We are gathered to honor the life of George Washington Meals, a soldier of the American Civil War, however in the larger sense we are also honoring the legacy of an American family. The progenitors of George Washington meals were among the first settlers of our nation. In the Mid-Eighteenth Century Samuel Meals, George’s Great Grandfather came to Pennsylvania, from the German Rhineland, seeking the opportunity to enjoy a new life and following the American Revolution the Meals family grew and prospered. Ultimately the family established itself in Adams County near the town of Gettysburg were George Washington Meal’s father Gabriel founded a monument works and George was born in 1840. While, I have no direct evidence of it, patriotism and love of country must have been taught in the Meals home for Gabriel Meal’s children were staunch patriots. In the nations hour of need George and his brother William both served in the Union Army and patriotism in the Meals family was not limited to the men but also ran deep in the character of the women of the family. George’s sister Lydia bravely confronted Confederate soldiers who had plundered her home during the early stages of the Battle of Gettysburg and was only constrained, from pummeling the confederate soldiers verbally, by the insistence of her mother to be quiet.
Today we specifically stand upon this sacred site to honor George Washington Meals, who served with Battery F, 4th United States Artillery. His unit saw many battles, but most significantly he was present at the battle of Gettysburg in 1863 where he stood on his own families land and saw action repelling Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd 1863. While we can never know his thoughts at that moment, I believe he undoubtedly understood the meaning of the situation. He was defending his home and the fate of the nation was hung in the balance. Only victory would be a sufficient outcome and so he persevered and gave his all to achieve it.
Now on behalf of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, I publicly thank the George Washington Meals and his entire family for their dedication to our nation and I am honored to stand at the graveside of a soldier, a patriot, an American to whom we owe thanks for his service to preserve the Union in its darkest hour.