Wednesday, May 16, 2018

the last book I ever read (Grant by Ron Chernow, excerpt seven)

from Grant by Ron Chernow:

In many ways, George Gordon Meade was the antithesis of Grant. A patrician figure from Philadelphia, fluent in French, he had graduated from West Point and was well versed in military literature. With a gaunt, sallow face, bald pate, and graying beard, he had bags drooping below eyes that bulged behind oversize spectacles. Meade was forever jealous of his reputation. Thin-skinned and cantankerous, he seldom enjoyed calm moments and grew easily upset, spluttering with ungovernable rage whenever his pride was uninjured. This led to his nickname, the Old Goggle-Eyes Snapping Turtle, and it wasn’t meant affectionately. His battlefield style was frenetic: he would explode with colossal energy, curse a blue streak, then pace with fury behind the lines. “No man, no matter what his business of his service, approached him without being insulted in one way or another,” Charles Dana wrote, “and his own staff officers did not dare to speak to him unless first spoken to, for fear of either sneers or curses.” Meade later became notorious among the press corps when he seized a reporter who had criticized him, hung a scurrilous sign around his neck that said “Libeler of the Press,” placed him backward on a mule, and ran him out of camp. For all his flaws, Meade was a competent commander and an experienced professional and was recognized as such by his peers. When apprised the year before that Meade had taken command of the Army of the Potomac, Robert E. Lee reacted respectfully, saying Meade “would commit no blunders on my front, and if I make one he will make haste to take advantage of it.” Still, his failure to pursue Lee after Gettysburg revealed that Meade was not a bold, enterprising leader in the mold of either Grant or Lee.

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