Major James Cornell Biddle, An Important Member of General Meade’s Staff, Writes Home. “Head Quarters 5th Corps Stoneman’s Station, Va. May 23rd, 1863” – “We ought to have gained a great victory and we failed for the want of a General.” Biddle Praises Meade & Has a Low Opinion of Sickles! – Read what the gossip of the day was about Sickles!
Offered is a 4+ page letter in nice dark ink with its original stamped envelope. James Biddle joined the staff of Major General George G. Meade in May of 1863 and served him throughout the war, first as Major and Aide-De-Camp and then as Lieut. Colonel and finally Colonel.
Here is the content:
- Head Quarters, 5th Corps Stoneman’s Station, Va. May 23rd, 1863. My own dear little Wife, I am out of paper and as I sent word by John to ask you to send me some, I borrowed this from Jay telling him I would be glad to extend the compliment to him when mine arrived. [On this stationery there is an imprinted motto “Deo Duce Perseveran Dum” which was the Jay family motto. The father of Biddle’s friend was John Jay, an important American Statesman, Governor of New York, and served as the President of the American Bible Society. He was a staunch Abolitionist.]
- I have been thinking of John’s visit, and envying him the happy time he was having. He will be obliged to leave Philadelphia this evening. I did my best to have his time extended one day, but it was of no avail. There are no signs of an intended movement, and one feels he might as well be home as here. I think of you all the time, my own darling little Diddy and know what a treasure I possess. I would give anything to see you, but I think I would at any rate rather wait till I could get more than five days’ leave and then I do not like to ask any favors.
- The Richmond papers of yesterday announce the falling back of Pemberton after a fight of nine hours duration, this coming from the Rebels is very good news. It is later than anything we could possibly have received and eases our mind with regard to the retreat of our forces from Jackson, Mississippi. They may have left there & gone in the direction of Vicksburg which probably was the case. It is a very severe blow to the Southern Confederacy, and it will tell with wonderful effect upon the end of this rebellion.
- If we had only been successful here as we should have been, all would have been right, and I think the rebellion would have been ended.
- It was reported that Lee was reinforced, but that has since been proven to be incorrect. Longstreet got as far as Hanover Junction and after our retreat was ordered back by Lee. We ought to have gained a great victory and we failed for the want of a General.
- This feeling is universal in the Army. Meade stands in the opinion of those capable of judging at the head of all the Generals in our Army. I have a very high opinion of him.
- He is as superior to Hooker as anything can be. But he has no political influence and therefore stands no chance. He is active, energetic and a thorough soldier.
- Birney, Sickles and men of that class are the men who go up in the scale because they are politicians.
- Sickles was made the hero of the late fight, and at first I thought he deserved credit for what he had done, but 1 have since changed my mind.
- You recollect my writing and at the time thinking we were firing into the Rebel train, preceding the retreat of the Rebels. This was the report and although I thought it singular they should retreat taking their wagon’s in range of our guns, I was assured it was so and came to the conclusion it was necessity which compelled them. At this time Sickles was ordered out to capture this wagon train and not knowing where he was going or what he had to encounter, found he was cut off between Lee & Jackson from the rest of our Army and was obliged to fight to get back within our lines. This train being Jackson’s ordnance train going round to our right for Jackson’s benefit.
- Such is war and Sickles is really spoken of as Commander in Chief. Alas! Alas! Cannot we get men of moral character in high places? There are a great many stories of goings on at Sickles’ Head Quarters. Hooker, Sickles, Mrs. Farnham, Mrs. Salm Salm. Mrs. Farnham is the wife of a Col. Farnham who was the Captain of the Slavery Wanderer who you recollect was captured and taken to Savannah.
- I am very well my darling girl, and I am glad to have such a good account of all at home. I am glad Cassie intends paying a visit to Mrs. Cadwalader. I have no doubt she will enjoy herself very much. Give my love to Ma, Katy, Elizabeth, your father & all & with a great deal of love to yourself, I am forever Your loving Husband
As James is writing his wife, notice he just signs the letter “Your devoted Husband”. Fortunately, the letter comes with its original envelope addressed “Mrs. James C. Biddle 216 South 4th Street Philadelphia, Pa.”
There is a fine photograph of the staff of General Meade at the Army of the Potomac Headquarters, Brandy Station, Virginia. In this photo, Biddle is seated, last man on the left. This photo can be easily downloaded on the Internet.
#L5-23-63 – Price $395