“Old Baldy” General Meade’s Warhorse
A brief history of General Meade’s Warhorse
By Anthony Waskie, Ph.D.
‘Baldy’ was raised on the western frontier, and at the breaking out of the war was owned by General David Hunter. At the First Battle of Bull Run, July 21st, 1861, Baldy was wounded in the nose by a piece of shell. He was afterwards purchased by General George G. Meade, at Washington, in September of 1861 for $150, and was ridden by Meade almost exclusively through most of the war, and in the following battles: Drainsville, Va.. December 20th, 1861; Mechanicsville, June 26th, 1862. ; Gaines Mill, June 27, 1862; Groveton, August 29, 1862; Second Bull Run, August 30, 1862l; South Mountain, September 14, 1862; Antietam, September 17, 1862; Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862; Chancellorsville, May first, second, third, and fourth, 1863; Gettysburg, July 1st, 2nd and 3rd 1863; Bristoe Station, October 14, 1863; Rappahannock Station, November 7, 1863; Mine Run, November 26, 1863; Wilderness; May 5, 6, 1864; Spotsylvania, May 8th to 20th, 1864; North Anna, May 23rd to 26th, 1864; Totopottomy, May 29th, 1864; Bethesda Church, May 30th, 1864; Cold Harbor, June 1st to 3rd, 1864; Petersburg, June 15th to 18th, 1864; Jerusalem Plank Road, June 22nd, 1864; Mine Explosion, July 30th, 1864; Weldon Railroad, August 18th to 25th, 1864.
At the latter battle, General Meade was wounded in the leg by a piece of shell, though not badly. Baldy was then sent north in charge of George Melloy, of the First Pennsylvania Cavalry, to Philadelphia, by rail, and then sent to Meade’s old friend and former staff quartermaster, Capt. Sam Ringwalt who agreed to care for him at his farm in Downingtown. Later, in the post war period, Baldy was conveyed to Meadow Bank Farm, General Meade’s Country Place owned by a friend of the Meade Family, where he remained for several years. Old Baldy was even able to march in the funeral procession for his beloved master, General Meade on November 11, 1872, when Meade was laid to rest in Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia. At the grand parade held in Philadelphia in 1879 upon the return of former president Grant, an old comrade of Meade, Baldy was a prominent marcher in the spectacle. Baldy was later presented to Mr. John J Davis, a blacksmith near Jenkintown, Montgomery County, Pa. who kept him until he became too feeble to get up after lying down, and on December 16th, 1882, a dose of poison laid him finally to rest. Baldy was over 30 years old, and had lived ten years after his gallant master, a veteran of many battles through which he safely carried General Meade. Baldy was also wounded in the nose at First Bull Run, July 21st, 1861 when owned by General David Hunter; at Second Bull Run, August 30th, 1862, he was wounded through the right hind leg; at Antietam, September 17th, 1862 Baldy was wounded through the neck, and left for dead on the field; and at Gettysburg, July 3rd, 1863 he was shot through the body comprising five (5) major wounds.
The comrades of the Meade Post #1, Grand Army of the Republic in Philadelphia took the name of General Meade for their Post. At the muster of February 26th, 1883, a very interesting and minute report was presented by comrades Albert C. Johnston and H.W.B. Harvey, the committee, who upon their own responsibility, secured and presented to the Post that interesting and valuable relic “Old Baldy”–the head and neck of General Meade’s old war horse ‘Baldy’–and comrade G. Harry Davis, on their behalf, presented “Old Baldy” to the Post, it having been very tastefully placed upon a tablet, which contains briefly the services of the old horse and an account of the wounds he had received in battle. The Post gave thanks to Mr. John J. Davis the owner of the horse, for his services in assisting the committee in procuring the relic, as the horse was already buried on his farm, and for a photograph of himself and the horse, which was granted. from: the History of the Meade Post #1, G.A.R. Philadelphia. Oliver Bosbyshell. 1889; and from Life & Letters of Gen. Meade by Col. Meade; Meade letter to Capt. Ringwalt, Sept. 24, 1864; Philadelphia Daily Evening Telegraph, Feb. 27, 1885.
Letter of General Meade to Capt. Sam Ringwalt, Quartermaster
Regarding handling of “Old Baldy”
Army of the Potomac
September 24, 1864
My Dear Friend,
Mrs. Meade writes me that you have kindly consented to receive Old Baldy at your place and I hasten to express to you my very great thanks. The Old Fellow was wounded in the flank at Groveton (2nd Bull Run); was shot through the neck at Antietam, and at Gettysburg a ball passed through the saddle and went into his body where it has remained ever since. I kept him with me until this spring in the hopes he would recover, but fearing he might be an embarrassment in the campaigns, I sent him to Philadelphia just before we crossed the Rapidan. I don’t want you to be bothered, and shall expect you to let me know what expenses he puts you to, that I may reimburse you. I told Mrs. Meade I wanted to have the old horse in somebody’s hands who knew something about him and would not let him be ill used, and I felt sure if you could look out for him, you would. If he continues to improve, and the war lasts, I will bring him into the field again next spring. The ‘Black’ is still my show horse. The wound in his leg, which he got at Glendale, kept open for about 18 months, but has finally healed up. It never lamed him for a day since Gettysburg, and Baldy’s being out of service, I have bought a large brown horse, said to be a Morgan—a fine strong horse and a great racker. He and the black are my standbys. I should like very much to see you and have an old fashioned talk on all that has happened since you left. The old Reserves are pretty much all gone. The last that had reenlisted were mostly captured on the 19th of last month in one of the fights on the Weldon Railroad. Major Baird and Captain Adare are the only officers left whom I can see. We have had some very severe fighting on this last campaign, harder and longer continued than any army ever had before. In the beginning and until we crossed the James River, our men behaved splendidly, but the continuance of the campaign, and the hot weather coming on, together with the great losses we have sustained took a little of the starch out of our boys, and they showed signs of fatigue. We have had showers, a good deal of rest, and the weather is getting cool. All we want is to have our thinned ranks filled up and we shall be ready to go at it again and stay at it until we have compelled the Rebels to say they have had enough. But to do this we must have men, and every one ought to use all their influence to send them to us. The Rebels are being exhausted and now is the time to strike the heavy blows. When this war is over, I am coming up to Downingtown to see you.
Very Truly Yours
Geo. G. Meade
Capt. Sam Ringwalt
The following article appeared in the Philadelphia Daily Evening Telegraph shortly after the death of Old Baldy, and at the time the head had been mounted and presented to the Meade Post #1, G.A.R. at their February, 1885 Campfire. The article contains a large number of factual errors as to the history of his service with General Meade, no doubt due to fading memories, but the article does detail some interesting anecdotes of Baldy’s post war life. It is obvious, that Baldy and his master were revered by the veterans, especially by the Post named in Meade’s honor in his own hometown, and the veterans sought to do both war horse and his master honor by preserving their memory.
The Daily Evening Telegraph
Philadelphia, Tuesday, February 27th, 1885
A memento of General George Meade’s warhorse presented to Post #1, Grand Army of the Republic At a meeting of George G. Meade Post #1, G.A.R. held at the headquarters, Eleventh and Chestnut streets, last evening, Comrades Johnson and Hervey presented the head and neck of General Meade’s old warhorse ‘Baldy’ beautifully mounted.
The history of this animal was somewhat peculiar, as he had first been the property of Colonel E. D. Baker, of the 71st California (Pennsylvania) regiment, and had been badly wounded in the nose at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, where his master at that time was killed. After the Pennsylvania Reserves took the field, the horse came into the possession of General George Gordon Meade, and was ridden by him, when circumstances would permit, throughout the entire war. His wounds were six in number, and at the Battle of South Mountain he was shot and left on the field for dead. Some two or three days after, when a burying party visited the field, Baldy was found grazing on the hillside, and but little hurt from his wound. On four other occasions was he hit, but survived each wound, and returned with his owner at the conclusion of the war. He was getting old, and for the good he had done, he was left on a farm in the vicinity of Jenkintown, to work no more until death released him. He was 30 years of age when he died. Many anecdotes are related of him, and to Mrs. Davis, under whose husband’s charge he had been for a long while, are we indebted for the following incident, which took place last Fourth of July. He had long been stiff, and was seldom found standing up, but on the morning of the nation’s birthday, kicking was heard in the stable, and, on proceeding tither, Old Baldy was found standing up in his stall, and looking as though he would like to go out. The stable door was that once opened, and Baldy marched out. He looked around for a moment, and on seeing the flag, which he had followed so long floating over him, he sprang like a colt from his halter, and for some minutes pranced up and down the lane, only to lie down with exhaustion at the end of his gallop.
At last old age overcame him, and for some weeks before his death it was necessary to carry his food to him. On the 20th of December he breathed his last and was buried. On Christmas Day comrades Johnson and Hervey visited the farm and were shown his grave.
Proceedings were at once instituted to exhume the body, and in a little while that portion of the noble animal, which now adorns the post room, was in the hands of the committee. After considerable labor the head and neck were mounted on a slab, with the name and history of the animal emblazoned on its sides, and a laurel wreath tastefully ornamenting the neck. The figure has been tastefully hung on the walls of the post room, and the presentation was made in a Campfire abounding with music and a drum recitative by master Harry Wolfe, aged five years, a really fine affair. At the conclusion of the Campfire, an old-fashioned lunch was partaken of, consisting of hardtack, pork, beans, and coffee.