In Meade’s Defense
“The Lost Opportunity of Gettysburg” (December 2005) tells of President Abraham Lincoln’s disappointment about General George Meade’s failure to destroy General Lee’s army after that battle, but when did the president tell his general that so much was at stake?
Meade, the last-minute substitute for General Joseph Hooker, never met with Lincoln prior to his appointment. General Henry Halleck’s official orders to Meade spoke only of the Army of the Potomac’s role as Washington’s “covering” force. How could Meade learn of Lincoln’s political thinking?
Lincoln may have deceived himself into believing that the war could be ended in 1863 with the capture of Vicksburg and the capture of Lee’s army. Too much hatred had yet to be vented by both sides. Confederate President Jefferson Davis thought of guerrilla warfare as the last means of Southern resistance.
History records what Meade did or did not do at Gettysburg. History should then indicate whether or not an overanxious and overeager Lincoln did not himself understand the determination of his foe.
50th Pennsylvania Connections
I was pleased and impressed by your treatment of the letters of Harrison Beardsley in the December 2005 “My War” department, contributed by Barbara Shafer. I had picked up on some aspects of his correspondence in the manuscript collection at the Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, Pa.
In my book on the 50th Pennsylvania (The 50th Pennsylvania’s Civil War Odyssey, Authorhouse, 2003), I had focused on Beardsley’s complaints about the lack of a chaplain in the regiment, but I had none of the details as to his death in the Second Battle of Bull Run. Though I had corresponded with the Bradford County Historical Society asking for Civil War references to the 50th P.V.V. I had no clue as to the existence of “a book of local history” that you cited. Can you provide a reference for the title, date of publication and publisher of that book?
The 50th Pennsylvania’s regimental history, published in 1884, provides the names of those killed from Company K in the fight in which Beardsley died. I assume that you are familiar with the names of his companions, Corporal Boles and Private Northrup from Company K.
In my own book I dealt with the number killed and wounded in the fight—but none of the details about them having accompanied a sergeant to deal with a sniper.
If you have looked closely at Bradford County’s contributions to the Union Army, you may be interested to learn that I came to know Company K of the 50th P.V.V. because of my brother-in-law’s great-grandfather, William K. Taylor, from Bradford County, who began the war as a private but ended it as a first lieutenant commanding Company K. His picture is among those reprinted in my book on the regiment.
Barbara Shafer responds: Thank you for your kind comments regarding my article on the letters of Harrison Beardsley. The sergeant I mentioned in the article who shot the sharpshooter at Second Bull Run was my great-great-grandfather, John Dorsey Johnson. I became familiar with Harrison Beardsley due to an account of the sharpshooter incident written by Johnson. According to a letter he wrote after the war:
At the Battle of 2nd Bull Run, my Regt the 50th Pa laid behind an old R.Road, and my Col Ed Overton who commanded the Regt. Came down to my Co K and said Sergt Johnson would you be willing to volunteer to go up on top of the R.Road & take 3 other men & see if you could kill a sharp shooter which is shooting at me and has given me several close calls. I says yes & picked out Albert Hess and his brother Ferdinand Hess. Also Harrison Beardsley of my Co K. We all went on top of the Rroad which was in the thick woods, and after the sharp shooter had fired three shots, I got my rifle on him & killed him as one of my co saw him hanging in the tree & so reported. The enemy then made a charge & killed those three comrades who went on top of the R.Road with me.
This incident was also recounted in the local history book I mentioned, as was the final disposition of Harrison Beardsley’s body as “falling into the hands of the enemy.” The book is a reprint of two volumes called Our Boys in Blue: Heroic Deeds, Sketches and Reminiscences of Bradford County Soldiers in the Civil War and Our Boys in Blue: A Complete History of Bradford County in the Civil War, Including Records of all Soldiers With Sketches and Reminiscences, written in 1898 by Clement F. Heverly and reprinted by the Bradford County Historical Society, Towanda, Pa., in 1998.
Your 50th Pennsylvania connection, Lieutenant William K. Taylor, is also mentioned in the book’s listing of members of the various Bradford County regiments.
Thanks again for your interest. I am interested in your findings on the 50th Pennsylvania, and will be contacting your publisher regarding your book.
I am a longtime reader of Civil War Times Magazine. In your January 2006 issue, the article “Reconsider, Hell!” written by Curtis S. King, has a few mistakes in it.
The article refers to “Hollen” Richardson and his association with Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren. The name should be spelled “Hollon,” not “Hollen.”
The bigger mistake, however, was stating that Hollon was mortally wounded while taking a bullet for Warren. Hollon did indeed protect Warren from the bullet, but he was not mortally wounded in doing so.
I am a direct descendant of Hollon Richardson’s and would not be writing you today had he died at the Battle of Five Forks. Hollon lived to be 81 years old, dying on Christmas Eve 1916, one day before his 82nd birthday. He is buried at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Seattle, Wash.
I enjoy your magazine greatly, but felt that you and your readers would want me to set the record straight.
The editors would like to straighten out a couple of mistakes that crept into the January issue. The first is giving the Ohio Historical Society credit and thanks for allowing us to use James E. Taylor’s painting The Grand Parade of General Sherman’s Army in Washington on our cover for that issue.
We would also like to apologize to Harold Holzer for a mistaken reference to him as Howard Holzer in the January installment of “Behind the Lines.” Given that we have enjoyed Mr. Holzer’s work for many years, we are especially sorry to have misprinted his name.
Originally published in the April 2006 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.