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 Post subject: Who was George Meade?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 11:51 am 
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An interesting lecture from Dr. Allen Guelzo

http://www.historynet.com/who-was-george-g-meade.htm

BG Elkin
3rd Div/(2nd Cav)/XVI Corps AotT

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 Post subject: Re: Who was George Meade?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:13 pm 
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Very very informative lecture on Meade. While I did not get all the sections it did enlighten me as to the outcome of Gettysburg. This battle was won by the Corps and division commanders and Meade could have been someone else. Actually this should not be a surprise as Meade was a brand new commander and his influence would be minimal. Any comments?

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 Post subject: Re: Who was George Meade?
PostPosted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:41 pm 
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Don't get me started Drex! LOL! I'm a big Meade guy...I'll check this out and get back at you though.

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 Post subject: Re: Who was George Meade?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 12:14 am 
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Wow! I don't even know where to begin with that. I would have been less surprised had either Dan Sickles or Butterfield been the fellow standing at the podium.

First, he uses Lee's quote that Meade will make no blunders on my front, and make haste to take advantage if I make one on his, to say that Lee meant that Meade will do nothing.

Next, he professes to know what John Reynolds felt the night of June 30th about the Pipe Creek circular, which Reynolds likely never recieved, and even had he seen it, it did not in any way make a move to Pipe Creek mandatory. In fact, if one takes the time to read it, it seems like more of a contingency plan, in case one of the corps ran into a rebel force that they couldn't handle. Reynolds' orders remained to support Buford's command. Period.

He then goes on and on about this withdrawl order. Good grief, I thought that academia had moved past this! Had such an order not been prepared, or thought of, then what if Lee breaks through? The same men, Butterfield, Pleasonton and that crew would have been up in arms because of Meade's lack of forethought. Is it coincidence that those were the fellows that caused most of Meade's postwar troubles, in conjunction with Sickles? I think not.

On to Sickles, and Meade's apparent neglect of his left flank. He ordered Sickles to relieve Geary's division very early on the 2nd. Why would he have thought that Sickles remained asleep in his tent, instead of following the order to move into line, connecting with Hancock on his right, and stretching to LRT? Also, the Baltimore Pike was Meade's lifeline. He could not lose on his right flank, period. Naturally that would have been given most of his attention. It is also curious, that this fellow didn't mention that Meade the Meek was looking at his right as a possible place to ATTACK Lee from. Convieniently left that out of his "discussion".

As a side note, he referred to Sickles position as "swampy". Sure the area just north of LRT would have been wet, and Sickles contended that rebel batteries placed on the Peach Orchard Ridge would have blown him off of his position on Cemetery Ridge. My question has always been...then how in the hell did the Union line manage to stay there on the 3rd, without so much as an attempt by Lee to blast them off of the ridge? I'll tell you why. because he couldn't with the Union holding LRT. (Not to mention, Sickles was a fool.)

Next he went on to say that Meade called his corps commanders to the Liester house to tell them that he was retreating. I have always thought that too much has been made of this impromptu conference. It always sounded to me that Meade was more interested in the condition of his army, and wanted to get it from the horse's mouth so to speak, and called everyone together to get it. I'm almost certain that I read somewhere that Butterfield was who initiated the poll, and the questions. Meade had already telegraphed Halleck that he intended to maintain his position BEFORE the meeting at Army HQ. I can't recall the time of that wire to Halleck, but will be more than happy to look it up if anyone wants me to prove it.

Lastly, the non-attack at Williamsport. It was said that Meade had no regard for the well being of his common soldiers, and that those soldiers WANTED to strike Lee's army in it's intrenchments. Everything that I have ever read, said that those soldiers were very happy NOT to have attacked those works once they got a look at them. Meade did intend to attack them, but was dissuaded by the same Corps commanders who apparently won the battle of Gettysburg without him. He was admonished by General Halleck that "War councils never fight." However, afterwards, it was apparent that those works were very strong, and I'm pretty certain that Lee's troops wanted nothing more than a chance to play their old game of shooting yankees from behind breastworks.

The only argument that I can make is that General Hunt said that Meade, "was right in his orders as to Pipe Creek; right in his determination under certain circumstances to fall back to it; right in pushing up to Gettysburg after the battle commenced; right in remaining there; right in making the battle a purely defensive one; right, therefore, in taking the line he did; right in not attempting a counter-attack at ANY stage of the battle; right as to his pursuit of Lee. Rarely has more skill, vigor, or wisdom been shown under such circumstances as he was placed in..."

Then, as his conclusion he says that the Duke of Wellington advised in 1803 to select your ground before an engagement, (Which he bashed Meade for doing at Pipe Creek.), invite your enemy to it, and you will win an easy victory. And they don't erect statues to might have been's. Was Gettysburg a might have been, or was Lee's army defeated? Everything that I've seen leads me to believe that the Union did actually win at Gettysburg, just as the Allies won at Waterloo.

I told you Drex! Don't get me started! LOL! I am proud of myself for not using any colorful language...because that guy got me all riled up.

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 Post subject: Re: Who was George Meade?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:16 am 
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You're going to send this to Guelzo, right?

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 Post subject: Re: Who was George Meade?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 11:20 am 
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LOL! I've been thinking on it. Was there a way to contact him through that vid site?

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 Post subject: Re: Who was George Meade?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 12:01 pm 
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He is a professor at Gettysburg College so you might get to him there or visit Historynet.com and post a comment.

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 Post subject: Re: Who was George Meade?
PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 1:00 pm 
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Bill,
Agreed. I do think that he was more along the lines of a B commander. Grant probably would have counter-attacked after the Confederate attack on the 3rd, and managed to pull off a shattering victory. He surely would have struck the rebs at Williamsport, although, I don't think that that would have ended well for the Union.

I don't think that he was timid either. Although he has been portrayed as such. He was willing to fight Lee at any time. as long as it wasn't at a disadvantage. I think that he said something to the effect of; "I'd fight Lee today in that field right there, if it were a fair fight. I don't want to let them play their old game of shooting us from behind breastworks." Something to that effect.

Hard to say if he would have taken the blame on himself had he lost. On one hand I think that given his actions after Gettysburg, being a figurehead, and bypassed by the press, his offer to step aside when Grant took over in 1864, then serving after the war without a murmur when he was bypassed by Sheridan, I would think so. However, he was fiercely proud, and did endless complaining to his wife about this that and the other. I also think that he was intesely hurt by the fact that he DIDN'T seem to get the credit that he felt that he deserved. So I don't know. Maybe he would have thrown a few officers to the wolves.

I can say, that as someone who has spent alot of time studying Meade, that I am thrilled that there is a discussion on him. Sure, he had some warts, but for the most part, he was pretty solid.

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 Post subject: Re: Who was George Meade?
PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 1:33 pm 
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Bill has provided us with a new scenario aptly named Williamsport to show what could have happened. I'm advertising for an opponent right now but the Rebs don't seem to have confidence in Lee anymore :)

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 Post subject: Re: Who was George Meade?
PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 2:20 pm 
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I have a scenario also, a what if Sickles had stayed where he was supposed to. Only played it once, and the reb gave up. I'll see if I can post it over at the Cartography office.

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 Post subject: Re: Who was George Meade?
PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 12:36 am 
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I did get it uploaded at gamesquad. I think it is under "Cemetery Ridge and Round Top.". Take a look at it if you guys get time.

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 Post subject: Re: Who was George Meade?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2011 9:00 am 
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Haven't read a lot on Cleburne but from the little I have I would agree he was an excellent division commander. However being an excellent division commander didn't always translate into being a good corps/army commander as shown by Hood, Ewell and A.P. Hill but is one of those What If's we ACW students love to ponder.

I believe Reynolds was offered the command before Meade but he wanted more freedom of action than Lincoln or Halleck was willing to accept, at least as I understand it. His actions at Gettysburg on the first day indicate he might well have been an excellent army commander.

Not sure if Hancock was considered as he had just gotten corps command after Chancellorsville when Couch refused to serve under Hooker.

As to Sedgewick, the men of the VI Corps loved him and he handled a corps as well as anyone provided he was given specific orders. He followed orders promptly but his shortcoming would be an inability to improvise as proven at Chancellorsville so I personally doubt he would have been a good choice as army commander. Still Grant considered his death at Spotsylvania the equivalent of the loss of a division.

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 Post subject: Re: Who was George Meade?
PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2011 12:25 pm 
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Yes. I'm not nearly as well versed on Cleburne. His division was the crack outfit in the Army of Tennessee though, so he must have been something special for that army. It is a shame that Confederate predjudices seemed to keep him from advancing to a higher command. Whether it was because he was Irish, or because he was an advocate of using negro troops, I can't say. I would have liked to have seen if he could have matched his performance as a division commander in command of a corps. If we are speaking of just commanding a division, he's definately a little ahead of Meade I would think, although I think that Meade was a pretty solid division commander. Just going by the little that I know of Cleburne, I wouldn't think that saying that he was an A- commander would be a stretch at all. Sounds pretty fair.

Reynolds, I think would have made a superior army commander, but, one will never know. His only real combat as a corps commander found him leading an advance in person, and got him summarily kilt. Hard to say with any certainty how he would have faired the remainder of the day. As a division commander, his only real action was at 2nd Manasass, and he did a better than average job for a yankee general on that field.

I can't see Hancock as an army commander. Perhaps had he never been wounded at Gettysburg, but afterwards, he never seemed the same. His attack on AP Hill in the Wilderness was a very close run thing, but then he seemed to lapse a bit in his attention to detail. For instance Barlow having to ask his guide at Spotsylvania if he could at least assure him that he was facing toward the rebels, and wouldn't have to march around the world and come up in their rear. Up to his wounding though, he was first rate, and always seemed to be in the middle of the fighting, as a brigade, division, and corps commander.

Sedgwick was solid. A good enough corps commander, but he seemed to me to be a little slow, and was also prone to slip into defeatist depression. I think that he was a good manager, and took good care of his troops, but lacked the drive, and killer instinct to make him a great captain. Perhaps he cared too much for his men? I dunno. He did seem to always have a shot at doing something great, but fell short of the mark. I actually think that after he was killed, VI was a better outfit under Horatio Wright. Maybe because the rest of the AoP was bled white in the Overland Campaign, and VI came out in relatively good shape, therefore leaving better material to work with, and looking much better than, say II Corps as things crept toward the middle of June.

Of the 4 guys that we are now speaking of, I'd probably put Hancock, and Cleburne at the top of the list, with Reynolds close behind. (Only because he always seemed to miss the action.) Sedgwick, would to me at least, come in a distant third.

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- General Phil Sheridan

General Rusty Hodgkiss
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