George Gordon Meade — Facts and APUSH Notes

December 31, 1815–November 6, 1872

APUSH Definition — George Meade (1815–1872) was an officer in the United States Army during the Civil War. He was one of the most important Union commanders during the war and is most well-known for leading the Union Army to victory at the Battle of Gettysburg.

George Meade, Civil War General

Major General George G. Meade commanded the Army of the Potomac throughout the Gettysburg, Bristoe, Mine Run, Overland, Petersburg, and Appomattox Campaigns. [Wikimedia Commons]

Who was Civil War officer George Meade?

Prior to the Civil War, George Meade was a captain in the U.S. Army. After the fighting began, the U.S. War Department promoted Meade to brigadier general in the volunteer army. In March 1862, army officials attached Meade to the Army of the Potomac in time to take part in the Peninsula Campaign. During the Battle of Glendale, a musket ball struck Meade above his hip, nicked his liver, and just missed his spine as it passed through his body. Meade spent the next two months recovering in a Philadelphia hospital. Meade returned to action in August, in time to lead a brigade of the Army of Virginia that performed admirably at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

In September 1862, army officials promoted Meade to a divisional command with the Army of the Potomac. His division performed well at the Battle of South Mountain and at the Battle of Antietam. At Antietam, Meade was injured again while temporarily commanding the 1st Army after Major General Joseph Hooker was injured.

Three months after Antietam, Meade’s division created a gap in the Confederate line under the command of General Stonewall Jackson at the otherwise disastrous Union defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg. For that accomplishment, the War Department promoted Meade to major general of volunteers and placed him in command of the 5th Army Corps.

Following the Union defeat at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Joseph Hooker resigned as commander of the Army of the Potomac, and President Abraham Lincoln assigned Meade to replace him on June 27, 1863. Only six days later, Meade defeated General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg. Despite the victory at Gettysburg, President Lincoln criticized Meade for not pursuing Lee’s army as it retreated to Virginia. Nevertheless, officials promoted Meade to brigadier general in the regular army and he received the Thanks of Congress in January 1864.

On March 12, 1864, Lincoln appointed Ulysses S. Grant as General-in-Chief of the Armies of the United States. Grant quickly launched his Overland Campaign to invade east-central Virginia. Meade remained in command of the Army of the Potomac, but Grant traveled with Meade’s headquarters, thus limiting Meade’s independence. Despite Meade’s reservations about Grant’s decision to fight a war of attrition, he performed dutifully and effectively, for the most part, throughout the rest of the war. In return, Grant recommended Meade’s promotion to major general of the regular army — the rank he held at the war’s conclusion.

After the Civil War, Meade remained in the regular army and he held several commands in the East and the South for the next few years. On November 6, 1872, Meade died from pneumonia at the age of fifty-seven, in Philadelphia. Meade’s remains were buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Battle of Gettysburg, Union Advance
This illustration depicts the Union advance at the Battle of Gettysburg. Image Source: Library of Congress.

George Meade Facts for APUSH

Birth and Early Life

  • Full Name: His full name was George Gordon Meade.
  • Parents: His parents were Richard Worsam and Margaret Coats (Butler) Meade.
  • Date of Birth: He was born on December 31, 1815.
  • Birthplace: He was born in Cadiz, Spain.

Family Tree

  • Spouse: His spouse was Margaretta Sergeant. They were married in 1840.

Death

  • Death: He died on November 6, 1872.
  • Place of Death: He died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Burial: He is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Education

He attended the United States Military Academy and graduated in 1831.

Career

He worked as a military officer and a civil engineer.

Career Summary

He was a Major General (USA) and the Army of the Potomac commander.

Nickname

He was known as the “Old Snapping Turtle”.

George Meade — Summary of His Life and Accomplishments for APUSH

  • George G. Meade was the eighth of eleven children of Richard Worsam Meade and Margaret Coats Butler Meade.
  • George G. Meade’s father was a wealthy Philadelphia merchant serving in Spain as a naval agent for the U.S. government at the time of Meade’s birth.
  • George G. Meade’s father died while Meade was a teenager, leaving the family with serious financial problems.
  • George G. Meade entered the United States Military Academy in 1831.
  • George G. Meade graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1835, 19th in his class of 56 cadets.
  • After graduation, George G. Meade served one year in the army fighting in the Second Seminole War (1835 – 1842) in Florida.
  • On October 26, 1836, George G. Meade resigned his commission in the United States Army to pursue a career as a civil engineer.
  • In 1842, George G. Meade returned to the army as a second lieutenant in the Corps of Topographical Engineers.
  • George G. Meade served in the Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848) and was brevetted to first lieutenant for gallant conduct at the Battle of Monterrey.
  • After the Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848), George G. Meade remained in the military as an engineer and was promoted to captain in 1856.
  • George G. Meade was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on August 31, 1861, a few months after the start of the American Civil War.
  • Early in the Civil War, George G. Meade was responsible for the construction of defenses around Washington, D.C.
  • George G. Meade was severely wounded in the arm, back, and side at the Battle of Glendale (June 30, 1862) while serving with the Army of the Potomac.
  • George G. Meade recovered from his wounds in time to lead his brigade at the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 28 – 30, 1862), while assigned to the Army of Virginia.
  • In September 1862, George G. Meade became a division commander, reassigned to the Army of the Potomac.
  • George G. Meade was wounded in the thigh at the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862).
  • Following the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11–15, 1862), George G. Meade was promoted to major general of volunteers because his division was the only one to break through General “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps. The promotion was effective unti November 29, 1862.
  • George G. Meade became a corps commander prior to the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30–May 6, 1863).
  • When General Joseph Hooker resigned from command of the Army of the Potomac, President Lincoln named George G. Meade as the Hooker’s replacement.
  • Only three days after assuming command of the Army of the Potomac, George G. Meade confronted General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – 3, 1863) and defeated the Army of Northern Virginia in what was the turning point of the Civil War.
  • After the victory at Gettysburg, President Lincoln criticized George G. Meade for not pursuing Robert E. Lee’s army as it retreated to Virginia.
  • Despite President Lincoln’s criticism of George G. Meade after the Battle of Gettysburg, Meade was promoted to brigadier general in the regular army.
  • On January 28, 1864, George G. Meade received the thanks of Congress “for the skill and heroic valor which, at Gettysburg, repelled, defeated, and drove back-broken and dispirited beyond the Rappahannock, the veteran army of the Rebellion.”
  • When Ulysses S. Grant was appointed commander of all Union armies in March 1864, Grant made his headquarters with George G. Meade for the rest of the war diluting Meade’s authority.
  • Although George G. Meade was less willing than Grant to sacrifice troops in a war of attrition, he dutifully followed Grant’s orders and performed effectively for the most part.
  • Prior to the Battle of the Crater (July 30, 1864), George G. Meade changed Ambrose Burnside’s plan to lead the attack with a well-trained African-American division that was highly drilled just for this action, instructing him to take a politically less risky course and substitute an untrained and poorly led white division. The resulting defeat was one of the great fiascoes of the war.
  • George G. Meade was promoted to major general of the regular army on August 18, 1864.
  • After the war, General George G. Meade had command of the Military Division of the Atlantic until August 1866, when he took command of the Department of the East. General Meade was subsequently placed in command of the military district comprising Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, with headquarters at Atlanta.
  • George Gordon Meade died from pneumonia on November 6, 1872, in Philadelphia.
  • Meade is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.
  • The United States Army’s Fort George G. Meade in Fort Meade, Maryland, is named for Meade.
  • George G. Meade received an honorary doctorate in law (LL.D.) from Harvard University, and his scientific achievements were recognized by various institutions, including the American Philosophical Society and the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title George Gordon Meade — Facts and APUSH Notes
  • Date December 31, 1815–November 6, 1872
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date May 30, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update January 12, 2024

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