Thursday, August 8, 2013

August 9, 1863 (Monday): Meade Corrects the Record

Major-General PLEASONTON, Chief of Cavalry.
August 9, 1863.
   GENERAL: My attention has been called to what purports to be an official dispatch of General R. E. Lee, *commanding Confederate Army, to General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector General, denying the accuracy of my telegram to you of July 14, announcing the result of the cavalry affair at Falling Waters. I have delayed taking any notice of General Lee's report until the return of Brigadier-General Kilpatrick (absent to leave), who commanded the cavalry engaged on the occasion referred to, and on whose report from the field my telegram was based. I now inclose the official report of Brigadier-General Kilpatrick, made after his attention had been called to General Lee's report. You will see that he reiterates and confirms all that my dispatch averred, and proves most conclusively that General Lee has been deceived by his subordinates, or he would never, in the face of the facts now alleged, have made in error in stating that the body of General Pettigrew was left in our hands, although I would not communicate that fact until an officer from the field reported to me he had seen the body. It is now ascertained from the Richmond papers that General Pettigrew, though mortally wounded in the affair, was taken to Winchester, where he subsequently died. The three battle-flags captured on this occasion and sent to Washington belonged to the Fortieth, Forty-seventh, and Fifty-fifth Virginia Regiments(infantry). General Lee will surely acknowledge these were not left in the hands of "stragglers sleeping in barns. "In conclusion, I desire, if it meets with your approval, that this communication, together with General Kilpatrick's report, may be published, that justice may be done to all parties concerned, and the truth of history vindicated.
     Respectfully, yours,

     GEO. G. MEADE,
     Major-General, Commanding.

*Copy, taken from General Lee's letter-book, attached. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 27, Part 1, Page 989.

Pettigrew was an accomplished soldier from North Carolina who fought his division well at Gettysburg and participated in Pickett's charge.  In the retreat his units were among the last on the north side of the Potomac at Falling Waters, where he was mortally wounded at close range while directing his troops.  Meade here corrects erroneous information in reports by Lee.


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