Gen. Meade Congratulates the Army of the Potomac on Their Victory at Gettysburg[Battle of Gettysburg]. General Orders, No. 68. One page, 5.5" x 6", "Head Quarters Army of the Potomac," July 4, 1863. Issued by General Gordon G. Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, the day after the victory, in full:
"The Commanding General, in behalf of the country, thanks the Army of the Potomac for the glorious result of the recent operations. An enemy superior in numbers and flushed with the pride of a successful invasion, attempted to overcome and destroy this Army. Utterly baffled and defeated, he has now withdrawn from the contest. The privations and fatigue the Army has endured, and the heroic courage and gallantry it has displayed will be matters of history to be ever remembered. Our task is not yet accomplished, and the Commanding General looks to the Army for greater efforts to drive from our soil every vestige of the presence of the invader. It is right and proper that we should, on all suitable occasions, return our grateful thanks to the Almighty Disposer of events, that in the goodness of his Providence He has thought fit to give victory to the cause of the just."
Meade, who had allowed Gen. Lee to escape without pursuit following the battle at Gettysburg, issued this order while still in the field. President Lincoln was less than pleased. Two days after Meade's order, Lincoln sent a letter to Major General Henry Halleck, general-in-chief of all U.S. armies, stating: "I left the telegraph office a good deal dissatisfied. You know I did not like the phrase, in Orders, No. 68, I believe, 'Drive the invaders from our soil.'" Lincoln believed that "our soil" was a poor choice of words as he held firm that the states in rebellion still belonged to the United States. "Since that," he continues, "I see a dispatch from General [William H.] French, saying the enemy is crossing his wounded over the river in flats, without saying why he does not stop it, or even intimating a thought that it ought to be stopped. Still later, another dispatch from General [Alfred] Pleasonton, by direction of General Meade, to General French, stating that the main army is halted because it is believed the rebels are concentrating 'on the road toward Hagerstown, beyond Fairfield,' and is not to move until it is ascertained that the rebels intend to evacuate Cumberland Valley. These things all appear to me to be connected with a purpose to cover Baltimore and Washington, and to get the enemy across the river again without a further collision, and they do not appear connected with a purpose to prevent his crossing and to destroy him." (Collected Works of Lincoln, Vol. VI, p. 318).
Lincoln penned a letter to Meade expressing his displeasure, but never sent it. Meade caught wind of Lincoln's anger and offered to resign, but Lincoln, whose passions had cooled somewhat, declined. Meade remained in command of the Army of the Potomac through the rest of the war. Overall wrinkling with areas of light soiling. Otherwise in fantastic condition.
Reference: Roy P. Basler, editor. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume VI. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1953.
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