Thursday, December 12, 2013

Brigadier General George G. Meade to Margaretta Sergeant Meade, April 16, 1862


As to ourselves, we are in statu quo. McDowell has only two divisions, King's (his old one) and McCall's, and we are employed in the important duty of guarding the railroad from the Rappahannock to Washington. For what object this railroad is guarded beyond the necessity of supplying its own guard with provisions and forage, no one sees. It is evident we cannot advance on Richmond from the Rappahannock, because at that point the direct route leaves the railroad, and the roads across are impassable for artillery and wagons. It has been surmised that we are kept here because they are fearful the Merrimac may run the gauntlet at Fortress Monroe, in which case they could pen McClellan in on the peninsula, between the York and James Rivers, and then they could detach a force to threaten Washington. There may be something in this, but even granting its practicability, we would be as near Washington at Fredericksburg as at this place, and at the same time would more effectually threaten Richmond from that point. McDowell, I understand, is thoroughly disgusted with the turn affairs have taken, completely taking the wind out of his sails, and that he has sent an earnest appeal to his friends in Washington to have him retransferred to McClellan's army. Now that McClellan has got Franklin, I doubt if he cares to have McDowell any more with him.

It is a very pretty country around here, and the position occupied by the enemy was very strong. I don't believe they will soon again get another line as defensible as this one was, and their abandoning it was an evident sign of their weakness and inability to defend their other approaches to Richmond. As to the battle at Pittsburg Landing,1 it would appear the plan of the rebels was admirably conceived, and would have been successful but for the presence of our gunboats. Finding they could not get to the river in consequence of these vessels, and that the success of their plan was impracticable, they very properly retired to their fortifications at Corinth. Hence, although they were checked and defeated in the object they had in view, yet it was not a triumphant victory on our side; for had the gunboats (against which they had no means of operating) not been present, they would have destroyed Grant the first day and Buell the second.

1 Same as battle at Shiloh.

SOURCE: George Meade, The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Vol. 1, p. 259-60

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