Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Brigadier General George G. Meade to Margaretta Sergeant Meade, November 21, 1861

CAMP PIERPONT, VA., November 21, 1861.

I intended to have written to you last evening, but came back so tired from the grand review that I went right to bed. I have no doubt the papers will give you a glowing description of this event, so long talked about. For my part, all I can say is that I got up at half-past 3 A. M., the morning very cold, with a heavy frost lying on the ground. At 6 o'clock we moved and marched nine miles to the ground, at Bailey's Cross-Roads, where we arrived about 10 o'clock, and were posted in a field where the mud was six inches deep, and where we stood for four hours, after which we marched past General McClellan, and then home, where we arrived, tired, hungry and disgusted, at about 7 P. M. The day was cloudy, cold and raw, and altogether the affair as a “spectacle” was a failure. I understand the object of the movement was to show the soldiers what a large and well disciplined army had been collected together, and thus give them confidence in themselves. I fear standing in the mud for four hours and marching nine miles there and back took away greatly from the intended effect. My own brigade did very well going to the review and on the ground, but returning I found it utterly impossible to keep the men in the ranks. I used all my influence with the officers first, and afterwards with the men, but ineffectually, and at last abandoned it in disgust, one regiment being by the time it reached camp pretty much all broken up and scattered. I felt annoyed when I got back, and wearied at the fruitless efforts I had made. There was a notion that the Grand Review was to be converted into a fight by making a dash at Centreville, ten miles distant from the ground, but, instead of this, the enemy made a dash at us, driving in our pickets on several parts of the line and killing several of them. They also kept up a practicing with their heavy guns all the afternoon, as if in defiance of our parade. General Smith required his division to cheer McClellan. He passed our division front, but, not being posted in the programme, we were silent.

The foregoing part of this letter was written in the court room, where a poor devil was being tried for sleeping on his post.

As to horses, I did the best I could. The truth is, the exposure is so great, it is almost impossible to keep a horse in good health. Several of the officers of my staff have suffered in the same way. I have no doubt you can get me a good horse for two hundred and fifty dollars. I can do that here; but where are the two hundred and fifty dollars to come from? Remember, I have paid now two hundred and seventy-five dollars already.

SOURCE: George Meade, The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Vol. 1, p. 228-9

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