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

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  “The escape of Lee’s army without another battle has created great dissatisfaction in the mind of the President,” telegraphed Halleck [July 14]. Meade asked to be relieved of the command of the army: his application was refused.  37   During July 12 and 13, Lincoln was anxious and impatient and when, about noon of the 14th, he got word that Lee and his army were safely across the Potomac he was “deeply grieved.” “And that, my God, is the last of this Army of the Potomac!” he said. “Meade has been pressed and urged, but only one of his generals was for an immediate attack, was ready to pounce on Lee; the rest held back. What does it mean, Mr. Welles? Great God! what does it mean?” 1 “We had them within our grasp,” he said. “We had only to stretch forth our hands and they were ours. And nothing I could say or do could make the army move.” 2 In a later private letter he developed this opinion. “I was deeply mortified,” he said, “by the escape of Lee across the Potomac, because the substantial destruction of his army would have ended the war and because I believed such destruction was perfectly easy.… Perhaps my mortification was heightened because I had always believed—making my belief a hobby possibly—that the main rebel army going north of the Potomac could never return, if well attended to; and because I was so greatly flattered in this belief by the operations at Gettysburg.” 3  38   No one should accept this judgment of Lincoln’s without considering Meade’s defence. “Had I attacked Lee the day I proposed to do so,” the General wrote, “and in the ignorance that then existed of his position, I have every
Note 1. Welles’s Diary, July 14, I, 370. [back]
Note 2. July 14, J. Hay, I, 85; N. & H., VII, 278. [back]
Note 3. July 21, General Meade, II, 138. [back]