Monday, July 29, 2013

July 29, 1863: Lincoln tells Halleck to ease up on Meade

In the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln had pressed hard on Major General George G. Meade to aggressively pursue the retreating Confederates, hoping to destroy Lee's army before it could get back across the Potomac River. On this day 150 years ago, Lincoln instructed Major General Halleck to ease up on Meade, fearing that Meade might feel too much pressure to attack Lee.
Executive Mansion,
Major General Halleck: Washington, July 29, 1863.

Seeing Gen. Meade's 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 judgment, 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 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 engagement 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.

Yours truly A. LINCOLN.
Lincoln didn't want another Battle of Fredericksburg or Battle of Chancellorsville. With Lee back on Virginia soil, Lincoln became wary of the Gray Fox laying a trap for Meade.

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