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Part 3. narrative from the end of the Mexican War letters yo the civil War letters, 1847-1861

The part taken by Lieutenant Meade in the Mexican War is incidentally well indicated by the preceding letters. That his services were appreciated by his immediate superiors is amply proved by frequent mention of him in their official reports. As to the general impression which his character and ability produced, a man of sound judgment wrote from Washington: ‘I have had great pleasure in learning here accounts of Mr. Meade, the same as you mention; that is to say, that he is in high estimation in the army, and known to everybody. Lieutenant Luther spoke of him to Mrs. Wise, she tells me, as a most efficient officer, much consulted, employed and relied upon. Major—— appeared to me very shy of giving him credit on fit occasions. For instance, I heard him speak of General Worth's operations at Monterey. He said General Worth had a plan or map before him, of positions, routes, etc., but did not say a word of Mr. Meade, who probably furnished the map, and at all events, the materials for it. This morning, however, he showed incidentally in a general talk we had about military matters and the Topographical Corps, that he knew well Mr. Meade's merits and his distinguished position. He quoted what General Worth had said about Mr. Meade's value, and his courage and bravery, and also said (whether from General Worth or himself or both, I do not know) he was such a gentleman. He told me, too (but this must be kept to yourselves), that he had seen a letter of General Worth to the government, speaking in very high terms of Mr. Meade, but did not find the passage in the public despatch. He has promised to show me all the plans, maps, etc. I have been more or less addicted for some years past to a sort of military reading, I did not know why; but now find it of some use, if cautious not to make any pretensions to military knowledge. There is one fact with regard to Mr. Meade, not now [200] so fruitful as it will some time be, worthy of Margaret's1 recollection, for it will in due time be productive of results, and I wish her to remember it. By universal concession the corps (Topographical) has gained greatly in public favor during the war as an arm of importance. General Taylor, it is understood, has become convinced of it, though at first he held it in little estimation. You observe, too, that recently more of the corps (five) have been sent to the army, and it is now proposed to increase its force. The fact, then, I refer to is this, that the revolution has taken place when Mr. Meade has been nearly the whole of the time the only officer of the corps with the army, to demonstrate its efficiency and thus work the change in the public mind. He has certainly been the chief if not the only agent in bringing about the change. I am more than satisfied, indeed gratified beyond my expectations, by the character he has acquired. For who could have supposed that with his low grade, and singly, by his own exertions, in a comparatively obscure branch of the service, he could in so short a time have done so much for himself and his corps, not by any chance exhibition, but by the steady employment of his talents and accomplishments in the way of his duty!’

Lieutenant Meade duly arrived in Washington, and upon reporting to the Bureau of Topographical Engineers, found that his anticipations of being reordered to Mexico, or being doomed to some outof-the-way post, were not realized. His reception was of the most flattering character, and much to his gratification he was directed to proceed to Philadelphia and resume his duties under Major Bache.

The cordial welcome extended to Lieutenant Meade by his numerous friends, and the honors paid him by his fellow-citizens of Philadelphia, greatly enhanced the pleasure he derived from his longwished — for return to his home and family. Among many other marks of recognition of his services, he was presented by some of his fellow-citizens with a beautiful and costly sword, as a tribute to his gallant conduct in the several actions in Mexico.

He was soon at work assisting Major Bache in the construction of the Brandywine light-house in Delaware Bay, and in making a survey on the Florida Reef, and remained thus employed until September, 1849, when, the services of a topographical engineer being required in Florida, he was selected for the duty and ordered to report to Brevet Major-General Twiggs, at Tampa.

The remnant of the tribe of Seminole Indians, which still occupied [201] parts of Florida, had, after faithfully keeping for seven years the treaty made with them in 1842, by General Worth, become dissatisfied, and in the summer of 1849, had shown indications of an approaching outbreak. Several murders had been committed by them, and the citizens living in that district had become alarmed and compelled to fly from their homes, and for a while it looked as if another Florida war were imminent.

General Twiggs had been ordered to assume command at Tampa, with instructions to adopt such measures as might be needful to secure the frontier or to punish the Indians. It was to assist in this duty that Lieutenant Meade had been ordered to join the command. Judging from previous experience with General Twiggs, he did not anticipate a pleasant tour of duty. He had served with that officer in the advance of General Taylor's army from Corpus Christi to the Rio Grande, in 1846, and owing to some unpleasant passages occurring at that time no good feeling existed between them.

He reported to the general in October, at Fort Brooke, and his reception is described as of the most formal character. The general, after giving him instructions, inquired of him what outfit he needed, and was much surprised at his modest demand for ‘two men and a mule.’

His orders were to make a reconnoissance of the country so as to put the general in possession of sufficient topographical knowledge to enable him, if it became necessary, to move his troops with facility. He was also instructed to select the sites for a line of forts on the best route between Fort Brooke at Tampa, and Fort Peirce at Indian River, on the east coast of Florida.

He set to work, as he always did, to execute what he had to do in the most expeditious and thorough manner. The promptness with which he furnished the required information, the excellence of his work, and the completeness of his reports, soon attracted the attention of General Twiggs, who remarked to his adjutant-general: ‘Meade is doing good work and putting on no staff airs. Order the quartermaster to send him a proper outfit and make him comfortable.’ This being done, Lieutenant Meade for some time supposed that he was indebted for it to the kindness of his personal friend, the adjutant-general, Brevet Major William W. Mackall, and was much surprised to learn from that officer that it had been done at the instance of the general himself.

There had been some preliminary surveys made, previous to [202] Lieutenant Meade's arrival, for the site of the first post on the line described between the western and eastern coasts of Florida. One of the results of his survey was, however, the indication of another point, on Peas Creek, as the true position for the post. Thereupon a lively discussion having arisen on the question, General Twiggs finally made a personal examination of the ground, which led to his confirming Lieutenant Meade's selection, and as a recognition of his judgment in the special case, and of his general good service and conduct, he caused the post to be named Fort Meade.

The Indian troubles were settled without any military movements, and the duty for which Lieutenant Meade had been ordered to Florida having been accomplished, he was, in February, 1850, relieved by General Twiggs in a very complimentary order and instructed to report to the Bureau of Topographical Engineers, and by it remanded to his old station in Philadelphia.

He here continued with Major Bache until the completion of the Brandywine light-house in the summer of 1851. Then, under instructions from the bureau, he assumed charge of the building of the light-house on Carysfort Reef, Florida, a very important and difficult work, which had been in charge of Major Linnard, of the Corps of Topographical Engineers, during the winter until his sudden death in the spring of 1851, whereupon the duty of continuing its construction was assigned to Lieutenant Meade.

The continuation of the construction of the Carysfort Reef lighthouse, Florida, was the first work of the kind in which Lieutenant Meade was in charge, although he had had some experience of that sort of construction while serving in a subordinate capacity. This was the beginning of an employment in that branch of the service for several years.

At that date, 1851, the construction of light-houses, as to variety of structure to support the light, adaptation to ground, and lighting apparatus itself, was in its infancy. Knowledge of these matters, be it understood, was not exactly in its infancy, nor was there wanting, as had been even then proved, plenty of ability in adopting the best appliances known, and in adapting them to, or modifying them for, any possible existing conditions. But within only a recent period, when it was felt that the time had arrived for a national system of lighting the coasts, the building and lighting of houses had been executed in an obsolete and a desultory fashion. In the matter of lighting apparatus alone, many light-houses still had the oldimmemorial [203] ancient beacon fire. It was no longer ago than 1827 that Fresnel had died, after having, through his discoveries, within a few years of his death, revolutionized the whole system of lighting. His improvements, added to by those of the Stevensons and others, had by 1850 rendered the system of lighting apparatus perfect. We had acquired power over the whole range of artificial light, could reflect and refract it, combine the reflecting and refracting systems, and even treat it so that there should be no waste. The screw-pile and the hydraulic-pile had also been invented and applied to the construction of the foundation of towers, and great works in masonry had been executed for light-houses on the coast of England, so that splendid examples had been afforded of the possibilities of light-house construction in various localities. But the Light-House Board of the United States was not organized until August, 1852, so at the period when Lieutenant Meade took charge of the construction of the Carysfort Reef light-house he entered upon the work under the direction of the chief of his corps, Colonel Abert, to help acquire, not to benefit by, the experience which now, by this date, has, under the auspices of the Light-House Board, perfected the light-house system of the United States. He came admirably equipped for the work, through his general training, through special training in such work in the office of Major Bache, through the special aptitude which he had for it, and through the zeal with which he always threw himself into anything that came within the line of his duty.

Although late in the season of 1851 for operations in a semitropical climate, Lieutenant Meade at once proceeded to Florida and took charge of the construction of Carysfort Reef light. Henceforth, for several years, his duties in light-house construction necessitated his travelling constantly from point to point on the coast and brief sojourns there. Although himself precluded from enjoying the comforts and solace of a settled home, he determined, in the interest of his young children, that home, with all that it ought to imply of education, good habits, and formation of friendships in early life, should not be wanting to his family. Accordingly he decided that the family should continue to live in Philadelphia, which offered advantages so signal for education and comfort, and where, besides, they were surrounded by relatives and friends, the already wide family circle having been even lately increased by the presence of his aged mother, who had removed from Washington to take up [204] her permanent residence in Philadelphia. Thus he had been favorably placed, occupying the same house which he had taken soon after being ordered to duty with Major Bache in 1843, and for the last three years enjoying the society of his mother, who lived in her own house only a short distance from his. The unmarred serenity of this life was destined to be rudely broken about this period by death in the family. In 1852 he and his wife experienced a great shock in the death of his mother and of her father. His affection for his mother had been very deep. A mere boy at the time of his father's death, doubtless it had been intensified by increased maternal tenderness at that period. But whatever the cause, the tie was an unusually close one, maintained on both sides with the most touching constancy. She died on the 22d of March, 1852. The death of Mr. Sergeant, closely following on the 25th of November of the same year, was also a severe blow to his daughter, and as well to his sonin-law, whom he had made doubly his son by reposing in him a confidence scarcely exceeded by his own mother's. Mutually appreciative of each other, Mr. Sergeant, to the day of his death, continued to entertain the favorable opinion which he had early expressed as to his son-in-law's capacity, and his son-in-law in his turn had firm faith in and reliance on Mr. Sergeant, who, though retired from active participation in public affairs on account of years and increasing infirmities, died full of honors. In the years to come when the young lieutenant of Topographical Engineers had risen to the command of a great army, had won a splendid victory against an enemy flushed with constant success, and, at the zenith of his fame, was receiving the plaudits of his countrymen, he was heard to say that he could have wished that these two were present to see that he had not proved unworthy of their faith.

On August 4th, 1851, Lieutenant Meade received his promotion as first lieutenant of Topographical Engineers. From the manuscripts and printed matter, comprising letters and reports of Lieutenant Meade and reports of the Light-House Board, is drawn what is necessary to give the following resume of his labors on light-house construction.

On February 26, 1852, we find him writing from Carysfort Reef to Colonel Abert, reporting that the temporary illuminating apparatus of the catoptric kind, to be used while awaiting arrival of the dioptric one, would be ready for lighting on the 10th of March. An absurd contretemps had happened regarding the dioptric apparatus. [205] there more than nine months, had been sold to the highest bidder. In this, Lieutenant Meade's first report regarding light-house matters, he discusses the various apprehended dangers from wind, wave, and atmosphere, to iron-pile structures—a discussion suggested by popular prejudice against such structures, originating in popular misapprehension of the differences between the construction and the sites, respectively, of Carysfort Reef, Florida, and Minot's Ledge, Massachusetts, where a light-house had been destroyed in a storm.

In August, 1852, we find him, upon a requisition from the Light-House Board, supplying information regarding the Florida lighthouses at Carysfort Reef and Sand Key and the Sand Key light-ship. In answer to a request conveyed through the secretary of the Light-House Board, he gave a general scheme for the lighting of the Florida Reef, incidentally discussing the kind of light-house best adapted in his opinion to the purpose—one whose substructure should be neither wholly of masonry nor wholly of piles, but a combination of the two, with masonry for the foundation into which to set the piles. This would, on the one hand, he said, avoid the great first cost of lighthouses built wholly of masonry and, on the other, the perishableness of piles in contact with salt water and air. We shall see later that he changed his opinion as to the character of light-house best adapted to the region, and frankly confessed it.

In August, 1853, we find him writing to Colonel Abert a most interesting account of Sand Key light-house, designed, all but the watch-room and lantern, by Civil-Engineer I. W. P. Lewis, of Boston. The description of the optical phenomena exhibited by the particular First Order Fresnel apparatus to be used in this light-house is noteworthy for its clearness of expression on a difficult subject, as it has the precision of a mathematical treatise.

An interesting episode of light-house duty occurred in connection with the Crystal Palace Exposition in 1853. A First Order Fresnel lenticular apparatus intended for the Cape Hatteras light-house, was exhibited at the exposition, and in this connection we have a letter from Admiral (then Captain) du Pont to Lieutenant Meade, urging him to expedite certain routine matters and come if possible to New York to confer with him and superintend the setting up of the apparatus in the Crystal Palace. This apparatus was exhibited for the purpose of giving popular information regarding this, at that period, comparatively unknown invention. Full notes descriptive of the [206] apparatus are among Lieutenant Meade's papers, in his handwriting, written with a precision and clearness that would have entitled them to a place in an encyclopaedia. They were evidently made out (as is shown by the fact that they were found with a slip from a New York newspaper of October 1, 1853, embodying the same information with the amplifications that a newspaper man would make) for the purpose of correctly informing the writer of the printed article, so that he in turn could enlighten the public.

In October, 1853, Lieutenant Meade reported to the secretary of the Light-House Board that the light at Sand Key was exhibited July 20th for the first time, that the plans and estimates for a beacon on Rebecca Shoal were made, that the plans and estimates for a light-house in the northwest channel, Key West Harbor, were nearly ready, that the plans and estimates for light-houses at Cedar Keys Coffin's Patches would be prepared as soon as possible consistently with due care.

In December, 1853, letters passed between the secretary of state, secretary of war, and the chairman of the Light-House Board, showing, on the one part, intention to withdraw Lieutenant Meade from his duties in light-house construction and, on the other, resistance to accomplishment of that intention. His usefulness in the sphere in which he was acting had by this time become so well recognized by the Light-House Board that the intention of relieving him from his duties under it was abandoned.

In January, 1854, he gave full plans and estimates for the lighthouse to be erected on Sea Horse Key, Florida, discussing the character of the lighting apparatus, the physical characteristics of the key, and the question of the title to the land, and in the following April sent in a report from a preliminary examination of Coffin's Patches, with reference to the erection of a light-house there. In that connection he retracts his opinion, given in 1852, that a combination of masonry, upon which should be superposed iron piles, would be the best construction for such places, giving the maximum stability, and, although greater in first cost, in the interest of true economy. He said that, if for no other reason than the expense of the light-house establishment on coasts so extended as those of the United States, they would not be warranted in adopting that plan. But, independent of that, he said, he must admit that he had acquired more faith than he had had in the durability of structures on iron piles, and that experience and reflection had convinced him that they would, with [207] proper precautions, last as long as the superstructure of iron. The matter and the manner of this and similar discussions afford admirable examples of Lieutenant Meade's habits of investigation and careful statement, giving due weight to all reasons that could be adduced for or against a project, even his own, neither magnifying nor slurring over any point, to gain a purpose, to ride a hobby; his purpose being single, to get at the truth, and knowing that this often presents itself as many-sided. Frankly, if the conclusions which he had reached came to be modified or reversed in his own mind, he would admit, and even go out of his way to state the fact, so as not to mislead by leaving on record, whether verbal or written, what misrepresented the views which he finally held. This action, growing out of the truthfulness of his nature, pervaded everything he said and did in his daily life.

Among Lieutenant Meade's papers is a detailed description of a lamp invented by him for the light-house at Sand Key, as a substitute for the Cancel Lamp, which is operated by clock-work in connection with an oil pump. This pump, the chief point of which is its having its reservoir in the dome of the light-house, and acting by hydraulic pressure, is perfectly well adapted for light-house purposes in climates where the temperatures, as at Sand Key, never sink very low.

On April 13, Lieutenant Meade relieved of his charge of the Fourth Light-House District his old chief, Major Bache, who was ordered to the Pacific coast on light-house construction, and from this time forward to the end of the term of his light-house duties, he administered the affairs of both the Fourth and Seventh Light-House Districts.

Enough has been said to show that in this portion of Lieutenant Meade's work, as elsewhere, he applied himself diligently to his profession, sparing no pains in the performance of the specific duties devolved upon him. When he was relieved from duty in this service by Lieutenant (now Colonel) W. F. Reynolds, his successor in lighthouse construction, he turned over to him May 31, 1856, the charge of the Fourth and Seventh Light-House Districts, in which the following light-houses were either in process of construction or repair:

Absecum, New Jersey; Cross Ledge, Delaware Bay; Ship John Shoal, Delaware Bay; Brandywine Shoal, Delaware Bay; Reedy Island, Delaware River; Rebecca Shoal Beacon, Florida; Jupiter

Inlet, Florida; Coffin's Patches, Florida. [208]

Through an order, of April 24, 1856, relieving Lieutenant Meade from duty in the light-house service, and instructing him ‘to report as assistant to the officer in charge of the survey of the lakes,’ he became attached to that work. In the following month—May 19— he was promoted captain of Topographical Engineers for fourteen years continuous service; and by Special Orders No. 70, of May 20, 1857, from the adjutant-general's office, Washington, District of Columbia, Captain Meade was assigned to duty in charge of the lake survey.

The lake survey, begun in 1841, completed in 1881, and but slightly retarded by the Mexican War, was at first of a comparatively rude character, not deserving the name of geodetic. It lacked methods of precision and was greatly hampered by want of proper instruments, astronomical and others. Nothing much was possible at the beginning, with an initial appropriation of only $15,000, and but small appropriations following, while a vast expanse of country had to be surveyed, of which it was desirable, owing to the entire absence of surveys over it, to embrace as large an area as possible in the least possible time. This, among the other causes mentioned, led to an inadequacy which had to be remedied in the future. The surveys at the very beginning were what were not long afterward regarded as of no higher grade than fine reconnoissances, and were eventually revised with new and proper instruments, and methods of the utmost precision.

With increased appropriations and the ability which these give to furnish proper appliances, the survey rapidly assumed the character of a geodetic survey, measuring its bases with the best apparatus, determining its latitudes, longitudes, and azimuths with approved instruments and methods. These included the hypsometry and the meteorology of the country, the magnetic declination, dip, and intensity, the changes of water-level, the set of currents; and in short, all those departments which belong to a geodetic survey of the first class.

At the beginning of the survey, in 1841, the upper lake region was only sparsely occupied; but settlers were beginning to pour in, and commerce was increasing among the lake ports. At this time, the waters of all the lakes were but imperfectly known, leading yearly to much loss of life and property upon them. There were no charts of the shores of the lakes, except those derived from reconnoissances made by Captain Bayfield, of the British navy, and these, giving the [209] depth of water only in isolated places, and being inadequate for the needs of American ship-masters, were in little use. Light-houses and beacons were very few, and captains of vessels practically learned the navigation by grounding on shoals or being bilged on unknown rocks. The gales on the lakes were sometimes violent and continuous, and, in stress of weather, any offing in which a vessel might endeavor to lay to might be inadequate to keep her from going ashore. Under these circumstances, the dissemination of knowledge of the lake ports, through charts with directions for their use, the building of light-houses and beacons, and the placing of buoys, were imperative duties of the general government, especially in view of the advance of population and the increase of traffic on the lakes. All these things were within the province of the lake survey, either directly or indirectly, to accomplish through its survey of the region. The magnitude of the work may be imagined from the fact that the American shore-line of the lakes, with their islands, was 4,700 miles in length, and the total amount of the shore-line actually surveyed, including rivers and small streams, amounted to 6,000 miles.

The officers who were successively in charge of the work were in the following order: Captain W. G. Williams, Lieutenant-Colonel James Kearney, Captain J. N. Macomb, Lieutenant-Colonel James Kearney, Captain George G. Meade, Colonel James D. Graham, Lieutenant-Colonel W. F. Reynolds, Major Cyrus B. Comstock, Captain Henry M. Adams, and Major Cyrus B. Comstock. Captain Meade's term of service in charge, being from 1857 to 1861, occurred very nearly in the middle of the whole period of the duration of the lake survey, which, as has been mentioned, was from 1851 to 1881. He entered upon this service at a time when the appliances and methods of the survey had long been of constantly improving geodetic grade, although, according to Lieutenant-Colonel Comstock, in the final report of the lake survey, it did not reach until 1870 the highest refinement in its theodolite work, and in the elimination of instrumental errors. With his usual promptness in throwing himself zealously into whatever he undertook, and improving and perfecting wherever he found anything that he thought was susceptible of improvement, Captain Meade left his mark upon some of the processes committed to his care, introduced others, and carried the survey well forward in its general progress.

As in the case of his light-house duty, Captain Meade came well prepared to the charge of the lake survey. He had that comprehensive [210] mental grasp of the country which makes the born surveyor, to perfect which practice alone is needed, and without which no amount of practice is of any avail. This aptitude, which must have been apparent to every one associated with him in his previous or subsequent military career, had, at the time of his attachment to the lake survey, received much, if not final, development through his association, as assistant for some years, with Major Bache. With him a natural tendency to precision was fostered by office-work, and a knowledge of the best practice in at least topography and hydrography was necessarily acquired.

The principal work accomplished by Captain Meade during his administration was the survey of the whole of Lake Huron, and the completion of that of Saginaw Bay. ‘In 1860,’ as stated by Lieutenant-Colonel Comstock, in the report before mentioned, ‘the survey of the northeast end of Lake Michigan was extended southward to include the Fox and Manitou Islands and Grand and Little Traverse Bays, and the data were thus obtained for a much-needed chart of a dangerous part of the lake passed over by the vessels sailing between the Straits of Mackinac and Chicago. Local surveys of a few harbors on Lake Superior were made in 1859, and in 1861 the general survey of the lake was begun at its western end.’ Lieutenant-Colonel Comstock adds: ‘The general methods of survey employed by Captain Meade were similar to those followed by Captain Macomb. The nature of the field operations required a combination of triangulation and astronomical work for the determination of the positions of points on the shores of Lake Huron, and made some change necessary in the method of executing the off-shore hydrography. Larger appropriations permitted a considerable expansion of the scope of the survey, the introduction of more accurate methods in obtaining longitudes, and the commencement of a series of magnetic, waterlevel, and meteorological observations at many points on the lakes.’ The method of off-shore hydrography adopted, afterward applied to all the lakes, consisted in the running around a lake of a belt, of about ten miles in width, of sounding-lines about one mile apart, beyond and connecting with the terminus of the belt of more minute hydrography along the immediate shore. The general configuration of the bottom of a lake was determined by running a few lines completely across it.

Captain Meade was no sooner appointed to the charge of the lake survey than we find him keenly solicitous to forward the work [211] upon the lines approved by previous experience, and to increase its efficiency, in connection with which one of his earliest moves was toward general improvement in methods of topography. In his first annual report he asks for $2,750 ‘for simultaneous meteorological and water-level observations to be made over the whole lake region.’ In his fourth annual report, October 20, 1860, he mentions some of the results of these observations, collated with those of outside observers. They showed the highest range of any lake to be that of Lake Michigan, which was 5.5 feet. ‘There has not yet been time,’ he says, ‘since the observations of the survey were commenced, for any general results to be deduced beyond what are perhaps now well known.’

Undoubtedly the most notable suggestion which he made and adopted for the survey consisted in a modification of the then existing method for the determination of longitudes by the electric telegraph, known as the American method. This method was invented by Professor Sears C. Walker. Professor Alexander D. Bache, superintendent of the Coast Survey, says in his report for 1853: ‘He (Professor Walker) invented the application of the galvanic circuit to the recording of astronomical observation; which, under various ingenious modifications, is known as the American method.’

The American method invented by Professor Walker for the determination of longitude by star-signals, through the medium of the electric telegraph, consisted simply in the observation at two stations, east and west of each other, of the meridian passage of stars, whose time of transit at each station was recorded by the time of the eastern clock, thus giving in time, which can be reduced to space, the difference between the two stations. Captain Meade's modification was a notable one, although too late to be referred to by the superintendent of the coast survey, seeing that the report quoted was published in 1853, and Captain Meade's modification was not suggested until 1858. It redounds all the more to Captain Meade's credit, however, that he should have originated any good modification after the lapse of so long a time since the discovery of the American method. Captain Meade's language relating to what he had accomplished was scrupulously guarded. He says, in his report for 1859: ‘So far as my knowledge extends, derived from published reports, it has hitherto been the practice to employ in the observatories but one clock at a time—that is to say, the eastern clock being connected with the main current, and the western clock disconnected from both main and [212] local circuits, the transit of a star over both meridians was recorded at each station by the time as shown by the eastern clock only, and the difference of the times of transit gave the difference of longitude by the eastern clock. To obtain, therefore, a final result (the mean of the two) had to be observed at each station.’ Captain Meade proceeds to say, in an explanation which is mainly too technical to be introduced here, that, in discussions with Professor C. A. Young, of Western Reserve College, Hudson, Ohio, he had suggested the convenience of an arrangement, afterward carried out through Professor Young's special skill in electric telegraphy, by which the transit of a star over each meridian was recorded on both eastern and western clocks. The only objection made to this innovation was that the resulting determination of the difference of longitude between stations would be affected by any variation that might take place in the ‘pass’ of the relay-magnet during the passage of the stars between the meridians. ‘But,’ he adds, ‘as the whole amount of this pass was found, from careful experiments, not to exceed 0.03 of a second (three hundredths) its variation in 6.5 minutes (difference of longitude, in time) may be considered as an inappreciable quantity, insensible in comparison with the other errors inseparable from all observations with field instruments.’ Professor Young remarks, in his official report to Captain Meade, of April 28, 1859, in regard to the modification described: ‘I believe no other arrangement has ever hitherto effected this double-clock record of each observation, the desirableness of which yourself first suggested to me.’

In the telegraphic determination of longitude, just described, Lieutenant C. N. Turnbull was associated with Professor Young. It was under the direction of Captain Meade that Lieutenants Turnbull and Poe did considerable astronomical work, and Lieutenant Smith a good deal of magnetic work, for the survey. Also under him Lieutenant J. L. Kirby Smith executed primary triangulation, while Lieutenant Robert F. Beckham assisted Lieutenant Poe in telegraphic and chronometric determination of longitudes of points on portions of the Canada lake shore.

In addition to his superintendence, he personally executed the measurement of a primary base, much reconnoissance, planning of triangulation, erection of signals, and off-shore hydrography. It is needless to go further into details, as enough has been said of Captain Meade's work on the lake survey to show the activity of his administration. This work is chiefly interesting as forming the last [213] period of his career before the breaking out of the Rebellion. The surveying season on Lake Superior was verging upon its close, and the surveying parties had not yet returned, when he was relieved from the charge of the survey by Lieutenant James D. Graham, on August 31, 1861, and ordered to duty with the armies in the field.

The period immediately preceding the secession of the Southern States found Captain Meade quietly engaged in his duties in charge of the lake survey. He had watched with deep anxiety the current of events, eagerly scanning the political horizon for some glimmer of hope that the dreaded resort to arms might be averted. No politician, in the petty sense, he was, in the highest, penetrated with a pure love of country, and believed that, if only time could be gained for reflection, the sober second thought of the people would end in their return to common-sense and reason. In accordance, therefore, with his belief in the wisdom of the most conservative course, he had, in the presidential election of 1860, cast his vote for Bell and Everett.

The position at this time of officers of the regular army was an exceedingly trying one, especially for those who, like Captain Meade, were fully alive to the grave responsibility attaching to them as officers of the government, on whose example much depended. The defection of those officers who saw fit to cast their lot with the Confederacy caused the actions of all to be scrutinized, and often misunderstood, in the then excited frame of the public mind. In many instances the suspicions aroused at this period by the careful reticence of officers who felt the delicacy of their position led to want of due appreciation of their services even after they had signalized themselves in the war.

Captain Meade deprecated all violent language, as subordinating reason to passion, as productive of no possible good, and certain to entail evil. For his own part he calmly awaited the unfolding of events, which, if untoward, no action of his should have fostered, and to which, if favorable, he should have the satisfaction of knowing that his own temperate speech and counsel had contributed.

To his mind his own course was clear. He never for a moment doubted where his duty led him. In the strongest language of reason he denounced the Southern leaders who were goading their people into civil war. He expressed himself as deploring the necessity of using force, but as believing, if the necessity should come, in the employment promptly and energetically of the whole power of the government to prevent a disruption of the Union. But that [214] necessity had not yet arisen, and so, trying to hope for the best, but fearing the worst, he awaited the event, before which he had no national active course to take, but which, if it should arrive, was to place him face to face with his duty as a patriot, to contribute the full measure of his knowledge as a military man to the salvation of his country. As to the result of the war, if it should come, he had from the first no misgivings, provided the gravity of the occasion were realized and the immense resources of the government were properly employed.

He knew well the temper of the people both North and South. He knew well the resentment of a considerable party in the North at what it deemed the pro-slavery aggression of the South for the maintenance of the existing political equilibrium, and of the still more intense feeling of the whole South at what it deemed the encroachment of the North upon the rights growing out of the Constitution. He knew well that political leaders on the one side longed to take the opportunity offered to personal ambition by a most specious pretext, and that those on the other had appeared to justify them by the belief in and proclamation of an irrepressible conflict. He knew well the determined, if once aroused, spirit of the North, and the equally determined and more fiery spirit of the South, which had for a long time been aroused. And, finally, he knew well the immense superiority of the North over the South in men and material resources, and of the contempt of the South for the North, as a people of tradesmen unable to cope with it in war. Knowing all this, as he was well aware few could realize it, through long residence in both parts of the country and intimate acquaintance with prominent men on both sides, he saw how both sides were grievously mistaken in facts and conclusions; that if an appeal to arms were made, the conflict would be terrible; and he strove to impress the solemnity of the crisis upon all with whom he came in contact, in the belief that it was his duty to do what in him lay toward soothing the exasperated state of public feeling in face of a danger which menaced, but which, if averted, might never recur.

In Detroit, as elsewhere, there was intense political excitement, and, as elsewhere, one of its manifestations was distrust of many officers of the army and navy, consequent upon the resignation of a few officers from the South. The views of such officers as Captain Meade were very distasteful to petty politicians and to those thoughtless people who looked upon the impending conflict as a mere riot, [215] to be suppressed at the first appearance of United States troops, and they were very indignant at any one who attempted to make them fully realize the situation.

Nothing could be a better illustration of the possible injudicious action of a people laboring under strong political excitement, than the circumstance that, in the midst of the ferment in Detroit, a proclamation for a mass meeting of citizens of Detroit for the framing and passage of resolutions, requested the presence of army and navy officers stationed there, in order that they might take the oath of allegiance to the United States. These officers thereupon met at the office of Captain Meade, and with but one exception declined to attend the mass meeting. The grounds which they took for their refusal were: That it was unbecoming in officers of the government to be present at such a meeting, especially for such a purpose; that it would be a dangerous precedent for officers to take an oath at the demand and in the presence of a crowd, and that the callers of the meeting were unjustified in making such a demand. They then drew up, signed, and forwarded to the War Department a paper expressing their willingness to take the oath of allegiance whenever called upon by the War Department.

The action of these officers in declining to attend caused a great deal of violent language in regard to it to be indulged in by some people at the mass meeting, which dispersed after the usual patriotic speeches and resolutions. Nothing of moment came of the affair, although it is believed that the stand taken by the officers was the cause, for a time, of suspicion and ill — will toward them among some worthy people of that part of the country, who later became satisfied of the propriety of their course.

Soon after the firing on Fort Sumter and the first call of President Lincoln for volunteers, Captain Meade made urgent and repeated requests to the government for active duty. No attention being paid to them, he, late in June, 1861, went to Washington and protested against being retained in charge of the lake survey, and applied for increased rank in one of the new regiments then being raised. He was promised that something should be done for him, but nothing came of it, and he returned to Detroit.

In addition to his duties in charge of the lake survey he had been placed in charge of the erection of certain light-houses on Lake Superior. All the younger officers associated with him had been ordered away and were actively engaged in raising and organizing the [216] large bodies of volunteers in the different States. Thoroughly dispirited at being retained on civil duty in time of war, at seeing several of his juniors in his own corps already promoted to the rank of brigadier-general, the battle of Bull Run fought, new levies of troops called for, and at still hearing nothing from Washington, he began to fear that his chances for active service were fast passing away. In this state of affairs he started early in August for Lake Superior, in performance of his duties, and while there received orders to turn over those duties to Colonel James D. Graham, one of the oldest officers of his corps, and to repair to Washington to take charge of the recruiting and organizing of one of the companies of Topographical Engineers, lately authorized by Congress.

The long delay, which had been caused apparently by disinclination to confer higher rank upon him, coupled with the avowed objection of the department to allowing officers of the staff corps of the regular army to accept positions in the volunteer service, had led to his determination to resign his position in the regular army, in order to accept the colonelcy of one of the regiments of Michigan volunteers, which had been offered to him by Governor Austin Blair of that State. He was about leaving Detroit for Washington, in obedience to his orders, when, much to his surprise and gratification, he was officially notified of his appointment, on August 31, 1861, as brigadiergeneral of volunteers, with orders to report to General McClellan, then commanding the forces about Washington.

Some months previously to this, he had, in anticipation of entering upon active service, broken up his house in Detroit and sent his family back to their old home in Philadelphia. He therefore lost no time in hastening to Washington and reporting to General McClellan, by whom he was assigned to the division commanded by Major-General George A. McCall, known as the Pennsylvania Reserves. General McCall, who had not yet fully organized his command, allowed General Meade to remain in Washington for a few days, for the purpose of perfecting his outfit, which had been neglected in the haste of his departure, in his anxiety to reach the field. While thus engaged he enjoyed the society of Mrs. Meade and his eldest son, John Sergeant Meade, who had joined him in Philadelphia on his way through that city from Detroit to Washington, and who remained with him until he was notified by General McCall to join the command. On his reporting, he was assigned by General McCall to the command of the Second Brigade of Pennsylvania Reserves. [217]

The division of General McCall, known as the Pennsylvania Reserves, had been authorized by special act of legislature, passed at the instance of Governor Andrew G. Curtin, of Pennsylvania, after the quota of that State, under the first call of the President for troops, had been filled. They were organized as a ‘Reserve Corps of the Commonwealth,’ and consisted of thirteen regiments of infantry, one of cavalry, one of artillery, and placed under the command of Major-General McCall. On the urgent demand of the authorities at Washington for reinforcements, after the defeat of the Union army at Bull Run, this force had been despatched as rapidly as possible to that city, and were mustered into the service of the United States as a division which became part of the Army of the Potomac, then being organized by Major-General George B. McClellan.

General Meade, now in the forty-sixth year of his age, was about to enter upon a field of labor entirely different from that in which he had been engaged for the preceding thirteen years. The pursuits which he had so relished were to be laid aside at the call of duty, and from the peaceful scenes of his scientific labors, for which he was so eminently fitted, he was to betake himself to the stir of camps, to arduous marches, and the horrid din of battle. Many were the regrets expressed at this time by those with whom he had come in contact in the course of those labors, at the loss to science of one who had evinced for it such high qualifications. So strong was this feeling on the part of Professor Henry, the distinguished secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, that he endeavored to dissuade General Meade from seeking active service. They had been thrown much together during the last few years while General Meade was conducting the lake survey, and Professor Henry had come to regard him as one possessed of so great aptitude for that class of work that he was unwilling to lose him from the ranks of science, to which he was himself so enthusiastically devoted. Professor Henry even went so far as to call upon Mrs. Meade, on the occasion of a visit of his to Philadelphia, for the express purpose of beseeching her to lend her aid to prevent a step which would result in so great a loss to science. From his point of view he regarded it as sheer waste for one possessed of the scientific qualifications of General Meade to relinquish his brilliant future in the field of science, and, as he expressed it, become mere food for powder.

There was now, however, no question of choice. The general knew full well where honor and duty lay. His wife, too, would have [218]

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