Rediscovering George Meade

Murray’s book will focus on lesser-known Union general

Dr. Jennifer Murray is on the journey to uncover the forgotten life and influence of a forgotten Civil War general.

Murray, a fifth-year professor of history at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, is in the process of writing her second book. The book, titled “Meade at War,” will give its readers a broader understanding of General George Meade, a Union leader who played a key role in the North’s victory at the battle of Gettysburg.

“George Meade is forgotten,” said Murray. “He commanded the Union army for a long time and there is not really a good book on him since the 1960’s. I want to give attention to a forgotten and very, very important Union General. He was ultimately responsible…for the Union victory.”

Murray is two years into her five-year process of writing her book. She is currently in the research stage of her project. She described looking through her documents as a tedious task because soldiers would write both parallel and perpendicular on one page due to the paper shortage.

“I do not like researching that well,” said Murray. “It is incredibly time consuming and you might not get a lot of good stuff from it.”

Murray is currently teaching the History 3000 course at UVa-Wise which allows her to go through researching and writing with her students and changing her perspective along the way.

Murray has traveled to the Pennsylvania State Historical Society in Philadelphia and the National Archives in Washington D.C. to observe and review the first-hand accounts of Meade’s life, specifically during the Civil War.

“I take my phone and snap photos of all his letters and I come back home and have thousands of PDF files to go through,” Murray said. She has begun to go through the thousands of documents she has collected, a tedious task that she plans to tackle in the next three years as she continues to write her book.

“It will be a biography but it won’t be a cradle to death… it will focus on the Civil War,” Murray said.

Murray’s first book, “On a Great Battlefield: The Making, Management, and Memory of Gettysburg National Military Park, 1933–2013”, as well as “Meade at War”, both originated from her time spent at the interning at Gettysburg National Military Park before her senior year of undergraduate school.

“I spent all summer talking about the Civil War and being outside on tours of the battlefield, and it was exciting,” Murray said. “It solidified for me my interest in history.”

Murray already had some knowledge of General Meade from her time spent at Gettysburg, a fact that led her to want to publish his biography. Murray believes that her internship at Gettysburg and experiencing history firsthand helped to develop her interest in the Civil War.

“I sort of felt sorry for him for the longest time because no one ever thought or heard of him while I was at Gettysburg,” Murray said.

Murray’s previous experiences include working as a historian for the Department of Defense in the Pentagon for a year before she took a job at UVa-Wise. Some of Murray’s other projects and research include a book chapter on a Nashville Civil War battle site and some journal articles. She is also currently working on a book about Virginia history in 1864, which is being published with Nebraska Press. “Meade” at War will be published with LSU Press.

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