Thursday, July 23, 2020

Charles A. Dana to Edwin M. Stanton, July 7, 1864—8 a.m.

CITY POINT, VA., July 7, 18648 a.m.          
(Received 6 p.m.)

A change in the commander of the Army of the Potomac now seems probable. Grant has great confidence in Meade, and is much attached to him personally, but the almost universal dislike of Meade which prevails among officers of every rank who come in contact with him, and the difficulty of doing business with him felt by every one except Grant himself, so greatly impair his capacities for usefulness and render success under his command so doubtful that Grant seems to be coming to the conviction that he must be relieved. The facts in the matter have come very slowly to my knowledge, and it was not until yesterday that I became certain of some of the most important. I have long known Meade to be a man of the worst possible temper, especially toward his subordinates. I do not think he has a friend in the whole army. No man, no matter what his business or his service, approaches him without being insulted in one way or another, and his own staff officers do not dare to speak to him, unless first spoken to, for fear of either sneers or curses. The latter, however, I have never heard him indulge in very violently, but he is said to apply them often without occasion and without reason. At the same time—as far as I am able to ascertain—his generals have lost their confidence in him as a commander. His order for the last series of assaults upon Petersburg, in which he lost 10,000 men without gaining any decisive advantage, was to the effect that he had found it impracticable to secure the co-operation of corps commanders, and therefore each one was to attack on his own account and do the best he could by himself. Consequently each gained some advantage of position, but each exhausted his own strength in so doing, while for the want of a general purpose and a general commander to direct and concentrate the whole, it all amounted to nothing but heavy loss to ourselves. Of course there are matters about which I cannot make inquiries, but what I have above reported is the general sense of what seems to be the opinion of fair-minded and zealous officers. For instance, I know that General Wright has said to a confidential friend that all of Meade's attacks have been made without brains and without generalship. The subject came to pretty full discussion at Grant's headquarters last night on occasion of a correspondence between Meade and Wilson. The Richmond Examiner charges Wilson with stealing not only negroes and horses, but silver plate and clothing on his raid, and Meade, taking the statement of the Examiner for truth, reads Wilson a lecture and calls on him for explanations. Wilson deities the charges of robbing women and churches, and hopes Meade will not be ready to condemn his command because its operations have excited the ire of the public enemy. This started the conversation in which Grant expressed himself quite frankly as to the general trouble with Meade and his fear that it would become necessary to relieve him. In such event he said it would be necessary to put Hancock in command.


SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 40, Part 1 (Serial No. 80), p. 35-6

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