George Meade


Who: George Gordon Meade

What: Union army general

Where: Born Cádiz, Spain; died Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Why: Commander of the Army of the Potomac from June 1863 until the end of the war

When: Born December 31, 1815; died November 6, 1872

“Meade has more than met my most sanguine expectations. He and Sherman are the fittest officers for large commands I have come in contact with” – Ulysses S Grant

George Gordon Meade was born in Cádiz, Spain, the eight of eleven children. His father was a naval agent for the US Government, and his support of Spain in the Napoleonic Wars financially ruined the family. Meade attended West Point largely for financial reasons, graduating 19th of 56 in 1835. He resigned from the Army after a year, only to rejoin the army 1842. He served in the Mexican-American War, and did surveying work for the Army. At the outbreak of war, he was assigned command of the 2nd Brigade of Pennsylvania Reserves, and was severely wounded during the Seven Days Battles, recovering for the Second Battle of Bull Run. He replaced the wounded Joseph Hooker at Antietam, but was wounded again. He made one of the few Union breakthroughs at Fredericksburg, leading to his promotion, but his troops were not reinforced, and Meade lost most of his division. He then fought in the Battle of Chancellorsville. He was appointed to replace Hooker in commanding the Army of the Potomac three days before the Battle of Gettysburg, delegating well to capable subordinates, winning one of the most crucial victories in the war. When Ulysses S Grant was appointed commander of all Union armies, Meade offered to resign in favour of a more capable commander, but Grant refused. He was effectively under Grant’s supervision for the remainder of the war, and generally performed well. He did, however, make costly mistakes in the Battle of Cold Harbour and the Battle of the Crater which marred his reputation. He died from complications of his old wounds combined with pneumonia whilst still on active duty in 1872.

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