tv The Civil War Union General Meade at Gettysburg CSPAN October 18, 2022 4:41pm-5:45pm EDT
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internet work even harder. that is why we are providing lower income students access to affordable internet. so homework can just be homework. >> along with these television companies support c-span 2 as a public service. >> our next speaker is no stranger to the civil war community. kent masterson brown was born in lexington, kentucky and was a graduate of center college, where he was later named a distinguished graduate. and 1974, he received his first doctorate degree from washington university school of law. he practiced constitutional and administrative law and kentucky, and 26 years as counsel to webster chamberlain in washington d.c.. throughout his career as a attorney, he cultivated his
avocation for history as a battlefield preservationist, he helped form the perryville battlefields association, and served as chairman of the commission. he had a presidential appointment as chairman of the gettysburg national commission and served on the board of directors of the gettysburg foundation. he has spent time researching american history, writing books and articles for scholarly presentation and giving towards a civil war battlefield to the average civil war audience. all of ken's books have been selections of the history book club and military book club and have received numerous national awards. in addition, in 2007, kent extended his historical pursuit to writing, hosting, and producing eight award winning documentary films. he is the president and content developer of the nonprofit, witnessing history, education foundation. his whole mission is to
purchase high documentary films with all aspects of american history for the purposes of broadcast on public and cable television. can't currently serve as a member of the kentucky american independence semi quincentenary commission. i think i said that word correct. and the kentucky film commission. and is a life member of the board of directors of the plantation located in blacksburg, virginia. without any further introduction, i would like to present to you, kent masterson brown and his presentation on meade at gettysburg. [applause]. >> well, thank you. it is fun to be back in gettysburg. i love this place. i have been bringing my family
here for so many years, my kids who are now all grown, still referred to the angle as their second backyard. so, that shows you just how much they were here with me. my topic tonight, of course, is on george mead at gettysburg. and the book that has just come out about that, obviously is going to contain far more things that i am going to be able to say tonight in the 45 minutes and has given me. what i would like to do is present a couple of major themes of that book and have you contemplate those. you know, george meade was never asked to become, would he become commander of the army of the potomac, like other generals were who preceded him.
general me it was simply ordered to become commander of the army of the potomac by orders from the president of the united state dated june 27th, 1863. the reason for that is because nobody wanted to become commander of the army of the potomac. and it is true, on june 2nd, john reynolds met with henry pollack, and the president of the united states as well as his secretary of war about the object, and the prospects of him becoming commander of the army of the potomac, and he candidly said to george meade later that he declined because he didn't want to pick up after burnside's and hookers leavings. that pretty well expresses the opinions of a lot of the high command of the army of the
potomac. when you stop and think about it, that army from the campaign in june and july of 1862 to second -- to fredericksburg, and to chancellorsville had not won an engagement against their enemy in any of those. yet, the casualties and those campaigns continue to climb. the 16,000 on the peninsula, there were at least 16,000 casualties in the army of the potomac alone at fredericksburg, and a similar number in chancellorsville. as we all know by march, the lincoln administration and congress managed to get through a draft.
because who would want to join the army? nobody. it has been nothing but a slaughterhouse. and there has been nothing gained. so, on the eve of gettysburg, the white house was concerned about riots freaking out in the streets. and then suddenly, a victory is given to them in the largest land in the american continent. and yet, after that, what happens? george mead is accused of not following the enemy. george mead is accused of not having the moral courage to make decisions himself. george mead is accused of not attacking the enemy along the
downs villa line near haters town on the 12th and 13th of july. lacking the moral courage to do that, he said he called it council of war. and that's >> lacking the moral courage to do that, instead, he called the council of war. and that's how meade has been remembered. i remember early, on working on this book, somebody asked me, what are you working on? and i, said i'm working on george. -- all of you have heard that. i, he's the guy who didn't pursue lee. well, let me give you -- again, we got this within 45 minutes, but let me give you some thoughts about all this. all this has revealed in the
book, it's just fun to talk about. again, meade was ordered to become commander -- ordered to do so, and to show you how this poor man was introduced to command of the army of the potomac, the moment he accepted command and became commander, and hooker left, he learned that job starts, three brigades of cavalry -- of the potomac river, and had destroyed two -- on the baltimore ohio railroad, certainly to relay just east of baltimore along the baltimore rail law and. so, meade had no way to communicate with his government. and he couldn't get supplies and from baltimore for his army, because the bridges were knocked out. that was his supply line. at the time, one half of meads army was shoeless.
one half. and on july one, meade will actually finish ordering 50,000 pairs of shoes for that army. but they'll never arrive. and you'll see why. they will never arrive. so during the pursuit of really, after the fighting was over, what does meade say in response to one of henry colleagues missives that were sent to him about not pursuing? meade says, half my army doesn't have any issues. and still, nothing. so you went, how did he get into this kind of a predicament? where his army has no supply? nothing? well, let's go back to the beginning of the campaign real quickly. he accepts command on june
28th. on june 29, he moves the army. and after a heck of a lot of examination of maps, intelligence reports from various elements of the army, both cavalry as well as civilian reports, showing that leaves army, which has been in pennsylvania for sometime now, foraging, leaves army stretched out between chambers barry and york, pennsylvania. and there's a road that runs between chambers bergh and new york, and you can see it on the map. right above the word -- you see chambers berg. the chambers bagpipe runs from chambers bag to cash town pass, and then to gettysburg, and on to york. notice that map, you see troops along the chambers bagpipe, you see a long straight at chambers
back, you see hail at the -- uc early over here, near new york, which is probably -- from the time he -- until july 1st. that's what you see on that map. that's it. no weather intelligence could we find there was one piece of intelligence that indicated that long straights of chambersburg. ap hill is a cash town. they both have a, quote, disposition to move to gettysburg. what does that mean? i have no earthly idea. but that's the only intelligence meade has. one thing about civil war history is that we -- particularly military history. we can -- we're always trying to look at it through our lens.
and our lens is so different than theirs. a confederate corps may move 20 miles on one day. and it may be spotted the next day. but it may take another day and a half for that information to even reach army headquarters. and by the time it reaches army headquarters, then what's happened? have they continued to move there? or are they're going somewhere else? you have absolutely no way of knowing. so meade, what he does is on the 29th of june, after looking at that map and looking at that chambersburg pike.
chambersburg to york pike. he determines that must be -- this is a word i use. the axis on which all of lee's army is moving. and if i can get, i'm pretending i'm meade, if i can get as close as possible to that axis then maybe we can do something about these people. and so the object here is to get as close to that axis as he can. and then try to find out with more specificity where this enemy is. because he can't do a thing unless he knows where that enemy is. what he does on june 29, he moves the army of the potomac north. you can see all the arrows. from frederick all the way up through carol county too tinny town to frizzell bergh, near union mills. new windsor. these troops marched in one day 30 miles. to get to that point. this is a half-shoeless army. but imagine, they -- have march from virginia all the way to frederick. and now they're going another 30 miles to carol county, maryland. as meade gets there, he sees the layout, sees
the big pike creek. in fact, his headquarters tents are pitched at middle berg. and you can see middle berg right here in the middle. right there in the middle. you can go visit middle berg today. it looks like it did in 1863. you can go visit union town and it's exactly like it was in 1863. union mills is the same. the park expands down that way if you ask me. he reaches middle berg. they pitches tent on the kuhn farm and the kuhn farm overlooked big by kirk. and he saw the bluffs behind them. that trigger had to be the triggered him to say what else is on this? we'll be flying down towards union mills. those bluffs are like 100 feet above this creek. they taper down to
50 as you get past middle berg. but still, 25 feet. if you're on the 25 foot and the other guys are below it, then you are in better shape. the objects now is should i form a defense line along pipe creek which she answers of course yes. take the next slide. there you can see in black, big pipe creek. it runs from manchester, following the creek through union mills. to just above tinny town. then to middleburg on the left. this setup here is designed to do one thing for sure. and that is the orders that were given to
him by henry how lake were that among other things, you are to protect baltimore and washington. you can do anything else you want but you have to protect baltimore -- those guys were paranoid in washington. they were almost paranoid. look at what the pipe creek line does. it covers every road, literally from harrisburg to baltimore. from gettysburg to baltimore. it covers all the roads. so in terms of obeying the orders of the general-in-chief, meade chose the proper position. now the question is, do you sit -- simply sit behind a defensive position and wait for the enemy? of course not. of course not. the enemy's not gonna come to you. lee is out there foraging. you can set the hundred battlements all you want. he will just continue to forage
and then finally he gets enough will go, see you later. go down a virginia. and talk about -- so what do you do. you want to fight a battle on that pipe creek line. so what do you do? meade answers that question. on june 30, he issues a series of orders. and one of the orders is to -- for all the core in the army to move from where they are right now. you can see where they are right now along the pipe creek line. the first corps he order to move to gettysburg. that's reynolds. to gettysburg. the 11th corps was to move in supporting distance of the first core. the fifth
corps was ordered to move to hanover, north of littlestown and then hanover. the 12th corps was to move to two taverns near littletown. the six corps was to move to manchester, over here on the far right. in the third corps was to move to emmetsburg. the second corps was to move from union town to tinny town. think about it for a minute. here, you are forming the pike creek line. and now meade has ordered all the corps of the army to move except sickles and hancock, the third and second corps. he's ordered all five other corps to move north of the pipe
creek line. you go, why is he doing that? well, let's explore first of all the first corps. he's ordered reynolds to gettysburg. does that mean he's ordered reynolds to go to gettysburg to open a general engagement? no. not anymore than he ordered general sykes to go to ganover and hope for a general engagement. or he ordered general cedric to go to manchester to open a general engagement. all those corps are north or the pipe creek line. so what is happening? on the next morning, interestingly, meade determines a base of
supply of the army. remember, an operational commander of an army is not just a fellow who orders troops around. he has to keep them fed. he also has to keep his animals fed. the army of the potomac has 60,000 horses in that army. has 91,000 troops. but 60,000 horses. its supply trains are 50 miles long. coming into pennsylvania. and those supply trains are largely mule driven. so you've got the mules now too to consider. if you look at the army regulations of 1861, a
horse, to keep it in the field, is required to receive 14 pounds of oats and 14 pounds of hay a day. it makes you almost shudder. how do you do that? how does he do it? a mule is required to receive 15 pounds of hay and 15 pounds of a combination of oats a day. i come from horse country. i don't know if any of you have raised a horse. if you raise one horse, you know all about it. it only takes as one. in kentucky, again, it's horse country. if you don't feed a
horse its required food, forage, regularly, he goes lame and then breaks down. particularly if you're requiring that animal to do what these armies are requiring them to do. pulling guns, wagons, all that stuff. it takes an enormous amount of forage to keep an army alive, keep it moving. but if you don't feed that horse what he's required, he goes lame in about three days. a man can withstand no food for ten days. so they say. however, he becomes weak. as you could only imagine. so
even though it sounds boring to talk about logistics, it is what keeps an army moving. and if you can't keep up with that, then you may as well give it up, because your army can't move. and its men won't move. so his supply base was set up at westminster. on july 1, he gets confirmation from the quartermaster general of the army, montgomery makes, that his supply base will be at westminster. and they're going to employ henry herman -- brigadier general herman halt to open the railroad which is the western maryland railroad
between baltimore and westminster. it's one track no two tracks there are no sightings there is no turntable and that railroad goes to westminster. and then also goes to a union bridge, a little town just to the west of westminster. those two would be the base of supply of the army and all the supplies would come from washington to baltimore, baltimore to westminster and union bridge. and here is how they get there. herman would take -- he commandeered trains for the u.s. military railroad. he would run five trains, one behind the other, since there were no turntables, anything like this. he wanted to get the maximum load to westminster and union bridge as he could. he would run them in convoys of
five trains, one behind the other. so that every time those five trains got to westminster and union bridge, they could unload 2000 tons of supplies. then back all the way down the tracks to baltimore. he'd do that five times a day. this is what it takes to keep an army alive. i cannot emphasize this stuff more. so that system was set up on july 1. so this army could be supplied. at that moment now, pike creek is meade's preferred position to defend. he wants to defend, if he can. let it lead to the attacking. pipe creek, that means his line of supply is only seven miles long to westminster and union bridge.
easy, that's good, it's close. that works. you could see what kind of a head this man has now. that works. we've said up the supply base. going back to these core moving ahead of the pike creek line. let's first look at the first corps on the far left. meade has given kind of special orders. he wants reynolds to move to gettysburg and he wants howard's 11th corps to follow him. form a support system. support corps. and -- the military theorists of that age, principally carl van -- the writer who wrote about military logistics among
other things. in a book called on war that was published in 1832 after he died. and then antjuan germany, the swiss born french officer who wrote a text on the art of war. and people said that just antiquated stuff. they were all taught by a professor at west point, every one of meade's corps commanders, every one of lee's corps commanders. who were taught biden's heart in the hand. who wrote a book called the outpost. this outpost was a combination of both -- i found
it interesting. a committee on the conduct of the war. they ask george meade about all his councils of war. and he says they weren't councils of war. they were consultations. do you know where he got that? he says they're consultation. does meade read --? you're darn right. what do these theorists say about we're talking about here? here is a -- a short lesson from dennis hart mahan on this operation. he says an enemy's position is to be reckoned -- with a view to force him to show his hand by causing him to call out all his troops. then, a large detachment of all arms, infantry, cavalry, artillery, adequate to the task of pressing the enemy vigorously. and also of withdrawing with
safety when pressed in turn must be thrown forward. this is precisely the operation meade intends to -- for reynolds and frankly all -- sykes, sedgewick and the others to follow. this is kind of fun. researching this book some years ago, i was in the national archives. went through all the corps papers of all the corps of the army of the potomac and all the quartermaster records, all that stuff. and in the 11th corps papers, i found an envelope. and i have a photo copy of it here in front of me. this is what it reads in the cover of the envelope. official papers found on the body of major
general john f. reynolds, commanding the left wing of the army of the potomac. july 1st, 1863. you go, why in the 11th corps, howard became the commander when reynolds fell. you want the commander of those forces out there to know what reynolds knew. right? the papers go to howard. they were found in the 11th corps papers, still there right now. in those, in this envelope were things that the official records don't tell us about at all. i won't go into all those but i will go into this. there is a letter from george meade to john reynolds. george meade has already ordered john reynolds to go to gettysburg. our friend, mr. sears, who wrote his history of gettysburg, battle
of gettysburg, it's a fine book. and he's a fine historian. but he didn't make the remark that meade told him to go to gettysburg but didn't tell him what to do once he got there. and i looked at that and i go that can't be. that can't be. long ago, i thought this is not -- can just tell him to go out there. 14 miles ahead of army headquarters. 32 miles ahead of manchester. why would he do that? here is the letter i found. what's interesting about this. the letter is in the official records. but what's not in the official records is that this letter is written entirely in george meade's own handwriting. and it's a letter to john reynolds. he even signs it yours truly. can you imagine that? operational commander of an army sending a letter telling you to go out there with your corps and he goes yours truly,
george meade. but it's yours truly. this is what he said. it is june 30th, 11:30 am. your dispatch is received. reynolds dispatched to him about his thoughts. that's in this package as well. a copy of it. the enemy undoubtedly occupied the cumberland valley from chambers forests. whether the holding of cash down gas or prevent our entrance. or is in advance -- in advance against us. remains to be seen. the fact that confederates might occupy cash down past will come to george meade's mind again in this campaign. here he thinks maybe lee is just wanting us to lure us to that aside. just like we're trying to get him to come to ours. these guys all read from the same book. they did, gals. he said with before
does gettysburg and our regiment in front of emmett's bird, you ought to be advised in time of their approach. and then he says this. listen to this carefully. in case of an advance in force against either you at gettysburg or howard at emmettsburg, you must fall back to that place, meaning emmettsburg. and i will reinforce you from the course nearest you which are sickles at tiny town and slow come at a littletown. did meade want reynolds to bring on a general engagement at gettysburg? this is what he said. then he says this. he goes please get all the information you can and post yourself up in the roads and roots of communication. get all the information you can.
it's reconnaissance. yes. this is a classic recognizance in force. except on like going out there and just taking your binoculars and saying whether you can find anybody what you're trying to do is cause the enemy to collect in front of you. the new report back. and you begin to withdraw as the enemy collects. now you got something you can report. and now meade has something solid he knows that's in front of him. so get all the information you can. post yourself up on the roads and roads of communication, the chambersburg pike. do you think a finals went out, put himself on the chambers big fight for that entire corps, first corps. that lee would respond. those corps commanders out there. hill, you will, would respond? you bet they would. they did later in
the day. they sure would. and say then once they start to collect, then you start to fall back. and then he has a p. s. after his yours truly. he says this. if after occupying your present position, it is -- meaning gettysburg. it is your judgment that you would be better in a better position at emmettsburg than where you are, you can fall back without waiting for the enemy or further orders from me. your present position, he says, was given more with a view to an advance on gettysburg than a defensive point. he doesn't want him to defend gettysburg. any more than he wants sykes to defend hanover or cedric to defend manchester. or the 12th corps to defend two taverns. he
wants them to fall back. which, folks, people have called the pipe creek line an offensive defensive thing where -- contingency that they could fall back to it. there is no contingency with george meade. that is where he wants to fight this battle. he's going to try to make it happen there. using frankly what are classic operational techniques to have that happen. folks, as we know, on july 1st, reynolds does move. in fact, if we get the next slide you, can see everybody moves. sixth corps goes to manchester on the 1st of july. you can see sykes's fifth corps moving to hand over, 12 at two taverns. then you've
got reynolds moving up on the left. reynolds isn't the only one moving. the whole army is moving. so reynolds moves north, early in the morning. but he moves north with only one division. wadsworth. the other two divisions of the first corps are left at march creek, they're an hour behind before they start to move. reynolds gets all the way up to gettysburg. he hears combat, west of gettysburg. he has reports coming in to him from rioters from john buford saying that his two brigades are caught in a nasty fight west of gettysburg, and we need your
help. the last orders john buford got from general pleasant in the command of cavalry in the army was to scout the enemy and report to army headquarters. his orders were not to defend gettysburg, for crying out loud. and they weren't to get himself caught in an engagement out there. i love john buford. and my house within 20 minutes of where he was born. that's where his mother -- church just outside of washington. his wife and son are buried in georgetown, kentucky. 12 miles from lexington. and the house where he was married to bezel duke's cousin, bezel duke meaning sean hunt morgan's brother in law, second in command is still standing where he was married. before it has a huge connection to kentucky and central kentucky. but what the heck was he doing? i don't have an answer for you. as to what he was doing. but he clearly got himself caught in an engagement that he should not have been.
and then comes the question, should reynolds go and commit elements of the first corps to support this? and if so, how and in what manner? remember, what reynolds's orders are. you see a problem brewing out here? he's got these other two divisions still an hour behind. and what happens, reynolds goes to buford's aid. as he's bringing in the solemn and mariners iron brigade. turns around and is hit in the back of the head with a bullet fired by some volley of probably james j. archers brigade, who knows? and he falls to the ground dead. you know the rest of the story. rest of the first corps comes up. eventually, they're committed to a fight. double days of the senior
command. i have to feel for avatar double day here. i don't come to his aid when he is sacked by meade, because meade gets two reports from two different officers that really don't -- aren't very complimentary of double day. and meade canned convene committees to discuss this or try a case. he has to make a decision. and he calls in john newton and put some of the place of doubleday. but double day had been told by reynolds. and he wrote a very fine article in battles and leaders after the war. he was told by reynolds that reynolds was going to go up to gettysburg. was going to try to get the enemy to collect in front of him. and the minute the enemy
did, he was to fall back to emmettsburg. that's what doubleday says. it's corroborated document i found in a collection and southern california. document of a nine-page letter written by a jacob -- who was the judge advocate in double days division. he was there when doubleday was notified that reynolds was dead. and he says doubleday took it very seriously. he was visibly of set by it. and he says then he turned to me and he says i have no idea what reynolds intent was here. now, that corroborates what he said in battles and leaders because what he says is that reynolds
was supposed to fall back to emmitsburg. here he is involved in a tactical engagement that's not going to involve the entire first core. we don't know how many enemies are out there. widow winds up is that -- comes in from the north. ap hills harry heath division comes in from the west followed by dorsey tenders. and they're crushed. 4th corps is crushed. they bring up the 11th corps to ploys north of scott's bergh. there is slammed by juvenile early as well as roses divisions of you will scores. and both of those army corps flee back. those who can, who on casualties, flee back to cemetery and call field. isn't that the way it happened? okay now what happens. meade here's of this. he says -- first sends governor warnford to see what's happening up there. he then tells john winfield scott hancock to go up there and
report back to me as to whether or not it's even a good place to defend. hancock comes back and he reports that he thinks it is. and so meade is now left with the only option left for him is to advance the entire army there. and he does. he advances the entire army there. and they start moving, and think of this. to get that army there, sykes's fifth corps at hanover, it's about 12 marching hours away. sedgewick's six corps at manchester's 24 hours away. lee's corps is six hours away. that's where the second corps is. this is a huge effort for an army that is already in difficult shape to begin with. but now, folks, if you take a look at the map, from gettysburg, you see this road
coming through here, down to westminster. that's the baltimore pike. the baltimore pike. it's the pike that runs over cemetery hill and -- all the way down, you usually go to the visitor center by driving down the baltimore pike. now, of course as, we know, you might change the map if you would. there is the baltimore pike here. what happens is the -- occupies positions just below east cemetery hill and just below -- threatening the baltimore pike. so that in the three days of -- three days of
battle that meade is there, the baltimore pike is under active attack or threats of attack. it's not until july four that meade is able to get any supplies to that army. from westminster. the supplies that come first and all these seven corps are in the same shape. their horses haven't been fed at all. so what the quartermasters do is they want those wagons, by the way, pack mule trains. can you imagine coming up to baltimore going pack mule trains? the wagon trains. the 50 miles of those in the army. this is a 22 mile road. you've got as many people, as many wagons on the road as are still waiting to get on the road. an in between, you've got pack mule trains bringing in
supplies for the army. and the first supplies they have to bring in is forage for the horses. oats and meal for the horses and mules, and hay. and these quartermasters. i came across the quartermaster records. and they're all saying sorry folks, all we can do, we gotta save our horses. we're bringing all that in first. and so the army sits there and is virtually starving. to show you how bad it is, all of the medical supplies -- we see all these houses, this is a hospital. how are they medical
instruments. bedding, pillows. boards to make bunks. a caught. they need tents. the entire army was here without tense. there were no tents in the army of the potomac. they slept out in the -- so in july when it starts to rain, these poor people are just in the rain. the wounded are in the rain. some or in fear of drowning. and there is no relief. one chief medical officer in the army of the potomac disobeyed the standing order of the army. and that's the chief surgeon of the 12 core. he brought as much as you could bring anyway. but not so with any of the others. so all july 4th, driving rain, to make it even more difficult. meade has some 5000 prisoners
of war. those poor people are being herded down in baltimore pike. to be put on trains going back to baltimore so they can be distributed to prisoner war camps. or to hospitals as the need it was required. those people were being herded back to the baltimore pike. and then there were all the wounded at a gettysburg being taken down to the baltimore pike. and then coming up the baltimore pike -- hay and oats and so forth. now you've got cattle and sheep being brought up here. there were 30,000 cattle following this army. they need the meat! and so all day july 4, they try to get as much fodder up here as possible. july five, it continues. and now you get meat in a situation where he finds the enemy is evacuating gettysburg. i haven't talked about the battle now. he's now
seeing the enemy starting to depart the field on july 4th and fifth. the question that comes into his mind, is lee going back to the south mountain range? he sees his signal stations all at little round top in the courthouse. they spot lee moving as well on the -- pike knowing -- south mountain range and his first impulse is they're going to go back there and fortify those hikes. carl van closet we'll tell you that's exactly what you do. dennis hard in the hand would say that's exactly what you do. you lose the battle of fine, will withdraw and will withdraw to the hills. we'll wait for you to come after us. and he was cognizant that was what lee was about. was trying
to get the army of the potomac to move to him. you can imagine if that materialized and meade brought his whole army there, then -- and failed. what would that be? on the other hand, if meade ignored that, and just started moving towards emmitsburg, frederick and middletown like he ultimately did with that respect to lease operations. and really then sent there on those heights. knowing meade was moving in another direction. meet with just come back to where he started. gettysburg, wherever. and believe me, the embarrassment to the administration, to the army of the potomac that here you win this battle and now you've gone off on what do you think is a
goose chase. and lee now is back where he was. it would be devastating. so what does lee do? he waits until he gets positive information that lee has actually moved through those mountain passes. when he is finally told yes, they're on their way to hagerstown, he then begins to move. he moves on a parallel route. he doesn't try to pursue the enemy through the enemy's rear into the hills. because even as john sedgwick says in a dispatch to meade at the time, and it was sedgewick that try to get us close to -- field as he could to check on what lee was doing, sedgwick says trying to get through these mountain passes here, they can detach any small amount of their army and will defeat us because they're
always going to be way higher than we are and the roads are too darn narrow. we can't pursue him that way. every military -- say the same thing. dennis hartman -- i'd say i remember in my own experience, my father was a tanker in the 36 division in italy in the second world war. they had to pursue the germans from -- all the way to rome. much of that is mountain. and pursuing, he said an enemy through mountains is devastating to the pursuer. i remember we are driving in eastern, western north carolina on the way to the beach. i was about 14 years old. my father happened to spot a small road leading up these hills. western north carolina's mountainous. he took to me and he said hey doc, he called me doc. he said hey doc, what would you think of pursuing an enemy through
that? i said, i don't know that, dad. i don't think i'd like it. he says why? you tell me. he says, just think about it. they're always going to be higher than you are. you're going to be, you are only on a narrow road. doesn't this fit? you're only on a narrow road and your front that you show them, your combat front is only as wide as that road. so you don't do it. you have to find another way. of course, meade did call a council on july 4th. he had already determined he was going to move on the east side of the mountains to frederick and to middletown. he'd already made that decision. in fact, sent two letters. -- and another traditional smith accountants command. telling him just that.
earlier in the day. but he asked his officers, what would you do? they said, we sure wouldn't follow him. then what do we do? i think we should go on the east side of the mountains. we can get across on the national road through turner pass. that's exactly what the army did. exactly what he had in mind. and so meade pursues that way. let me tell you. the pursuit of his army on the east side of the mountains, he's going to have to have to mountain chains he's going up to cross. -- as well as the south mountain range. and he's also going to have to go 64 miles where lee is going to have to go 40. once lee is working on the hypotenuse. meade is working on the other two sides with the only feasible way he can get there
and meade gets there. he confronts lee on the 10th of july. which is astonishing, given the shape of that army. and what do we see in the army? well, folks, it's devastating. the army of the potomac lost 1900 horses in combat here in gettysburg. by the time it confronts lee, on the 10th of july, it will have lost 14,000 horses. 10,000 just broken down, unserviceable. 2000 more, they just abandoned those horses. think about that. they got some forage through but not enough to take care of how bad that army was. one diarist i found,
93rd pennsylvania, he made the comment on the 12th of july, a note in his diary, he said the men are tired out and mostly shoeless. and he said the animals, horses are blue, and we lose hundreds every day. so when people tell you that meade didn't pursue the enemy, you can tell them, hogwash. but what's painful in this scenario, to finish this, is that meade gets to washington county,
maryland, just below hagerstown. sets up his lines confronting what lee has established for himself. which is a fortified line known as the downsville from hagerstown all the way to downsville on the potomac. both his flanks are totally covered. this range of broken ridges that we has fortified -- sophisticated fortifications. most of the eyewitnesses of the -- up into petersburg. there, are all those heights are mounted with field artillery. their rifle pits in front of those heights. and if meade were to attack that position, he would have to cross a swollen stream that would come up to the armpits, maybe the shoulders of most of his men, then continue nearly a mile in
the face of enemy artillery and small arms fire. and meade wanted desperately to try to attack. again, though, most of his senior corps commanders tried to dissuade him. and he called a council. for a good purpose. and that was what do you think we should do? i'll tell you what i want to do. i'd like to attack them. his officers advised him against it. happily, to be honest. i think the army of the potomac had been through to many killing fields up until this. too many of them. where they just slaughtered the people. frederick, antietam, manassas. they've been through enough of that. yet, meade no sooner got
to frederick on the 7th and 8th of july than general hal accent him a message from the president. the presidents congratulating general grant on the surrender of vicksburg and then says, now if meade can finish the glorious work he had accomplished thus far, by the literal or substantial destruction of lee's army, the war will be over. the literal or substantial destruction of lee's army? do you destroy leads army, an army that sophisticated? no. no. meade must have read that dispatch with some dismay. the bar of success was now way up here. on the night of the 13th of july, lee evacuated those trenches. he had built a pontoon bridge across the potomac and falling waters. took him 68 hours to build an 800 foot span of bridges. and got that army across the potomac. to stretch s ha absolutely remarkable story to
be -- and what does lincoln say? meade had only to stretch out his hands and they were hours. a golden opportunity, he said, of destroying a lease army was squandered. meade wanted to lead we escaped so there wouldn't be another battle. these are remarks from the president. folks, i hope you get a glimpse today from this and hopefully you'll buy the book and get a better glimpse. you get a glimpse today of just exactly what was facing george meade. it was just horrific yet he got that army there. though the army escaped. and meade came under this scorn to all his credit. to all his credit.
never once did meade say a word about it. meade, to me, general hunt made the comment that studying meade, he said i find meade grows on me. the more i study him, the more i like him. and those two didn't like one another. they had trouble with one another. put it that way. and meade almost demoted hunt out of the army at one time when hunt threatened to resign. and hunt later wrote a letter about this event saying, i can be -- i'm not biased when i write this letter because meade and i had some difficulties. and -- he says i gotta tell you, heroes on me. and i found every decision he made from the pike recline to leaving the pike
recline and having a totally defensive position at gettysburg of his conduct of the battle of gettysburg, of his pursuit of lee the way he did, was exactly as it must have been. and he said never before has a person come into command so close to when combat began and been able to get control of an army and do what he did with it. i like george meade, folks. thank you all. [applause] >> if you're entering american history tv, sign up for our newsletter using the qr code. received the weekly schedule of upcoming programs like lectures in history, the presidency, and more. sign up for the american history tv news later today, and be sure to watch american history tv every saturday, or
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