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George Gordon Meade
George Gordon Meade was born on December 31, 1815 in Cadiz, Spain. He was the son of Richard W. Meade and Margaret Coates Meade. His father was a wealthy American merchant living in Spain. He was an agent for the United States Navy. His father was financially ruined because of his adherence to the cause of Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. The whole family then moved from Spain to Philadelphia, United States. As a child, George Meade went to Mt. Airy School, but had to withdraw because of his father’s financial problems. Then, his family moved between Baltimore and Washington D.C., where George Meade attended many schools. George Meade became a cadet at West Point College in 1831. He then graduated 19th out of a class of 56 members. George Meade was appointed to the 3rd U.S. Artillery. At the beginning of the Seminole Wars, he was transferred to Florida. In Florida, George Meade became ill and was reassigned to the Watertown Arsenal in the state of Massachusetts for administrative duties and to recover his health. At last, George Meade decided to resign his commission in 1836. Now that he was a civilian, he went to work for a railroad company as an engineer to survey territory for new rail lines. In 1840 he married Margaretta Sergeant in Washington D.C. In 1842 George Meade went back to the U.S. Army and on May 19 was appointed a second lieutenant in the Corps of Topographical Engineers. In 1845, George Meade was assigned to go to Texas and from there was assigned to General Winfield Scott’s Army during the war with Mexico. During the Mexican War, George Meade was present at Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, and Monterey. He was awarded the brevet of first lieutenant. After the Mexican War, George Meade went back to Philadelphia and built lighthouses for the Delaware Bay. He was then promoted to captain for 10 years and he designed work for the lighthouses. After these ten years George Meade participated in the 1850’s Campaign against the Seminole Indians in Florida. George Meade also participated in the survey of the Great Lakes.
When the Civil War began, George Meade’s family was touched by sectional strife. His wife’s sister was married to Governor Wise of Virginia, who later became a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. George Gordon Meade offered his services to the state of Pennsylvania and was appointed as a brigadier general of volunteers. Since he was offering his services to the state of Pennsylvania, he was a Northerner which made him part of the Union Army. George Meade and his Pennsylvanians built fortifications near Tenallytown, Maryland for the defense of Washington D.C. George Meade was short-tempered and obstinate with junior officers and superiors alike, so he was nicknamed “The Old Snapping Turtle.” In March 1862 General Meade’s troops were sent to General McClellan’s Army of the Potomac on the Peninsula of Southeast Richmond. General Meade’s troops fought in the battle of Mechanicsville, Gaine’s Mill, and at Glendale. At the Battle of Glendale, George Meade was seriously wounded. A musket ball struck him above his hip, clipped his liver, and barely missed the spine as it passed through his body. Another bullet also struck his arm, but he didn’t leave the field until he had a heavy loss of blood. He recovered in a hospital in Philadelphia in the autumn of 1862. He left the hospital in early September to command a division of the Pennsylvania Reserves. General Meade led the troops to the Battle of South Mountain and then to the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. When the commander of the 1st Corps was wounded, George Meade took temporary command of his soldiers. He then led them to the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862. After commanding the 1st Corps, George Meade was given the full command of the 5th Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac. General Meade took his troops to fight in the Battle of Chancellorsville in May, 1863. He then commanded his troops to move north across the Potomac River to hunt down General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. On June 28, 1863 General Meade was given the assignment of Command of the Army of the Potomac. On July 1st, 1863 General Meade arrived at the battleground in Gettysburg with his most qualified corps commanders. He sought the advice of his most trusted officers by holding a “Council of War” on July 2nd, 1963. The Union Army made an aggressive defense and thwarted the Confederate hopes for victories. He was a good General, but some people criticized him for letting General Lee’s Army escape from the Battle of Gettysburg. He even offered to resign. On January 28, 1864 General Meade received the official thanks of Congress for his service in defeating Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Gettysburg. In the spring of 1864, General Grant decided to take command of all the Union forces, and he accompanied the Army of the Potomac into Virginia. For following all the orders of General Grant, he was promoted major general in the regular army in August, 1864. George Meade got a high fever and had to follow his troops in an Army ambulance to wherever they went. When George Meade heard that General Lee had surrendered, he rode with his troops to announce the surrender on April 9, 1865. General Meade was placed in command of military districts in the East Coast. General Meade’s old wound from the Battle of Glendale had reactivated internal problems and pneumonia set in. George Gordon Meade died on November 7, 1872 and is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.