Saturday, July 6, 2013

July 6, 1863 (Tuesday): The President Is Dissatisfied

President Lincoln

SOLDIERS' HOME, [Washington,] July 6, 1863-7 p. m.
Major-General HALLECK:
    I left the telegraph office a good deal dissatisfied. You know I did not like the phrase, in Orders, Numbers 68, I believe, "Drive the invaders from our soil. " Since that, I see a dispatch from General French, saying the enemy is crossing his wounded over the river in flats, without saying why he does not stop it, or even intimating a thought that it ought to be stopped. Still later, another dispatch from General Pleasonton, by direction of General Meade, to General French, stating that the main army is halted because it is believed the rebels are concentrating "on the road toward Hagerstown, beyond Fairfield, " and is not move until it is ascertained that the rebels intend to evacuate Cumberland Valley.
    These things all appear to me to be connected with a purpose to cover Baltimore and Washington, and to get the enemy across the river again without a further collision, and they do not appear connected with a purpose to prevent his crossing and to destroy him. I do fear the former purpose is acted upon and the latter is rejected.
    If you are satisfied the latter purpose is entertained and is judiciously pursued, I am content. If you are not so satisfied, please look to it.

     Yours, truly,
     A. LINCOLN.

Gettysburg, July 6, 1863-2 p. m. (Received 9. 20 p. m.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
    Yesterday I sent General Sedgwick with the Sixth Corps in pursuit of the enemy toward Fairfield, and a brigade of cavalry toward Cashtown. General Sedgwick's report indicating a large force of the enemy in the mountains, I deemed it prudent to suspend the movement to Middletown until I could be certain the enemy were evacuating the Cumberland Valley. I find great difficulty in getting reliable information, but from all I can learn I have reason to believe the enemy is retreating, very much crippled, and hampered with his trains. General Sedgwick reported that the gap at Fairfield was very formidable, and would enable a small force to hold my column in check for a long time. I have accordingly resumed the movement to Middletown, and I expect by to-morrow night to assemble the army in that vicinity. Supplies will be then provided, and as soon as possible I will cross South Mountain, and proceed in search of the enemy. Your dispatch requiring me to assume the general command of the forces in the field under General Couch has been received. I know nothing of the position or strength of his command, excepting the advance under General Smith, which I have ordered here, and which I desire should furnish a necessary force to guard this place while the enemy is in the vicinity. A brigade of infantry and one of cavalry, with two batteries, will be left to watch the enemy at Fairfield, and follow them whenever they evacuate the gap. I shall send general instructions to General Couch to move down the Cumberland Valley as far as the enemy evacuates it, and keep up communications with me; but from all the information I can obtain, I do not rely on any active co-operation in battle with this force. If I can get the Army of the Potomac in hand in the Valley, and the enemy have not crossed the river, I shall give him battle, trusting, should misfortune overtake me, that a sufficient number of my force, in connection with what you have in Washington, would reach that place so as to render it secure. General Trimble, of the Confederate army, was to-day found wounded just outside of Gettysburg. General [J. L.] Kemper was found mortally wounded on the road to Fairfield, and a large number of wounded, estimated as several thousand. General Heth, Wade Hampton, Jenkins, and Pender are reported wounded. The losses
of the enemy were no doubt very great, and he must be proportionately crippled. My headquarters will be here to-night, and to-morrow I expect to be at Frederick. My cavalry have been attacking the enemy on both flanks, inflicting as much injury as possible.

     GEO. G. MEADE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 27, Part 3, Pages 567, 582.

Lincoln is so idolized by historians his very real deficiencies as commander in chief are overlooked.  The butcher's bill of 23,000 Union soldiers killed, wounded, and missing was not considered fully paid by the President because Meade failed to accomplish what any general in the war achieved, namely the complete destruction of his opponents army.  Meade could not be certain exactly where Lee was, so used up was his cavalry.  It was likely Lee would be defending the gaps in force. Lincoln as portrayed by today's historians and as represented in the letter to Meade are two different figures.  The President could be all his admirers claim, but he could also be petulant and short sighted.

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