dress uniform and with “much effort he tried to hide his feelings and by extreme courtesy to relieve the situation of embarrassment.” [50]

Meade had not seen Hooker in two weeks and had no idea how scattered the army was. When Hooker and Dan Butterfield his Chief of Staff briefed Meade, and Meade learned of the army’s disposition he “unguardedly expressed himself.” Hooker “retorted with feeling.[51] There was also disagreement on what the two generals believed Lee’s intentions were regarding crossing the Susquehanna. Hooker insisted that since Lee had no bridging equipment that he would not cross the river or threaten Harrisburg. Instead Hooker believed that Lee would proceed down the right bank of the river towards Baltimore and Washington. Meade disagreed that “the enemy would not attempt to cross at low water. In point of fact, Lee had already issued orders to move,” [52] while Dick Ewell was already preparing for a river crossing and assault on the weakly held Pennsylvania Capital.

Despite the uncomfortableness of the situation Hooker and Meade were able to successfully pass command of the army and Hooker issued General Order 66 in which “he praised his successor and asked the army to extend the hearty support it had given him. He added:

“Impressed with the ability that my usefulness as the commander of the Army of the Potomac is impaired I part from it; yet not without the deepest emotion.

The sorrow of parting with comrades of so many battles is relieved by the conviction that the courage and devotion of this army will never cease to fail.” [53]

Meade’s words in his General Order 67 are indicative of his feelings on assuming command of the army:

“By direction of the President of the United States, I hereby assume command of the Army of the Potomac…. As a soldier obeying this order- an order totally unexpected and unsolicited- I have no promises to make.”

‘The country looks to this army to relieve it from the devastation and disgrace of a foreign invasion. Whatever fatigues and sacrifices we may be called to undergo, let us have in view, constantly the magnitude of the interests involved, and let each man determine to do his duty, leaving to an all-controlling Providence the decision of the contest.

“It is with great diffidence that I relieve in the command of this army an eminent and accomplished soldier, whose name must appear conspicuous in the history of its achievements; but I rely on the hearty support of my companions in arms to assist me in the discharge of the duties of the important trust which has been confided to me.” [54]

That afternoon Meade sent a note to Halleck telling him he had received “the order placing me in command of this army” and that “as a soldier, I obey it.” [55] When Lincoln saw the letter which also outlined Meade’s initial plans to give battle, he was overheard to say “I tell you I think a lot of that fine fellow Meade.” [56]

Reynolds was among the first corps commanders to pay his respects to Meade, and Meade “grabbed him by the arm and earnestly told him he wished Reynolds had received the assignment. Reynolds replied that Meade was the right choice and that he would do whatever was necessary to support him.” [57] John Gibbon greeted Meade’s appointment “with a sigh of relief” and Reynold’s artillery commander wrote “For my part, I think that we have got the best man of the two, much as I think of Reynolds….” [58]

Meade had good reason to wish that Reynolds or another had been appointed and certainly welcomed his friend Reynolds’ support. Meade knew that he was not Lincoln’s first choice for the job, partly because of being associated with George McClellan, as well as his own political ties as a Democrat, and the opposition of leading Republicans to his appointment to any command. He had run afoul of the Northern abolitionist “fire eaters” in Detroit when Fort Sumter was fired on, and was distrustful of politicians and politically inclined soldiers.

The new commander of the army was fully aware ware of the fate of other officers who had a similar political bent. One of these officers, Fitz-John Porter, his predecessor at V Corps, was “court-martialed, cashiered and disgraced” [59] after being falsely accused of “disobedience of orders during the Second Battle of Bull Run” [60] by John Pope who had brought about that disaster.

With that in mind Meade understood the political danger that his appointment entailed:

“If he was successful in protecting Washington and Baltimore or if he somehow defeated Lee and drove the Confederates back across the Potomac, he would receive precious little credit from the Lincoln administration; if he failed, even for the most plainly military reasons, he expected to be pilloried without mercy as a halfheart and traitor.” [61]

The appointment of Meade was met with relief by most of his fellow Corps commanders. He was respected by them, despite having “a cold, even irascible, edge to him, particularly when occupied with army business. He was demanding of himself and of aids and subordinates,” [62] but what mattered to them was that Meade “was a thorough soldier, and a “mighty clear headed man”, with “extraordinary courage.” [63] A future staff officer noted that Meade “will pitch himself in a moment, if he thinks he has done wrong; and woe to those, no matter who they are, who do not do right.” [64]

He was viewed as a truthful, honest and caring commander who after a blow- up would do what he could to reconcile. He was passionate about the lives of his troops and whenever possible avoided battles that he believed their sacrifice would be in vain. He knew his trade, paid close attention to detail and knew and understood his troops and commanders. He had earned respect throughout his career and during the battles on the Peninsula, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville proved that he was an excellent leader and commander of troops.

All that being said Meade was virtually “an unknown quantity outside of his corps.” [65] Many in the rank and file wondered about the change of commanders in the middle of the campaign, “What’s Meade ever done?” was a common response among the men- those outside his corps at least- when they heard that he was their new commander. The general himself had few delusions on this score. “I know they call me a damned old snapping turtle….” [66] These soldiers had seen good and bad commanders and seen how Washington had dealt with each one, but by now “their training in the school of hard knocks under fumbling leaders had toughened the soldiers to a flinty self-reliance that left many indifferent to the identity of their commander. [67] On the eve of battle they had a new commanding general and “they were almost within rifleshot of a supremely aggressive enemy…whatever happened during the next week, the one certainty was now that the soldiers themselves would run this next battle. The most that could be expected of Meade was that he would make no ruinous mistakes.” [68] It not only was an army with a new leader, but in its soul, the Army of the Potomac was a different army than Lee had ever faced.

Meade had an immense task to accomplish. When he went to bed on the night of the 27th as commander of V Corps he was unaware of the locations of the bulk of the Federal Army and knew that Lee was already deep in Pennsylvania. Now, Meade was determined to bring Lee to battle, but was cautious as he did not want to take a chance of his forces being split up and defeated in detail, which in fact was what Lee hoped to do to the Army of the Potomac.

With his assumption of command Meade had to make some organizational changes. Against the advice of some Meade kept General Daniel Butterfield as his Chief of Staff despite his personal aversion for him and for Butterfield’s close association with Hooker and his political cabal. He appointed Major General George Sykes to command his old V Corps and wired Halleck with an “unheard of request: to promote in one jump three brilliant young officers from the rank of captain to that of brigadier general. They were Elon J. Farnsworth of the 8th Illinois Cavalry, George A Custer of the 5th United States Cavalry and Wesley Merritt of the 2nd United States Cavalry.” [69] Each was appointed to command brigades in Pleasanton’s Cavalry Corps which was being reorganized that day.

Meade had another great advantage over Lee in in his access to information and intelligence. Colonel George Sharpe of the Bureau of Military Information had provided him with the information that “the enemy force does not exceed 80,000 men and 275 guns,” as well as “a remarkably accurate outline of Lee’s movements.” [70] The information allowed Meade to begin his pursuit of Lee in earnest the following morning.

One thing that Meade understood was that if he was to defeat Lee he had to concentrate his combat power, he could not allow Lee’s forces to engage elements of the army and defeat them in detail. All too often Federal forces had not concentrated or taken advantage of their superiority in men and artillery. Meade wired Halleck that he would “move toward the Susquehanna keeping Baltimore and Washington well covered, and if the enemy is checked in his attempt to cross the Susquehanna or if he turns toward Baltimore, to give him battle.” [71] Meade wrote discussed his intent, noting, “my object being at all hazards to compel him to loose his hold on the Susquehanna and to meet me in battle at some point. It was my firm determination…to give battle wherever and as soon as I could possibly find the enemy.” [72]

Wisely, Meade also prepared a fallback position along Pipe Creek on the Pennsylvania-Maryland border. Knowing that it was possible that a corps could become isolated and face superior forces Meade gave his Corps commanders permission to withdraw back to the Pipe Creek line if they felt threatened by a larger Confederate force.

With his orders given and preparations underway, Meade’s Army of the Potomac began to march north on the morning of June 29th into Pennsylvania where it was fated to do battle with its old nemesis, the Army of Northern Virginia.


[1] Huntington, Tom Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg PA 2013 p.12

[2] Ibid. Huntington Searching for George Gordon Meade p.12

[3] Meade, George edited by George Gordon Meade The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major General United States Army Volume I Big Byte Books Amazon Kindle Edition 2014 originally published 1913 location 185 of 7307

[4] Ibid. Huntington Searching for George Gordon Meade p.12

[5] Cleaves, Freeman Meade of Gettysburg University of Oklahoma Press, Norman and London 1960 p.10

[6] Sears, Stephen W. Gettysburg. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston and New York 2003 p.85

[7] Ibid. Cleaves Meade of Gettysburg p.11

[8] Ibid. Huntington Searching for George Gordon Meade p.13

[9] Wilson Robert and Clair, Carl They Also Served: Wives of Civil War Generals Xlibris Corporation 2006 p.27

[10] Ibid. Cleaves Meade of Gettysburg p.18

[11] Pfanz Harry W. Gettysburg: The First Day University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London 2001 p.43

[12] Ibid. Huntington Searching for George Gordon Meade p.29

[13] Ibid. Cleaves Meade of Gettysburg p.43

[14] Ibid. Huntington Searching for George Gordon Meade p.31

[15] Ibid. Cleaves Meade of Gettysburg p.49

[16] Ibid. Huntington Searching for George Gordon Meade p.32

[17] Ibid. Cleaves Meade of Gettysburg p.50

[18] Ibid. Catton The Army of the Potomac: Glory Roadp.257

[19] Ibid. Huntington Searching for George Gordon Meade p.39

[20] Ibid. Cleaves Meade of Gettysburg p.52

[21] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.88

[22] Tagg, Larry The Generals of Gettysburg: The Leaders of America’s Greatest Battle Da Capo Press Cambridge MA 1998 Amazon Kindle Edition p.2

[23] Ibid. Wert A Glorious Army p.267

[24] Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign pp.213-214

[25] Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign p.213

[26] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.87

[27] Ibid. Foote The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two p.454

[28] Wert, Jeffry D. The Sword of Lincoln: The Army of the Potomac Simon and Schuster, New York and London 2005 p.268

[29] Ibid. Foote The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two p.454

[30] Ibid. Wert The Sword of Lincoln p.268

[31] Ibid. Catton The Army of the Potomac: Glory Roadp.257

[32] Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign p.211

[33] Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign p.211

[34] Ibid Sears. Gettysburg. Pp.125-126

[35] Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign p.211

[36] Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign p.212

[37] Ibid. Cleaves Meade of Gettysburg p.247

[38] Ibid Sears. Gettysburg. p.123

[39] Ibid. Wert The Sword of Lincoln p.267

[40] Ibid. Foote The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two p.446

[41] Ibid. Huntington Searching for George Gordon Meade p.145

[42] Ibid. Wilson and Clair They Also Served p.28

[43] Ibid. Huntington Searching for George Gordon Meade p.147

[44] Ibid. Wert The Sword of Lincoln p.266

[45] Trudeau, Noah Andre. Gettysburg, A Testing of Courage Harper Collins, New York, 2003. p.102

[46] Ibid. Cleaves Meade of Gettysburg p.125

[47] Ibid. Huntington Searching for George Gordon Meade p.148

[48] Ibid. Foote The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two p.451

[49] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.89

[50] Hebert, Walter H. Fighting Joe Hooker University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London 1999. Originally published by Bobbs-Merrill, New York 1944 p. 246

[51] Ibid. Huntington Searching for George Gordon Meade p.149

[52] Ibid. Cleaves Meade of Gettysburg p.125

[53] Ibid. Hebert Fighting Joe Hooker p.246

[54] Ibid. Huntington Searching for George Gordon Meade p.150

[55] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.89

[56] Ibid. Cleaves Meade of Gettysburg p.126

[57] Ibid. Huntington Searching for George Gordon Meade p.149

[58] Ibid. Huntington Searching for George Gordon Meade p.150

[59] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.90

[60] Ibid. Wert The Sword of Lincoln p.185

[61] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.90

[62] Ibid. Wert The Sword of Lincoln p.267

[63] Ibid. Wert The Sword of Lincoln p.268

[64] Ibid. Wert The Sword of Lincoln p.267

[65] McPherson, James. The Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York 1988 p.652

[66] Ibid. Foote The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two p.454

[67] Ibid. McPherson The Battle Cry of Freedom p.652

[68] Ibid. Catton The Army of the Potomac p.259

[69] Ibid. Coddington p.220

[70] Ibid. Trudeau Gettysburg, A Testing of Courage p.106

[71] Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign, A Study in Command pp. 219-220

[72] Ibid. Trudeau Gettysburg, A Testing of Courage p.112


1 Comment

Filed under civil war, Gettysburg, History, leadership, Military

One response to “The Road to Gettysburg: Meade Takes Command

  1. Pingback: The Road to Gettysburg: Meade Takes Command | Gunlord500

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