Cautiously, President Lincoln Continues to Prod for Action

July 29, 1863

President Lincoln writes General-in-chief Henry W. Halleck regarding his continuing concern about the dilatory nature of General George Meade’s pursuit of Confederate General Robert E. Lee: “Seeing Gen. Meade despatch of yesterday to yourself, causes, me to fear that he supposes the government here is demanding of him to bring on a general engagement with Lee as soon as possible.  I am claiming no such thing of him.  In fact, my judgment is against it, which judgments, of course, I will yield if yours and his are the contrary.

If he could not safely engage Lee at Williamsport, it seems absurd to suppose he can safely engage him now, when he has scarcely more than two thirds of the force he had at Williamsport, while it must be, that Lee has been re-inforced.  True, I desired Gen. Meade to pursue Lee across the Potomac, hoping, as has been proved true, that he would thereby clear the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and get some advantages by harrassing him on his retreat.

These being past, I am unwilling he should now get into a general engagements on the impression that we here are pressing him; and i shall be glad for you to so inform him, unless your own judgment is against it.”

Halleck writes Meade: “I take this method of writing you a few words which I could not well communicate in any other way.”

Your fight at Gettysburg met with the universal approbation of all military men here.  You handled your troops in that battle as well, if not better, than any general handled his army during the war.  You brought all your forces into action at the right time and place, which no commander of the Army of the Potomac has done before.

You may well be proud of that battle.  The President’s order, or proclamation, of July 4, showed how much be appreciated your success.

And now a few words in regard to subsequent events.  You should not have been surprised or vexed at the President’s disappointment at the escape of Lee’s army.  He had examined into all the details of sending you re-enforcements, to satisfy himself that every man who could possibly be spared from other places had been sent to your army.  He thought that Lee’s defeat was so certain that he felt no little impatience at his unexpected escape.

I have no doubt, general, that you felt the disappointment as keenly as any one else. Such things sometimes occur to us without any fault of our own. Take it altogether, your short campaign has proved confidence of the Government and the gratitude of the country.

I need not assure you, general, that I have lost noe of the confidence which I felt in you when I recommended you for the command.

President Lincoln writes Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “Can we not renew the effort to organize a force to go to Western Texas? Please consult with the General-in-Chief on the subject. If the Governor of New-Jersey shall furnish any new regiments, might not they be put into such an expedition. Please think of it. I believe no local object is now more desirable.”

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Published in: on July 29, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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