Gilbert Simrall Meem


Gilbert Simrall Meem was born on October 5, 1824, in Abingdon, Virginia, the son of John Gaw and Eliza (Russell) Meem. His father, a Lynchburg banker, was descended from Peter Meem, who emigrated from Holland to Pennsylvania in 1756. In 1841 John Meem purchased the Steenbergen estate near Mount Airy, Virginia. Young Meem attended Edgehill Seminary, a Princeton University prep school, but on seeing the Mount Airy property, he abandoned further schooling in order to manage the estate. Gilbert Meem became noted as a breeder of livestock. A Democrat, Meem served two years in the Virginia House of Delegates (1852 to 1854). By his marriage to Nannie Rose, daughter of Hugh Garland, he became related to Generals Samuel Garland and James Longstreet.

In 1861 Meem was appointed a brigadier general to command the 7th Brigade, 3rd Division of the Virginia Militia, consisting of eight regiments from four Shenandoah Valley counties. Meem's brigade, part of James H. Carson's division, garrisoned Harpers Ferry in April, 1861. It was latet left to guard Winchester when Johnston's Valley army marched to the Bull Run battlefield. The unit, portions of which were mustered in throughout 1861, varied in strength from four hundred to three thousand men. In November, 1861, Stonewall Jackson called out Meem's entire brigade to assemble at Winchester. During Jackson's January, 1862, advance on Bath and Romney, Meem's brigade marched with the main army. After Jackson ejected Union troops from both towns he ordered Meem's brigade to move south and east to Mar-tinsburg to guard the right rear of his army. The brigade went into winter quarters there. On February 1, 1862, Meem resigned his general's commission. That resignation might have come about because of pressure from above. A letter in the OR hints that General Robert E. Lee had received "certain allegations in respect to [Meem's] habits and daily condition" (i.e., that he was an alcoholic) which would make him "not... a fit person for this responsibility." Meem returned to managing his family estates, although he held civil positions in Shenandoah County government during the war.

The Union authorities quickly issued a pardon to the old general after the war, noting that he had "the reputation of being a good orderly citizen." Meem remained in Mount Airy and continued his breeding operations. It was said that "he perhaps did more for the introduction and improvement of fine stock, esp. cattle and sheep, than anyone in the Valley of Virginia."' From 1871 to 1875 he served in the state senate. In 1892 he sold the Mount Airy property (Strathmore) and moved to Seattle, Washington. President Cleveland appointed Meem U.S. postmaster of Seattle, and Meem became one of that city's best-known citizens. General Meem died in Seattle on June 10, 1908, and is buried in Lake View Cemetery.

General Meem's command of a brigade of militia that served in a campaign qualifies him to be considered a Confederate general.

Previous Page

Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.