[CIVIL WAR, GETTYSBURG]. TOWNSEND, E.D. (1817-1893). Assistant Adjutant General. Manuscript document signed ("E.D. Townsend Asst. Adj. Genl."), "War Dept. A.G. Office Washington D.C.," 27 June 1863. 1 page, 4to, Head Quarters stationery, verso with docket (probably by Hooker). Fine condition.
THREE DAYS BEFORE GETTYSBURG, LINCOLN REMOVES HOOKER AND NAMES MEADE TO COMMAND THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC
This dramatic order documents Lincoln's eagerness to find the General who was a match for Lee. After the exasperating defeat at Chancellorsville, Lincoln saw that General Joseph Hooker suffered from exactly the same defects that had crippled McClellan: indecisiveness, lack of aggressiveness, and a paralyzing conviction of being outnumbered. Yet Lee was moving northward in force into Maryland and Pennsylvania; firing the top Union commander on the eve of a potentially decisive battle on Northern soil might prove demoralizing to the Army as well as politically disastrous to the administration. So when Hooker petulantly submitted his resignation over a strategy dispute with Halleck, Stanton and Lincoln gladly accepted it, choosing Meade as his replacement. Who better, Lincoln thought, than a Pennsylvania general to repel Lee's invasion. Meade, he told Stanton, "will fight well on his own dunghill." Stanton's chief of staff, James A. Hardie, carried these orders to Meade and Hooker the same night that Lincoln made his decision: "General Order No. 194. By direction of the President Major General Joseph Hooker is relieved from command of the Army of the Potomac, and Major General George G. Meade is appointed to the command of that Army and of the troops temporarily assigned to duty with it. By order of the Secretary of War." A postscript note in the same secretarial hand, below Adjutant General Townsend's signature reads: "When general officers are relieved from command, they can take with them only their personal aides-de-camp."
Awakened at 3 a.m. by Hardie and a retinue of staff officers, Meade at first thought he was being arrested. After receiving the startling news of his promotion, he and Hardie rode together the few miles to Hooker's headquarters and broke the news to the outgoing commander. The General Order bears a docket on the verso--probably made at Hooker's tent--"Rec 4:40 A.M. June 28." Hardie also carried with him that night a set of instructions from Halleck: Meade was to be given a free hand to move as he saw fit, without minute instructions from Washington. He must only keep in mind that his force had to defend Washington as well as strike Lee. Meade replied that he intended to move towards the Susquehannah River, and if the rebel force turned east, he would stand and give battle. He got his chance three days later at Gettysburg.