Major General George Gordon Meade

George Meade, sometimes referred to as a "goggle-eyed snapping turtle," became the fifth, and last, Commander of the Army of the Potomac on 28 June 1863, succeeding Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker. He was camped at Tanneytown, MD when the Battle of Gettysburg began. Willing to take the offensive if necessary, as a precaution, Meade ordered Daniel Butterfield to draw up a contingency plan--the Pipe Creek Circular--to be implemented if the Confederates drove back the I, III, and XI Corps, and then marched his troops to Gettysburg. The plan, obviously, was never used, but Hooker and his cronies Butterfield and Dan Sickles referred to it during a Congressional Hearing on the Conduct of the War to try to have Meade removed from command of the AoP and Hooker reinstated.

After learning of the death of John Reynolds, Meade sent Winfield Scott Hancock ahead to take chrge of the Union corps already at Gettysburg. Meade and his aides arrived on the scene at Gettysburg late in the night of 1- 2 July, at the end of the first day's fighting.

Meade correctly remarked to John Gibbon, after a meeting of all of the commanders, that the center of the Union lines would be the objective of July 3d's action. He has been criticized for waiting until 7 July to follow up his victory at Gettysburg, allowing Lee's army to retreat, essentially unmolested, across the Potomac and into Virginia. However recently there have been several analyses arguing that his delay was warranted given the condition of his Army and of the roads.

[Ref: Brev. Maj. Gen. Henry Hunt in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War]

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Photo credit: Library of Congress
Created 20 MAY 1996; Revised 23 JUL 2014