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He was commissioned second lieutenant of engineers on 1 July The two-month furlough awarded graduates enabled Lee to nurse his widowed mother in the last of many illnesses. They were married on 30 June and had seven children. While in Washington he was promoted to first lieutenant on 21 September Louis in the summer of to superintend works protecting the harbor of the city from shifts in the channel of the Mississippi.

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Except for occasional visits to Virginia, Lee remained at St. Louis until October He found the improvement of the Mississippi intellectually stimulating, and it brought him useful experience in cooperating with civil officials. Meanwhile he rose to captain on 7 July Still, for a soldier, greater distinction could be won most readily in combat. With Captain William D. Army, as chief engineer of the main army of invasion. Scott, who had first come to know Lee well on the West Point board in , trusted him completely and accorded him the maximum opportunity to display initiative, allowing him to make decisions just short of the key operational ones of an army commander.

Lee responded in a way that virtually assured him of later gaining independent command of a field army. The enemy held a strong mountainous defensive position around Jalapa, but Lee discovered a feasible route through high hills around the Mexican left; he persuaded Scott to use it and led the vanguard along the route, providing U.

George Meade

For this Lee won the brevet rank of major. When the enemy fell back on another strong position in front of Churubusco, Lee again found a feasible route skirting a lava bed known as the Pedregal, to permit another turning of the Mexican defenses. Smith and John Cadwalader in deciding to proceed with the turning attack against the Mexican main body in spite of the arrival of enemy reinforcements that threatened the flank of such a move.

Then he recrossed the dangerous, mazelike Pedregal with a few men by night to secure from Scott enough additional troops to counter the Mexican reinforcements. Again the outcome was swift American victory, at Contreras across the Pedregal and then at the main enemy position of Churubusco, both on 20 August. In reward, Lee received a brevet as lieutenant colonel. All in all, Lee emerged from the Mexican War a proven combat leader who enjoyed the special confidence of the ranking officer of the U.

Arriving back in Washington on 29 June , Lee resumed duties at corps headquarters and on the coast defense board, whose business took him from Boston to Florida and Mobile. His next assignment demonstrated again that the army regarded Lee as an officer above the ordinary; on 27 May he was named superintendent of West Point.

He held this post from 1 September to 31 March , restoring cadet discipline, which he found disturbingly lax, but leaving little permanent mark on the academy. Up to this point, Lee had had little direct contact with the army on the western frontier. While he was superintendent at West Point, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis sought to increase the size of the force patrolling the vast new territories acquired from Mexico.

In response Congress authorized the formation of two new cavalry regiments to accompany the existing two of dragoons and one of mounted riflemen. Lee served with the Second at St.

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George Meade

Louis, in the Kansas Territory, and at several posts in Texas before reporting to San Antonio to replace Johnston in command. Lee did, however, learn at firsthand about commanding troops in the field—in small numbers, to be sure, but with difficult logistics. Stuart of the First Cavalry delivered a message ordering him to report immediately to the War Department. The result was that he hastened with Stuart to Harpers Ferry, Virginia, where the abolitionist John Brown — and his followers were holding off Virginia militia and Maryland volunteers after seizing the fire-engine house of the United States Arsenal.

The assault succeeded, and Brown was captured. Lee returned to Texas early the next year, but he was never to escape the shadow that the Harpers Ferry raid had cast over his state. He was commissioned full colonel and commander of the First Cavalry on 16 March By that time, however, seven southern states had seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America.

Lee probably warned Scott, in turn, that if Virginia seceded, he would feel obliged to follow his state and resign his commission. He opposed secession, disliked slavery, and never himself owned more than about a half dozen slaves whom he emancipated before the Civil War , but he believed he must be loyal to Virginia and could not take up arms against the Commonwealth. But Lee reiterated what he had said to Scott. On 20 April, having learned that Virginia had seceded two days earlier, Lee submitted his resignation.

It was a painful decision but one that in its expression of loyalty to home and kindred has commanded sympathy even from those who cannot admire it. On 21 April Governor John Letcher of Virginia dispatched a messenger offering Lee command of the military and naval forces of the state, with the rank of major general, but the messenger evidently passed Lee while the latter was en route from Arlington to Richmond in response to an earlier invitation from the governor.

On 10 May the Confederate War Department gave Lee command of its forces in Virginia, though it proceeded to send troops and other officers there apparently without regard to him. He also became a confidential military adviser to President Jefferson Davis, who dispatched him to western Virginia in late July to coordinate efforts to recapture the considerable parts of that mountainous region, with its population largely disaffected by secession, that had already been overrun by the Federals.

Supervising rather than commanding, displaying a gentlemanly reluctance to offend independent-minded officers of lower rank, Lee saw his first campaign for the Confederacy end in defeat at the battle of Cheat Mountain or Elkwater on 10—15 September, when Confederate columns failed to cooperate enough to drive the Federals from the mountain.

On 31 August Lee had been confirmed as a full general of the Confederate regular army, a rank he had held without formal confirmation since its authorization by the Confederate Congress on 16 May. Unluckily, Lee arrived at Charleston to command the South Atlantic coast defenses on 7 November, the very day that the U. Following this success, the Federal navy had access to the sheltered waters inside the sea islands and could shift vessels and troops up and down the South Carolina and Georgia coasts more rapidly than Lee could respond.

He had to concede the bays and inlets south of Charleston to the enemy, permitting the Union to tighten its blockade and hold springboards for further offensive action. On 2 March Davis summoned Lee back to Richmond to resume his duties as adviser at an inauspicious moment when the Confederacy confronted an apparently insurmountable challenge posed by Union offensives almost everywhere around its circumference without enough manpower to create an adequate defensive cordon.

The defense of Tennessee was already collapsing, and the largest single enemy army, the Army of the Potomac under Major General George B. McClellan — , was preparing to advance on Richmond. Lee had concluded that the Confederacy would continue to suffer reversals if it persisted in a defensive strategy. If the South simply tried to hold its borders, the North could multiply its inherent advantages in manpower and resources by concentrating overwhelming force at the points of attack it chose.

His assignment was to command the Second Brigade of the reserves in Pennsylvania. When Hooker resigned as commander for the Army of the Potomac, Lincoln informed Meade that he was to be the replacement in the position Hooker had left.

George G. Meade

Meade led the battle that is seen by historians as one of the turning points of the Civil War when during the Battle of Gettysburg he confronted General Lee and won. When Meade did not pursue the Confederacy during their retreat he was criticized for not doing so.

He served in that position until he died from a combination of pneumonia and his old wounds. He was buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery. George Meade with Staff in June How Union General George G. Meade became the Rodney Dangerfield of the Civil War. The near-cloudless July skies promise a hot, sunny day for the people gathered in a large field near Gettysburg. The loud crump of a mortar sounds from the nearby pasture. Men—and a few women—in Union blue and Confederate gray make their way through the crowds moving among the tents.

General William Tecumseh Sherman is here too, even though he was actually in far-off Vicksburg, Miss.

George Meade: Early Life and Military Career

General John Buford, the tough-as-nails cavalry commander who held off the Confederates at Gettysburg on the morning of the first day, is in evidence, along with General John Reynolds, who arrived with his I Corps just in time to support Buford—and receive a fatal bullet in the head.

I notice one major absence among the Union generals. George Gordon Meade, commander of the Union army at Gettysburg? Certainly he should be here too? In one way his absence makes sense, since it seems as though Meade has largely disappeared from history books. Sure, Civil War buffs know about him. Stuart, Grant and Sherman. Maybe Phil Sheridan has a seat in the hall, too, although that would surely make Meade grind his teeth.

Meade is the Rodney Dangerfield of Civil War generals. He gets no respect. Adding insult to injury, Meade later had to testify about Gettysburg before a congressional committee, mainly because the man who had almost cost him the battle—Maj. Daniel Sickles—was spreading rumors that Meade had intended to retreat from the battlefield.

Even before the war ended Meade sensed his reputation was in eclipse. Then too, in the last year or so of the war Meade had Grant, by then general-in-chief of Union forces, traveling with his army and looking over his shoulder. Lee, Grant was willing to suffer previously unacceptable losses with the knowledge that the Union Army had replacement soldiers available, whereas the Confederates did not.

Meade, despite his aggressive performance in lesser commands in , had become a more cautious general and more concerned about the futility of attacking entrenched positions. Most of the bloody repulses his army suffered in the Overland Campaign were ordered by Grant, [ citation needed ] although the aggressive maneuvering that eventually cornered Lee in the trenches around Petersburg were Grant's initiative as well.

Meade was additionally frustrated by the manner in which Grant sometimes gave preferable treatment to subordinates that he had brought with him from the Western Theater. A primary example of this was Grant's interference with Meade's direction of Maj. Philip Sheridan 's Cavalry Corps. The Army of the Potomac had used cavalry for couriers, scouting, and headquarters guards for most of its existence.

Only Joe Hooker had contemplated using them in an aggressive fashion, and Meade had largely continued established practice.

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Sheridan objected and told Meade that he could "whip Stuart " if Meade let him. Meade reported the conversation to Grant, who replied, "Well, he generally knows what he is talking about. Let him start right out and do it. Although Meade generally performed effectively under Grant's supervision in the Overland Campaign and the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign , a few instances of bad judgment marred his legacy. During the Battle of Cold Harbor , Meade inadequately supervised his corps commanders and did not insist they perform reconnaissance before their disastrous frontal assault.

Inexplicably, Meade wrote to his wife immediately after the attack and expressed pride that it was he who had ordered the attack. During the initial assaults on Petersburg, Meade again failed to coordinate the attacks of his corps before General Lee could reinforce the line, resulting in the ten-month stalemate, the Siege of Petersburg.

He approved the plan of Maj. Ambrose Burnside to plant explosives in a mine shaft dug underneath the Confederate line east of Petersburg, but at the last minute he changed Burnside's plan to lead the attack with a well-trained African-American division that was highly drilled just for this action, instructing him to take a politically less risky course and substitute an untrained and poorly led white division. The resulting Battle of the Crater was one of the great fiascoes of the war. In all of these cases, Grant bears some of the responsibility for approving Meade's plans, but Meade's performance was not at the same level of competence he displayed on other occasions.

After Spotsylvania, Grant requested that Meade be promoted to major general of the regular army. In a telegram to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton on May 13, , Grant stated that "Meade has more than met my most sanguine expectations. He and [William T.

George Meade | HistoryNet

He was not present when Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House. Meade's decisions in command of the Army of the Potomac have been the focus of controversy. He has been accused of not being aggressive enough in pursuit of Confederate forces, and being reluctant to attack on occasion. His reputation among the public and 19th century historians suffered as a result of his short temper, his bad relationship with the press, his place in the shadow of the victorious Grant, and particularly the damaging fallout from the controversies with Dan Sickles.

Recent historical works have portrayed him in a more positive light. They have acknowledged that Meade displayed and acted upon an understanding of the necessary changes in tactics brought about by improvements in weapons technology, such as his decisions to entrench when practicable and not to launch frontal assaults on fortified positions.

In addition, the Army of the Potomac had suffered very heavily at Gettysburg, with over 20, casualties and the loss of many of its best officers and enlisted men, including three corps commanders, and Meade may have been fully justified in not attempting a rapid pursuit with his army in such a battered condition. In , Meade was admitted as an honorary member of the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati.

Meade was a commissioner of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia from until his death. The people of Philadelphia gave his widow a house at Delancey Place Philadelphia , where he lived.


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The house still has the word "Meade" over the door, but it is now used as apartments. He also held various military commands, including the Military Division of the Atlantic , the Department of the East , and the Department of the South. Meade received an honorary doctorate in law LL. Having long suffered from complications caused by his war wounds, Meade died on November 6, at the age of 56, still on active duty, following a battle with pneumonia.

General Meade lived at Delancey Place, Philadelphia, and died in the house, , according to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker in front. Meade was named in his honor. One-thousand-dollar Treasury notes , also called Coin notes, of the Series and , feature portraits of Meade on the obverse. The Series note is called the Grand Watermelon Note by collectors, because the large zeroes on the reverse resemble the pattern on a watermelon. Other film, television, music, and video appearances:. Meade is a character in the alternate history novel Gettysburg: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

For other people with similar names, see George Mead disambiguation. Meade, portrait by Mathew Brady. Laurel Hill Cemetery , Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A History of the U. Hooker was disputing troop dispositions with General in Chief Henry W. Halleck and offered his resignation as a protest. Halleck and President Lincoln, dissatisfied with Hooker's performance at Chancellorsville and his lackluster pursuit of Lee in the current campaign, seized upon this opportunity and accepted his resignation.

Charles Scribner's Sons, , p. He further stated that "I would not like to see one of these promotions at this time without seeing both. Sherman was appointed on August 12, , and confirmed on December 12 with date of rank August Sheridan was appointed November 14 with date of rank November 8. Meade was not appointed until November 26, although his date of rank was established as August 18, meaning he technically outranked Sheridan, but was embarrassed that his name was not put forward first.

Subsequently, Sheridan was promoted to lieutenant general over Meade on March 4, , after Grant became president and Sherman became the commanding general of the U. Meade in Philadelphia" PDF. The New York Times. South Dakota place-names, v. University of South Dakota.