George Gordon Meade was the Union general best known for defeating Robert E. Lee`s Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Born in Spain on New Years Eve, 1815, his family returned to the United States in 1828. After graduating from West Point, Meade served in the fighting against the Seminoles but resigned his commission to pursue civil engineering.
After marrying in 1840 on his 25th birthday, Meade found employment prospects poor and reentered the army in 1842. He served in the Mexican-American War as a second lieutenant and fought in the Battle of Monterrey. Following that conflict, he returned to primarily engineering duties. He was responsible for the improved surveying of the Great Lakes.
Soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, Meade was promoted from captain to brigadier general of the volunteers. He fought in several campaigns and was seriously wounded in the Battle of Glendale and again at Antietam. His soldiers performed well at the Battle of Fredericksburg and Meade was promoted to major general in November 1862.
Meade replaced General Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac just three days before the Battle of Gettysburg, which was four on July 1-3, 1863. Although proving himself an excellent commander in the field, he was plagued during the war by political intrigue, and Radical Republicans in Congress pressured Lincoln to replace him on the grounds he was a secret Copperhead.
Meade died in Philadelphia on November 6, 1872, at the age of 56 due to complications from his wartime wounds.