Thursday, December 19, 2013

Brigadier General George G. Meade to Margaretta Sergeant Meade, May 10, 1862


The recent act of Congress in reference to command of troops is, I understand, construed by the Secretary of War into an entire destruction of rank in the army. It is now decided that the Secretary can put any officer wherever he pleases, over the heads of his seniors, and no one has the right, or will be permitted, to protest or contest this right. Ord has been made a major general for his Dranesville fight, and if McCall is superseded, I think it probable Ord will be given this division. I think the promotion of Ord just and deserved; for if I had had the good luck to have been in command at Dranesville, I should have claimed the benefit of it. War is a game of chance, and besides the chances of service, the accidents and luck of the field, in our army, an officer has to run the chances of having his political friends in power, or able to work for him. First we had Cameron, Scott (General), with Thomas (adjutant general) and McDowell, who ruled the roost, distributed appointments and favors. Bull Run put Scott's and McDowell's noses out of joint, and brought in McClellan. Then Stanton took Cameron's place, fell out with McClellan, whose nose was therefore put out of joint, and now McDowell again turns up, and so it goes on from one to another. A poor devil like myself, with little merit and no friends, has to stand aside and see others go ahead. Upon the whole, however, I have done pretty well, and ought not to complain.

Of course you have exulted over McClellan's successful dislodgment of the enemy at Yorktown and his brilliant pursuit of and defeat of them at Williamsburg. To-day we hear his gunboats have gone up the James River, and we now look forward to his beating them back from the Chickahominy and forcing them to fight, either at Richmond, or to abandon that place and Virginia. His progress has been so rapid that it seems useless for us to do any more work on the railroad on this line, and I look daily for orders for our column to take shipping at Acquia Creek and go down to West Point to reinforce McClellan. There is where we ought always to have been, and there is where we ought now to go. As it is, we are hard at work rebuilding the railroad to this point, and will have to do it all the way hence to Richmond, fifty-five miles. They have a force in our front some twelve miles off, and say they are going to fight us; but McClellan's operations will stop all that, and they will be out of our way before we can get at them.

SOURCE: George Meade, The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Vol. 1, p. 265-6

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