1863/07 - President Lincoln's Unsent Letter to Major General George G. Meade After Gettysburg

1863/07 - President Lincoln's Unsent Letter to Major General George G. Meade After Gettysburg

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CivilWarTalk submitted a new resource:

President Lincoln's Unsent Letter to Major General George G. Meade After Gettysburg - "I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee's escape."

President Lincoln's Unsent Letter

to Major General George G. Meade

After Gettysburg


View attachment 392293This letter was written on July 14, 1863, the day that Lincoln learned that Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had escaped back across the Potomac and...

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jackt62

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I would say that Lincoln was stuck in the McClellan paradigm when it came to the pursuit of enemy forces by Meade. Lincoln had expected McClellan to pursue and "destroy" the ANV after the battle of Antietam, an event that did not occur for a month afterwards. Needless to say, Lincoln was either not sophisticated enough or was unwilling to understand military realities about the difficulties inherent in following up an enemy army; even Confederates Johnston and Beauregard understood that reality by not undertaking a pursuit of the defeated AotP after 1st Manassas.
 

Pete Longstreet

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I would say that Lincoln was stuck in the McClellan paradigm when it came to the pursuit of enemy forces by Meade. Lincoln had expected McClellan to pursue and "destroy" the ANV after the battle of Antietam, an event that did not occur for a month afterwards. Needless to say, Lincoln was either not sophisticated enough or was unwilling to understand military realities about the difficulties inherent in following up an enemy army; even Confederates Johnston and Beauregard understood that reality by not undertaking a pursuit of the defeated AotP after 1st Manassas.
I've often wondered this myself... or did his infatuation with putting down the rebellion cloud his judgement regarding military operations.
 

jackt62

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I've often wondered this myself... or did his infatuation with putting down the rebellion cloud his judgement regarding military operations.
It wasn't just a fixation about McClellan. Lincoln (and Halleck), badgered Buell to move on Bragg after Perryville. Similarly, the administration went after Rosecrans' in the months following Stones River. When those commanders did not pursue the enemy with enough vigor, both were relieved of their commands. (In Rosecrans' case, Lincoln waited until the disastrous setback at Chickamauga.) There was certainly a continuous mindset in the Lincoln administration to act swiftly, without necessarily giving the local commander sufficient discretion to mount operations when ready. This way of thinking started early on when Lincoln forced McDowell (and Scott), to act against Confederate forces near Manassas in the summer of 1861. Early on, I tend to believe that Lincoln was mostly concerned with putting down the rebellion expeditiously, and he was certainly beset with political pressure to do so. But later on, when it became apparent that the war would not be over so quickly, Lincoln's judgement was muddled because of a possible lack of complete trust in his commanders. Lincoln, of course, saw in Grant, a commander who did not need any prodding and was at the same time able to achieve victories; so Lincoln used Grant as the model for evaluating the other army commanders.
 

Private Lee

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Both Armies marched long distances to reach Gettysburg. And after three days of battle and insurmountable loses of personal. Mortal must have been at a low. Lack of sleep, low rations death all around. Two more fresh corps. would have been needed to make a pursuit. Lincoln was not from West Point or a military genius. He just wanted it to end. His handling of the peninsula campaign proved that he didn't know what he was up against trying to end the war early. Them southerners are tough. In my way of thinking Meade wasn't the right General but what happens happens.
 

Pete Longstreet

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It wasn't just a fixation about McClellan. Lincoln (and Halleck), badgered Buell to move on Bragg after Perryville. Similarly, the administration went after Rosecrans' in the months following Stones River. When those commanders did not pursue the enemy with enough vigor, both were relieved of their commands. (In Rosecrans' case, Lincoln waited until the disastrous setback at Chickamauga.) There was certainly a continuous mindset in the Lincoln administration to act swiftly, without necessarily giving the local commander sufficient discretion to mount operations when ready. This way of thinking started early on when Lincoln forced McDowell (and Scott), to act against Confederate forces near Manassas in the summer of 1861. Early on, I tend to believe that Lincoln was mostly concerned with putting down the rebellion expeditiously, and he was certainly beset with political pressure to do so. But later on, when it became apparent that the war would not be over so quickly, Lincoln's judgement was muddled because of a possible lack of complete trust in his commanders. Lincoln, of course, saw in Grant, a commander who did not need any prodding and was at the same time able to achieve victories; so Lincoln used Grant as the model for evaluating the other army commanders.
Well said. I've heard some historians say that Lincoln felt he started the war, and thus felt obligated to end it as soon as possible. He wanted constant pressure on the Confederate armies, and any lack of aggressiveness on the commanders part infuriated him. Even at the height of Grant's losses... Lincoln was kept satisfied with Grant because of his willingness to continue the offensive.
 

Pete Longstreet

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"This is a dreadful reminisces of McClellan. The same spirit that moved McClellan to claim a great victory because Pennsylvania and Maryland were safe. Will our generals never get that idea out of their heads. The whole country is our soil."

- Abraham Lincoln, July 14th 1863.
 

Pete Longstreet

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No matter how much evidence is presented to the contrary, there are still some historians, writers, etc. who believe that Lincoln started the war. No he did not.
I agree with that assessment.

Shelby Foote used the word "provoke". He was speaking of Lincoln's decision to reinforce Sumter. And referenced whether Lincoln actually knew of the two possible outcomes by the reinforcement of Sumter. Either the south would back down or he would provoke a war.
 

wausaubob

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It was a poorly thought out letter, because Meade had been in charge of the Army of the Potomac for days before the battle of Gettysburg. However the point was better expressed that the planning of the army must improve so that once the army makes contact with the enemy, the pressure is continuous. When Grant and Meade reviewed the actions of 1863, they seem to have concluded that Hooker should never have retreated from Chancellorsville, because if the army still was still capable of Gettysburg, it wasn't defeated as much as Hooker was personally embarrassed.
When the Army of the Potomac again invaded central Virginia in 1864, there was a plan to protect the wagon trains with an entire corps, and to have preliminary plans for transferring the logistical operation to river stations on the Chesapeake coast. When Grant and Meade proceeded in 1864, the transports were being gathered to perform multiple tasks. Plus Grant had experienced the Chattanooga operation and he knew that much more could be achieved with pontoons then had been accomplished in the east up to that point.
Moving a large army takes a tremendous amount of preparation.
 
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