Page images

act, calculated to demoralize the best disciplined troops. With the veterans of the army Hooker was a favorite, a man whom they knew and loved, while they knew much less of Meade, who had commanded only a division of the army. And the change looked like a personal one directed against General Hooker, for the troops at Harper's Ferry, refused to him, were at once placed under Meade's control. In fact, the emergency was so great, that the new general was given absolute powers, and set free from interference of any kind.

It was on the 28th of June, 1863, that General Meade came into this position of responsibility. He lost not a moment in preparing to act. The army at this time had advanced as far as Frederick, Maryland, and Lee, whose advance had reached the Susquehanna and was threatening Philadelphia, ordered his advance troops back when he learned that the Union army was in force so near at hand. He prepared to concentrate his army in the vicinity of Gettysburg.

Meanwhile Meade had put his whole army in motion and had ordered the troops to leave Harper's Ferry and occupy Frederick. Seeking an advantageous position for his army in the terrible struggle that was impending, he selected the line of Big Pipe Creek, southeast of Gettysburg, with the hills of Westminster in the rear. This would have formed an excellent line of defence, but circumstances prevented its use. General Reynolds had been ordered to push forward towards Gettysburg, so as to mask the formation of the battle-line on Pipe Creek. Here, on the ist of July, he unexpectedly came upon the van of the Confederates and soon found himself engaged in battle with a superior force. In the fight that ensued, Reynolds was killed and his men were driven back, occupying the hilly ground called Cemetery Ridge. Meade, when he heard of what had taken place and of the strength of the new position, ordered the whole army to march with all haste to Gettysburg.

Both armies were now pressing forward with all rapidity, and during July 2 they continued to arrive and take position on the new battle-line. Meade, when he reached the ground, saw the strength of the position which Howard had secured and determined to stand on the defence, forcing on Lee the perilous alternative of attack. It was not until late in the afternoon of that day that the battle began and it continued along the whole line until night had fallen, not ending until ten o'clock at night. The struggle was one of frightful energy; never had those two veteran hosts fought with more desperate courage, and a large percentage of the two armies were killed or wounded. When the day's deadly work ended the Confederates had driven back the advanced Union line, but the whole length of Cemetery Ridge was still firmly held. This Meade determined to hold during the next day, while Lee, encouraged by his partial success, determined to continue the attack. Such was the position of the two armies when the day dawned on the 3d of July.

That day was the turning point in the war. General Lee saw how much depended on the day's work and determined upon a desperate effort for victory. The battle began with a frightful cannonade, in which, for two hours of the afternoon, more than two hundred cannon poured out their fiery hail. Then, when the Union cannon ceased firing and seemed as if silenced, a great line of infantry, led by General Pickett and fifteen thousand strong, was launched in desperate charge upon the centre of Meade's line.

It was the greatest charge in the war. It was apparently a hopeless one, for Meade awaited it with a hundred cannon and the flower of his army. As the line advanced it was torn and rent by shot and shell. From the front and both flanks an awful storm of bullets fell on the long column of attack. Men fell dead and wounded in multitudes, hardly a handful of the mighty force reached the Union lines, and great numbers of them were forced to throw down their arms and surrender, scarcely a fourth of them reaching their own lines again. The mighty charge had utterly failed.

General Lee had made his supreme effort and had lost. Meade, the victor, was hailed as the nation's hero. He had lost in the battle over twenty-three thousand men, but he had won. Lee had lost some thirty thousand, fourteen thousand of them being prisoners, and he had lost the battle as well. On the following day, July 4, 1863, he left the field and began his retreat. It was the greatest 4th of July since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, for on that same day Vicksburg was surrendered to General Grant.

General Meade did not follow up his victory in a way to satisfy the impatient people of the North. He was severely blamed by newspaper critics for delaying his pursuit until Lee had crossed the Potomac, but was rewarded for his great victory by promotion to brigadiergeneral in the regular army-he had been only major before. It was the 18th of July before he finally crossed the Potomac, and the army, which had before pursued Lee northwardly, now pursued him to the south. Of this nothing came. During the remainder of the year there were marches and countermarches, each of the vigilant commanders seeking to obtain some advantage over the other. Meade more than once advanced on the enemy, seeking to take him at a disadvantage, the last movement being on November 27-30. He found Lee so strongly posted on the rugged banks of Mine Run that an attack seemed suicidal. The army was withdrawn and went into winter-quarters between the Rapidan and the Rappahannock and the year's work was at an end. Meade had failed to add to the laurels he had gathered at Gettysburg.

General Meade was thus the hero of one battle. In the next spring General Grant took command and Meade was lost sight of in the brilliant work of his superior. He was left in command, all orders to the army came through him, and as Grant has said he was “the right man in the right place." But everyone knows that Grant was the soul of all the events that followed and Meade stood as his lieutenant, to carry his plans into effect.

In August, 1864, he was promoted to major-general, and continued to command the army of the Potomac, under General Grant's directing hand, until the end of the war. The war over, he was made in 1867 commander of the third military district, comprising Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. There were no other notable events in his life, and he died at Philadelphia, November 6, 1872. An equestrian statue of him stands, in a somewhat secluded situation, in Fairmount Park.



THE Confederate general with whom we are now concerned was a victim of circumstances, and was prevented by fate and official thick-headedness from playing the distinguished part in the Civil War that might otherwise have been his. A severe wound received before Richmond took from him the command of the army and turned it over to General Lee. Later, while still weak from his wound, he was sent to oppose Grant and Sherman before Vicksburg with a much smaller force. Finally, while pursuing a Fabian policy before Sherman on the road to Atlanta, he was removed from command in the midst of his efforts by the cabinet officials at Richmond and a man put in his place who had not half his ability. If Johnston had been left alone Sherman probably would never have made his march to the sea.”

Joseph Eggleston Johnston was born in Prince Edward County, Virginia, February 3, 1807, his mother being a niece of Patrick Henry, the famous orator of the Revolution. He was a cadet at West Point in the same class with Robert E. Lee, graduated in 1829 with that famous soldier, and, like him, entered the engineering branch of the service. In this line of duty he was kept busy at map-making until the war with the Seminole Indians of Florida broke out, in which he took part as a lieutenant, being eventually rewarded for his services by the rank of captain.

After he had done fighting with the Indians, Johns

« PreviousContinue »