James Ford Rhodes (1848–1927). History of the Civil War, 1861–1865. 1917.

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  said, “You and your men have crowned yourselves with glory.” 1  32   Pickett’s charge, though a hazardous enterprise, was by no means a hopeless one and might well have succeeded had not Meade and Hancock been thoroughly prepared for it and had they not shown generalship of a high order. With Hooker in command—the irresolute Hooker of Chancellorsville—there would have been a different story to relate. A comparison of the management of the two battles will confirm Halleck’s judgment that Hooker “would have lost the army and the capital.” 2  33   Moreover, Lee had to decide between an attack and an inglorious retreat. Divided, his army could live upon the country, but during a prolonged concentration it could not be fed. His decision was in keeping with his aggressive disposition, and his mistake seems to have been in underrating Meade’s ability and in overestimating both the physical and moral damage done by his artillery fire. If the Confederates, who made the breach in the Union line could have held on, adequate support would undoubtedly have been given and Lee’s idea of “one determined and united blow” 3 delivered by his whole line might have been realized. And if he could have thoroughly beaten the Army of the Potomac, Baltimore and Washington would have been at his mercy. Perhaps the risk was worth taking.  34   Whether Meade should at once have made a counter-charge across the valley, or attacked the Confederate right before dark on July 3, or occupied Lee’s line of retreat that afternoon and made a general advance early next morning are questions frequently discussed by military writers.
Note 1. O. R., XXVII, Pt. III, 987, 1075. [back]
Note 2. O. R., XXIV, Pt. III, 498. [back]
Note 3. Rec. and Letters of R. E. Lee, 102. [back]