July 3, 2010

Happy George day!

Today is the Day Between for those of us who live in the U.S., though I suspect for many it's more of a Carsickness holiday, or a How in the Heck Do I Light the Charcoal Again? day (though sometimes people delay that joy until the next day). July 3 is the Day Between, the day between July 2, the day the Continental Congress formally approved a resolution of independence, and July 4, its approval of the Declaration of Independence. Yeah, I know: Lexington and Concord were in April 1775, and the formalities came a year later, with the articulated argument last of all. What can I say? Maybe we're just a nation of shoot first, answer questions later.

This year, July 3 falls on a weekend here in North America. Before you let the day go by with preparations for tomorrow, give a thought to two important Georges in history and their actions associated with July 3. On July 3, 1775, George Washington took command of the Continental Army. And on July 3, 1863, Union forces under George Mead's command destroyed Pickett's Charge and ended the battle of Gettysburg.

In the case of Washington's command, he had been appointed by the Continental Congress several weeks before, in the middle of June, and it took that time for him to travel to the main rebels' army in New England. Planning a war in the 18th century was a plodding affair. The battles of Lexington and Concord had been in April, and the Continental Congress started meeting in May. The first British reinforcements arrived in late May, and the next clash was June 17, at Breed's Hill (now called the battle of Bunker Hill, I think because that was the frist target of orders to help with the siege of Boston). So the first major battle of the war (and with surprisingly high British casualties) happened just the day after Washington accepted the commission of the Congress.

Meade's command of troops in July 1863 was almost accidental, since he was a replacement for Joseph Hooker and notified of his new appointment in late June, just a few days before Gettysburg. I'm not a military historian, so I'll let others judge Meade's command at Gettysburg in the context of his earlier commands of smaller groups and his post-Gettysburg career. But at least in the first week of his command of the Army of the Potomac, Mead helped save a nation.

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Posted in History on July 3, 2010 11:38 AM | Submit