Book Review: “Meade and Lee After Gettysburg”

On July 14, 1863, Federal cavalry clashed with a rearguard of Confederate infantry along the banks of the Potomac River. The action not too far from Williamsport, Maryland was quick and bloody before the Federal troopers retreated and the Confederate infantry finished their retreat across the Potomac River back into Virginia. To many historians, the battle of Falling Waters marks the end to the Gettysburg Campaign. But according to a new book, such was not the case.

 

Jeffry Hunt picks up his story where many choose to end theirs. Hunt seeks to study the movements of both armies back into Virginia following their clash in Adams County, Pennsylvania. In this, Hunt masterfully succeeds—though Gettysburg is in the title, this is not just another story of the first three days in July. Hunt excels in detailing the near continuous cavalry skirmishing, like near Shepherdstown, West Virginia, or the infantry fights, like at Wapping Heights later in July. Robert E. Lee’s retrograde movement into the Loudoun Valley of Virginia shows how quickly the southern general and his depleted ranks were ready to face off against George G. Meade and the Army of the Potomac. Complimenting Lee’s principal subordinates, Hunt writes, “All of this stood in marked contrast to the corps commanders’ conduct at Gettysburg” (268).

Hunt criticizes Meade’s lackluster movement through the last days of July, and points out that the Army of the Potomac saw numerous chances slip through their grasp. Hunter, however, is sympathetic to the beaten up ranks of Federals and the badly battered officer corps, and writes, “Difficulties faced by Meade and his troops in trying to accomplish any of these goals were underappreciated by their government, the press, and the Northern public” (269).

Hunt’s narrative is accompanied by plenty of maps that assist his text, describing the convoluted maneuvers the Confederate army performed as they sought the safety of the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers.

His book also has plenty of footnotes and a strong bibliography, for those readers who wish to follow the sources.

With the end of the campaign, the war finds the armies right where they had started in early June. Hunt seeks to pick that narrative up and describe the operations in the fall of 1863 with successive books—those monographs are eagerly awaited.

 

Jeffrey Wm. Hunt, Meade and Lee After Gettysburg: The Forgotten Final Stage of the Gettysburg Campaign, from Falling Waters to Culpeper Court House, July 14-31, 1863.

 Savas Beatie, 2017.

312 pages, footnotes, bibliography, index.

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10 Responses to Book Review: “Meade and Lee After Gettysburg”

  1. Charlie Downs says:

    I had this book preordered and as soon as it came in the mail I started reading it and couldn’t put it down. An excellent book which covers actions barely mentioned elsewhere in detail. Can’t wait for the next two volumes to come out.

    • Jeffrey Hunt says:

      I am so glad you enjoyed the book and am humbled by your kind words. It is a great story about great men — heralded and unheralded alike — and I am please to have the opportunity to bring it to light.

  2. Jeffrey Hunt says:

    Ryan, Thank you for taking the time to write a review of my book. I am honored, and glad you enjoyed it!

  3. stormylntz says:

    I am looking forward to reading this book!

  4. Theodore Savas says:

    Thanks for the review, and comments. If you read this title, please leave reviews (and read my article on Book Reviews in the next issue of “Civil War News.”)

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  7. Thank you, Mr. Quint, for writing an excellent review of this book. I have ordered a copy of this book. What did Meade do between Gettysburg and Grant? I look forward to reading Mr. Hunt’s take on this neglected topic.

    • Jeff Hunt says:

      Larry, I hope you enjoy the book. As my next several volumes on the period after Gettysburg and before Grant will show Meade, and Lee, as well as their troops and respective governments did a great deal in Virginia between August 1 and December 31, 1863. It was not a quiet period and there was a great deal of marching, fighting and drama which negated much of the benefit of Gettysburg for the North and literally sets the stage strategically, operationally and tactically for the Overland Campaign.

      • Mr. Hunt, I know that I will enjoy your book. The review tells of your notes and bibliography, which impressed me of your research. I know of the Mine Run Campaign, but know very little about it and would like a deeper explanation. I have always wondered what Lee and Meade did when Longstreet was sent west with 2 divisions. I know that Stanton, also, sent reinforcements to Rosecrans. This seems to be an opportunity for Lee or Meade that was lost. You have convinced me that I need to buy your next 2 volumes, also. More happened than I thought.

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