Monday, December 2, 2013

Brigadier General George G. Meade to Margaretta Sergeant Meade, March 18, 1862


I note all you write about McClellan. I fear it is all true, and that the most desperate efforts have been made and are still being made to take away his command and destroy him. Franklin told me that McClellan said to him, as they followed Lander's corpse, that he almost wished he was in the coffin instead of Lander. It is reported that they were about to introduce into the House of Representatives a vote of want of confidence in him, but were restrained by fearing it would not pass. It is said the President remains his friend.

McClellan is not the man to make himself popular with the masses. His manners are reserved and retiring. He was not popular either in Chicago or Cincinnati, when at the head of large railroad interests. He has never studied or practiced the art of pleasing, and indeed has not paid that attention to it which every man whose position is dependent on popular favor must pay, if he expects to retain his position. Now, you know long before the tide turned, I told you of ill-advised acts on his part, showing a disposition to gratify personal feelings, at the expense of his own interests. I have no doubt now that the enmity of Heintzelman, Sumner, McDowell and Keyes can all be traced to this very cause — his failure to conciliate them, and the injustice they consider his favoritism to others has been to them. So long as he had full swing, they were silent, but so soon as others had shaken the pedestal he stood on, they join in to lend their hands.

Don't you remember as early as last September, telling us how indignant Charles King was at the treatment of General Scott by McClellan, and that the General had said he would have arrested him for disrespect if he had dared to? In the selection of his staff he has not shown the judgment he might have done. There are too many men on it that are not worthy to be around a man with McClellan's reputation. Again, you know my opinion of his treatment of the Ball's Bluff affair, through personal regard for Stone. All these little things have combined, with his political foes, to shake his position. I think, however, it is pretty well settled that Old Abe has determined he will not cut his head off till he has had a chance, and as I wrote you before, all will depend now on the hazard of a die. Any disaster, never mind from what cause, will ruin him, and any success will reinstate him in public favor.

It is very hard to know what is going to be done, or what the enemy will do. My opinion is that they are concentrating all their available forces around Richmond, and that they will make there a determined and desperate resistance. Of course, this defense will be made at first in advance, as far as they deem it prudent to go, or as they can readily retire from, as for instance, the Rappahannock on the north, Fredericksburg and the Potomac on the east, Yorktown and Norfolk on the southeast. Where McClellan will attack them is not known, but before many days are over it will be settled, and we will have a fight either at Fredericksburg, Yorktown or Norfolk. For my part, the sooner we meet them the better. The thing has to be done, and there is nothing gained by delay. The morale is on our side; our recent victories, their retreat from Manassas, all combine to inspirit us and demoralize them; and if our men only behave as we hope and believe they will, I think before long we shall have Richmond.

I rode over this morning and saw Willie.1 I found on my arrival that there was in camp a party of ladies and gentlemen, consisting of Mr. Charles King, of New York, and his daughter, Mrs. Captain Ricketts, and her sister, who is married to a son of Charles King, a captain in the Twelfth (Willie's) Regiment. These ladies had come out to see Captain King, accompanied by Colonel Van Rensselaer, who you remember married a niece of Charles King. They had prepared a lunch, and all the officers were partaking of it, and having, as is usual, a merry time. Soon after I rode up, Miss King recognized Kuhn, who was with me, and sent Captain Wister,2 of the regiment after him, and in a few minutes Colonel Van Rensselaer came up to me, and, after the usual salutations, politely asked me to permit him to present me to the party. Of course I had to say yes, and went up with him and joined the party. Mrs. Ricketts, you know, was a Miss Lawrence. I had known her mother and family all my life. She is now a great heroine. After doing the civil to the party I retired.

1 William Sergeant, brother of Mrs. Meade.
2 Francis Wister, captain 12th U. S. Infantry.

SOURCE: George Meade, The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Vol. 1, p. 253-4

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