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Thoughts on Meade? - George Meade - The Participants of the War - Mikitary & Civilian - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Thu Feb 21st, 2008 11:32 pm
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javal1
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Well, we all have our favorite Civil War figures. I admit to a fascination with Meade. We've seen on a recent thread on Cold Harbor that he gets mixed reviews on some actions. But overall, what are the various thoughts out there on this very under-studied Civil War officer?

I was always rather impressed with his Antietam performance, as well as others. Yet he seems destined to be one of the generally ignored CW higher-ups. Other thoughts on Meade?



 Posted: Fri Feb 22nd, 2008 02:12 pm
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PvtClewell
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What, no takers? I'll try.

I think Meade was the right man at the right time. His performance at Gettysburg was remarkable, given that he took command of the AofP just three days before the battle and while in pursuit of Lee.

He was also effective in subordinate roles, such as South Mountain. At Fredericksburg, his division was the only one to pierce the Confederate lines and failed probably only because his breakthrough was not supported.

His star diminished immediately after G-burg because he did not strenuously pursue Lee, but I can find no fault in that because his army was just as battered as Lee's.

When Grant assumed overall command in March 1864, Meade was still in command of the AofP, which I think caused an unwieldy command structure which ultimately manifested itself at Cold Harbor.

Meade's famous temper worked against him, too. He hated reporters. After Cold Harbor, he was criticized in the Philadelphia Inquirer by correspondent Edward Crapsey. Meade had provost marshall Marsena Patrick expel Crapsey from the army. Crapsey was tied to a mule, facing the tail, with a sign that said "Libeler of the Press' on his back and escorted out of camp to the tune of 'Rogue's March.'
The media retaliated by never mentioning Meade's again unless he could be tied to a Union defeat.

All in all, I'd say that Meade was a true professional soldier who did the best he could under trying circumstances. He probably deserves more study than he receives.



 Posted: Fri Feb 22nd, 2008 04:12 pm
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booklover
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I think had Meade not had to serve in Grant's shadow, he probably would have come out of the war with a much better reputation than he enjoys now. However, I've never been able to agree that Meade couldn't have attacked Lee after Gettysburg. Grant himself proved that with enough motivating power, the A of P would (and could) keep fighting. In that sense, Meade had the same affliction that bedeviled McClellan, Hooker, Burnside, etc., i.e., a cautious nature. Of course it's easy to look back now and say what Meade should have done, but if Grant could keep the troops fighting, why couldn't anyone else?

Best
Rob



 Posted: Fri Feb 22nd, 2008 05:28 pm
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David White
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Definitely a mixed bag, I think he is like Hood he gets promoted past his competency. Great job as a brigade and division commander, especially at Antietam and Fredericksburg. Then he gets the higher call and is never comfortable in his own skin. His command by voting twice at Gettysburg was IMO pathetic and then he doesn't exploit his victory at all. Yes his army was battered but Lee's was as much or more so and trapped by the Potomac. Finally he gets cross ways with Grant and put on the shelf.



 Posted: Fri Feb 22nd, 2008 05:28 pm
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Rebel Yell
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I think that Meade did as well at Gettysburg as he could considering the circumstances in which he found himself. He did not seek command of the AOP and accepted it as any good soldier would obey orders. He had very little time to "adjust" to his new position and he was facing a basically undefeated opponent. The ANV had just mauled the AOP at Chancellorsville and had the morale of troops who considered themselves and their leader to be invincible. Meade, on the other hand, was relatively unknown outside of his division and the AOP had seen many new commanders come and go.

Now Meade was facing a veteran army that had the initiative and was in northern territory, a tough situation for any commander, especially a new one. I feel that his conduct of the battle, despite some tactical errors, was overall quite good. 

It seems that there is much criticism for his "failure" to press the ANV immediately after Gettysburg, but I don't take that view for several reasons. He had just fought and won a three day battle, but even though victorious, the AOP was not in the best shape to conduct immediate offensive operations. He needed supplies, time for the battered units to re-fit and reorganize and command structure to re-build.  And, even though defeated, the ANV was still a formidable foe. As they say, no animal is as dangerous as a wounded one and Meade had the good sense to realize that.

As for the rest of the war, I think the simple fact that Meade retained command of the AOP (even though under Grant) speaks for itself. Yes, he may have made mistakes but what general hasn't???

Jest addin' my two cents...:D



 Posted: Fri Mar 28th, 2008 11:10 pm
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cody6397
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I recentley did a school biography project on Meade and was surprised that he was born in Cadiz,Spain other then that he was a great general and should have had a higher rank.



 Posted: Fri Mar 28th, 2008 11:19 pm
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Texas Defender
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cody6397-

  General Meade was a major general and commanded an army.

  On the Union side, there was only one full rank lieutenant general in the war. The only way that General Meade could have attained higher rank would have been to be General Grant.

Last edited on Fri Mar 28th, 2008 11:30 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Sat Mar 29th, 2008 12:34 am
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Johnny Huma
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My 2 cents

Meade was one of the Great Generals that I believe was underscored because Grant felt he had to travel with Meades army to keep Meade in line so to say. Gettysburg was a great Victory to the Union and Meade. As far as pursuing Lee back into Virgina he may have been a bit slow but as stated above his army was in no better shape than Lee's Army was after the battle. Of course Lincoln and his Generals could find nothing but fault with this issue. Lincoln had finally found a commander who did not run from the battlefield and won him a Victory on Northern Soil. A defeat here at that time of the war may have had the results of brining France and England into the picture and fully recognize the Southern States as it's own country. Meade performed well in all his battles as Division and Corps commander. It is true as we have read he was known as
Old Snapping Turtle because of his mean side but he was a quality General. At his counsil of war in Gettysburg he was accused, after the fact, of wanting to retreat by some of his subordinates. A good General always listens to the men below them and ask for their opinon of the situation and then makes an educated decision from that. Grant did finally pen up Bobby Lee but with high casualties. If I would accredit any one bringing the war to the end I would have to go with Sherman who had the guts and therefore the glory to stomp through Southern Soil and make the South pay.
He did this while Grant was bogged down in front of Lee's Army so I really dont see a lot of credit here going to Grant. I think the final plans for the end of the war were probably Shermans Ideas and Grant just went along with them cause he had no better ones. As for Meade we will never know if he would have come to greatness but one thing for sure he would have never done it under the apron of Grant since Grant and not Meade was calling the shots for the AOP.
Huma



 Posted: Sat Mar 29th, 2008 02:44 am
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susansweet
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That reason, being born in Spain was one of the reasons he never ran for President.

 



 Posted: Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 12:24 pm
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cody6397
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no, he tried to run for predident but they disqualified him, Grant was a great general but a terrible president. I would have liked Meade as the 18th president rather grant



 Posted: Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 07:25 pm
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PvtClewell
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Cody,

Just something to ponder about Grant's presidency. During his first administration he was instrumental in ratification of the 15th amendment which prohibits government from using race, color of previous status as a slave as a qualification to vote. If nothing else, that makes Grant the first legislative civil rights president.

He also restored cordial relations with Great Britain, which had been strained during the Civil War, and broke the efforts of Jay Gould and Jim Fisk to corner the gold market; in the Panic of 1873, he vetoed an inflationary expansion of the money supply, a move that ultimately reestablished a strong currency; and he was also instrumental in stopping the systematic slaughter of Native Americans. Jean Edward Smith writes in his biography of Grant: " His decision in 1869 to pursue peace, not war, helped to save the American Indian from extinction.'

Grant was the first president in 40 years, since Andrew Jackson, to fully serve two consecutive terms, which must say something about his abilities. I think his presidency gets a bad rap because of some corrupt individuals in his administration, and not because of his own lack of character.

Just something to consider.

Last edited on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 08:58 pm by PvtClewell



 Posted: Thu Apr 3rd, 2008 12:18 am
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cody6397
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well ill agree with you there but also lets look at this
after the war meade earned a docorate in law from harvard. Grant had a drinking problem. if i lived back then and was voting, then i would choose a guy that earned a docorate in law from harvard over a guy with a drinking problem.im not bashing grant, i think he was a great general, just if meade was also born in Ohio or any other state he would have been a great president.



 Posted: Sun Apr 13th, 2008 09:04 pm
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Widow
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The commanding generals of the Army of the Potomac learned very early that the politicians and press in Washington were quick to pounce on a loser and declare him a traitor.  No other Federal army suffered the scrutiny and micromanagement that the AoP had.  It's no wonder that the commanders became risk-averse.

When Lincoln appointed Grant as general-in-chief, it was with the promise that Grant would have his full support and protection.  Grant accompanied Meade's army, not necessarily to supervise Meade, but to get away from the politicians in Washington.  Grant had huge responsibilities from the Potomac to the Trans-Mississippi, and probably hadn't planned to run the AoP with Meade as chief of staff.

If Meade really had been unsatisfactory, Grant might have replaced him.  But Meade kept his job for the last two years of the war, unhappy as he was under Grant.



 Posted: Mon Apr 14th, 2008 03:31 pm
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booklover
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Widow,

I wonder, though, if Meade kept his job because of his qualifications, or if by this point he was pretty well inconsequential. Grant had such control of the AoP that in all senses it was his army and not Meade's. Don't get me wrong, I think Meade was a good general, especially compared to those who preceded him, but he was so deep in Grant's shadow that for him to see, sunshine had to be pumped in.

Best
Rob



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 Posted: Fri Jun 13th, 2008 12:55 am
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ArtorBart
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G.G. Meade was an American citizen, born in Cadiz, Spain while his father served the U.S. as a naval agent. He was allowed into West Point, so I don't think Meade's U.S. citizenship status would have been questioned.

Can anybody enlighten me {and other CWi readers} about Meade's aborted attempt to run for the presidency? I'd never heard that about him. Winfield Scott Hancock, yes, but not George Gordon Meade. Thanks, in advance, for the education.

ArtorBart



 Posted: Wed Nov 2nd, 2011 09:49 pm
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pender
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I think Meade is one of the unsung heros of the union army. Consider when he took command of the AoTP it was only three days until the battle of Gettysburg. He was also facing a undefeated foe in R.E. Lee. I think his management is great at Gettysburg, think of the pressure he must of had been under, fighting on northern soil, charged with protecting the capital. What is strange today is unless you are talking to civil war buffs alot of people does not know who Meade is. It would have been interesting to see how Meade would have commanded in 1864 with out Grant. His reluctance to attack fortified positions after Gettysburg probably helped Grant to get over all command. I have stated else where IMO Meade was the best union general of the war. I know that is argumentative, but it was Meade who showed the ANV was not invincible. In closing there is a good account of Meade in Charles B. Flood's book" Lee the last years", after Appomattox on page 23 " Lee greeted Meade kindly and then said, but what are you doing with all that grey in your beard? Meade cheerfully shot back, you have to answer for most of it."

Some thoughts on Meade, Pender 



 Posted: Wed Nov 2nd, 2011 10:23 pm
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Texas Defender
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  He fought well on his own dunghill.



 Posted: Thu Nov 3rd, 2011 05:05 am
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Hellcat
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Meade might have done better had he not had to deal with some of his own generals trying to stab him in the back. Sickles and Butterfield, and possibly others, actively tried to discredit Meade following Gettysburg. Although Butterfield would be transferred to the Army of the Cumberland there were probably those who continued to undermine Meade prior to Grant coming east.



 Posted: Mon Apr 23rd, 2012 12:40 am
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gencuster
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I think Meade was a greatly underrated gen. And like most of the US generals gets overshadowed by their southern counterparts.



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