Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Selby's Meade

Kent State is one of the few university presses that release yearly instead of seasonal catalogs. I was thumbing through the 2018 edition and came across several interesting titles, one of which is John Selby's Meade: The Price of Command, 1863–1865 (October). It will be part of the press's excellent Civil War Soldiers and Strategies series.

From the description: "George Gordon Meade has not been treated kindly by history. Victorious at Gettysburg, the biggest battle of the American Civil War, Meade was the longest-serving commander of the Army of the Potomac, leading his army through the brutal Overland Campaign and on to the surrender of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox. Serving alongside his new superior, Ulysses S. Grant, in the last year of the war, his role has been overshadowed by the popular Grant. This first full-length study of Meade’s two-year tenure as commander of the Army of the Potomac brings him out of Grant’s shadow and into focus as one of the top three Union generals of the war." Thomas proponents don't like their man less than No. 1 let alone outside the top three altogether!

More: "John G. Selby portrays a general bestride a large army he could manage well and a treacherous political environment he neither fully understood nor cared to engage. Meade’s time as commander began on a high note with the victory at Gettysburg, but when he failed to fight Lee’s retreating army that July and into the fall of 1863, the political knives came out. Meade spent the winter of 1863–64 struggling to retain his job while the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War sought to have him dismissed. Meade offered to resign, but Grant told him to keep his job. Together, they managed the Overland Campaign and the initial attacks on Petersburg and Richmond in 1864." Most agree that the Grant-Meade command arrangement in the East was far from ideal, and I will be curious to read Selby's opinion on the matter.

"By basing his study on the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, original Meade letters, and the letters, diaries, journals, and reminiscences of contemporaries, Selby demonstrates that Meade was a much more active, thoughtful, and enterprising commander than has been assumed." I will also be interested in the author's assessment of the truly independent parts of Meade's Civil War career in army command, in particular the period beginning with the end of the Gettysburg battle and moving on through the rest of 1863. On a related note, this interval will also be examined at length over a planned trilogy of titles by Jeffrey Hunt, which has had a stellar beginning.


  1. I vaguely remember reading some years ago in a blog somewhere that someone was working on a new edition of Meade's papers. Have you heard anything of this?


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