Saturday, October 5, 2013

Brigadier General George G. Meade to Margaretta Sergeant Meade, October 12, 1861

CAMP PIERPONT, VA., October 12, 1861 — 9 P. M.

The enemy have appeared in our vicinity, and we have as much reason to believe they are going to attack us as we ever can have with an enemy as alert as they are and whose movements are wrapped in such mystery. Perhaps their movements to-day are like many preceding ones, only feints, either to harass us or draw us out. If they ever are going to attack us, now is their time, as General McClellan has advanced some miles beyond his line of entrenchments and is on comparatively new ground, where every day will enable him to make himself stronger and their probability of success less. My own opinion has hitherto been that they would act on the defensive and await our attack, but the movement of McClellan has possibly caused a change in their tactics, and they may have made up their minds to accept his offer of battle and try their chances at the offensive. For my part, I hope it is so. We have a strong position, in its natural character; we are near our reserves in Washington, and we have strong lines to fall back upon in case we cannot hold our present advanced lines. In other words, the advantages are as great on our side as we can ever expect to have them. The whole question turns upon the behavior of our men. If they stand up to their work like men, and really fight with a determination to do or die, I think there is no doubt of our triumphant success. Of course, if they cannot be brought to this point, all plans and calculations must fail. You will doubtless be anxious to know what is my private opinion of our force, and I would not hesitate to tell you if I had a decided opinion. Much, as I have always told you, will depend on the turn events take. If we are successful in the beginning in repelling the attack, I think they can be kept up to the work; but if by any accident the fortune is against us in the commencement, I fear they will become demoralized. They do not any of them, officers or men, seem to have the least idea of the solemn duty they have imposed upon themselves in becoming soldiers. Soldiers they are not in any sense of the word. Brave men they may be, and I trust in God will prove themselves; but at this very moment, when we have every reason to believe by to-morrow's dawn our lives may be imperiled, if not taken from us, I doubt if any of the numerous living beings around me realize in the slightest degree what they may have to meet. For myself, I await calmly the decree of an over-ruling Providence. I am here from a sense of duty, because I could not with honor be away, and whatever befalls me, those of my blood who survive me can say, I trust, that I did my duty.

SOURCE: George Meade, The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Vol. 1, p. 222-3

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