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General Meek's Place

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General John H. Meeks

 

Said to have been “twelve miles east of Falcon, Tennessee” ...what significance was “General Meek's Place” to the Picket Skirmish of April 4th 1862?

Bonus: Where was General Meek's Place in rough cardinal direction and distance from Shiloh Church?

Added Bonus: Why was John Henderson Meeks called "General" Meeks?

Note: Above likeness found on Google Images.

 

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The above map by Atwell Thompson was created in 1901 and can be found in the back of early editions of Major D. W. Reed's "Battle of Shiloh and the Organizations Engaged." Positive attributes of this map include: shows accurate location of Wallace Bridge over Snake Creek; shows accurate relationship of Tilghman Branch with Owl Creek; shows the route of the Shunpike; shows the route of the Adamsville - Corinth Road; shows the location of Confederate rendezvous (Mickey's); indicates the location of Owl Creek Bridge (on Hamburg and Purdy Road.) And it is one of the few maps that shows Falcon Tennessee and the location of General Meek's Place.

The main shortcoming: it does not indicate Dill Branch.

 

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Brigadier General W. T. Sherman in his report of 5 April 1862 includes the following: “The enemy is in some considerable force at Pea Ridge... they halted infantry and artillery at a point about five miles in my front, and sent a detachment [of cavalry] to the lane of General Meeks, on the north of Owl Creek... This cavalry captured a part of our advance pickets...”

[This is why knowing the location of General Meek's Place is important.]

 

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The Importance of General Meeks

 

A scan of available sources (OR 10 parts 1 & 2; Papers of US Grant; Memoirs of General Grant) turns up no ready reference to General Meeks and his interaction with the Federal Army and its encampment focused on Pittsburg Landing. Yet, Sherman's Official Report of the Picket Skirmish of 4 APR 1862 mentions “the Lane of General Meeks” in relation to the site of the Picket Post of the 70th OVI ...and where the incident of April 4th was initiated. So W. T. Sherman had some knowledge regarding John H. Meeks, if only of his location.

[And it is curious that General Sherman does not mention clearly WHERE this Meek's Lane was sited, in relation to the Pittsburg Encampment; but perhaps this was merely oversight, deemed unimportant.]

But, as it turns out, there are numerous references to General Meeks in the Papers of US Grant, volumes 4 & 5 ...one simply has to know where to look (and realize that Generals Grant and Sherman frequently misspelled that man's last name as MEAKS.) Upon review:

  • Officers [likely Cavalry assigned to Sherman's Division] visited General Meek's Place on Saturday 22 March 1862 and took into custody John H. Meeks and visitors named Wilson, Farnsworth and Peterson [Papers of USG vol.4 pg.426].

  • The above prisoners were subsequently turned over to Major General Grant, and transported to Savannah. Upon interrogation, General Grant determined (was assured by Meeks) that none of them were associated with the Rebel cause; none of them were members of the Rebel army.

  • A 26 March 1862 communication MGen Grant to MGen C.F. Smith directed: “The return of property of General Meeks, taken from him without authority, and the property of those others visiting his home (Messrs Farnsworth, Wilson and Peterson) is to be returned... I am sorry there is a propensity on the part of our Officers to arrest citizens whenever they are found [wandering about] ...It is embarrassing to have prisoners against whom there are no charges... [I am concerned about the appearance that there may be] spies within our lines.”

  • On 26 March, also, a memo from Grant to Sherman expressed displeasure with the operation to take away cotton from General Meek's Place, during which one of his buildings was briefly threatened by fire. An admonition is advanced to “treat our men harshly, who exceed the authority granted them in Orders” [page 426].

  • [ In addition the arrest of General Meeks was of concern to Bushrod Johnson, who reported that occurrence on 24 MAR 1862 – see page 426 note at top.]

  • On 28 March General Sherman replied to Grant's March 26 memo [page 426 notes] “Col. McDowell and Colonel Taylor have satisfied me that no harsh treatment was administered, or intended. It is the Enemy who is burning cotton and stealing horses... Captain Harland is under arrest for bringing in the other prisoners (besides General Meeks, which was ordered) ...I recommend he receive an admonition for exceeding his orders, and be released.”

  • Rawlins wrote the admonition for Captain Harland 6th Iowa Infantry on March 28; and Harland was returned to duty [page 427 note].

  • On 1 April 1862 a reconnaissance was performed by Major Ricker and his 5th OVC along the Monterey Road and in vicinity of General Meek's Place. Evidence of a large force of enemy cavalry in vicinity of General Sherman's front was uncovered, with size of enemy force estimated at about 200 horsemen. The tracks appeared fresh; the 5th OVC pursued south about three miles and encountered the rear of the cavalry force, and had a brief engagement, hurrying the enemy on. Ricker then returned his force to camp via the Owl Creek Road (which appears on the above map commencing just east of Mickey's and running NE past Moore's.) See Papers of USG vol.5 pages 345 – 346.

  • [The 70th Ohio Picket Post was attacked early afternoon of Friday 4 April 1862. It is likely this post occupied a building in vicinity of intersection of the Purdy – Pittsburg Road and the Lane to General Meek's Place – see SDG topic “Friday 4 April and the Picket Skirmish” and General Grant's Report in Papers of USG vol.5 pages 13 – 16.]

  • In the aftermath of the Battle of Shiloh, General Sherman was ordered by General Grant to “Bring in General Meeks, as I was convinced that he has been playing us false. A Federal reconnaissance was sent onto Meek's Place, but he had already cleared out for Mississippi” [from report of General Sherman of 18 APR 1862 in Papers of USG vol.5 pp.354 – 355.]

 

References:

OR 10 pages 89 – 90: Sherman's report.

Papers of USG vol.4 pages 425, 426, 426 (notes top and bottom), 427 (note at top).

Papers of USG vol.5 pages 9 – 12 (notes), 13 – 16, 345 – 6, 354 – 5.

 

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