The Great Debate of 2024

Was George Gordon Meade aggressive enough in chasing Robert E. Lee’s army after the Battle of Gettysburg?

The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2024, All Rights Reserved


The January 2024 meeting of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable featured the annual Dick Crews Memorial Debate. The topic for debate was the question: “Was George Gordon Meade aggressive enough in chasing Robert E. Lee’s army after the Battle of Gettysburg?” Meade was criticized, including by President Abraham Lincoln, for not being sufficiently aggressive in pursuing Lee’s defeated Army of Northern Virginia after the Battle of Gettysburg. The 2024 Dick Crews Memorial Debate examined this question. Four debaters presented arguments in support of their stance on this question. Two debaters argued in favor of Meade, and two debaters argued against him. Below are the texts of those four arguments, along with moderator William Vodrey’s opening remarks.

Opening Remarks

By William F.B. Vodrey – debate moderator

We’re here tonight for the annual Dick Crews Memorial Debate, named after Dick Crews, my longtime predecessor as moderator. Dick once told me that the debate got its start as a Roundtable tradition because of the difficulty of finding speakers who were willing to travel to Cleveland in January. In moderating again tonight for, God help me, my 20th year, I stand on the shoulders of giants, including Dick.

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Was George Gordon Meade aggressive enough in chasing Robert E. Lee’s army after the Battle of Gettysburg? No

By Gary W. Taylor

Meade’s cautious pursuit of Lee instantly and energetically following the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 was one of the greatest errors and misfortunes of the Civil War. Let’s consider some facts following Meade’s successful defense of Cemetery Ridge on July 3rd:

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Was George Gordon Meade aggressive enough in chasing Robert E. Lee’s army after the Battle of Gettysburg? Yes

By William J. Toler

The question before us this evening is: “Was Meade aggressive enough in chasing Lee after Gettysburg?” How we define “aggressive enough” will certainly matter, and the consideration of “aggressive enough for whom” has mattered since July 1863.

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Was George Gordon Meade aggressive enough in chasing Robert E. Lee’s army after the Battle of Gettysburg? No

By Steve Pettyjohn

While not trying to be anti-climactic, the title of this debate suggests the answer. If Meade had been aggressive enough, we probably would be having a far different topic for our debate. Perhaps the topic would be something along the lines of “was poor U.S. Grant the forgotten hero of the Civil War?” We would be discussing the question of whether Grant’s contributions in the West were far overshadowed by “MEADE OF GETTYSBURG!” We would note that Meade eclipsed all other Civil War generals.

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Was George Gordon Meade aggressive enough in chasing Robert E. Lee’s army after the Battle of Gettysburg? Yes

By Chris Howard

I stand for the proposition that “Meade WAS aggressive enough in pursuing Lee after Gettysburg.” Let me first summarize some key issues, and then I will describe some aspects of Meade’s pursuit of Lee in more detail.

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Epilogue: At the conclusion of the debate, the Roundtable members chose Steve Pettyjohn’s argument as the most persuasive that George Meade was not aggressive enough in chasing Robert E. Lee’s army after the Battle of Gettysburg.