tv The Civil War Union General Meade at Gettysburg CSPAN October 19, 2022 4:40am-5:45am EDT
our next speaker is no stranger to the civil war community kent masterson. brown was born in lexington kentucky and is a 1971 graduate of center college where he was later named a distinguished graduate. in 1974. he received his juris doctor degree from washington and lee university school of law. he has practiced constitutional and administrative law for 45 years in lexington, kentucky and 26 years as council to webster
chamberlain being and in washington, dc. throughout his career as a constitutional attorney kenneth cultivated his advocation in history as a battlefield preservationist. he helped form the perryville battlefield association and served as chairman of the perryville battlefield commission. he had a presidential appointment as chairman of the gettysburg national military park's advisory 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 presentations and giving towards of civil war battlefields to the avid american civil war audience. all of kent'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 pursuits to writing hosting and producing eight award-winning documentary films.
he is the president and content development developer of the nonprofit witnessing history education foundation whose sole mission is to produce high quality documentary films on also 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-quincentennial commission. i think i said that word right, correct. that's right and the kentucky film commission and is a life member of the board of directors of the smithfield plantation located in blacksburg, virginia without any further introduction. i would like to present to you kent masterson brown and his presentation on me at gettysburg. well, thank you. it's it's a fun to be back in
gettysburg. i love this place. i've been bringing my family here for so many years my kids who are now all grown still refer to the angle as their second backyard. and so that shows you just how much they they were here with me. um the my topics that i'd of course is is on george made it gettysburg. and the book that has just come out about that. obviously is going to contain far more things that i'm going to be able to say tonight in the 45 minutes. that's given me. but what i would like to do is present a couple of major themes of that book. and have you contemplate those? you know george mead. was never asked to become would
he become commander of the army of the potomac? like other generals were who preceded him? general meade was simply ordered. to become commander of the army of the potomac by orders from the president of the united states dated, june 27 1863 and the reason for that was that nobody wanted to become commander of the army of the potomac. and it is true on june 2nd to john reynolds met. with henry hallick and the president of the united states as well as his secretary of war about the object or about the prospects of he 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 burnsides and hookers leaving.
now that pretty well expresses the opinions of lots of the high command of the army of the potomac. and when you stop and think about it. that poor army from the peninsula campaign in june of in july of 1862 to second, manassas to antietam to fredericksburg and to chancellorsville had not won an engagement against that enemy of theirs in any of those. nothing and yet the casualties in those campaigns continued to climb. he mcclellan lost some 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. and as we all know by march the
lincoln administration and congress managed to get through a draft why because who would want to join the army? nobody it has been nothing but a slaughterhouse. and there's been nothing gained. and so on the eve of gettysburg the white house was concerned about riots breaking out in the streets. and then suddenly a victory is given to them in the largest land engagement ever fought on the north american continent. and yet and yet after that. what happens? george meade is accused of not following the enemy. george meads accused of not having the moral courage to make
decisions himself. george meade is accused of not attacking the enemy along the downsville line near hagerstown on the 12th and 13th of july. lacking the moral courage to do that instead. he called a council of war. and that's how mead has been remembered. i remember early on working on this book. that someone came up and asked me. you know, what are you working on now brown, you know and i go well, we're gonna george me. oh, he's the guy that didn't pursue lee. that's how he's remembered and by everybody. and i say all these nods you've heard all of you have heard that. oh, he's the guy that just didn't pursue lee. well, let me let me give you again. i've got it. we got a we got this within 45 minutes, but let me give you some some thoughts about all this. all this has revealed in the book, but it's just fun to talk
about. um again mead was ordered to be commander on june 28 accepted command on june 28th after being ordered to do so and to show you how this poor man was introduced to command of the army the potomac the minute he accepted command and and became commander and hooker left. he learned that jeb stuart's three brigades of cavalry it come across seneca falls the potomac river and had destroyed two bridges on the baltimore and ohio railroad and cut all the telegraph wires to baltimore from it certainly to relay just east of baltimore along the baltimore and ohio railroad. so mead had no way to communicate with his government. and he couldn't get any supplies in from baltimore for his army because the bridges were knocked out of the baltimore and ohio railroad. that was his supply line. at the time one half of mead's army was shoeless. one half and on on june on july
1 mead will actually finish ordering 50,000 pair of shoes for that army. but they'll never arrive. and you'll see why. they'll never arrive. so during the during the pursuit of lee after the fighting was over. what is lee? what is meade say in response to one of henry hallock's missives that was sent to him about he not pursuing mead says half my army doesn't have any shoes. is that like it's that light still nothing still nothing? and so you wonder how did we get? how did he get into this kind of a of a predicament where his army has no supplies 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 not 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 lee's army which has been in pennsylvania for some time now foraging lee's army is stretched out between chambersburg and york, pennsylvania and there's a road that runs between chambersburg and york and you can see it on the on the map right above the word long straight you see chambersburg. the chambersburg pike runs from chambersburg to cashtown pass than to gettysburg and on to york and notice that map you see troops along the the chambersburg pike you see longstreet at chambersburg you
see hill at at the cashtown pass you see early over here near york. which is probably all need new. from the time he took command until july 1st was what you see on that map. that's it. no other intelligence, could we find other than this there was a one one piece of intelligence that indicated that long streets that chambersburg ap hill is at cache town. they both have a quote disposition to move to gettysburg. now what the hell does that mean? i have no earthly idea. um, but that's the only intelligence meat has you know, one thing about civil history is that we particularly military history is we can we we're always trying to look at through our lens. and our lens is so different
than theirs. a confederate core 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 going somewhere else? you have absolutely no way of knowing. so mead what he does is on on the 29th of june after looking at that map and looking at that chambersburg pike. to chambersburg to york pike determines that that must be and i 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 on me 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. so what he does on june 29, he moves the army of the potomac north and you can see all the arrows from frederick all the way up through carroll county to taneytown to frizzleburg to near union mills new windsor these this these troops marched in one day 30 miles. to get to that point now this is a half shoeless army. but imagine they marching after they have marched from falmouth, virginia all the way to frederick. and now they're going another 30 miles to to carroll county, maryland and as mead gets there. he sees the the layout sees the
a big pipe creek in fact, his headquarters tents are are pitched at middleburg and you can see middleburg. right here in in the middle right there in the middle and you can go visit middleburg today. it looks like it did in 1863. you can go to visit uniontown and it's exactly like it wasn't 1863 union mills is the same. i mean the park would expand down that way if you ask me, but anyway, he he goes he reaches middleburg. they pitches tents on the -- farm and the --'s farm overlooked big, pipe creek. and he saw the bluffs behind him and that triggered had to think that triggered him to say what else is on this will he finds it down toward union mills? those bluffs are like a hundred feet above this this creek. and it they taper down to 50 as
you get past you middleburg, but still 25 feet is fine if you're if you're on the 25 foot and the others the other guys are below it then you're in better shape, right? so the object now is should i form a defense line along pipe creek, which he answers? of course? yes. and take the next line. there you can see in bold black big pipe creek. it runs from manchester following the creek through union mills. to just above taneytown then to then to middleburg on the on the left. now this this setup here of meades is designed to do. one thing for sure and that is the orders that were given to him by henry hallock were that
among other things you are to protect baltimore and washington. now you can do anything else you want and but you're going to protect baltimore and those guys were paranoid in in washington. they act like they were almost paranoid. so look at look at what the pipe creek line. does it it covers road literally from harrisburg. to baltimore from gettysburg to baltimore, right? it covers all the roads. so in terms of obeying the orders of the general in chief. made shows the proper position now the question is do you do you sit simply sit behind a defensive position and wait for the enemy, of course not. of course not the enemy is not going to come to you lee's out there foraging he you sit behind your battlements. all you want leo just continue to forge. and then finally he gets enough and he'll go to a little we'll
see you later. we'll go down to virginia and talk about it. but but so what do you do okay, you want to fight a battle along that pipe creek line? so what do you do? well mead answers that question. on on june 30 he issues a series of orders. and one of the orders is to is for all the core in the army to move. from where they are right now and you can see where they are right now along the pipe creek line. the first core he ordered to move to gettysburg. it's rentals to gettysburg. the 11th corps was to move in supporting distance. of the first core okay. the fifth core was ordered to move to hanover.
see hanover just north of see littlestown and then hanover the 12th corps was to move to two taverns near littlestown. the six core was to move to manchester over here on the far, right? and the third core was to move to emmitsburg. the second core was to move from uniontown to taneytown. now think about it for a minute. here you want to hear you're forming up the pipe creek line. and now mead has ordered all the core of the army to move except. sickles and and hancock third and second core he's ordered all five other core to move north. of the pipe creek line you go.
why is he doing that? well let's explore first of all. the first core meet has ordered reynolds to gettysburg. does that mean he's ordered the rentals to go to gettysburg to open a general engagement? no, not anymore than he ordered general sikes to go to hanover and open a general engagement. or he ordered general cedric to go to manchester. to open a general engagement see all those core are north of the pipe creek line. so what what what is what is happening?
well on the next morning interestingly. mead determines a base of supply of the army. now remember, you know an operational commander of an army is not just a fellow who orders troops around. he has to keep them fed. and 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. it's supply trains are 50 miles long. coming into, pennsylvania and those supply trains are you are largely mule driven, so you 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's makes you almost shudder to say how do you do that? how does he do that? 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. if you i don't know if any of you raised a horse. if you raise one horse. you know all about it. i mean it only takes as one. in in kentucky again, we're it's horse country and if you don't
if you don't feed a horse. it's required food. forage regularly he goes lame. and then breaks down. particularly if you're requiring that animal to do with these armies are requiring them to do. pull the 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 10 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 it's 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 migs that his supply base will be at westminster. and they're going to employ henry herman helped. brigadier general herman helped to open the railroad, which is the western maryland railroad between baltimore and westminster. it's one track. for no two tracks, there are no
sidings. there's no turntable. and that railroad goes to westminster and then also goes to 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's how they get there herman helped would take he commandeered a trains. for the us military railroad, they would 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 bridges. he could he would he would run him 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 2,000 tons. of supplies then back all the way back down the tracks to baltimore pick up more than come back and he do that five times a day. this is what it takes to keep an army alive. so and i i cannot emphasize this stuff more. so that that system was set up on july 1. so this army could be supplied at that moment now. pipe creek is made. preferred position to defend he wants to defend if he can let lee do the attacking. and at 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.
it works. you can see his you can see what kind of a head this man has now. so that works. now, okay, we've set up the supply base. um going back to these core moving ahead of the pipe creek line. let's first look at at the first core on the far left. mead has given kind of special orders over there one. he wants reynolds to move to gettysburg and he wants howard's 11th corps to follow him. and form a as a support. system support core and the the military theorists of that age um, principally carl van
clausowitz the prussian 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 antoine de jomani the swiss-born french officer who wrote a text on the art of war. and people say oh that's just antiquated stuff can't that they didn't they didn't fool that. well, of course they did. they were all taught by a professor at west point every one of mead's core command every one of lee's corps commanders who were taught by dennis hart mahan. who wrote a book called the outpost? and this outpost is a combination of both germany and klausowitz. but i found it interesting in the committee on the conduct of the war. they asked me about all his councils of war. and he says they weren't counsels of war.
they were consultations. you know where he got that? germany says their consultations does mead read germany? you darn right? he reads so many. so and what are these theorists say about what we're talking about here? here is a a short lesson from dennis hart mahan on this this operation. he says when an enemy's position. is to be reconnoitered with a view to force him to show his hand. by causing him to call out all his troops. than a large detachment of all arms. infantry cavalry and 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 mead intends to for for rentals and and frankly all sykes sedgwick and the others to to follow now this is this is kind of fun researching. this this book some years ago. i was in the national archives. went through all the core papers of all the army corps of the army the potomac and all the the quartermaster records all that stuff. and in the 11th corps papers, i found a an envelope and have a photocopy of it here in front of me and i'll read this is what it reads on 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 1 1863 now you go. why are they in the 11th corporate? well, he howard became the commander when reynolds fell. so you want the commander of those forces out there to know what rentals knew. right so you the papers go to howard so there are found in the 11th corps papers still there right now. and 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. now george made remember his already ordered john reynolds to go to gettysburg. now our friend mr. sears who
wrote his history of gettysburg battle of gettysburg gettysburg campaign is a fine book. and he's a fine historian. but he'd make the remark in their meade told him to go to gettysburg, but didn't tell him what to do once he got there. and i'd look at that i go that can't be. i can't be long ago. i may thought that's not. just tell them to go out there. he's 14 miles ahead of army headquarters and you know 32 miles ahead of away from manchester. why would he do that? well, here is here is here's the letter i found. now 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 georgeme's own handwriting. and it's a letter. to john reynolds. he even signs it yours truly. can you imagine that? an operational commander of an army signing a letter telling you to go out there with your
car and he goes yours truly george made. but it's yours truly. this is what he says. it is, june 30 11:30 am. your dispatches received and reynolds send a dispatch to him about his thoughts and that's in this package as well a copy of it. the enemy undoubtedly occupy the cumberland valley from chambersburg and force whether the holding of cashtown gap is to prevent our entrance or is an advanced or an advanced against us remains to be seen the fact that confederates might occupy cashtown pass will will come through george mead's mind again in this campaign, but here he thinks maybe lee is just wanting us to be lure us to that site. just like we're trying to get him to come to ours. these guys all read from the same book guys, they did gals. um, he says with beaufort at gettysburg and mechanic center
and a regiment in front of emmitsburg. you ought to be advised in time of their approach and then he says this listen to this carefully. in case of an advance enforce against either you at gettysburg or howard at emmitsburg. you must fall back to that place meaning emmitsburg. and i will reinforce you from the core nearest you which are sickles at taneytown and slocomb at littlestown. now did mead want reynolds to bring on a general engagement? ed 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 is this a reconnaissance? yes.
this is the classic reconnaissance in force. except unlike 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. then you report that. and you begin to withdraw as the enemy collects? now you've got now you've got something you can report. and now mead 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 roots of communication. what's that the chambersburg pike? do you think if reynolds went out put himself on the chambersburg pike without entire core? first core that meet that lee would respond. those core commanders out there hill. you will would respond you bet they would. they did later in the day. they sure would with that.
and see then once they start to collect then you start to fall back. and then he has a ps after his yours truly. he says this. if after occupying your present position it is your meaning gettysburg. it is your judgment that you would be better in a better position at emmitsburg 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 the view to an advance on gettysburg then a defensive point. he didn't want him to defend gettysburg. anymore and he wants sykes to defend a hanover. or sick or cedric to defend? manchester or the twelfth court to defend two taverns. he wants them to fall back.
which folks people have called the pipe creek line an offensive defensive thing where you know, it's a contingency that they could fall back to it. that's no contingency with george made. that is where he wants to fight this battle. and he's going to try to make it happen there. using frankly what our classic operational techniques to have that happen well folks as we know how to go through this fast on july 1 reynolds does move. in fact if we get the next slide you can see everybody moves. six core goes to manchester on the first of july. you can see sykes fifth corps moving to hanover. you can see slocum the 12 at two taverns and now you got to reynolds moving up on the left.
so reynolds, is it the only one moving? the whole half the whole army is moving north of the of the pipe creek line. so rentals moves moves north early in the morning, but he moves north with only one division. wadsworth the other two divisions of the first core are left at marsh creek. they are 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 into him from riders from john buford saying that his two brigades are caught in a nasty fight west of gettysburg, and we need your help. now the last orders john buford got from general pleasant in the commander of cavalry in the army
was to scout the enemy and report to army headquarters and to me meaning pleasant his orders were not to defend gettysburg for crying out loud. and they weren't to get himself caught in a mage in an engagement out there. now i love john buford held my house is within 20 minutes where he was born. and that's where his mother rests. at pisgah church just outside of lexington. his wife and son are buried in georgetown, kentucky 12 miles from lexington. and the house where he was married to basil dukes cousin basil duke meaning john han morgan's brother-in-law and second in command is still standing where he was married. so i mean beaufort has a huge connection to kentucky into central, kentucky, but what the heck was he doing? and i don't have an answer for him or for you to as to what he was doing. but he clearly got himself caught in an engagement that he should not have been.
and then comes to the question is should rentals go and commit. elements of the first chord to support this and if so how in what manner? remember what rentals orders are? see the problem brewing out here. um, he's got these other two divisions an hour behind. and what happens reynolds goes to buford's aid. as he's bringing in the solomon meredith's iron brigade. turns around is hitting the back of the head with a bullet fired by some volley of probably james j. archer's brigade. who knows? and he falls to the ground dead. and we know the rest of the story the rest of the first core comes up eventually are committed to a fight abner doubleday is now the senior in command and i tell you i i have to feel for abner doubleday
here. i don't i don't i don't come to his aid when he is sacked by mead because mead gets too reports from two different officers. that really don't aren't very complementary of doubleday. and mead has he can't convene committees to discuss this or try a case or anything else? yes. just make a decision. and he calls in john newton and puts him in the place of after doubleday, but doubleday. had 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 emmitsburg. that's what double day says. now this corroborated by a document i found in a collection in southern, california.
document of a nine page letter written by a jacob slagle who was the judge advocate in doubleday's division. and slagle was there when doubleday was notified that reynolds was dead. and he says double day took it very seriously. he was visibly upset by it. and he says then he turned to me and he says i have no idea what rentals intent was here. now that corroborates what he said it battles and leaders because what he says is that reynolds said we're supposed to fall back to emmitsburg. and here he is involved in a tactical engagement. that's now going to involve the entire first core and we don't know how many enemy are out there. and of course what it winds up is that re rose's division comes in from the north ap hills harry
heath division comes in from the west followed by dorsey penders and their crushed. the arm the first core is crush they bring up the 11th core 11th. corps deploys north of gettysburg. they're slammed by jubal early as well as roads as divisions of yules core and both of those those army corps flee back those who can who aren't casualties flee back to cemetery and culps hill. not the way it happened. okay. now what happens? a mead hears of this he sends hancock for first sends governor warren ford 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 reports that he thinks it is. and so meat is now left with the with the the only option left
for him is to advance the entire army there. and he does advances the entire army there. and they come they start moving and and think of this. to get that army there. psyches fifth corps at hanover is about 12-hour marching hours away. cedric six court manchester is 24 hours away. leads headquarters is six hours away. that's where the second core is. i mean this is this is a huge effort. for an army that is already in difficult shape to begin with but now folks if you if you take a look at the map. from gettysburg you see this road running.
through here down to westminster. that's the baltimore pike. the baltimore pike it's the pike that runs over cemetery hill and culps hill 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's the baltimore pike here. and of course what what happens is the -- ewell's core occupies positions just below east cemetery hill and just below culp's hill threatening the baltimore pike. so that in the three days of two days of battle that mead, is there the baltimore pike is under active attack.
or threats of attack and it's not until july 4. that mead is able to get any supplies to that army. from westminster and the supplies that come first? and all this all these seven core are in the same shape. their horses haven't been fed at all. so what what does what the quartermasters do is they want those wagons? and by the way pack mule trains? can you imagine coming up the baltimore pike? packed meal trains the wagon trains again. they're 50 miles of those in the in the arm of the potomac. this is a 22 mile road. so you've got as many people many wagons on the road as are still waiting to get on the road. and in between you've got packed
mule trains bringing in the supplies for the army. and the first supplies they have to bring in are is forage for the horses. oats and meal for the horses and mules and hay and these quartermasters so i came across all the quartermaster records of these corps and they're all saying, you know, sorry folks all we can do. we got to save our horses. so we're bringing all that in first. and so the army sits there and is virtually starving. to show you even how bad it is. all the medical supplies you know, we see all these houses. this was a hospital. that was a hospital. how are they supplied? you know a hospital needs medicals. instruments bedding pillows boards to make make bunks cots
they need tents. the entire army was here without tents. there were no tents in the army that potomac they sled out. in the exposed so on july 4 when it begins to pour rain. these poor people are just in the rain. that wounded are in the rain some were in fear of drowning. and there's no relief. one one chief medical officer in the army the potomac though disobeyed the standing orders of the army and that's the chief surgeon of the twelfth corps. he brought as much as he could bring anyway. but not so with any of the others. so all july 4 through the driving rain and to make it even more difficult mead has some 5,000 prisoners of war. those poor people are being herded down the baltimore pike.
to be put on trains going back to baltimore so they could be distributed to prisoner of war camps. or to hospitals as the need was required. those people were being hurted back down the baltimore pike. then there were all the wounded out of gettysburg being taken down the baltimore pike. and then coming up the baltimore pike and not only wagons filled with hay and oats and so forth, but now you've got cattle and sheep being brought up here. it hurts you there were 30,000 head of cattle. following this army that many need they need to meet. and so all day july 4. they try to get as much fodder up here as possible. july 5 it continues and now you get me in a situation where he finds the enemy is evacuating gettysburg, and i haven't talked about the battle now.
but he's now seeing the enemy starting as a depart the field on july 4th and 5th. and the question that comes into his mind now is lee going back to the south mountain range. he sees them his signals stations on little round top and the courthouse. steeple they spot lee moving on the fairfield road as well as the chambersburg pike going back toward the south mountain range and meets first. first impulse is they're going to go back there and fortify those heights. carl von clausowitz would tell you that's exactly what you do. dennis hart my hand would that's exactly what you do. you lose a battle. okay, fine. we'll withdraw and we'll withdraw to the hills. and we'll wait for you to come after us. and mead was cognizant that would that's what lee was about was trying to get the army of the potomac to move to him.
and you can imagine if that materialized and made brought his whole army there. then and failed what would that be? on the other hand if mead ignored that and just started moving toward emmetsburg frederick and middletown like he ultimately did without respect to lee's operations. and lee then sat there on those heights. knowing me. it was moving in another direction mead would just come back to where he started. gettysburg's 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 you think is a goose chase and lee now is back where he was.
would be devastating. so what is me do he waits until he gets positive information that lee has actually moved through those mountain passes. and when he is finally told yes, they're on their way to hagerstown. he then begins to move. and he moves on a parallel root. and he doesn't try to pursue the enemy through the enemy's rear into the hills. because even as john sedgwick says in a in a dispatch to mead at the time it was cedric that tried to get as close to fairfield as he could to check on what lee was doing. cedric says, you know 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 we can't pursue him that way and of course every
military theorist would say the same thing closet stage. you'll mean show me. he did dennis hartman said in my hand said that and i tell you i remember in my own experience. my father was a tanker in the 36 division in italy in the second world war. and they had to pursue the germans from salerno all the way to rome. and much of that is mountain. and pursuing he said an enemy through mountains is devastating to the pursuer. and i remember we were driving in eastern western north carolina on the way to the beach. i was about 14 years old. and my father happened to spot a small road leading up these hills. and western north carolina's mountainous and he turned to me and he goes. hey doc, he called me doc. he says doc. what would you think of pursuing an enemy through that? i don't know dad. i i don't think i'd like it.
he says why. i don't know you tell me. and he says well, just think about it. there are always going to be higher than you. are you're going to be you're only on a narrow road doesn't this fit though. you're only on a narrow road and your 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. and of course me did call a council on july 4. and 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, he said two letters one did darius couch and another to general smith of couch's command telling him just that earlier in the day, but he asked his officers. what would you do? they said well, we sure as hell wouldn't follow him.
then what do we do? i think we should go on the east side of the mountains. then we can get across on the national road through turner pass. and that's exactly what the army did. that's exactly what mead had in mind. and so made me pursues that way but let me tell you the pursuit of needs army. on the east side of the mountains he's going to have to have two mountain patent two mountain chains. he's going to have to cross the catoctons as well as the south mountain range. and he's also going to have to go 64 miles where lee is going to only go 40. once once the meately is working on the hypotenuse. made is working on the other two sides. but it's the only feasible way mead can get there and mead gets there. he confronts lee on the 10th of july.
which is astonishing giving this given the shape of that army. and what are we see in the army? well folks it's devastating. the army of the potomac lost 1900 horses in combat here at 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 2,000 more they just abandoned those horses. now think about that. they got some forage through but not enough to take care of how bad that army was. one diarist i found a penned up 93rd, pennsylvania. made the comment on the 12th of
july note in his diary. he said the men are tired out. and mostly shoeless and he said the the animals the horses are blue. and we lose hundreds every day. so when people tell you that mead didn't pursue the enemy you can. tell them hogwash. but what's painful though in this? scenario to finish this is that mead gets to washington county maryland just below hagerstown? sets up his his lines
confronting what lee has established for himself. which is a fortified line known as the downsville line from hagerstown all the way to downsville on the potomac. both his flanks are totally covered. this range of broken ridges that lee has fortified have some of the most sophisticated fortifications most of the eyewitnesses from the union army ever saw up until petersburg. there are all those heights are mounted with field artillery their rifle pitch in front of those those heights and if mead were to attack that position he would have to one 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 mead
wanted desperately. to try to attack again, though most of his senior core commanders tried to dissuade him. and he called a counsel. for 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. and his men his officers advised him against it. happily to be honest. i mean, i think the army of the potomac had been through too many killing fields up until this. too many of them. where they just slaughtered the people fredericksburg i mean antietam, manassas sacramento, we've been through enough of that. yet. mead no, sooner got to frederick on the 7th and 8th of july. then then general halek sent him a message from the president. where the president is congratulating general grant on the surrender of vicksburg and
then says now if mead 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. that literal or substantial destruction of lee's army. do you destroy lee's army and army that's sophisticated. no. mead must have read that dispatch with some dismay suddenly the bar of his success was now way up here. on the night of the 13th of july lee evacuated those trenches. he had built upon pontoon bridge's across the potomac and falling waters took him 68 hours to build a 800 foot spans of bridges and got that army across the potomac. it's an absolutely remarkable story to be and and what is what
is lincoln say? mead had only to stretch out his hands and they were ours. a golden opportunity. he said of destroying lee's army was squandered. mead wanted to let lee escape, so there's no so there wouldn't be another battle. these were remarks from the president. well folks i hope you get a glimpse today from this. and hopefully you'll buy the book and get a bigger limit you get a glimpse today of just exactly what was facing george made. it was just horrific. yet he got that army there. though the army escaped and mead came under this scorn. to all his credit. to all his credit never once did
did need say a word about it. need to me her general hunt made the comment that studying mead. he said i find need grows on me. the more i study them the more i like him and those two didn't like one another they had they had trouble with one another put it that way. and made 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 look at i can be i can be a a i'm not biased when i write this letter because meet and i had some difficulties. and but he says i got to tell you he grows on me. and i found every decision he made from the pipe creek line to leaving the pipe creek line and
having a totally defensive position at gettysburg of his conduct of the battle of gettysburg of his of his pursuit of lee the way he did was exactly as it must have been and he said never 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.