May 29, 1810|
Guilford County, North Carolina
October 2, 1875 (aged 65)|
Cambridge City, Indiana
|Place of burial||Riverside Cemetery, Cambridge City, Indiana|
United States of America|
United States Army|
|Years of service||1861 – 1865|
Brigadier General |
Brevet Major General
19th Indiana Infantry Regiment |
|Battles/wars||American Civil War|
Solomon Meredith (May 29, 1810 – October 2, 1875) was a prominent Indiana farmer, politician, and lawman who was a controversial Union Army general in the American Civil War. He gained fame as one of the commanders of the Iron Brigade of the Army of the Potomac, leading the brigade in the Battle of Gettysburg.
Solomon Meredith was born in Guilford County, North Carolina, to David and Mary Farrington Meredith. The Merediths were Quaker and educated young Solomon at home. Meredith's grandfather, James Meredith, fought at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse during the American Revolutionary War. In 1829, Solomon traveled to Wayne County, Indiana, where he found work chopping wood and working on a farm. He later clerked in a general store in Centerville.
In 1834, he became the Sheriff of Wayne County, serving for two years. He was subsequently elected to the Indiana House of Representatives for four terms. In the mid-1850s, he was the U.S. Marshal for Indiana. He owned a sprawling farm, "Oakland," near Cambridge City. He was nicknamed "Long Sol" for his towering 6' 7" body.
When the Civil War erupted in early 1861, Meredith recruited hundreds of men from his county and organized them into a volunteer regiment of infantry. Governor Oliver P. Morton appointed Meredith as the first colonel of the newly named 19th Indiana, despite his lack of previous military experience. The regiment traveled by train to Washington, D.C., where it would eventually join the Army of the Potomac and be brigaded with three Wisconsin regiments in what became famous as the Iron Brigade.
Meredith and his Hoosiers fought their first engagement during the Northern Virginia Campaign at Brawner's Farm, where his horse was shot from under him, crushing him and breaking several ribs. During the Maryland Campaign, Meredith took part in the Battle of South Mountain, but then abruptly reported himself unfit for duty due to the lingering effects of his injuries at Brawner's Farm and fatigue resulting from to the long march up from Virginia. He went to Washington to rest and recuperate while his replacement, Lt. Col. Alois O. Bachman, was killed while leading a charge near the Cornfield at Antietam. As far as Brig. Gen.John Gibbon was concerned, he deserved to be stripped of his command for this. A month later, Gibbon was promoted to Maj. Gen. and given the 2nd Division, I Corps to command, then recommending either Colonel Lysander Cutler of the 6th Wisconsin or Colonel Lucius Fairchild of the 2nd Wisconsin to take over the Iron Brigade. However, Major General Joseph Hooker (who had commanded the I Corps at Antietam and was recovering from a wound sustained in that battle) was visited by Meredith requesting promotion to brigadier general. Regardless of the Antietam fiasco and Gibbon's disdain for him, he had powerful political connections in the form of Indiana Governor Oliver Morton. This was enough to convince Hooker, who submitted his request to Washington. In November, Meredith thus took the field wearing the stars of a brigadier general while John Gibbon fumed and cursed Hooker as a man who had sacrificed his principles for political gain. Meredith led the brigade in combat for the first time at Fredericksburg, where he drew the ire of division commander Maj. Gen. Abner Doubleday, who temporarily replaced Meredith with Col. Lysander Cutler.
In the spring of 1863, Meredith's brigade participated in the Chancellorsville Campaign, but saw relatively little combat. That would change in July, when the Iron Brigade suffered significant casualties during the first day's fighting at Gettysburg in Herbst's Woods and on Seminary Ridge. They were one of the first infantry brigades to reach the field and in the morning they routed the shocked (and exhausted) brigade of Brig. Gen. James J. Archer and captured Archer. However, in the afternoon the brigade was ravaged by a flanking maneuver by the 11th North Carolina and a frontal assault by the 26th North Carolina, of Confederate Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew's brigade. Meredith was wounded when he was struck in the head by shrapnel, fracturing his skull and giving him a severe concussion. The blow killed his horse, which then fell on him, breaking his ribs and injuring his right leg. He was disabled and unfit for any further field command.
Meredith performed administrative duty for the rest of the war, commanding garrisons protecting Union river ports along the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois, and Paducah, Kentucky. While still on Army duty in mid-1864, Meredith unsuccessfully ran against George Julian for the United States House of Representatives. Openly feuding with his opponent, Meredith beat Julian unconscious with a whip, but used his political influence to have charges of assault and battery dropped.
With the war over in 1865, Meredith mustered out from the volunteer army with the brevet rank of major general and returned home to Indiana, where he resumed farming. From 1867 to 1869, he was the surveyor general of the Montana Territory. He retired to his farm and raised prize-winning long-horn cattle, sheep, and horses. After the general's death, his son Henry Clay Meredith and daughter-in-law Virginia Claypool Meredith ran the farm and raised Meredith's herd.
Death and legacy
Solomon Meredith died on his farm in 1875. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Cambridge City, Indiana.
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- Gaff, p. 19.
- Young, p. 270.
- Nolan, p. 20.
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- Gaff, pp. 191-92.
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- Gaff, Alan D. On Many a Bloody Field: Four Years in the Iron Brigade. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0-253-21294-8.
- Hinshaw, William Wade. Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, Vol. 1. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1978.
- Nolan, Alan T. The Iron Brigade, A Military History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1961. ISBN 0-253-34102-7.
- Young, Andrew W. History of Wayne County, Indiana, from its First Settlement to the Present Time. Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1872. OCLC 1429644.
- Gramm, Kent. "'They Must be Made of Iron': The Ascent of South Mountain." In Giants in their Tall Black Hats: Essays on the Iron Brigade, edited by Alan T. Nolan and Sharon Eggleston Vipond. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-253-33457-8.
- Hartwig, D. Scott. "'I Dread the Thought of the Place': The Iron Brigade at Antietam." In Giants in their Tall Black Hats: Essays on the Iron Brigade, edited by Alan T. Nolan and Sharon Eggleston Vipond. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-253-33457-8.
- Nolan, Alan T. "John Brawner's Damage Claim." In Giants in their Tall Black Hats: Essays on the Iron Brigade, edited by Alan T. Nolan and Sharon Eggleston Vipond. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-253-33457-8.
- Wright, Steven J. "John Gibbon and the Black Hat Brigade." In Giants in their Tall Black Hats: Essays on the Iron Brigade, edited by Alan T. Nolan and Sharon Eggleston Vipond. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-253-33457-8.
- Biography of Meredith from Morrisson Reeves Public Library
- Brig. Gen. Solomon Meredith's Official Report for the Battle of Chancellorsville from CivilWarHome.com
- Photo gallery at the Wayback Machine (archived February 8, 2008)
- "Solomon Meredith". Find a Grave. Retrieved August 16, 2010.