Links to Related Documents on the GDG Site
General Meade Desire to Retreat at Gettysburg?- Pamphlet
by his son George Meade.
"The Pipe Creek Line: An Overview" By Ronald R. Church
Pipe Creek Line map from Edward J. Stackpole's They Met At Gettysburg
Pipe Creek Circular
Meade's Official Report
Dscussions by Members of the GDG
Meade's Execution Order
Meade's Council of War
I suggested the Pipe Creek Circular as a topic simply because I was rereading Stackpoles They Met at Gettysburg the other night and found the topic interesting.
"The 'Pipe Creek Circular' written late on the night of June 30 and based on the reports of his engineers, directed that, if and when the circular was made effective the Army would form a line of batle along the general line of the creek with the left at Middleburg and the right at Manchester. The map shows that this position would cover the main routes to Baltimore and Washington, and the important railroads running to the same ciies, with the added advantage that Parr's Ridge-Dug Hill Ridge would furnish an excellent reserve line to fall back on in case of need" (Stackpole 91-92).Meade caught a lot of grief for this circular. After the war Butterfield (that snake)questioned its effect on the morale of the army. Sickles (that jackal), as Historicus, used it as evidence that Meade never wanted to fight at Gettysburg.
Stackpole is somewhat sympathetic to the circular, calling it as good as hedge as could be devised at the moment; however, he also points out that this order fit in with the whole array of Meade's hesitant reactions to Lee, that every move was designed to get Lee out of Pennsylvania and back into Virginia, "without a fight if possible, and this theme continued to dominate as Lee retreated southward after the battle, Meade's slowness in pursuit furnishing the final evidence" (92).
I like Stackpole's analysis. I do think Meade was being extremely cautious before, during, and after the batle. But was that bad? The man had just been rousted out of bed two days ago and given an army that had been licked and was looking to get licked again. Meade was looking to fight on his own terms in a defensive position. He got what the position he wanted at Pipe Creek at Gettysburg. I prefer Meade's hesitancy to Hooker's arrogance at Chancellorsville and Burnside's foolhardiness at Fredricksburg. After all, Meade got The Army of the Potomac the victory that was desperately needed to keep northern hopes alive. No one else had or would, except Grant.
Finally, I quote brother Bob on the topic. If Longstreet had prevailed and convinced Lee to move to the right on the second day, Meade could have fallen back to his Pipe Creek Line and protected Washington, he likes to say. Brother, check the map. If Lee moves to the right, it is too late to get to Pipe Creek and old Abe is spending November 19 in Libby Prison.
Finding it hard to get too worked up over the Pipe Creek Circular
From: email@example.com (Robert W Lawrence)
Subject: pipe creek
The so called "Pipe Creek" contorversy started on july 5, 1863. On that day Genearl Sickles(who would later attack Meade using the pseudoname "HISTORICUS" arrived in Washingto D C. He received an important visitor that day-Abraham Lincoln. According to Lt Col James F Rusling, who was present at the meeting, "He (Sickles) certainly got his side of the story well into the Presidents mind and heart that Sunday afternoon"
Per Harry Phanz, in "Gettysburg the Second Day, "his" side of the story was that "Meade had not intended to concentrate his army at Gettysburg and that on July 2, even after his army was concentrated there, Meade still intended to withdarw it from the Gettysburg position"(Gettysburg the second day, p437.)
This scenario, of , course ignores the July 1 midnite meeting with Slocum, Howard and SICKLES.At this meeting the decision was made to make a stand at Gettysburg-Meade could not have been clearer. Upon getting a favorable report from his generals on the position they held he said"I am glad to hear you say so , gentlemen, for it is too late to leave".(Tucker, High Tide Gettysburg, page 200) Had Meade intended to leave it would have been much more logical to do so on the night of July 1 than the afternoon of July 2(in fact some of the Confederates on Culps hill thought just that-they mistook the sound of wagons arriving to fortify cemetery hill as the enemy being in retreat.)
Although I beleive it is hard to make a case that Meade intnended to fall back to the Pipe Creek Line AFTER the events of July 1 I think it is highly probable he would have done so had Ewell thought it "practical" to take Cemetery Hill the afternnon and evening of July 1. In that case I beleive we would today be participating in the "Pipe Creek" discussion group!. There is also little doubt that the Pipe Creek Circular did slow down the concentration of the Union army on July 2. However, one can not blame Meade for this-the circular was probably good strategy given what he knew when he wrote it on June 30. Another one of those great "what If's" is what the effect had been had Reynolds received the circular prior to heeding Bufords call.
And finally, in spite of what revisionist history you might hear from others in this group with the last name of Lawrence I never advocated that the Conferderate army move around to the right-even if they had they would have had to contend with a circle of forts and 100,000 union soldiers before being able to put Lncoln in libby prison.!
From: PhilosCook@aol.com (aka Ben Maryniak)
Subject: Pipe Creek
Pipe Creek was a contingency devised by Meade. Every competent commander has a set of "what ifs" and ways out - Meade's centered around Pipe Creek. He hit on Pipe Creek as the best way to answer his only specific instructions at that time, which were to cover Washington & Baltimore. Along Pipe Creek, Meade could bring Hooker's army together, lined up from mountain to mountain as a barrier to the only route to DC.
As to its effect on morale, only the corps commanders were aware of a Pipe Creek plan at the time of the battle at Gettysburg.
The keys to the Pipe Creek position were/are * the roads which fan out toward Big Pipe Creek from Westminster MD * the Western MD Railroad line that connected Baltimore to Westminster * the army of militia under Darius Couch (they were emergency soldiers, but they were still another AoP-size force that could hold Lee while Meade struck from another side.
For what it's worth, AoP Artillery Chief Henry J Hunt was the only officer to have travelled the entire length of the proposed line and he was impressed. Hunt's the same guy who crabbed at Yankee battery cmdrs for excessive firing on July 3 - he kept reminding them of the cost per shell. JEB Stuart rode smack through it, passing through Union Mills on June 30. The traditional Union Mills story has the original settlers -- Shriver family -- divided North & South and living on either side of the road. One side parties with JEB while the Union sympathizers watch from their house, then the tables turn when the V Corps arrives.
Hancock is credited with talking Meade out of any thought about falling back to Pipe Creek on the night of July 1 - it would have been a mess with divisions moving in oppositeb directions through the dark, and it might have looked like a retreat.
To Meade's credit, he junked his well-developed Pipe Creek contingency because of the war meeting on the eve of July 2. Without an argument, he reshuffled his whole plan based on that vote by his commanders.
For the best view of Dan (he'd be on the OJ defense team if he was alive today) Sickles' postwar behavior, see Rick Sauers' "Caspian Sea of Ink - The Meade-Sickles Controversy."
Subject: Pipe Creek - snake & jackal
Steve and Brendan refer to the fact that Meade was unfairly pilloried by his enemies over this innocuous order. It was Butterfield (that snake) and Sickles (that jackal) who loved to beat up Meade to cover the scent of their own droppings on the field. Here is an example of how they performed as a tag team to rough up Meade thirty years later, July 3, 1893.
The speaker at the dedication of the 12th and 44th (the castle) monument on Little Round Top is Dan Sickles (that jackal), he is introduced by Dan Butterfield (that snake) They are talking about Sickles' move to the front on the morning of July 2nd. A move which Meade did not want undertaken:
Snake: It is proper I should say in presenting the Commissioner of the State of New York, that we have acted upon the suggestion that nothing should be said here that would give rise to any comment or controversey. blah, blah, blah... I shall not tell you why the field was not occupied earlier. I shall only tell you that it was not the fault of General Sickles. He insisted upon its occupancy at its earliest hour.HAH! What a pair. Next time you're up on LRT, look carefully at the castle and you will see Meade's hide tacked up there!
(More blather and digressions and then the jackal rises on its haunches)
Jackal: (crap & BS & regurgitations)...General Meade did not expect an attack from the enemy on that part of the field...again, and again I sent them (messages) over to headquarters calling attention to the fact that double our numbers were already massed for the attack in this direction. Now more than that I do not care to say. I choose to say it here and now because I say it in the presence of Tremaine and Moore and Butterfield, Butterfield being chief of staff, and Tremaine and Moore my principal staff officers (they hunt in packs) and they can confirm what I state. I quite agree with General Butterfield in his desire to avoid on this occasion any remarks calculated to provoke controversey."
(From New York at Gettysburg, Volume I page 340-342)
From: Bob Lawrence
Sbject: Pipe Creek
It seems we have now embarked on some examination of some of the players involved in the "Pipe Creek Contorversy" so following is some selected quotes from some of those who wre engaged in keeping the controversy alive:
Lt. Col Geo B Davis. Ist Mass Calvary-from speech given 4-5-1898:
Order of Geo Meade to Gen Reynolds on afternoon of June 30, 1863
In case of an advance in force against either you or Howard at Emmitsburg, you must fall back to that place(Pipe Creek) and I will reinforce you from >Second Lt Sidney G Cooke, 147th New York volunteer Infantry, speech of November 4, 1897
Transfer interrupted!ments"This clearly contemplated a withdrawal not an advance on Gettysburg: and this view is confirmed by General Meades orders of July 1, in wich detailed instructions are communicated to several corp commandersfor a concentration on the Pipe creek line in the rear of tanneytown. This disposition of his command was not warranted by the existing situation, or by bhis knowledge of the movement of the enemy.
General Meade did not intend to fight at gettysburg, and was busy while the first day's battle was in progress , perfecting a defensive line on Pipe creek, many miles awayFirst Lt Walter Kempster, 10th N Y Calvary. Speech of October 1, 1913:
From the testimony of General Hancock and General Warren, and from Meade's offical dispatch to General halleck it is very clear that Meade intended to concentrate his army and await Lee's attack at Pipe Creek, but Buford,Reynolds,Howard, Hancock and warren prevetned it, although it will appear that later meade had not abandoned his plan to fight at pipe creel"This view is interesting in that the speaker credits Hancock helping thwart Meades move to pipe creek while in reality Hancock had been sent personally by Meade to take control of the situation.
Most quoted of all is this section from the from the Pipe Creek Circular itself, this version sent to Buford at 12PM July 1
If the enemy assume the offensive, and attack, after holding them in check sufficiently long, to withdraw the trains and other impedimenta; to withdraw army from its present position, and form a line of battle with the left resting in the neighborhood of middleburg, and the right at Manchester, the general direction being that of pipe creek."As we can see the spin doctors were well at work in the late 19t, early 20th century.
One final note-my sainted brother from the North has disputed my contention that the circular slowed the concentration of troops at Gettysburg other than, he admits, the 6th Corp. To which I reply- other than the fact Lincoln got shot the play was pretty good!
Uh, oh. My Sickles tangent pitched us into an abyss. Well, as Dan used to say - I should know better, but tell me again which woodpile the snake is in.
While Lt Col Davis, Lt Cooke, & Lt Kempster may have studied Gburg, they were not in any positions to know about army HQ, let alone regimental HQ.
In the Spring 1955 issue of Civil War History, Douglas Southall Freeman offered some basic criteria for judging the accounts given by Civil War participants:
Sidney Granger Cooke was a 19-yr-old private in Co E 147th NYV at Gburg; he was mustered as a 2nd lieutenant 2-7-1865.
Walter Kempster had been a hospital steward for the 12th NYV through 1861-62, was discharged for disability, and then served as 1st Lt Co D 10th NY Cav from June to October 1 of 1863 when he resigned.
Meade certainly did have to be talked-out of using Pipe Creek, but compare his attention to his lieutenants to others in the bozo heap of AoP commanders. "Little Mac" found Lee's own orders on South Mtn, recognized them as real, but did not act. When things were coming down around Hooker's ears at Chancellorsville, he, unfortunately, stuck to his plan. Meade changed his mind.
Good Day All,
Just wanted to past along this bit of info, I recently read in "Gettysburg Magazine", regarding Meade and Sickles. It seems that compounding Meade's problems with regards to this battle and the Pipe Creek circular, were two politicians, one Senator Zachariah Chandler, and Senator Bejamin F Wade. Both were Radical Republicans, and it seems Meade got on the wrong side of Chandler at the outbreak of the war, when he couseled his officers not to take any oaths in connection with a rally sponsored by Chandler, in Detroit. Chandler wanted civilians, and military personnel to renew their oath of allegiance, and Meade told his officers that they should only obey orders issued by the Federal government. Wade was a friend of Chandler's, and both were involved, and according to the article, "Dominated the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War." The article touches other areas we have discussed with regards to Pipe Creek, ie Meade/Sickles, and is a good read. It's in issue 12 of the Gettysburg Magazine, and is entitled "The Congressional Resolution of Thanks for the Federal Victory at Gettysburg"
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Alexander Cameron
For Michael Hartenstine:
The "instant death" order you mentioned was a circular issued by Meade (signed by Seth Williams) on June 30. It is in the Official Records, vol 27, part 3, p. 415. I take it that you do not have a copy of the OR so here is the pertinent text of the circular:
"The commanding general requests that previous to the engagement soon expected with the enemy, corps and all other commanding officers address their troops, explaining to them briefly the immense issues involved in the struggle. The enemy are on our soil. The whole country now looks anxiously to this army... Corps and other commanders are authorized to order the instant death of any soldier who fails in his duty at this hour. By command of Major-General Meade; S. WILLIAMS Assistant Adjutant-General"Hope this helps. Bill
From: email@example.com Alexander Cameron Dennis,
I think the order was unusual. Capital punishment was not that unusual but it was normally done as a result of a court martial. This order is authorizing summary execution if I read it right. I knew that the order exsisted but when I tried to find it, I have to admit that I dug around in the OR for quite a while before I came up with it.
After reading your post, I remembered having read a good description of a court martial and execution of five deserters that was conducted by the 118th Penn. (Tilton's Brigade, Barnes Division, 5th Corps). I looked it up today and it is even more interesting than I remembered. It is just too long to type up (8 pages) but I highly recommend it to anyone who can get a copy of THE HISTORY OF THE 118TH REGT. PENNA. VOL., p.205-303. Anyway five non-english speaking enlistees were apprehended trying to recross the Potomac, and tried by brigade level court martial. They appealed to Maj. Gen. Meade, the appeal was denied and they were executed on Aug. 25, 1863. Meade's order denying the appeal is qouted in the text. In part, Meade said
"These men evidently belonged to that class who are trading upon the necessities of the country and have embraced enlistment with a view to desertion for the purpose of gain. It is hoped the prompt punishment awarded to their crimes will have the effect to deter others..."They were afforded a priest and a rabbi and the prisoners were searched for weapons to prevent them from committing suicide. They found a "lancet" in the pocket book of the "Hebrew" prisoner and removed it. They assembled the whole corps to witness the execution and formed them in a horseshoe square by division. They had fifty muskets fire on the five prisoners (the muskets were loaded by others and one in ten was loaded with blank cartridge) and one of the prisoners remained erect. The Provost-Marshal went forward with his pistol to dispatch the erect soldier but the surgeon pronounced him dead and they laid the body down. This is really interesting stuff and I have just jumpted around in it. Anyway, it appears that Meade was not fooling around.
From: GaTechFan@aol.com Subject: executions
Sam Watkins of "Company Aytch" fame has several descriptions of executions in the Army of Tennessee, usually for cowardice or disobedience to orders. Stonewall was also known to shoot a few soldiers as examples. Perhaps the CSA army could not afford to be lenient.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org Benedict R Maryniak
Robert Alotta's Civil War Justice - Union Army Executions Under
Lincoln identifies 276 individuals done in as military punishment.
The five broken-English foreigners snuffed on August 29 of '63 were the
most pitiable of the bunch. As if their predicament wasn't bad enough,
the catholic priest brought to them was Costney Louis Egan, a Dominican
who later became chaplain of the "Irish Ninth" Massachusetts. Well, the
rabid Dominican and the rabbi brought for the condemned jewish barber got
in a fight over who would walk before who on the way to the shooting. The
commanding officer allegedly put the rabbi in front because his religion
was older than Egan's.
Subject: council of war
I just got done reading Coddington for the sixth or seventh time. It disturbs me that he refers to the "council of war" held on the night of July 2 at the Liester House. Both Warren and Meade said there was no council of war but rather a meeting. Warren testified to the committee on the conduct of the war saying it was a meeting and not a council. He further states there was no council until the night of July 4. He also admits he slept through some of the meeting on July 2. Why does Coddington insist this was a council and not a meeting?
The primary source for anything on the "Council of War" is John Gibbon's article in the Philadelphia Weekly Press, July 6th 1887, reprinted in B&L, III, pp. 313-314. Anything written by Gibbon is generally given much credence. As you said, Warren was asleep and according to Gibbon didn't hear any of the proceedings. Warren's exact testimony was, "There was not held what I should call a council of war. The officers met together, but merely for the purpose of explaining to each other how things stood". Interesting comment from someone who was asleep in the corner but that's Warren (BTW, Brooks, I noticed that Gibbon in B&L states that Warren was wounded by a shell fragment. Interesting) As to Meade's Testimony I am missing a page in the testimony. However what I do have is in reference to a question about a council on the 3rd to which Meade replied "I do not remember any council held on the night of the 3rd of July. I had one on the night of the 4th of July, as to a plan of action in reference to pursuing the enemy. I do not remember any council on the 3rd of July; if there was one, it was a council with my corps commanders, and they are all as well able to state what transpired there as myself, but I do not remember calling any council at that time. It is possible there was a consultation. I never called those meetings councils; they were consultations, and they were probably more numerous and more constant in my case, from the fact that I had just assumed command of the army..."
Gibbon wrote, "In 1881 (eighteen years after the battle) I was shown in Philadelphia, by General Meade's son [Colonel George Meade], a paper found amongst General Meade's effects after his death. It was folded and on the outside of one end was written, in his well-known handwriting, in ink, "Minutes of Council, July 2nd, '63" On opening it, the following was found written in pencil in a handwriting [General Daniel Butterfield's] unknown to me: Minutes of Council, July 2nd, 1863.
The brackets in the above quote are from the B&L editors.
I think Meade had a lot of these "meetings" and was sensitive of being criticized about them. "consultations" are a little less "wishy washy" and I think Meade didn't want to be characterized as having needed to have a bunch of Councils of War.
If you believe Gibbon's account of the questions which were asked and the "voting", it sure looks, sounds and walks like a duck to me.
Inspector-Genl Henry L Scott's venerable "Military Dictionary" published 1864 says a council of war is "an assemblage of the chief officers in the army, summoned by the general to concert measures of importance." Hancock called Meade's July 2 late night meeting a council.
Sickles and Butterfield went to great lengths to label it a "council of war" with all the 'leadership by committee' baggage that entails. They were generally successful in labeling a 'council,' and I suspect most historians use the term without regard to it's exact precision - since it does aptly describe a gathering of the senior leadership.
Butterfield seems to have surprised Meade and the others by that voting proceedure - I'm trying to remember which account has this now, but I do recall that Meade indulged in some general discussion and opinion seeking, with little formality. Then, towards the end of the meeting, Butterfield (who as army CoS was keeping notes) abruptly formulated three questions and took a formal poll of the praticipants - dutifully recording thier votes. Meade (according to the account I'm still blanking on:)) seemed surprised by the questions and vote, but did not interfere.
After the fact, Historicus made a major effort to portray this council as clear evidence of Meade's weakness as a commander, all part of the general process of smearing Meade and uplifting Sickles.
In one sense, it was clearly a Council of War, but really one more orchestrated by Dan Butterfield than by Meade. I'm not sure Meade would have bound himself to the result of the vote if it had called for withdrawl, for example. Certainly he was soliciting opinion, but not for lack of his own.
Thanks for keeping me straight. I should have mentioned Butterfield's role in all of this. I do think it was a council and as I indicated, Meade was sensitive to it being called one, but I failed to layout the good reason Meade was sensitive.
You've got a good memory but I think you are recalling Gibbon's account of this. Here is what he wrote:
"The discussion was very informal and in the shape of a conversation ... It soon became evident that everybody was in favor of remaining where we were and giving battle there. Gen. Meade, himself, said very little except now and then to make some comment but I cannont recall that he expressed any decided opinion upon any point, preferring, apparently, to listen to the conversation. After the discussion had lasted for some time, Butterfield suggested that it would , perhaps, be well to formulate the questions to be asked and Gen. Meade assenting, he took a piece of paper on which he had been making some memoranda and wrote down a question. When he had done so he read it off and formally proposed it to the council."
[Gibbon, RECOLLECTIONS, P.141 and B&L III, p. 313.]
I'm not familiar with any other primary account that covers the detail of this.
As usual, curiosity sends me scurrying to the bookshelves. Clearly, what I recalled is from both Coddington and Gibbon. Coddington contains more emphasis on the shift from informal to formal, and spends some time discussing the aftermath: Meade's efforts to refute the early Historicus Charges.
What I lack at the moment is A CASPIAN SEA OF INK. This stuff is covered in quite a bit of detail, with strong emphasis on the post-war charges and counter-charges. No doubt I'll have to buy the book this time:)
In a message dated 96-02-15 22:53:45 EST, Jim wrote:
I just gave it a quick skim, and it does not have a lot on the July 2nd meeting at the Leister house. Most of what it does have is on page 139 and the following pages, and confirms what has already been said here. Sauers makes the point that the only three officers who suggested Meade ever considered a retreat (Butterfield, Birney, Slocum) all had axes to grind against him. But as to whether or not it was a "Council of War" or just an informal meeting of the senior officers, he does not say at all.It was clearly a council of war, Butterfield turned it into that. I think had Meade known what grief it would cause him in later years, he'd had put an end to the thing quickly, and not let Butterfield frame his questions. That, however, is hindsight - at the time, Meade was fighting a battle, and needed the input of his corps commanders.
As far as I can recall, the July 2nd Meeting is essentially where all of Historicus' charges concerning Meade wanting to retreat stem from, coupled with the Pipe Creek circular as background.
Having looked at Coddington again, I am - as always - impressed by the discussion of that meeting, including it's ramifications. Coddington was a thorough researcher, and quite a writer.
Dave I gave you some bad information the other night. I told you that that I wasn't aware of any primary sources on the council of war other than Gibbon. I just found two good ones. I had remembered the portion in Gibbons book about the council and had looked at it the other night. On page 141-143 it is almost word for word compared to the article in B&L. However, I forgot that there is more in Gibbon's book. In the next chapter (6) he starts talking about it again and in this chapter, he quotes the entire text of letters from other corps commanders. There are letters from George Sykes to Gibbon and John Newton to Gibbon. Both give their account of the council and both supported Meade.