2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
The Battle of Gettysburg - Friday July 3, 1863
Union Major General George Gordon Meade

General Meade equestrian statue
This beautiful monument of Major General George Gordon Meade on his horse, "Old Baldy", stands proudly on Cemetery Ridge overlooking the fields he worked so hard to defend. On June 28th, just three days prior to Day 1 of the Battle of Gettysburg, General Meade was notified that he would now command the Army of the Potomac. He knew Lee was moving north and knew he had to both stop him and defend Washington. Later referring to Gettysburg as "a place which I had never seen in my life", he soon became involved in the largest land battle fought on North American soil. By Day 3's end, despite about 21,000 casualties, the Army of the Potomac held their ground, with the Confederate Army retreating back towards the safety of Virginia soil.

Major General George Gordon MeadeMajor General Meade described the third day of Gettysburg in his Official Report as follows: "On the morning of the 3d, General Geary {having returned during the night attacked at early dawn the enemy, and succeeded in driving him back and reoccupying his former position. A spirited contest was, however, maintained all the morning along this part of the line, General Geary, re-enforced by Wheaton's brigade, Sixth Corps, maintaining his position, and inflicting very severe losses on the enemy. With this exception, the quiet of the lines remained undisturbed till 1 p.m. on the 3d, when the enemy opened from over one hundred and twenty-five guns, playing upon our center and left. This cannonade continued for over two hours, when our guns, in obedience to my orders, failing to make any reply, the enemy ceased firing, and soon his masses of infantry became visible, forming for an assault on our left and left center. The assault was made with great firmness, directed principally against the point occupied by the Second Corps, and was repelled with equal firmness by the troops of that corps, supported by Doubleday's division and Stannard's brigade of the First Corps. During the assault, both Major-General Hancock, commanding the left center, and Brigadier-General Gibbon, commanding Second Corps, were severely wounded. This terminated the battle, the enemy retiring to his lines, leaving the field strewn with his dead and wounded, and numerous prisoners in our hands." [11]

Monument to General George G Meade in Washington DCNot as flamboyant as his predecessors, and perhaps not as eloquent in his writing, General Meade still understood the gravity of the situation. Bluntly, he took his work seriously. As evidence of such, consider this circular distributed just before the battle.

"Headquarters Army of the Potomac,

June 30, 1863.

The commanding general requests that previous to the engagement soon expected with the enemy, corps and all other commanding officers address their troops, explaining to them briefly the immense issues involved in the struggle. The enemy are on our soil. The whole country now looks anxiously to this army to deliver it from the presence of the foe. Our failure to do so will leave us no such welcome as the swelling of millions of hearts with pride and joy at our success would give to every soldier of this army. Homes, firesides, and domestic altars are involved. The army has fought well heretofore; it is believed that it will fight more desperately and bravely than over if is addressed in fitting terms. Corps and other commanders are authorized to order the instant death of any soldier who fails in his duty at this hour.

By command of Major-General Meade:

S. WILLIAMS,
Assistant Adjutant-General. " [5]

General Meade's Headquarters at Gettysburg

General Meade's Headquarters at GettysburgBrave to a fault, General Meade suffered severe wounds during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862. The US National Park Service describes what occurred as follows. "His troops saw hard fighting at the battles of Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mill and at Glendale where he was seriously wounded. A musket ball struck him above his hip, clipped his liver, and just missed his spine as it passed through his body. Another bullet struck his arm, but the feisty general stuck to his horse and continued to direct his troops. It was only after a heavy loss of blood that he was forced to leave the field." [22] In part because of how he held himself during battle, General Meade held the respect of many of his peers and subordinates. After General Hooker's defeat at Chancellorsville, several of the Army of the Potomac's Corps commanders stated that they would welcome promoting General Meade to the position of commanding General of the Army of the Potomac.

Grave site of General George G MeadeAlthough General Ulysses S. Grant would command from the Eastern Theater fields for most of 1864 through the surrender of Lee's forces in April of 1865, General George Meade would remain in command of the Army of the Potomac until war's end. A proud man, this arrangement, along with the criticism for allegedly not aggressively pursuing Lee following his victory at Gettysburg, proved a tremendous strain. Meade often found himself in conflict with several of General Grant's more favored commanders including General Phillip Sheridan. After the war, General Meade would spend his final years with his wife in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Despite being about eight years younger than Robert E. Lee, he would survive just two years longer than his Gettysburg opponent. The victorious Union commander would pass away in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Wednesday, November 6, 1872, one day after Election Day for the country he helped preserve. Again, in stark contrast with his Gettysburg opponent who rests under a majestic recumbent statue in the Lee Chapel in Lexington Virginia, General Meade would take as his final resting place, the ground in Philadelphia's Laurel Hill Cemetery under a simple, ordinary grave stone.