George Gordon Meade
The victor of Gettysburg, George G. Meade does not rank with the great captains of the Civil War in part because of his eclipse in the last year of the conflict by the presence of Grant with his army, and a journalistic conspiracy of silence. Born of American parents in Cadiz, Spain, December 31, 1815-where his father had run into financial and legal difficulties as a result of the Napoleonic Wars-he was appointed to West Point from Pennsylvania. Graduating in 1835, he served a year in the artillery before resigning to become a civil engineer. After some difficulty in finding employment he reentered the army in 1842 and earned a brevet in Mexico.
His Civil War assignments included: captain, Topographical Engineers (since May 19, 1856); brigadier general, USV (August 31, 1861); commanding 2nd Brigade, McCall's Division, Army of the Potomac (October 3, 1861 - March 13, 1862); commanding 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 1st Corps, Army of the Potomac (March 13 - April 4, 1862); commanding 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Department of the Rappahannock (April 4 - June 12, 1862); commanding 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, 5th Corps, Army of the Potomac June 18-30, 1862); major, Topographical Engineers June 18, 1862); commanding lst Brigade, 3rd Division, 3rd Corps, Army of Virginia (August 26 - September 12, 1862); commanding 3rd Division, lst Corps, Army of the Potomac (September 12-17 and September 29-December 25, 1862); commanding the corps (September 17-29, 1862); major general, USV (November 29, 1862); commanding 5th Corps, Army of the Potomac (December 25, 1862 - January 26, 1863 and February 5-16 and February 28-june 28, 1863); commanding Center Grand Division, Army of the Potomac January 1863); commanding Army of the Potomac June 28, 1863 - December 30, 1864 and January 11 - June 27, 1865); brigadier general, USA July 3, 1863); and major general, USA (August 18, 1864).
Serving on a survey of the Great Lakes at the outbreak of the Civil War, he received a volunteer brigadier's star in the first summer of the war and was assigned to the division of Pennsylvania Reserves. After training and service near Washington and in northern Virginia, the command joined the Army of the Potomac on the Peninsula. During the Seven Days he fought at Beaver Dam Creek and Gaines' Mill before falling wounded at Glendale. He led his brigade at 2nd Bull Run, following his recovery, and the division at South Mountain and Antietam. At the latter he succeeded the wounded Hooker in command of the lst Corps and received his second star before Fredericksburg. In that action his division broke through the Confederate right but was thrown back after his supports failed to arrive. Transferred to the direction of the 5th Corps, he briefly commanded the Center Grand Division after the Mud March until that cumbersome organization was disbanded. At Chancellorsville he led his corps well but was held back by Hooker's timidity.
With the invasion of Pennsylvania, Meade was chosen to relieve Hooker in army command only three days before Gettysburg. Originally planning to fight farther to the rear along Pipe Creek, he dispatched General Winfield S. Hancock to Gettysburg-following the death of General John F. Reynolds-to determine if it would be an acceptable battlefield. Accepting that officer's opinion, he ordered a continued concentration there. During the next two days he masterfully shifted his troops from one threatened sector to another. He received the, thanks of Congress and an appointment as a brigadier in the regulars. However, he soon came in for criticism for allowing Lee to escape to Virginia without another battle.
His handling of the Bristoe and Mine Run campaigns was not shining. In the spring of 1864 newly appointed General-in-Chief U.S. Grant set up his headquarters with Meade's army. This cumbersome arrangement worked out surprisingly well. However, since Meade was known for his temper and had come into conflict with a number of correspondents, there was an agreement not to mention him in dispatches except in reference to setbacks. He fought through the Overland and Petersburg campaigns, earning Grant's respect and being considered for command in the Shenandoah.
At Grant's request he was advanced to major general in the regular army. He served in the Appomattox Campaign but felt slighted by the reports which seemed to give all the credit to Grant and Sheridan. Mustered out of the volunteer service, he continued in the regular army, performing Reconstruction duty in the South. In 1866, he became commissioner of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, a post he held until his death. He died in Philadelphia November 6, 1872 as a result of old war wounds complicated by pneumonia.
Source: "Who Was Who In The Civil War" by Stewart Sifakis and "Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War" Edited by Patricia L. Faust.
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