Satisfaction (November 9, 1863)

On November 9 Meade writes to his wife with his comments on the Battle of Rappahannock Station.

When I last wrote to you I thought we were on the eve of a great battle, and I was also under the impression that the work I had before me was likely to prove a very severe task. The enemy occupied very strong positions on the Rappahannock, which at one place I knew were strongly entrenched, and I believed they were so at other points. Thanks, however, to their being entirely deceived as to my capacity to move, and to the gallantry of my men, we were enabled to carry then- strong works and to force the passage of the river (considered one of the most critical operations in war), with a comparatively small loss, and with great eclat, as we captured four guns, eight battle flags and nearly two thousand prisoners. The operation being successful, the army is in fine spirits, and of course I am more popular than ever, having been greeted yesterday as I rode through the ranks with great cheering; and my having forced the passage of the Rappahannock and compelled Lee to retire to the Rapidan, will I trust convince the intelligent public that my retreat to Centreville was not to avoid battle, and that Lee, who was not outflanked, or had his communications threatened, but was attacked in front, and yet withdrew, is really the one who has avoided battle. I certainly expected he would fight, and can only now account for his not doing so on the ground that he was deceived as to my strength and construed my sudden and bold advance into an evidence that I had been strongly reinforced and greatly outnumbered him. I must say I was greatly disappointed when I found Lee refused my offer of battle, because I was most desirous of effecting something decisive, and I know his refusal was only a postponement of a question that had to be met and decided.

I have received a telegram from the President, expressing his satisfaction with my operations.

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. 155-6. Available via Google Books.

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1 Comment

  1. Large victory for Meade at a small cost. Lee lost all of the territory between the rivers that he gambled for during the Bristoe Campaign.

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