Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 15, 1863 (Saturday): Meade Retreats Against Advice

Centerville (National Archives)

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, Centerville, October 15, 1863-12 m. (Received 1. 45 p. m.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
    Generals Warren and Sykes were successfully withdrawn last night, and the army is now at Union Mills, Centerville, Chantilly, and Fairfax Court-House, awaiting the movements of the enemy. The cavalry is out on the flank and the front, endeavoring the ascertain the position and movements of the enemy. General Warren engaged yesterday Heth's division, of Hill's corps, inflicting serious injury on it, taking 5 guns and 450 prisoners. Among the prisoners are soldiers just from Charleston. The reports of the prisoners are that Hill's and Ewell's corps, re-enforced to a reported strength of 80,000, are advancing on me, their plan being to secure the Bull Run field in advance of me. They started five days ago with seven days' rations with the men and large supply trains.
     I am unable to surmise whether Lee will await opening his communication with Gordonsville, or whether he will continue his advance. In the latter case, I suppose he will turn me again, probably by the right, with his back to the mountain, in which case I shall either fall on him or retire nearer Washington, according as his movements indicate the probability of his being able to concentrate more rapidly than I can. I have ordered General King, with such of his troops as are at Fairfax Court-House and Station, to report to Major-General Sykes, Fifth Corps.

      GEO. G. MEADE,
      Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 29, Part 2, Page 326.

Meade here displays a want of energy.  He had been admonished earlier in the day by Halleck that Lee surely did not have sufficient force to be playing such a bold hand and urged Meade to attack him.  The previous day A.P. Hill had stumbled into Warren's Corp at Bristoe Station and come out much the worse for wear.  Instead, Meade continued to fall back toward the defenses of Washington.

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