Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg. Tom Huntington. 406 pp. Stackpole Books. 2013.
I’ve just finished an interesting story about a man whose name I knew but whose exploits I was only vaguely familiar with. Who doesn’t know that Meade was a general in the Civil War and won some significant battles, including Gettysburg?
Very few, according to the author of this book, and that’s why he set out to set the record straight. He did it in a slightly different way. Rather than write a regular biography, he traveled around the country to visit most of the battlefields and forts where Meade had been. He was not surprised to discover that at many of those places Meade goes unmentioned or is relegated to corner.
Meade not only won the Battle of Gettysburg, he did it just three days after being put in charge of the Army of the Potomac. He was, according to Huntington, a thinking man’s soldier. He did not rush into battle, but considered his options, devised a plan and then fought. In a couple of cases, wary of the circumstances, he did not fight and that has tarnished his reputation. Some of the criticism is deserved, the author points out, and also notes that it did not help Meade that he had quite the temper.
What makes the book especially readable is that we can in one paragraph be with Huntington at some site where Meade fought and the next minute be with Meade at the same site. The author blends the past and the present well.
Why did I know the name?
Well, my paternal grandmother was a Meade, born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, as was her father, Thomas. His father, Ambrose, was born in Cornwall, England. General Meade’s grandfather was an Irish immigrant to Philadelphia, although the general was born while his father was in Spain. Still, he maintained his Pennsylvania roots, died there and is buried there.
However, as far as I know (and I checked with a Meade cousin), we are not related. Still, it’s a good book.