Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Celebrating New Year's with a glass of Meade?

General George Meade
Okay, I have a confession to make. I have repeated a story for years, and I just found out that it is not true! I’d be the first to admit that I seldom let facts get in the way of telling a good story, but in all honesty, this tale was so good, I guess I just wanted to believe it! The story goes that each New Year’s Eve, a group of people calling themselves "The General Meade Society," has a midnight champagne toast at General George Meade’s grave site, which is located in Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery. General George Gordon Meade was of course the commander of the Union Army at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War; his birthday was December 31, 1815 (New Year’s Eve). He died in Philadelphia in 1872.

 Memorial Day (2014) gun salute by reenactors at Meade's grave site, Laurel Hill Cemetery

Turns out that the midnight champagne birthday toast at his grave site on New Year's Eve does not actually occur. I got the day right, but not the time! I was searching for details today, thinking that I might attend the toast after hearing about it for so many years. I checked Laurel Hill’s website and found this information:

The annual General Meade Birthday Celebration will mark the 199th anniversary of the birth of General George G. Meade, commander of the Union Army at the Battle of Gettysburg. A parade of Civil War re-enactors, civilians in period attire, special dignitaries, heritage groups and participants will advance to Meade’s final resting place and memorialize his services to his nation. A 21-gun salute and champagne toast will cap off the program at graveside, and will be followed by a reception in the Cemetery Gatehouse. A tour of historic Laurel Hill will be offered following the festivities (weather permitting). This year holds special significance as we continue to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War.
The event will take place on Wednesday, December 31 at 12:00pm, departing from Laurel Hill Cemetery’s Gatehouse entrance at 3822 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19132. Free parking is located in the lot across the street from the Gatehouse.

Free and open to the public; a $10 donation in support of Laurel Hill Cemetery’s work and preservation is suggested and would be much appreciated. Additional information can be found by calling (215) 228-8200.

Ge. George Meade's grave marker, Laurel Hill Cemetery
After reading this, I realized that I didn’t know if "Wednesday, December 31 at 12:00pm" meant midnight, or noon! I really was not sure. Bear in mind that I'm getting up in age - I just turned 56, which is, oddly, the age at which Meade died. Would they really have a 21-gun salute and a tour in the cemetery at midnight? So I called Laurel Hill Cemetery and was told that, no, this will not happen at midnight, but at noon. In fact, the event has always been held at noon! So, to all the people to whom I have repeated this "midnight toast" nonsense to over the years, I sincerely apologize. Happy New Year!

References and Further Reading:

The General Meade Society

Photo at top of article is from The General Meade Society website