Henry Meigs Meade had his hands full in 1864. The 24-year-old Navy paymaster was designated as the lone disbursing officer for all of the federal vessels in the regional fleet along the North Carolina coast. It fell to Meade to balance the ledger books in a challenging theater of operations.
Meanwhile, his superiors held him to strict accountability from the comforts of Washington, D.C. Added to his burden; Meade was also placed in charge of the delivery and distribution of gunpowder on his own vessel, the gunboat Mattabesett
Meade hailed from a patriotic family with deep military roots. His uncle, Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, commanded the Army of the Potomac during the war. Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs was his third cousin. Two of his brothers were career officers in the Navy and Marines.
By all accounts, Meade did the best he could in North Carolina. But when his yearlong stint on the Mattabesett ended in May 1865, clothing and other small items valued at $1052.53 were missing. Still, he was allowed to remain in the peacetime Navy. A series of mishaps resulted in his dismissal in 1872—and a $2,545.43 bill from the Treasury Department for monies unaccounted for during his entire service.
Friends and former shipmates lobbied the Navy and Congress to clear Meade’s name. When matters were finally settled seven years later, the dismissal was revoked and replaced with his formal resignation. And, the bill was dismissed. In its official report, the Committee on Naval Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives stated of Meade’s wartime accounts, “It was impossible under the circumstances, amidst the excitement and confusion of the frequent engagements by the fleet with the enemy, to avoid such losses.
His honor restored, Meade lived out his days in Washington.
The lifespan of Meade men tended to be less than the average. Henry Meigs Meade died at age 57 in 1897.
This portrait is part of the Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) Book Project. Established by Jim Quinlan, owner of The Excelsior Brigade, its mission is to identify approximately 15,000 Civil War veterans interred on the hallowed grounds of the cemetery, and to provide a biographical sketch and photograph of each individual. If you have an image to share, or would like more information about the ANC project, please contact Jim at 703-307-0344.