Part 1. Genealogy and narrative to the Mexican War letters 1815-1845

George Gordon Meade was born on the 31st of December, 1815, in the city of Cadiz, Spain, where his parents, who were citizens of the United States, were temporarily residing.

His ancestors had been residents of the city of Philadelphia, in the Province of Pennsylvania, in colonial times. The first of whom there is any record was Robert Meade, the great-grandfather of George Gordon Meade. He was born in Ireland, and about the year 1732 we find him living in Philadelphia. He was a shipping and commission merchant, doing a considerable trade with the West Indies, principally with Barbadoes, where he is known to have had relations, and whence he had probably come to Philadelphia. The owner of real estate in and about the city, a prominent member of the small body of Roman Catholics who had settled there, assisting by his means and influence in building in the city the first chapel devoted to his religion, which was the foundation of the present flourishing Church of Saint Joseph, he was generally regarded as a man of standing and importance among his compatriots.

He died in Philadelphia in 1754, upon his return from a voyage to the island of Santa Cruz. His wife had died some years previously. In his will he named three children, Garrett, George, and Catherine, to whom he bequeathed his property, appointing his brother-in-law, George Stritch, of Barbadoes, his executor.

From this will it appears that, besides the property he owned in the Province of Pennsylvania, he had possessions in Barbadoes, and it is presumed that at the time of his death his children were living there. However that may be, it is certain that we find them a few years subsequently living in Philadelphia, the sons forming a firm under the style of ‘Garrett and George Meade,’ following the same [2] mercantile pursuits as their father had followed before them. It is evident, from what has been learned of the character and amount of their business, even in these early days, and from their habits and mode of life as well, that they had inherited an ample patrimony. Carrying on an extensive and lucrative business, they soon took a prominent position among the merchants of the city. They were among the signers of the celebrated Non-Importation Resolutions of 1765, which was the first public declaration in Philadelphia of the growing dissatisfaction at the course of the mother country toward the colonies.

Catherine married in Philadelphia, in 1761, Thomas Fitzsimons, a young Irishman who, by his talents, energy, and patriotism for his adopted country, rose to great eminence in the councils of the nation and of his State.

George married, in 1768, Henrietta Constantia Worsam. She was a daughter of the Honorable Richard Worsam, of His Britannic Majesty's council in the island of Barbadoes, who with his family was sojourning in Philadelphia, where he died in 1766, leaving a widow and three daughters.

About the year 1770, after the death, it is presumed, of Garrett, the elder brother, Thomas Fitzsimons became associated in business with George Meade, the firm being then known as that of ‘George Meade & Co.’ This connection lasted for several years, until the pressing public duties of Mr. Fitzsimons compelled him to retire.

Born in Philadelphia in 1741, George Meade lived there all his life, and was throughout that time identified with the progress of the city. The most active period of his career was passed amidst events which are memorable in the history of his country. He early sympathized with the cause of the colonies, and, among other tokens of the substantial support he gave the government, we find his firm, in the trying year of 1780, subscribing the very large sum, for those days, of two thousand pounds toward organizing the Pennsylvania Bank, which was to supply food and clothing to the destitute army of General Washington.

He was attentive to all his duties as a citizen, known for his liberal views, his benevolent and social qualities, his hospitable manners, and his thorough integrity and high sense of honor, which were so marked a feature in his character that he was known in mercantile circles as ‘Honest George Meade.’ [3]

He was prominent on all public and social occasions, though it is believed that the only public office he ever held was that of member of the common council in 1789-91. He held, however, many positions of trust and confidence, and was one of the original promoters and vice-president of the institution of First Day (or Sunday) schools, the Rev. Dr. White, afterward Bishop White, being the president. A stanch Roman Catholic, and deeply interested in the welfare of his church, he was mainly instrumental in the building of Saint Mary's Church, of which he was one of the original trustees and a constant attendant, his wife being equally devoted to the Church of England. He and Thomas Fitzsimons were among the original members of the Society of the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick, a social organization which existed in Philadelphia between the years 1771 and 1798, organized by native-born Irishmen or their sons, on the rolls of which society were to be found the names of General Washington, General Anthony Wayne, Commodore Barry, the Cadwaladers, Richard Peters, Robert Morris, General William Irvine, General Stephen Moylan, and many others of that day, distinguished in the history of their country.

At the close of the Revolution, and upon the revival of commerce in America, the firm of George Meade & Co. took a high position among the substantial mercantile houses for which Philadelphia was noted. Its vessels were to be found in all foreign ports, and it became the agent for some of the largest houses in London.

George Meade's children were ten in number, five sons and five daughters. Two of the latter married brothers, Thomas and John Ketland, sons of Thomas Ketland, of Birmingham, England, who were engaged in business in Philadelphia for some years after the Revolution. Neither left any descendants. Another of the daughters married William Hustler, also an Englishman, whose descendants now live at Acklam Hall, Middlesborough-on-Tees, Yorkshire, England. The remaining children, with the exception of one son, died in early life and unmarried.

This son was Richard Worsam Meade, the father of the subject of these memoirs. He was born in 1778 in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where the family was temporarily residing, having, with many others, removed from Philadelphia upon the occupation of that place by the British army under General Howe.

After a thorough education and careful preliminary training, Richard Worsam Meade entered his father's counting-house, where he [4] early displayed remarkable talent. Whilst so employed he made, in the interest of his father's house, several voyages to the West Indies. In 1795, when but seventeen years of age, he visited Europe, going out in charge of one of his father's vessels, and on this occasion made an extended tour through England and France, returning to America in 1796. He then again visited the West Indies, this time embarking in a business venture on his own account in the island of Santo Domingo. Although absent for only three years, he yet succeeded, at the early age of twenty-two, by his talents and industry, in achieving an independence, and, returning to Philadelphia in 1800, in the following year married Margaret Coats Butler, a daughter of Anthony Butler, of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and granddaughter of Colonel William Coats, a wealthy and prominent citizen of Philadelphia.

Like his father and grandfather, he was a zealous Roman Catholic and very influential in the church, and also, like his father, he found his wife in the ranks of the Episcopalians.

He had resumed business on his return to Philadelphia, at the same time taking charge of his father's affairs, which, unfortunately, had become seriously complicated. George Meade, the father, who had hitherto been extremely fortunate in his operations, and had amassed what in those days was considered a very handsome fortune, had, with other moneyed men of Philadelphia, entered extensively into the purchase of large tracts of unimproved lands in various parts of the country. He had confidently looked forward to a rapid increase in emigration and an early settlement of these lands, but the large outlay involved in their purchase, together with the failure of certain foreign houses in the crisis of 1796, had caused his financial embarrassment and failure. Every consideration was shown by his creditors to one who had held so high a position in the commercial world. Through the implicit faith in his integrity and confidence in his ability, he had been permitted to continue in sole management of his affairs. Everything of which he was possessed, upon which he could raise money, had been disposed of for the benefit of his creditors, and in this way he had been enabled to pay the greater part of his indebtedness. The breaking down of his health and his increasing age, however, finally compelled him, in 1801, to take advantage of the Bankrupt Act passed in that year, his son, Richard Worsam Meade, being appointed assignee.

Whilst Richard Worsam Meade was acting in this capacity it [5] became necessary for him, in order to attend to certain transactions growing out of his own affairs, to visit Spain, where he was detained much longer than he had anticipated. Seeing an excellent opportunity of forming advantageous commercial connections in that country, in which a man of capital and energy could greatly benefit himself, and never satisfied unless actively employed, he established a house in the city of Cadiz, and in 1804 was joined there by his wife and their two children.

During this absence in Spain his father's health completely gave way, and after a lingering illness he died in Philadelphia in 1808, and was buried in the family vault in the church-yard of Saint Mary's.

The widow of George Meade, accompanied by her only surviving daughter, a few years after her husband's death visited England. She was a woman of education and high breeding, of strong religious convictions, a devoted wife and affectionate mother. The death of so many of her children, just as they were growing up, was a severe sorrow; but that and the loss of her husband's fortune, and his consequent broken health, were borne by her with exemplary Christian fortitude. The religious principles of her husband, and his active partisanship with the colonies in their early differences with Great Britain, were, it is surmised, the cause of opposition on the part of her father to their earlier marriage; but, although she would, in forming that connection, be compelled to live in America, widely separated from her own immediate family, she was resolute in her decision.

Her letters from England during this visit, which was undertaken with the object of visiting her only surviving sister, whom she had not seen for very many years, are full of the warmest affection for the many friends she had made in America and of pleasant memories of her life in that country. She looked forward with pleasure to her return to Philadelphia; but this, from many causes, was delayed until increasing age and infirmity rendered it impossible, and she died near Edgebarton, Berkshire, England, about 1822, nearly eighty years old.

Richard Worsam Meade remained in Spain for seventeen years, a stay far beyond his original expectations. He was, in 1806, appointed naval agent of the United States for the port of Cadiz. His residence in the country covering the whole period of the Peninsular War, he entered, during the invasion of Spain by the French, into numerous contracts with the Spanish Government involving [6] large amounts of moneys and supplies, and in this way contributed materially to the support of the Spanish cause, Spain becoming largely indebted to him for funds and merchandise. Morally, too, his presence in Cadiz, at the critical period of the siege of that place, was recognized as valuable by the Supreme Junta organized for its defence, not only for the supplies that his house was known to be able to furnish, but for his cheering personal presence. In consequence of these services, the Cortes of Spain, assembled in Cadiz in 1811 and 1812, offered to confer upon him the full citizenship of the country, but he publicly declined the offer, stating as his reason that, while he fully appreciated the honor, nothing could induce him to relinquish his position as an American citizen.

The intimate relations existing between Mr. Meade and those in power, the valuable assistance he had rendered, his affability and knowledge of the world, conferred upon him a high social position among all classes of men, both native and foreign. Thus personally attractive and prominent, nothing more was needed but what he possessed in his wife, noted for her beauty and charming manners, to cause his house to be the resort of all that was most cultivated and refined in the society of Cadiz. His large wealth enabled him to surround himself with all that was luxurious; his gallery of paintings, collected at this period under the most favorable circumstances, was well known in after days in Philadelphia for the number of its choice works of art.

His family, during the period over which we have passed, had been increased by six children, the youngest of whom was George Gordon Meade, born in the city of Cadiz on the 31st of December, 1815.

The return of Ferdinand VII to the throne of Spain so complicated and delayed all matters of business, especially such as related to contracts with the various local governments, that Mr. Meade was greatly embarrassed and delayed in obtaining a settlement of his claims. Both he and his wife were most anxious to return to America, where several of the older children were at school. She had already made one voyage to Philadelphia, in 1810, believing that her husband would be able shortly to follow, but, disappointed in this, she had returned to Cadiz in the following year, leaving three of the children behind her.

To add to Mr. Meade's embarrassments at this time, he became involved in certain legal complications arising from administering the [7] affairs of other persons. It appears that he had been appointed assignee for an insolvent agent of an English firm doing business in Cadiz. In the settlement of its affairs, he, by direction of the proper authority, the Tribunal of Commerce, took certain action which involved him in suits at law with some of the creditors, and through false representations he was arrested and confined in the prison at Santa Catalina, in Cadiz, where he remained for nearly two years, until finally released by a royal order, issued at the urgent demand of the United States minister to Spain.

The inability of Spain to liquidate promptly her indebtedness to Mr. Meade, and the absolute necessity of his remaining in that country to look after his extensive interests, rendered the time of his return to America so uncertain that he finally determined to send in advance to Philadelphia his wife and those of his children who had still remained with them. She sailed in 1817 and duly arrived in Philadelphia, and after her departure Mr. Meade removed to Madrid, where he continued his exertions for the payment of the moneys due him.

In the meantime the treaty of 1819 between the United States and Spain, known as the Treaty of Florida, having been ratified by both governments, all just claims of American citizens then existing against Spain were, by the terms of that treaty, assumed by the United States in exchange for the cession of Florida by Spain. Thus released, Mr. Meade, in 1820, took his departure and joined his family in Philadelphia. But, after a few years' residence in that city, they removed to Washington, so that Mr. Meade, being at the seat of government, could there more advantageously prosecute his claim under the Treaty of Florida, for this claim, through legal technicalities and other impediments, still remained unsettled.

The family now consisted of ten children—seven daughters and three sons—two having been born since the return to the United States. Of these children, George Gordon Meade was the eighth child and second son. A few days after his birth he had been baptized by the curate of the parish of ‘Nuestra Señora del Rosario’ at Cadiz, with the name of George, after his grandfather, his godmother being Catherine Gordon Prendergast, a daughter of Mr. Jacob Gordon, a Scotchman, long resident with his family in Spain, between whom and the Meades the closest intimacy existed. It was owing to this intimacy that, as a token of the high esteem in which Mr. Meade held Mr. Gordon and all his family, the name of [8] Gordon was subsequently added to that which his infant son had received at baptism.

When about eight years of age George Gordon Meade was placed at a well-known private school in Philadelphia, kept by William R. White, formerly professor of the ancient classics, at the University of Virginia, and Henry Hood, who graduated with distinction at Trinity College, Dublin. The school was regarded as an excellent one; the pupils were the children of the better class of citizens; and he remained there for about three years, receiving the usual education of boys of his age. He was considered an amiable boy, full of life, but rather disposed to avoid the rough-and-tumble frolics of youths of his age; quick at his lessons, and popular with both teachers and scholars.

On the removal of the family to Washington, George was placed, in 1826, at a boarding-school at Mount Airy, a few miles from Philadelphia, known as the American Classical and Military Lyceum. The principals of the school were M. Constant and A. L. Roumfort, the latter a graduate of the Military Academy at West Point. They were both men of marked ability and were assisted by a corps of excellent instructors. Among those constituting the board of examiners were General Cadwalader, General Bernard, U. S. Engineers; Dr. Chapman, Joseph Hopkinson, Charles J. Ingersoll, Nicholas Biddle, Thomas Camac, and Richard Worsam Meade, the father of George.

The institution was modelled upon West Point, the boys being instructed in the manual of arms and in company drill, and at certain times they performed sentry duty. An ‘officer of the day’ was regularly appointed, whose duty it was to report any breach of discipline, and the report was read aloud after breakfast to the assembled cadets. It was sought to instil a high sense of honor into the performance of these duties.

During young Meade's stay at the school he was instructed in English, French, Latin, Greek, arithmetic, and algebra. He showed the greatest aptitude for the mathematical part of the course of study, but he was commended also by his instructors for general progress in his studies, and as being a youth of promise. He was very popular among his school-mates, and the friendships formed at this early stage of his career lasted in many instances throughout life. The school was the favorite one for the sons of the principal families of Philadelphia, and many pupils came from distant parts of the [9] country, especially the South. There were there representatives of the Biddles, Willings, Ingersolls, Coxes, Hewsons, and Bories of Philadelphia; of the Middletons, Andrewses, Herberts, Draytons, Duvals, and others, from various States. Some of these he was destined to meet again as fellow-students at West Point, and some, as Edmund Schriver, Henry DuPont, Percival Drayton, and James S. Biddle, in the army or the navy.

Young Meade was still attending this school when intelligence of his father's serious illness was brought to him. Although hastening to Washington as rapidly as the means of travel in those days admitted, he failed to arrive before his father's death, on the 25th of June, 1828.

Mr. Meade's bitter and constant disappointment in the prosecution of his claim under the Treaty of Florida had had much to do with the termination of his career at the comparatively early age of fifty. He had had to contemplate, year after year, the injustice through which the property which he as a private citizen of the United States had accumulated by honest industry, in a life of voluntary exile, had gone into the coffers of the state, never to be recovered, by means of a treaty of which his country had reaped the full benefit in the acquisition of territory. He had had to strive, year after year, unavailingly to obtain the justice never received, and at last, reduced in fortune to what may justly be called poverty, considering the affluence in which he had lived, broken in health and spirits, he succumbed, his death his silent protest against the injustice of his country!

George's mother, thus suddenly deprived of her natural support, and without those means with which she had lived in the greatest luxury for many years, and with several young children, too, for whose support and education it became necessary to provide, was obliged, under the very altered circumstances under which she found herself, to retrench and conform her daily life to stern necessity. As one means of economizing she deemed it prudent to remove George from the academy at Mount Airy at the end of the year already provided for. After accompanying his father's remains to Philadelphia for burial in the family vault at Saint Mary's Church, he resumed his place in the school. At the end of the academic year he returned to Washington and was for a short time a pupil of Salmon P. Chase, the distinguished secretary of the treasury under Mr. Lincoln's administration, who, at the time, was the head [10] of a school for boys in that city. Upon the breaking up of this school, his mother placed him temporarily at the Mount Hope Institution, a boarding-school in Baltimore, Maryland, of which Professor Frederick Hall, of Middlebury College, Vermont, was principal.

While Mrs. Meade was occupied with the affairs of George and those of the other children she did not neglect the prosecution of her husband's claim. Endowed with a fine mind, peculiarly adapted to business, and having thorough knowledge of her husband's affairs, she battled unflinchingly to secure justice from the government. With unabated ardor and untiring energy, she, for her children's sake, pressed her suit, but her efforts in that direction, as well as those of her children, after her decease, were wholly unsuccessful, and the claim still remains unpaid.

It had been the desire of George's mother to give him a collegiate education, and, as his tastes leaned that way, to let him enter one of the pursuits of civil life, his pronounced preference being for the law. Her altered circumstances, however, would not permit this, and believing, from the aptitude which he had shown for mathematics and from his studious habits, that he would succeed at West Point, and it also having been the wish of his father that he should go there, she determined to apply for an appointment for him. Although she did not intend that he should continue in the profession of arms beyond the period when it is considered honorable to resign, as having performed service equivalent to the education received at the academy, she proposed in this way to secure him a good education, hoping that, by the time he was graduated, her affairs would be brighter, and he would shortly be able to follow his own predilections. His eldest brother, Richard Worsam Meade, had already, in the year 1826, been appointed a midshipman in the navy.

In the meantime George remained at the school at Mount Hope, which he had entered December, 1829, to await the result of his mother's application for an appointment for him as cadet at the Military Academy. During this interval of waiting he seems to have pursued his studies with ardor. During a year he read, in Latin, Caesar's Commentaries and six of the orations of Cicero; in French, Telemaque and Charles XII of Sweden; in mathematics, Colburn's Arithmetic and Algebra, Walker's Geometry, Playfair's Euclid, and Trigonometry in Gummies' Surveying; Goodrich's History of the United States, Hart's Geography, and the greater part of Comstock's Chemistry and Natural Philosophy; which was [11] doing very well for a lad of fifteen. The principal of the school pronounced him a boy of decided parts, of uncommon quickness of perception and readiness in acquiring knowledge; studious withal, and exceptionally correct in his deportment. This school, as well as the others, he left with the respect and good wishes of the teachers and the affection of his school-mates.

His mother, having failed in her first application for an appointment for her son to the Military Academy at West Point, was successful in her second, and in the summer of 1831 George was appointed by President Andrew Jackson to a cadetship, and entered the institution in September of that year, at the age of fifteen years and eight months. He was quite small in stature at this time, slender and delicate in appearance, and there were friends of his family who thought that he would be unequal to the severe training of the academy.

His course, during the four years of cadet life, though not brilliant, was creditable. He was much better prepared than the average of those who entered the academy, and he at once took a good stand in his class and maintained it. His class on entering numbered ninety-four members, of which only four were younger than himself. Arranged, as they are at first, alphabetically, he came about the middle of the class. Arranged in the order of merit, as they are subsequently, he, at the close of the first year, stood number twentyone in the class. At the end of the second year, he stood number eighteen in his class, then numbering sixty-one.

His bearing was dignified and manly, his manners affable, his opinions were of weight among the members of the corps, and he was universally liked and respected.

He was naturally studious and found no difficulty in maintaining in his studies the stand which he had taken among his fellow-cadets, but he regarded the military exercises as such mechanical work that this part of the course was very distasteful to him, and his not taking a higher stand is attributed to his lack of interest in the monotonous guard-mounting, drill, and the endless minutiae of routine. After his return from the usual furlough, at the end of the second year of the course, during the two years still remaining before graduation, his desire, which had never ceased, to be permitted to leave the academy and engage in civil pursuits, seemed to grow in strength. The ease with which he mastered his studies and kept up with his class rendered any great exertion on his part unnecessary, and often, [12] in after life, he referred to this cause, and the dislike for the military duties, as having produced a certain amount of inattention, that told unfavorably upon his general standing before he was graduated from the institution. At the end of the third year he stood number seventeen in his class of sixty. At the end of the fourth and last year he stood number nineteen in his class, then reduced to fifty-six. He was graduated on the 1st of July, 1835, and assigned as brevet second lieutenant to the Third Regiment of Artillery.

Among those of his class who in after years became prominent in military and civil life were George W. Morrell, Henry L. Kendrick, Montgomery Blair, Archibald Campbell, Herman Haupt, Henry M. Naglee, Joseph H. Eaton, Marsena R. Patrick, Thomas B. Arden, and Benjamin S. Roberts.

It is customary to allow the class graduating from West Point a leave of absence for three months before the members are obliged to report for duty to the various posts assigned them. Lieutenant Meade, availing himself of this leave, sought and obtained, after a few days spent in Washington with his mother, employment as an assistant on the survey of the Long Island Railroad, and continued on the work until the end of September. His object in thus passing the time of his leave of absence was, first, to reimburse his mother for the expense of his outfit as an officer of the army, and, secondly, to make such acquaintances and connections as would open to him a future in civil life and enable him to resign from the army. The construction of railroads was at that period assuming importance, and seemed to offer great opportunities to a young man beginning life as a civil engineer. He had, in truth, gone to West Point somewhat against his will, and, as has been mentioned, he had desired to leave the institution and take his chances in some walk of civil life. Moreover, he felt that the routine incident to service in the line of the army was unsuited to him, and it was also feared, and he was duly warned, that his constitution was not sufficiently strong to withstand a tour of duty in the enervating climate of southern Florida, where his regiment was then stationed. As, however, the time approached for him to make his decision, the responsibility of giving up a permanent position weighed so heavily upon him that he resolved on trying an active campaign with his company, then at Tampa Bay.

Fortunately for him, it occurred about this time that his brotherin-law, Commodore Alexander James Dallas, was placed in command [13] of the West India squadron. By special permission of the war department, Lieutenant Meade was authorized to accept the commodore's invitation to take passage with him and thus join his company at Tampa Bay. On the 8th of October they sailed from Hampton Roads in the flag-ship, the frigate Constellation, and after a somewhat stormy passage arrived in the harbor of Gustavia, in the island of Saint Bartholomew. After a few days delightfully spent there the Constellation sailed for Saint Thomas, and thence, touching at Santa Cruz, to La Guayra, on the Spanish main. From La Guayra they sailed for Porto Cabello, Curacoa, and finally cast anchor in the harbor of Havana. The stay at the different places at which the ship had touched had been most agreeably passed in a constant round of official courtesies, balls, dinners, and gayeties.

From Havana they proceeded to Trinidad, where they remained for a short time, and January 6, 1836, found the Constellation back again at Havana, where this most interesting and enjoyable cruise came to an end, for it was there that Commodore Dallas heard of the massacre of Major Dade and his command. This was the beginning of the Florida War.

On the day following the receipt of this intelligence Commodore Dallas sailed for Key West, and upon his arrival there detached the marines belonging to his own ship and those of the Saint Louis, which sailed in company with him, to reinforce the garrison at Fort Brooke, Tampa Bay, then supposed to be besieged. Lieutenant Meade accompanied this force and so reached his station.

Lieutenant Meade at once entered upon active duty, and in the subsequent operations under General Scott he accompanied the column under Colonel Lindsay. He was not, however, destined to remain in this country long. After a short tour of duty his health gave way, and he became unequal to the efficient discharge of his duties. The hardships of the service in a semi-tropical climate caused him to suffer from repeated attacks of fever, and these, working upon a constitution not thoroughly established at that time, so debilitated him that, in the spring of 1836, he was pronounced, upon surgical examination, unfit to march with the army, which was about entering upon an active campaign against the Indians. A change of climate being advised, he was in April ordered to escort to the North Fork of the Canadian River, Arkansas, a party of Seminoles who had consented to emigrate. Embarking in a small, uncomfortable schooner at Tampa, they went to New Orleans; thence to Little [14] Rock, Arkansas; thence up the Arkansas River to Fort Smith; and thence to Fort Coffee, where they disembarked and journeyed overland to their final destination. It was with great satisfaction that Lieutenant Meade at last safely turned over to Lieutenant Van Horne, of the Third Infantry, the charge which he had brought so many hundred miles, which had not been made up of the most agreeable travelling companions.

This duty ended, Lieutenant Meade, in obedience to orders, proceeded to Washington and in person reported to the adjutantgeneral.

He had been promoted in the meantime to a second lieutenancy, his commission bearing date December 31, 1835. His health still preventing his return to his regiment, he was assigned, in July, to duty in the ordnance department, and ordered to report to Watertown Arsenal, Massachusetts; but whilst on duty there, urged by his constant desire of retiring from the army, and influenced by the prospect held out to him of immediate employment in civil life, he, on the 26th of October, 1836, resigned his commission.

In the following month he was appointed an assistant engineer in the construction of the Alabama, Florida, and Georgia Railroad, of which his brother-in-law, Major James D. Graham, was chief engineer, and reported for duty at Pensacola, Florida. He was engaged on this work until April, 1837, when the war department requiring a survey of the mouth of the Sabine River, the boundary-line between the United States and the republic of Texas, instructions were sent to Captain W. H. Chase, of the Corps of Engineers, who was stationed at Pensacola, to select some competent person and despatch him at once to make the survey. Captain Chase selected Mr. Meade, who sailed from Pensacola, Florida, in a small schooner, and after having successfully executed the required service, which was to ascertain the depth of the water on the bar at the mouth of the river, and the degree of navigability of the river for small seagoing vessels, reported the results, according to his instructions, direct to the secretary of war.

Mr. Meade's next employment was as principal assistant-engineer with Captain Andrew Talcott, who had been selected by a special board of engineers to conduct a survey of the delta of the Mississippi, with the view of ascertaining the practicability of improving the navigation of the mouths of the river. Upon this important work a large force of men was employed, divided into two brigades, the [15] second of which was under the charge of Mr. Meade. His employment, beginning November, 1837, lasted through about six months hard work in the field, in which operations were conducted with the greatest care and minuteness, when the party returned to the city of New York, where, during the winter of 1838-39, it finished compiling and drawing the maps which were to accompany the report. The valuable services rendered by Mr. Meade toward this work have been referred to by a distinguished brother-officer in the following terms: ‘My second recollection of him . . . was upon an elaborate survey and investigation at the mouths of the Mississippi River, in which the facts elicited by some original experiments of his, led me, many years after, to a series of investigations which developed the law governing the formation of bars and shoals at the mouth of that river, from which most important consequences have followed for the improvement of navigation and the increase of commerce.’

This work closed in February, 1839, and Mr. Meade found himself again in Washington, between which place, Philadelphia, and Schooley's Mountain, New Jersey (at that time a fashionable summer resort), he seemed to pass in a manner suggestive of some attraction to him in those places much more absorbing than their usual resources would suggest. He was able, however, to intermit this occupation sufficiently to accept, in January, 1840, the position of assistant, on the part of the United States, in the astronomical part of the survey for determining and marking the boundary-line between the United States and Texas, whose independence had just been recognized by the, United States, and he joined on the Sabine River the commission convened under treaty stipulations for that purpose.

After a great deal of unnecessary delay, caused by differences of opinion between the commissioners on the respective sides, which circumstance was all the more annoying to Mr. Meade, for he deemed the duties which solicited his attention in the North quite as important as those to which he was contributing in the determination of the boundary-line between the United States and Texas, the work was at last satisfactorily completed, and he returned to Washington. There, in August, 1840, he was appointed by the secretary of war civil assistant on the survey of the northeastern boundary-line between the United States and the British Provinces, which survey was then being organized by Major James D. Graham, of the Corps of [16] Topographical Engineers, the commissioner on the part of the United States.

During these years Mrs. Meade continued to reside in Washington, and in the intervals of this constant change of duty her son had made her house his home. Intelligent, well-educated, vivacious, and fond of society, he was naturally welcomed in all his comings and goings by a large circle of friends. Among those at whose houses he was a constant visitor was the Honorable John Sergeant, a distinguished member of Congress, whose sojourns at the capital were brightened by the presence of his wife and daughters. Mr. Sergeant worthily represented a long line of ancestry, eminent in ability and learning. A profound constitutional lawyer and a leader at the bar in his native city, Philadelphia, often occupying local offices there of trust and honor; representative in the State assembly, president of the State constitutional convention, the almost continuously honored choice of Philadelphia, from the Fourteenth to the Twentyseventh Congresses inclusive; the representative of the general government on several important foreign missions, the nominee, in 1832, of his party for Vice-President, when Henry Clay was nominated for President, Mr. Sergeant was now occupying what was destined to be his last public position in a long and brilliant national career. His private life was in keeping with his public one. He was a sincere Christian and charitable to a fault. Broad in his views, hospitable, of engaging manners and great conversational powers, his home, bountifully endowed through the reward of his professional labors, was the centre of all that was refined and distinguished.

It was in this atmosphere, and amid these associations that young Mr. Meade was destined to seek and win his future bride. Between himself and Margaretta, the eldest child of Mr. Sergeant, early sprang up an attachment that was to prove as devoted as they were mutually worthy to inspire it. Margaretta, the constant companion of her venerable father, had received her education under his immediate eye, and had been reared in the refined and brilliant circle that surrounded him. Notwithstanding, however, the depth, and from many points of view, the reasonableness of this attachment between Mr. Meade and Miss Sergeant, the uncertainty attending his permanent occupation, together with the still unsettled condition of his mother's affairs, caused the proposed marriage to be considered with grave deliberation. But Mr. Sergeant's [17] opportunities had been so great for obtaining a knowledge of the character of his daughter's suitor, and he had become so impressed with his worth, that his deliberations ended with a cordial consent, and he often afterward predicted for the young man a useful and brilliant career.

On the 31st of December, 1840, the marriage of Mr. Meade and Miss Sergeant took place in Philadelphia, at the residence of the bride's parents, amid a brilliant assembly of the friends of both families. He retained his position on the survey of the northeastern boundary-line, his winters, when field work was closed for the season, being spent in Washington, where the office of the commission was established.

Notwithstanding Mr. Meade's efforts to secure permanent civil employment, he found that, without influence, he was unable to obtain it, except on public works, where its tenure was upon the good-will, or perhaps caprice, of the officers in charge. In addition to this, Congress, in a spirit of retrenchment, was proposing to utilize on these works the services of the Corps of Topographical Engineers instead of those of civilians. Feeling now, with increased responsibilities, that his position was very insecure, he determined after due deliberation, and consultation with friends, to re-enter the army, an opportunity now offering itself in an appointment to one of the scientific corps. Through the influence of the Honorable Henry A. Wise, the brilliant and influential member of Congress from Virginia, who had also married a daughter of Mr. Sergeant, Mr. Meade was, on the 19th of May, 1842, appointed by President Tyler a second lieutenant in the Corps of Topographical Engineers, and was continued as an assistant on the survey of the northeastern boundaryline, upon which duty he remained until November, 1843, when, being relieved, he was ordered to report to Major Hartman Bache, of the Topographical Engineers, on duty in the construction of light-houses and in surveys on Delaware Bay, Headquarters in Philadelphia.

This station at Philadelphia was in all respects a most agreeable one to Lieutenant Meade. His duties were of the most congenial kind, and made doubly agreeable by the pleasant relations existing between him and his superior officer. He was for the first time able, through some probable permanence of abode, to have his own house, and in his frequent absences on duty from the city he had at least the satisfaction of knowing that he left wife and children surrounded by kind relations and friends. [18]

He had been for a little over a year and a half in the enjoyment of all these advantages, when, on the 12th of August, 1845, he unexpectedly received orders to repair at once to Aransas Bay, Texas, and report for duty with the military force assembling there.

The complications between the United States and Mexico, growing out of the gaining of her independence by Texas, and her subsequent annexation to the United States, had at this time assumed so serious an aspect that the force which, as a precautionary measure, had been collected at Fort Jessup, Louisiana, under the command of Brigadier-General Zachary Taylor, and known as the army of observation, was ordered to proceed to some point on the coast of Texas, convenient, in case of necessity, for advancing to the western frontier of that State. General Taylor had selected Aransas Bay as that point, and had proceeded there early in July, 1845.

It was with no light heart, but with the promptness of a true soldier, that Lieutenant Meade bade farewell to his quiet home and set forth on the second day after receiving his orders, leaving his wife and three little children, one of whom was so ill that he never expected to see him again. But in this trying moment he was nobly supported by his young wife, who thus early in their career evinced that unselfish devotion to his interests and welfare which, throughout life, was to lighten the burden of his ever-increasing responsibilities and support him in the faithful discharge of his important trusts.

Lieutenant Meade was at this time in the thirtieth year of his age. His constitution, greatly strengthened and improved within the ten years which had elapsed since his experience in Florida, was now, comparatively speaking, robust. During that time he had been constantly and actively employed in important service, in which he had always gained the esteem of those with whom he had come in contact. How he bore himself in this new field of activity is clearly seen in the following series of letters, throwing light on his innermost thought and life, written to his devoted wife, and doing their part in attesting what manner of man he was.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
United States (United States) (21)
West Point (Georgia, United States) (7)
Florida (Florida, United States) (6)
Texas (Texas, United States) (5)
West Indies (4)
England (United Kingdom) (4)
Tampa Bay (Florida, United States) (3)
Havana, N. Y. (New York, United States) (3)
Barbados (Barbados) (3)
Tampa (Florida, United States) (2)
Sabine (United States) (2)
Pensacola (Florida, United States) (2)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
Mount Airy (Maryland, United States) (2)
Branciforte (California, United States) (2)
Aransas Bay (Texas, United States) (2)
America (Netherlands) (2)
Yorkshire (United Kingdom) (1)
Trinidad (Trinidad and Tobago) (1)
Sweden (Sweden) (1)
St. Louis (Missouri, United States) (1)
St. Joseph, Mo. (Missouri, United States) (1)
Scotia (1)
Schooley's Mountain, New Jersey (New Jersey, United States) (1)
Saint Thomas (1)
Saint Patrick (Missouri, United States) (1)
New York (New York, United States) (1)
Mississippi (United States) (1)
Mexico (Mexico, Mexico) (1)
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Madrid (Spain) (1)
London, Madison County, Ohio (Ohio, United States) (1)
Hampton Roads (Virginia, United States) (1)
Gades (Spain) (1)
France (France) (1)
Fort Smith (Arkansas, United States) (1)
Fort Jessup (Louisiana, United States) (1)
Fort Coffee (Oklahoma, United States) (1)
Europe (1)
Dublin (Irish Republic) (1)
Dominican Republic (Dominican Republic) (1)
Delaware Bay (United States) (1)
Chester County (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Canuck (Arkansas, United States) (1)
Canadian (United States) (1)
Birmingham (United Kingdom) (1)
Berkshire (United Kingdom) (1)
Baltimore, Md. (Maryland, United States) (1)
Arkansas (United States) (1)
Amboy (New Jersey, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Richard Worsam Meade (33)
George Gordon Meade (12)
George Meade (9)
William Sergeant (7)
Thomas Fitzsimons (4)
William R. White (3)
Jacob Gordon (3)
Garrett (3)
Alexander James Dallas (3)
George Washington (2)
Zachary Taylor (2)
James D. Graham (2)
W. H. Chase (2)
Roman Catholic (2)
Anthony Butler (2)
Henrietta Constantia Worsam (1)
Henry A. Wise (1)
Anthony Wayne (1)
Sears C. Walker (1)
Robert O. Tyler (1)
George H. Thomas (1)
Telemaque (1)
Andrew Talcott (1)
George Stritch (1)
Winfield Scott (1)
Edmund Schriver (1)
A. L. Roumfort (1)
Benjamin S. Roberts (1)
Catherine Gordon Prendergast (1)
Playfair (1)
Richard Peters (1)
Marsena R. Patrick (1)
Henry M. Naglee (1)
Stephen Moylan (1)
Robert Morris (1)
George W. Morrell (1)
Robert Meade (1)
Lindsay (1)
Abraham Lincoln (1)
Thomas Ketland (1)
John Ketland (1)
Henry L. Kendrick (1)
Andrew Jackson (1)
William Irvine (1)
Charles J. Ingersoll (1)
William Hustler (1)
Albion P. Howe (1)
Horne (1)
Joseph Hopkinson (1)
Henry Hood (1)
Herman Haupt (1)
Patrick Hart (1)
Frederick Hall (1)
Goodrich (1)
William H. French (1)
Joseph H. Eaton (1)
Henry DuPont (1)
Percival Drayton (1)
Dade (1)
M. Constant (1)
Cyrus B. Comstock (1)
Colburn (1)
William Coats (1)
Henry Clay (1)
Cicero (1)
Salmon P. Chase (1)
Chapman (1)
Archibald Campbell (1)
Thomas Camac (1)
Caesar (1)
John Cadwalader (1)
Montgomery Blair (1)
Nicholas Biddle (1)
James S. Biddle (1)
Bernard (1)
Barry (1)
Barbadoes (1)
Hartman Bache (1)
Thomas B. Arden (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: