In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3 1863) this is a special post recognizing two ‘Georges’ whose lives and legacies were effectively sealed in this largest military ever engaged in on US soil. General George Meade represents the Union army and General George Pickett represents the Confederate side.
Philadelphia, PA. Visited September 2000
George Gordon Meade was born in Spain, December 31, 1815, son of a wealthy Philadelphia merchant doing business for the new United States with the Spanish government. Meade’s father was financially ruined while in Spain and the family came back to Philadelphia.
|Meade as a West Point|
|Barnegat Light House - George |
Meade's construction project
At the outbreak of the Civil War Meade was promoted to brigadier general. He helped construct the defenses around Washington DC, and was severely wounded in the Seven Days Battles of June-July 1862, but recovered in time to command with distinction in the Second Battle of Bull Run in August of that year. General Meade replaced a wounded Joseph Hooker as temporary corps commander at the Battle of Antietam (Sept. 1862), and was wounded again in this most bloody single day of the war. When Hooker replaced the failed George McClellan after Antietam Meade was given permanent command of a corps and he served through the Battles of Fredericksburg (December 1862) and Chancellorsville (May 1863).
|Meade at his tent|
With Hooker’s disaster at Chancellorsville, President Lincoln searched for a new commander for the Army of the Potomac. After being turned down by others, Lincoln finally settled on George Gordon Meade, who was informed of his promotion on June 28, just three days before the Battle of Gettysburg. Meade’s surprise was such that, when informed that a courier was looking for him, he assumed he was being arrested for a politically trumped up charge.
|"The Bivouac" - a painting of George Meade arriving at |
Gettysburg by Keith Rocco
|Meade Statue on Cemetery|
Ridge at Gettysburg
|Grant and Meade|
|General Meade and his staff|
Following the war Meade returned to Philadelphia, where lived as an active duty general until his death from complications of his war wounds on November 6, 1872 at the age of 57. He is buried on a hill overlooking the Schuylkill River in historic Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.
|My friends Bauer Evans and Arie Mangrum at |
Meade's grave in Philly
I visited the cemetery on a one day excursion with two long time friends and fellow history buffs, Bauer Evans and Arie Mangrum. One interesting fact I’ve found out regarding George Meade is that his great-great-great grandson is actor Matthew Fox, who played Jack Shepherd on the TV series LOST.
|The preserved head of Meade's|
horse "Old Baldy", at a
museum in Philly
Richmond, VA. Visited May 1998
George Edward Pickett was born January 1825 in Richmond, VA to a prominent family. As a teenager he moved to Springfield, Illinois to study the law. While there he came into acquaintance with an established attorney in the town who would figure prominently in the young man’s future. The lawyer was Abraham Lincoln and it was soldiering against Lincoln’s Union army which would define George Pickett’s life.
|Pickett at West Point|
The charge was doomed from the outset. Union cannon fire met the three divisions almost at the start. As they crossed the ground, cannonballs were replaced by blasts of canister shot which tore huge holes in the Confederate lines. Coordinated rifle fire into the front and flanks of the lines reduced the charge to a small band of brave soldiers who actually reached the Union line, where they were quickly repulsed by reinforcements. This is generally considered the ‘High Water Mark’ of the Confederacy, the moment in the war when the Confederate Army was closest to a decisive victory. But victory was never really in reach. Instead, Pickett’s charge was a truly tragic rout, a one hour exercise in military futility in which half of the assault force was lost, including over half of Pickett’s officers. Most significantly all of his senior staff were casualties; two of which – Garnett and Armistead – were killed, and a third – Kemper – was seriously wounded. Pickett, who observed the action from the rear, responded to Lee’s call to rally his division with the words, "General Lee, I have no division" .
|Your blogger at the High Water Mark of the Confederacy -|
a poignant spot on a dismal day
George Pickett’s post-Gettysburg command was generally undistinguished. He was part of the surrender at Appomattox and, fearing the consequences of his role in the Confederacy, spent a brief time in Canada. However he returned to the Union in 1866 and worked in Insurance in Norfolk, Virginia until his death at the age of fifty in July 1875. About a year before his death he had received a congressional pardon for his role in the Confederate army. He was buried with honors at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA, which contains other Confederate luminaries including Jefferson Davis and Jeb Stuart.
I visited Hollywood Cemetery with my family as part of a two day trip to Richmond on our way to a beach holiday. Hollywood Cemetery is a must see for anyone interested in Civil War history in the Richmond area.
|Your blogger at Pickett's gravesite|
Some question swirls around Pickett’s perspective on the failed charge at Gettysburg. He is sometimes portrayed as bitter at Robert E. Lee for ordering the ill-fated charge, but most historians believe that he accepted the defeat as simply the result of overpowering defensive force at the point of attack. A more recent controversy revolves around a trunk of Pickett's effects (uniform, papers, maps, etc.) which had remained in his family. In the late 1990's a descendent of Pickett sold the contents of the trunk to well known artifacts dealers for $88,000. The dealers turned around and sold them to the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA for ten times that amount. The dealers, who had appeared as experts on Antiques Road Show were eventually convicted of fraud. But the museum kept the artifacts, which can be viewed there today.
|Confederate veterans in charge mode once again July 3, 1913 - |
Fifty years after the first attempt