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The hero of Gettysburg, Meade had seen extensive service with the Union army in the eastern theater of the war up through July of 1863. Yet Lincoln was highly dissatisfied with Meade in spite of the victory. Watch the video below, and study the Wordle above (which is populated with words both from a letter Lincoln wrote to Meade, and one Lee wrote to Jefferson Davis) to explore the reasons Lincoln was upset with his general.


For further study, explore the images and documents listed below and consider the following question: To what extent was Lincoln justified in his conduct towards Meade?

For further study:

Consider the documents below as a complement to the resources above in order to build a better picture of what happened at Gettysburg and if Meade was right to make the decisions that he did. For more critical analysis, look at the questions posed in the Resources section of the website.


Source A An excerpt from They Met At Gettysburg, by Edward Stackpole, published 1982. Pages 309-310. Retrieved from Google Books 

The march tables of the Army of the Potomac, from Sunday, July 5, to Sunday, July 12, afford eloquent testimony to the sluggishness with which Meade inched after Lee. The Confederate army took two days to travel the 34 miles from Gettysburg to Hagerstown, while the Federal columns used up eight days in following a longer route measuring approximately 70 miles. The timidity of the pursuit was such that an uninformed observer might well have come to the conclusion that a ferocious animal was waiting around the corner, crouched and ready to spring on the back of 'the pursuer.' In actuality, as Meade must have known or should have deduced, Lee was short of ammunition, loaded with impedimenta, wounded, and prisoners, and was in no condition to resume the offensive. Had Meade pressed the pursuit vigorously...there was more than an even chance that he could have delivered a knockout blow before the Potomac subsided sufficiently to allow Lee to recross into Virginia.


Source B An excerpt from Generals in Blue and Gray, by Wilmer Jones, published by Stackpole Books, 2005. Page 293. Retrieved from Google Books


Meade had fought the Battle of Gettysburg with great tactical skill. He placed his troops well and used his reserves effectively, fighting a completely defensive battle and launching no counterattacks. At first, Lincoln was jubilant when he learned that Lee's final attack had failed and the Confederates were retreating. But when he learned that Meade had had victory within his grasp and did not pursue the enemy, he was frustrated and depressed.


Lincoln believed that, if Meade could destroy the retreating enemy, the war could end. Halleck disagreed with Lincoln on this point. Unaggressive himself, Halleck believed Meade was acting properly by cautiously following Lee and using his army to shield Washington. Nevertheless, following Lincoln's directions, Halleck directed Meade to strike the Confederates before they crossed the Potomac.


Source C An excerpt from Pennsylvania at Gettysburg, 50th Anniversary Ceremonies, written by Paul L. Roy. W.S. Ray, State Printer, 1914, page 86. Retrieved from Google Books.


General Meade was harshly and most unjustly critised for his management of the battle of Gettysburg. He was censured for not pursuing and destroying Lee's army. In a conversation in Philadelphia with General Meade some eight years after the battle, I asked him whether, with all the knowledge he had subsequently received of the strength and movements of the Confederate Army, and of his ability to attack Lee on his retreat, he felt that he was justified in doing as he did after the battle.


He replied in nearly these words: 'I am fully convinced that the course I pursued was right. If I had attempted to attack Lee on his retreat, in his stronghold along the Potomac, the result might have been disastrous to the Union cause; and all the fruits of our victory have been lost. It was too great a risk to take, and I am satisfied that I did right in not forcing another battle at that time, in the exhausted condition of our troops. You know how hard General Lee tried to crush General McClellan's army in the Seven Days' Battles, but he failed to do it under much more favorable circumstances than those that existed with the Union troops after the battle of Gettysburg.


Source D An excerpt from Gettysburg, by Stephen W. Sears, published by Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Pages 484-86. Retrieved from Google Books.


The source is describing Federal impressions of Lee's defensive line near the Potomac after the Federal victory at Gettysburg.  'Alexander' refers to Confederate general Edward Porter Alexander.


Union officer Henry Abbott had to compliment the Rebels: "The same night that they arrived they made their defences and their position became identically that of ours at Gettysburg, and theirs ours."


While it might have appeared to Yankee observers as the work of one night, this battle line was in fact the work of several nights and days. The troops as they arrived did most of the digging, and they did it enthusiastically; there was nothing they wanted more than to be attacked and to gain some revenge. In that event they could have shouted 'Gettysburg! Gettysburg!' just as the Yankees had shouted 'Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!' a few days earlier. Alexander would write that the Yankees' pursuit reminded him of a mule chasing a grizzly bear--'as if catching up with us was the last thing he wanted to do.' Of course, Alexander, like his comrades, had desperately wanted them to catch up: 'And, as we got things into shape, oh! how we all did wish that the enemy would come out in the open and attack us, as we had done them at Gettysburg.'

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