Monday, November 4, 2013

Brigadier General George G. Meade to Margaretta Sergeant Meade, December 11, 1861

CAMP PIERPONT, VA., December 11, 1861.

I went into town last evening to the wedding of Captain Griffin with Miss Carroll. I had another object in view, which was to avail myself of a capital opportunity of seeing in one place and at one time numerous friends. Kuhn and myself left camp about 5 o'clock, getting in about half-past 6. Kuhn found some nice rooms where his connections, the young Adamses, were staying, and where the landlady was gracious enough to admit us for the night. After tea and a stroll to Willards', we returned and beautified ourselves, and at 9 precisely repaired to the Carrolls'. Of course there was an immense jam; of course the bride and groom looked splendid, as did the fourteen bridemaids and groomsmen, the latter all handsome young officers in full uniform. Mr., Mrs. and the Miss C's were very civil to your humble servant. I saw McClellan and had the honor of making way for him to approach the bride. I saw Mrs. Lincoln, Lord Lyons, Governor Chase, Mr. Seward, and lots of other celebrities. All my old Washington friends greeted me with great cordiality, and any amount of rooms and plates at table were offered to me when I should come into town, and all the ladies referred to your visit and their regret that you were gone before they could get to see you. There was the usual amount of flirtations carried on by the old stagers, assisted by numerous younger fry. I had a very agreeable evening; they had a magnificent supper, and at midnight Kuhn and I returned to our quarters.

This morning, having seen Master Charley Turnbull at the wedding (he not having yet received his return despatches), I went at half-past 8 o'clock to his house and breakfasted with them. Just as we had finished breakfast, and I was thinking of going to the Bureau to write you a few lines, a telegram was put into my hands, announcing the reported approach of the enemy. I hurried to the stable, got my horse, and in thirty minutes by my watch was here in camp, to find, as I expected, that it was a stampede.

There is a story, brought in by one of their deserters, a negro, that on last Friday, the day I was out on a foraging expedition, we approached so near an advanced command they had, consisting of a brigade of infantry and a battery, that they thought they were going to be attacked, and retreated in such a hurry that they abandoned their artillery, and did not return for it all the next day. Unfortunately, we were in ignorance of their presence, or of their stampede, or we might have had a glorious and bloodless capture. The Southern papers have recently been vehemently urging an advance of their army in order to stop our expeditions by sea, and we know Jeff. Davis was at Centreville (where they are said to have sixty thousand men) last Friday. As he has adhered to the defensive policy, in opposition to his generals, it is not impossible he may have yielded, and determined to advance and give us battle. This may account for their movement last night and this morning. I think if they come out of their ratholes about Bull Run and give us a fair chance half-way, that McClellan will eagerly seize it, and the question may be settled by one grand battle. Were it not that I am determined to take things as they come and have no wishes, I would say, so let it be. The sooner this thing is settled the better, and it can only be settled by one side or the other gaining a most decisive and complete victory. I think, if we have a fair, open fight, our chances are good for a victory. But all battles are more or less the result of accidents, and no one can tell in advance what will be the result. We have been in readiness to move all day, but as nothing further has occurred, I suppose an immediate action for the present is postponed.

SOURCE: George Meade, The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Vol. 1, p. 235-6

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