Back in June 2011, I had a chance to do a little sight-seeing in our nation’s capital. While on my way to the Capitol, I came across the memorial to Major General George Gordon Meade between 3rd & 4th Sts. NW on Pennsylvania Ave. OK, I didn’t just happen upon it, I was seeking it out. Meade is a favorite of mine – I think he gets the short end of the stick, memory-wise. But his statue is as glorious as it is touching (click for a larger image):
Here’s the message in the pavement:
There was a trio of young adults from somewhere south of the border who asked me to take their photo in front of the statue. I suspect they just thought it was a cool sculpture - and it is - but who knows? Maybe they knew exactly who Meade was.
Testament to Union: Civil War Monuments in Washington, DC, by K. A. Jacob is a wonderfully written and illustrated book that I highly recommend for anyone touring the city. It tells me that the Meade memorial was sculpted by Charles Grafly out of marble and was dedicated in 1927, after 12 years of bickering over the design. Meade and seven other figures circle the memorial. Loyalty and Chivalry lift the mantle of war from Meade’s shoulders, “as he strides confidently toward the future.” In the rear of the memorial, which I did not photograph for some reason, the winged figure of War stands with his back to the General, glaring into the past. You can see the wings framing the symbol of the Army of the Potomac above Meade’s head in my photo. Making up the rest of the total of eight figures are Energy, Fame, Progress and Military Courage. War strikes a less imposing figure now than he did in 1927: his smallish nose is a replacement for a more brutal one that broke off years ago.
Meade was originally installed in front of and to the north of the massive U. S. Grant memorial at the base of the Capitol. In 1969, it was dismantled to allow for construction under the mall, and was stored away for 14 years before being reassembled in 1983 in its current location to the northwest. Ms. Jacob describes the significance of the new site’s perspective:
Meade looks out onto Pennsylvania Avenue to the spot that marked one of his proudest days. At nine o’clock on the morning of May 23, 1865, Meade rode down the avenue on his garlanded horse at the head of the Army of the Potomac as the leader of the Grand Review of troops. As he passed, the enormous throng picked up the chant of the Pennsylvanians in the crowd, “Gettysburg, Gettysburg, Gettysburg!”