Back to South Mountain (July 10, 1863)

July 10, 1863, found Meade still in pursuit of the Confederate army. He wrote to his wife from the Mountain House, in South Mountain’s Turner’s Gap. (The building is still there on Alt. Rt. 40 and today operates as the South Mountain Inn.)

I have been so busy I could not write. You must depend on George for letters.

Lee has not crossed and does not intend to cross the river, and I expect in a few days, if not sooner, again to hazard the fortune of war. I know so well that this is a fortune and that accidents, etc., turn the tide of victory, that, until the question is settled, I cannot but be very anxious. If it should please God again to give success to our efforts, then I could be more tranquil. I also see that my success at Gettysburg has deluded the people and the Government with the idea that I must always be victorious, that Lee is demoralized and disorganized, etc., and other delusions which will not only be dissipated by any reverse that I should meet with, but would react in proportion against me. I have already had a very decided correspondence with General Halleck upon this point, he pushing me on, and I informing him I was advancing as fast as I could. The firm stand I took had the result to induce General Halleck to tell me to act according to my judgment. I am of opinion that Lee is in a strong position and determined to fight before he crosses the river. I believe if he had been able to cross when he first fell back, that he would have done so; but his bridges being destroyed, he has been compelled to make a stand, and will of course make a desperate one. The army is in fine spirits, and if I can only manage to keep them together, and not be required to attack a position too strong, I think there is a chance for me. However, it is all in God’s hands. I make but little account of myself, and think only of the country.

The telegram I sent you was because I could not write, and I thought it would make you easy to know we were well. George,1 I suppose, has written you what a narrow escape he had. I never knew of it till last night. His horse was struck with a piece of shell, killing him, and coming so near George as to carry away a part of the back of his saddle. This was on the 3d, just after we had repulsed the last assault, when I rode up to the front, and George was the only officer with me.

Meade and Halleck also kept communicating.

Meade to Halleck, July 10, 1863, 1 P. M.

MeadeThe information received to-day indicates that the enemy occupy positions extending from the Potomac, near Falling Water, through Downsville to Funkstown and to the northeast of Hagerstown, Ewell’s Corps being to the northeast of Hagerstown, Longstreet’s at Funkstown and A. P. Hill’s on their right. These positions they are said to be intrenching.

I am advancing on a line perpendicular to the line from Hagerstown to Williamsport, and the Army will this evening occupy a position extending from the Boonsboro and Hagerstown road, at a point one mile beyond Beaver Creek, to Bakersville, near the Potomac. Our cavalry advance this morning drove the enemy’s cavalry, on the Boonsboro pike, to within a mile of Funkstown, when the enemy deployed a large force and opened a fire from heavy guns (20-pounders).

I shall advance cautiously on the same line to-morrow until I can develop more fully the enemy’s position and force, upon which my future operations will depend.

General Smith is still at Waynesboro; a dispatch was received from him at that place, this morning. Instructions similar to those of yesterday were sent to him.

Halleck to Meade: July 10, 9 P. M.

halleckI think it will be best for you to postpone a general battle till you can concentrate all your forces and get up your reserve and reinforcements. I will push on the troops as fast as they arrive. It would be well to have staff officers at the Monocacy to direct the troops arriving where to go and see that they are properly fitted out. They should join you by forced marches. Beware of partial combats, bring up and hurl upon the enemy all your forces, good and bad.

Meade’s correspondence taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 133-4 and 311. Available via Google Books.

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