camp meade

Let’s all just stop to appreciate the fact that Tench Tilghman was Washington’s Aide-de-camp for over seven years and was only a volunteer for four of those years and just how dedicated he was to his work. Washington stated in a letter that Tilghman didn’t want or believe he should have the same rank as Alexander Hamilton and Richard Kidder Meade and that he also didn’t want to get paid for any of his services, so he turned down any effort to do either of those things. He did the job because he wanted to do the job and wanted nothing in return for it. It was at the pressing of his fellow aides and also Washington’s insistence that he get recognition for all of his hard work since joining the staff, that Tench Tilghman was finally appointed an Official Aide-de-Camp on June 21, 1780 and maintained that position until nearly the end of the war. But that wasn’t enough for Washington. Not only did Washington want him to be an aide, he wanted Tilghman to be allowed to hold a line command as Lieutenant Colonel as well and petitioned Congress to grant it for him. They would finally grant it to him in May of 1781.

In the winter of 1780, he was the only aide at headquarters and did all of the work by himself. When Alexander Hamilton’s fight with Washington broke out on February 16, 1781, Hamilton stated to James McHenry in a letter that he’d quit but had to remain at headquarters working “till more help arrives. At present there is besides myself only Tilghman, who is just recovering from a fit of illness the consequences of too close application to business.” Tilghman had overworked himself so much that winter that it caused him to fall seriously ill and he was forced to take an almost month and a half long break the moment Hamilton returned to headquarters that January. Washington even set a rule in place afterward that stated no less than 3 aides be present at headquarters at all times in order to prevent something like it from happening again.

Tilghman’s modest and disinterested hard work deserves all of the recognition, regardless of what the man says.

A pretty, full-faced, youthful, playfull lass. —The family quakers, meek and unsuspicious. —Hamilton, thou shalt not tread on this ground —I mark it for my own. Enter not this circle.

Diary of James McHenry June 20th, 1778

I have been laughing at this entry for a solid five minutes now.


An example of Richard Kidder Meade’s handwriting when writing to his brother vs his handwriting when writing for Washington.

“A Morning Scene in a Hut” by James McHenry

Now through the camp the morning gun resounds:
Now, noisy Gibbs the nightly watch relieves
Up, up my sons! Grave Harrison exclaims,
( a learned clerk and not unknown to fame)
and forth displays large packets unexplored.
Tilghman, accustom’d to the well known voice,
Pulls up his stockings smiling and preludes
His daily labor with some mirthful stroke
But falls, like, down without inflicting pain.
Kidder of gentle soul, and courage true,
And dearly lov’d by all for worth most rare,
Such as in times of yore fill’d Bayard’s breast,
Uprose, to plead for others longer sleep.
But not might smooth the ancients care-worn brow
He restless would pace the hut & still
On Ham, and Henry call; congenial pair
Who in rough blankets wrapped snor’d loud defiance
To packets huge, to morning gun & Gibbs!
Fort oft in gamesome mood these twain combin’d
To tease Sctarius through him they pris’d
Next to the chief who holds the reins of War.

Source: Diary of the year 1778 by James McHenry

Robert Hanson Harrison calling them “my sons” when demanding that they wake up and get their asses moving. Tench Tilghman already getting himself ready but tripping and falling (he is unharmed). Richard Kidder Meade sitting up and asking that they be allowed to sleep for a little bit longer because he is the best. Harrison being undeterred and gets referred to as “The ancient” (There it is again! Calling him Ancient!! It was more than just John Laurens!) as he paced and tried to get Alexander Hamilton and McHenry to get up but Hamilton and McHenry are protesting the large packets of new letters Harrison has brought for them, the wake-up guns, Caleb Gibbs being noisy, and just not wanting to get up for work in general by wrapping themselves up tighter in their blankets and snoring louder just to tease Harrison.

This brings me joy. Everything about this is 10/10. Anything that gives us a glimpse of life at headquarters for the aides, in general, is a 10/10. 


For those of you here who might not know who my boy Meade is, here’s a quick run down:

Richard Kidder Meade was born on July 14th, 1746 and was an Aide-de-camp to George Washington from March 12th, 1777 until October of 1780. Meade departed on leave to get married but was never able to return to headquarters because Benedict Arnold had brought the war to his doorstep.

Meade had an intimate, brotherly relationship with both Alexander Hamilton and John Laurens. Meade was the one mentioned when Hamilton famously wrote Laurens saying “I hate Congress—I hate the army—I hate the world—I hate myself. The whole is a mass of fools and knaves; I could almost except you and Meade.” and Laurens once wrote Meade, closing off his letter with “I embrace you tenderly: my eyes are sore, my body and mind fatigued by an uninterrupted flow of business, but as long as they exist, my friendship for you will burn with that pure flame which is kindled by your virtues_”

Meade and Hamilton maintained a loose correspondence for the rest of their lives, hindered only by the distance between them with Meade living in Virginia and Hamilton in New York. This is remarkable because both Meade and Hamilton were poor letter writers, Meade not a fan of writing letters and preferring face-to-face, and Hamilton notoriously bad at maintaining correspondence with anyone of distance away from him. When news of Hamilton’s death reached Meade in Virginia, he fell into a depression. It was suspected enough to even appear in his obituary that he’d continued mourning the death of his friend that he regretted he never got the chance to see just one more time until he himself died seven months later on February 9th, 1805. 

If you want to become even more familiar with who Meade is, you’re in luck because I’m writing a biography on him for fun. I didn’t finish it today like I’d hoped I would, but this thing is ~14k+ words long and I’m only about halfway through the war so this sucker is going up in parts. Part One will be going up today and will take us up to his invitation to become an Aide-de-Camp and then I might be able to squeeze in Part Two as well if I manage to finish up his time as an aide by tonight. Part Three will go up as soon as it’s finished and, when all three parts are done and posted, I’ll be making an additional post that will contain the whole thing altogether. 

Once again, Happy Birthday to Richard Kidder Meade!!!! I am well aware that this is probably the first time that anyone in the last two centuries has ever celebrated your birthday, so Happy 271st Birthday.

While all the aides seemed to be friendly with each other, there apparently was an intimate inner circle at headquarters composed of Harrison, Tilghman, Hamilton, Laurens, Gibbs, and Meade. Their personal letters to each other are full of affection and good humor.
—  Lefkowitz George Washington’s Indispensable Men

I had a long drive today and Hamilton was finishing up towards the start of it. I haven’t cried listening to Hamilton in months, but today when “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” was playing and the line “I interview every soldier who fought by your side (She tells our stories)” played I started crying because I remembered how Richard Kidder Meade died 7 months after Hamilton on February 9, 1805 and in his son William’s autobiography William states that Hamilton’s death weighed very heavily on his father’s mind until, he believed, the hour of his father’s own death. Eliza never would have been able to interview him about Hamilton. Then after that, it all cascaded when I remembered that John Laurens died in 1782, Tench Tilghman in 1786, Robert Hanson Harrison in 1790, and then John Fitzgerald and George Washington in 1799. So Eliza never got to interview every soldier who fought at Alexander’s side and that’s probably why we don’t really know many specifics about his time as an aide. All of his fellow aides he worked closely with had either died before him or soon after him with the exceptions of James McHenry, Caleb Gibbs, and George Lewis and I just got sad and couldn’t stop thinking about it for the rest of the drive.

Shit now I’m thinking about those letters in which it was revealed that Betsey, Hamilton, Meade, and Molly were talking about their babies, Philip and Ann, getting married when they were older so that the four of them could legally be related to each other because they already considered themselves to be family, and how Eliza had even said that she considered Meade to be her brother and Molly to be her sister even though they’d never met before?? And then the time Hamilton essentially said that the four of them made the perfect group for double dates?? And just… all of that dreaming of a future in which they could see each other all the time, hang out whenever they wanted to, and go on double dates, but knowing in the backs of their minds that none of it would ever happen and yet fantasizing about it anyway… Then there are all of those expressed regrets that they have to live so far away from each other and that the last letter we have on record being Meade telling Hamilton that Ann had just gotten married and that he hoped it was happily and I just– why do I do this to myself????

On Founders, there are six letters from Alexander Hamilton (by order of Washington) that were straight up written/drafted by Richard Kidder Meade for Hamilton’s signature, and once Meade just went ahead and signed the letter “AH, ADC” on the draft for him. In the first of those letters, Hamilton’s handwriting just abruptly ended in the middle of the second sentence and Meade picked up from there. Then on top of that, there are also seventeen of Washington’s letters on Founders that were written/drafted by both Meade and Hamilton. 

Age Comparison for Some Aides

In 1776, Tench Tilghman was 32, Robert Hanson Harrison - 31, Richard Kidder Meade - 30, David Humphreys - 24, James McHenry - 23, John Laurens - 22, and Alexander Hamilton - 21/19

When David Meade moved to Kentucky in 1796, he wrote that the only people he sorely missed now that he was so far removed from Virginia were his brother: Richard Kidder Meade, one of their sisters: “Nancy” Anne, and his best friend: Joseph Prentis.

I was like Aww and then I remembered that I still can’t figure out if Meade considered David or Everard to be his favorite brother. I know he had one because he’s said as much but we can only speculate between the two

As great as Lefkowitz’s George Washinton’s Indispensable Men is, his research into the backgrounds of the aides-de-camp is kinda wanting at times. His single paragraph about Meade is incredibly lazy and gets several facts wrong. He didn’t even bother to look for any primary sources for Meade when he did his research on him. He references Kahler’s Thesis on the aides-de-camp, the Hamilton Papers (for one of their letters), and the Register of Officers of the Continental Army (for the date of his captain’s commission). If he’d just put a little more effort into it and did a little bit more of his own research then he wouldn’t be saying Meade “probably studied elsewhere in England as well” because he’d know that Richard Kidder Meade attended two different schools around London and that Harrow wasn’t his primary school of attendance (but was his brother’s), that being Captain of the 2nd Virginia Regiment in October of 1775 wasn’t his first action of the Revolutionary War (That was teaming up with James Monroe and 22 other dudes to steal weapons from Lord Dunmore and then forming a militia), that Meade’s first wife’s name was Elizabeth–not Jane, and that Elizabeth died in January of 1774 not just “sometime before 1780,” among other things. 

I did this pen and ink drawing awhile back (coolkenack) when the famous Clan of the Elk were creating havoc in camp. There was no mead anywhere to be found.