July 18, 1863

This photo of a pontoon bridge over the Potomac River was taken in October 1862, when George McClellan began his pursuit of Lee after Antietam (Library of Congress).

This photo of a pontoon bridge over the Potomac River was taken in October 1862, when George McClellan began his pursuit of Lee after Antietam (Library of Congress).

On July 18 Meade wrote another letter to his wife from Berlin, Maryland, on the banks of the Potomac.

I try to send you a few lines every chance I can get, but I find it very difficult to remember when I have written. I don’t think I told you that on my way here, three days ago, I stopped and called on Mrs. Lee (Miss Carroll that was), who lives about six miles from this place. Mrs. Lee received me with great cordiality, insisted on my dining with her and daughter, which I did, and had a very nice time, it being quite refreshing to be once more in the presence of ladies, surrounded with all the refinements and comforts of home. I wish, if you see any of the Jacksons and Bayards, you would say how gratified I was at the kind hospitality of Mrs. Lee and daughter, and what a nice girl I thought the latter was. The army is moving to-day over the same road I took last fall under McClellan. The Government insists on my pursuing and destroying Lee. The former I can do, but the latter will depend on him as much as on me, for if he keeps out of my way, I can’t destroy. Neither can I do so if he is reinforced and becomes my superior in numbers, which is by no means improbable, as I see by the papers it is reported a large portion of Bragg’s army has been sent to Virginia. The proper policy for the Government would have been to be contented with driving Lee out of Maryland, and not to have advanced till this army was largely reinforced and reorganized, and put on such a footing that its advance was sure to be successful. As, however, I am bound to obey explicit orders, the responsibility of the consequences must and should rest with those who give them. Another great trouble with me is the want of active and energetic subordinate officers, men upon whom I can depend and rely upon taking care of themselves and commands. The loss of Reynolds and Hancock is most serious; their places are not to be supplied. However, with God’s help, I will continue to do the best I can.

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. 135-6. Available via Google Books.

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