MUNCY - It can be tough adjusting from the 1800s to the 2000s. Just ask Gen. George G. Meade, who came back from the dead to ride to Muncy and talk about his contribution to history.
"I almost killed my horse riding up here from Philadelphia," Meade, portrayed by Civil War preservationist Anthony Waskie, said Sunday afternoon at the Muncy Historical Society event. "I didn't realize Pennsylvania is so big."
The presentation was a program of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, sponsored in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. In addition to the presentation, historical society volunteers displayed local Civil War memorabilia from a private collection.
Gen. George G. Meade, portrayed by Civil War preservationist Anthony Waskie, stepped out of history and into the First United Methodist Church in Muncy on Sunday to give visitors recounts of his career and personal life, highlighting events that occurred around the Civil War. Visitors had the opportunity to listen as well as view a Civil War exhibit and enjoy refreshments.
Waskie shared how Meade designed the Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City, N.J., which he said was a ridiculous name since it only has three cities.
"The poor Irish workers are always gambling," Meade said. "I hope that doesn't continue."
Meade spoke quickly and expertly about his life, from his birth to American parents in Spain, to his death in Philadelphia on Nov. 6, 1872, from old wound complications, combined with pneumonia.
His father was a U.S. diplomat at the end of the Napoleonic period. His father accumulated a fortune, but lost some of it from unpaid debts.
"Do not loan money to a king," Meade said. "They are very slow to pay it back, if ever."
After his father died, his mother could not afford to send him to the University of Pennsylvania, where he wanted to go. Instead, he went to military school.
"I detested it," Meade said. "Unfortunately, when it came time to apply to go to higher education ... it was too expensive. I hope that doesn't continue in the future."
He did not graduate with high enough marks to automatically go into engineering, which he considered his passion. Instead, he spent his obligatory year to pay off education debts in Florida, fighting against the Seminole American Indians before honorably resigning.
"Horrible place," Meade said. "No one should go there. Horrible beasts. Vapors. Everyone assigned to Florida took sick from the vapors."
It was after his honorable resignation that he went into engineering, constructing nine lighthouses on the Eastern coast, in addition to learning about topography and construction projects.
Thanks to the "government, blessed be the government, of course," if he wanted to continue working as an engineer, he had to request a commission in the U.S. Army.
He received the spot and continued doing what he loved until he was sent to Gen. Zachary Taylor as an engineer because of disputes between Texas and Mexico, about where the boundaries laid.
After the war, he returned to Florida to build lighthouses in Kissimmee.
"Horrible piece of land," Meade said. "It will never be worth anything."
In 1856, he was promoted to captain, which always was challenging. In those days, captains did not receive pensions, so they stayed in the position until they died.
Still, while he was happy working as an engineer, Meade could see the political disputes between the north and the south, with the south wishing to become its own country.
He said he was available for combat command but did not hear anything right away.
The first battle of the Civil War happened at Manassas, Va., with thousands of deaths.
Meade entered the war after it, given command of the second brigade of the Pennsylvania troops, which included men from Muncy.
"I hope they're still alive and well," Meade said. "I'm not sure what year it is."
The battles continued.
At Glendale, he was shot twice when he turned around to shout encouragement to the troops he led. He did not lose consciousness until he gave commands for someone else to lead the men. He was taken to a brigade surgeon a mile away and recovered.
He returned to the war and continued leading men, including defending Pennsylvania when Gen. Robert E. Lee tried to take the state for the Confederates.
The governor called for troops, but there were none, so a militia was assembled, including men from Muncy.
"Maybe some of you were called out of your jobs," Meade said. "(The Muncy men were) good soldiers, but drink too much hard whiskey. I don't know where they get it from."
The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the war. After it, President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address.
The war was "not to preserve a union, but to free an enslaved race," Meade said. "This document was about eliminating the scourge of racism."
At 3 a.m. on June 28, when Meade's men were asleep, a staff officer from Washington burst into his tent.
"My first thought was that I was under arrest," Meade said. "'General, I have bad new from the president.'"
Meade, fourth in command at the time, was ordered to become the commander of the Army.
"I had to accept," Meade said. "Imagine the burden suddenly placed on my shoulders."
He was asked to defeat Lee, even though no one had done it in a year. He did not know where Lee was. He did not even know where his men were. He only knew where the troops he already was leading were.
"Imagine the political results," Meade said. "A defeat could end the country."
The Confederates were in the northern part of the state and Meade led his army from the southern part. When they met in the middle, 52,000 men were killed, wounded, captured or missing over the three-day battle, but Lee was defeated and returned to Virginia.
Meade explained the reason that he is not on the $50 bill, or more well-known, is because Ulysses S. Grant made his headquarters with the Army of Potomac, which Meade led.
"The second-in-command does all of the work and gets none of the credit," Meade said.