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    Custer discusses Meade's decision to not strike at Lee during his retreat from Gettysburg

    [Battle of Gettysburg]. George Armstrong Custer Autograph Letter Signed "G.A. Custer." Four integral pages, 5" x 8", Amissville [Virginia], July 28, 1863. Written to Isaac Peckham Christiancy, associate justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, just three and a half weeks after the Union victory at Gettysburg, Custer, who was present at the battle and led a successful charge of his 1st Michigan Cavalry to break the Confederate line, discusses the aftermath of the battle and the criticism launched at Gen. George Meade for not pursuing and annihilating Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, in part:

    "Gen. Meade was strongly in favor of attacking Lee at once on the north bank of the Potomac but was deterred from doing so by the vote of his oldest Corp Commanders. The account given in the papers of the council of war which decided not to attack is substantially correct. I was happy to know that Gen [Alfred] Pleasonton, (my chief) among others used every argument in his power favoring an immediate attack. I knew at the time that a golden opportunity was being lost, and repeatedly sent word to Hdqrs that the throwing up of intrenchments [sic] by Lee was a mere ruse to deceive us. If we had attacked the rebel Army at Williamsport with the Potomac in their rear and at the same time a small force had been thrown across, say at Edwards Ferry, to operate on the enemys [sic] means of crossing it is my opinion that we would have gained the most complete and decisive victory of the war. I do not believe a single man or cannon could have escaped destruction or capture. I do not censure Gen Meade, unless the opinions of his Corp Commanders, (all of whom are considered able and competent officers and their opinions should be entitled to some weight) are thrown aside."

    Initially celebratory at the news of Lee's defeat, emotions quickly soured in the North as word was received that the Army of Northern Virginia had escaped destruction and limped back across the Potomac to the relative safety of Virginia. Gen. Meade became the focus of the public's ire, some Radical Republicans going so far as to accuse him of being a Copperhead (a Democrat who was opposed to the war and called for a peace settlement with the rebels). Despite the criticism from President Lincoln himself, Meade received the Thanks of Congress and retained the position of commander of the Army of the Potomac throughout the remainder of the war.

    Just four days before writing this letter, Custer engaged Confederate troops (one corps of Gen. James Longstreet and one corps of Gen. A. P. Hill) retreating from Gettysburg using cavalry and artillery. Due to overwhelming numbers, he was forced to retreat back to Amissville.

    Folds are weak with some separation evident, particularly at the edges and the intersections of folds. Text is bold despite areas of uneven toning.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2014
    3rd Thursday
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