HOOKER'S APPOINTMENT AND REMOVAL.
Meade was asleep, and when awakened was confounded by the sight of an officer from the War Department standing over him. He afterward said that, in his semi-stupor, his first thought was that he was to be taken to Washington in arrest, though no reason occurred to him why he should be. When he realized the state of affairs he became much agitated, protesting against being placed in command of an army that was looking toward Reynolds as the successor, if Booker should be displaced; referring to the personal friendship between Reynolds and himself, which would make the President's order an instrument of injustice to both; urging the heaviness of the responsibility so suddenly placed upon him in presence of the enemy and when he was totally ignorant of the positions and dispositions of the army he was to take in charge; and strenuously objecting to the requirement that he should go to Hooker's headquarters to take over the command without being sent for by the commanding general, as McClellan had sent for Burnside * and Burnside for Hooker. Meade proposed to Hardie that he should telegraph to Stanton to be relieved from taking the command, but Hardie told him that in the council it had been assumed that he would wish to be excused, that he would prefer Reynolds first and anybody else but himself afterward, and that he might even deem it too late to displace Hooker; but that, notwithstanding, it had been determined that Hooker should be relieved, and by Meade-alone, and that it should be done immediately upon Hardie's arrival. It was a mental relief to the stern Secretary of War, when General Meade's spontaneous utterances were reported to him, to note that he had uttered no protest against Hooker's being relieved of the command, even in what might almost be called the presence of the enemy. This silence on the part of a man so regardless of himself, so regardful of others, Mr. Stanton accepted as being, in itself, his complete vindication.
After taking General Hardie's opinion, as a professional soldier, that he had no lawful discretion to vary from the orders given, horses and an escort were ordered out and the party proceeded to general headquarters, some miles distant. # Hardie undertook to break the news to Hooker, who did not need to be told anything after seeing who his visitors were. It was a bitter moment to all, for Hooker had construed favorably the delay in responding to his tender of resignation, and could not wholly mask the revulsion of feeling. General Butterfield, the chief of staff, between whom and General Meade much coldness existed, was called in, and the four officers set themselves earnestly to work to do the state some service by honestly transferring the command and all that could help to make it available for good. During the interview Meade unguardedly expressed himself as shocked at the scattered condition of the army, and Booker retorted with feeling. Tension was somewhat eased by Meade's insisting upon being regarded as a guest at headquarters while General Booker was present, and by his requesting General Butterfield, upon public grounds, not to exercise his privilege of withdrawing with his chief; but Hooker's chagrin and Meade's overstrung nerves made the lengthy but indispensable conference rather trying to the whole party.
When Reynolds heard the news, he dressed himself with scrupulous care and, handsomely attended, rode to headquarters to pay his respects to the new commander. Meade, who looked like a wagon- master in the marching clothes he had hurriedly slipped on when awakened in his tent, understood the motive of the act, and after the exchange of salutations all around, he took Reynolds by the arm, and, leading him aside, told him how surprising, imperative, and unwelcome were the orders he had received; how much he would have preferred the choice to have fallen on Reynolds; how anxious he had been to see Reynolds and tell him these things, and how helpless he should hold himself to be did he not feel that Reynolds would give him the earnest support that he would have given to Rey nolds in a like situation. Reynolds answered that, in his opinion, the command had fallen where it belonged, that he was glad that such a weight of responsibility had not come upon him, and that Meade might count upon the best support he could give him. Meade then communicated to Reynolds all that he had learned from Booker and Butterfield concerning the movements and positions of the two armies, and hastily concerned with him a plan of cooperation which resulted in the fighting of the battle of Gettysburg upon ground selected by Reynolds.
During the afternoon the consultations were ended, and, with the aid of the representative of the War Department, the two generals drew up the orders that were to announce formally the change of command. In the evening, standing in front of the commanding general's tent, General Hooker took leave of the officers, soldiers, and civilians attached to headquarters, and, amid many a "God bless you, General!" got into the spring wagon that was to convey him and General Hardie to the railroad station, the former en route to Baltimore, the latter to Washington. When all was ready for the start, the throng about the vehicle respectfully drew back as Meade approached with uncovered head; the two men took each other by the hand, some words passed between them in a low tone, the wagon moved off, and Meade walked silently into the tent just vacated by his predecessor.
* Meade was mistaken in thinking that McClellan had sent for Burnside when the command was turned over to him.--C. F. B.
# Hardie told me that Meade at last said, half playfully, "Well. I've been tried and condemned without a hearing, and I suppose I shall have to go to execution."--C. F. B.