Saturday, November 9, 2013

Brigadier General George G. Meade to Margaretta Sergeant Meade, December 27, 1861

CAMP PIERPONT, VA., December 27, 1861.

You have doubtless seen in the papers the enemy's account of the Dranesville fight. From their own showing they had a larger force than we, and chose their own position and time of attack, and yet were not only beaten, but most ignominiously driven off the field. It is without doubt one of the most brilliant and successful affairs of the war, and the only success that has been accomplished as yet by the Grand Army of the Potomac.

You are mistaken in calling Ord a civilian. He is a West Pointer, having graduated some four or five years after me, and has always been in the artillery, of which branch of the service he has always been considered a distinguished officer. Unfortunately for him, McCall's appearance on the field, just at the close of the affair, has given an opportunity to the latter to carry off the lion's share of the glory; but Ord was the man. I do not now remember what I wrote to you, but I should be sorry to do injustice to our men, and the fact is not to be disguised, that they behaved better than we expected.

The weather continues very boisterous and cold, rendering life in camp proportionately uncomfortable. I do not mind the cold, because exercise by day and plenty of blankets by night will remedy it; but the terrible wind, which penetrates and searches into everything, shaking your tent and making you believe each moment it is coming down, filling it with smoke from your chimney, so that half the time you cannot keep any fire — this is what renders us so uncomfortable. Still we get along and preserve our health wonderfully.

How strange it is and how little we can anticipate events! Do you remember when you accompanied me to Washington, about the 1st of September, that I was nervous for fear Washington might be attacked before you reached it — then, after being assigned to McCall, how nervous I was lest a battle should come off before I got my brigade? And now four months have elapsed without matters changing their aspect materially.

I infer from the tone of the public press that the war with England will be avoided, if concession on our part can keep it off, and that Mason and Slidell will be given up, and Wilkes's act disavowed, unless the ultras are too strong for Seward1 and the President, or unless they see that England is determined to fight us and there is no use in trying to avoid the conflict.

1 William H. Seward, secretary of state of the United States.

SOURCE: George Meade, The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Vol. 1, p. 239-40

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