Friday, November 22, 2013

Brigadier General George G. Meade to Margaretta Sergeant Meade, February 23, 1862

CAMP PIERPONT, VA., February 23, 1862.

I did not go into town yesterday; there was an order requiring at least two generals to remain with each division. So that Reynolds and myself remained. I have not heard how the ceremonies came off, but the weather was unfavorable and the death at the White House had cast a gloom over the city.1 For my part I consider the propriety of rejoicing somewhat questionable. In the first place, because we are not yet out of the woods, and, secondly, the character of the war is such, that though I undoubtedly desire success, yet I do not feel we can or should triumph and boast as we would over a foreign foe. If we ever expect to be reunited, we should remember this fact and deport ourselves more like the afflicted parent who is compelled to chastise his erring child, and who performs the duty with a sad heart. Some such feeling must have prevailed in Congress yesterday, for I see Mr. Crittenden's motion prevailed at the last moment, dispensing with the presentation of the flags captured.

I do not know what to make of our new Secretary. I do not like his letter to the "Tribune" and many of the speeches attributed to him. He appears to me by his cry of "Fight, fight — be whipped if you must, but fight on," as very much of the bull-in-a-china-shop order, and not creditable to his judgment. To fight is the duty and object of armies, undoubtedly, but a good general fights at the right time and place, and if he does not, he is pretty sure to be whipped and stay whipped. It is very easy to talk of fighting on after you are whipped; but I should like to know, if this is all, how wars are ever terminated? I fear the victories in the Southwest are going to be injurious to McClellan, by enabling his enemies to say, Why cannot you do in Virginia what has been done in Tennessee? They do not reflect that the operations in Tennessee are part of the operations in Virginia, and that all will come in good time; but in their insane impatience to come to an end, they think, because we have been victorious once or twice, we are never to be defeated.

We sent out an expedition yesterday to reconnoitre and see if anything could be discovered of the enemy. They went some eight or ten miles and returned. The officer in command tells me to-day his men are entirely used up, and an ambulance, which is designed to carry three men with one horse, could hardly get along empty with three horses attached. You can imagine from this the character of the roads, and the practicability of a forward movement, and this has been the case ever since the 7th of last month, when the thaw commenced. I hear there is great opposition in the Senate to the confirmation of our friend "Baldy." I don't think they will succeed in rejecting him, but they have fought so hard that his friends on two occasions have thought it advisable to postpone taking a vote. I cannot ascertain whether I have passed or not, and am so indifferent that I have not taken the trouble to inquire of any one who might be able to inform me.2 My name was published in a list of those said to have been confirmed, but it is now said that list was wrong. I don't know of any probable opposition, unless my friend Zach Chandler3 should think proper to enlighten the Senate on his Detroit experience of my unreliability.4 I think Howard, though, would be an antidote to his bane.

1 Death of President Lincoln's son.

2 Nominated for brigadier-general U. S. Vols.

3 Zachariah Chandler, senator from Michigan, and afterward a member of the congressional committee on the conduct of war.

4 General Meade's refusal to attend a mass meeting of the citizens of Detroit to take the oath of allegiance to the United States. See page 214.

SOURCE: George Meade, The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Vol. 1, p. 247-8

No comments: