Sunday, August 11, 2013

The North's Greatest Hispanic General

He commanded the Union army that defeated Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg in 1863, working a miracle to bring the full strength of the Army of the Potomac into the battle by forced marches, while Lee continued to attack unwilling to concede that he was outmaneuvered and outnumbered.

George Gordon Meade was born to a Catholic family at Cadiz, Spain.  He was a native Spanish speaker, lived in Spain until he was a teenager and was sent to America to attend school and West Point.  His first assignment upon graduation was to assist in surveying the route for the Long Island Railroad.

But wait!  There's more! Meade's history is more complicated still.   His ancestors left Kinsale, Ireland, when their lands were forfeited in the 17th century by British anti-Catholic Penal Laws following the "Glorious Revolution."   After a stop in France the Meades ended up in the Barbados where they prospered and became slave holders, owning "a plantation of 140 acres in St. John's Parish with 68 negro slaves."   Eventually the Meades moved to Philadelphia:

"Gen. MEADE, the new leader of the Army of the Potomac, is the grandson of GEORGE MEADE,  of Philadelphia, an eminent Irish-American merchant, whose firm (MEADE & FITZSIMMONS)  contributed in 1781 $10,000 to a fund for the relief of the famishing army of Gen. WASHINGTON."  -- New York Times, July 2, 1863

Apparently, the Irish saved the Union twice.