CAMP OPPOSITE FREDERICKSBURG, May 23, 1862.
To-day we had a visit from the President and the Secretary of War, in anticipation of an immediate forward movement. This afternoon these gentlemen reviewed our division, and as the cortege passed my brigade, I joined it, and found among them my friend Mr. Mercier, the French Minister. I observed to him, in a joking way, that all Europe, as well as this country, were talking of his visit to Richmond. "Yes," he replied, "and both parties attaching an importance which it utterly wants, for it had no political object whatever." Previous to the review I had been at General McDowell's headquarters, and there saw the President. I took the liberty of saying to him that I believed the army was much gratified to see his recent proclamation in regard to Hunter's order. He expressed himself gratified for the good opinion of the army, and said: "I am trying to do my duty, but no one can imagine what influences are brought to bear on me." I believe the party returned to Washington this evening, having come down last night. General Shields, with his division, reached here yesterday, so that McDowell's corps of four divisions (about forty thousand) are all assembled, and we expect now to be off in a day or two to Richmond. Whether we will be too late and McClellan ahead of us, is not to be told. I rather think he will await our approach, as from all I can learn the enemy at present outnumber him, and our force will be a very welcome addition to his army. It is impossible to tell whether we shall meet with any resistance before we get to the immediate vicinity of Richmond or not. They certainly have a force about fifteen miles from here, said to be twenty thousand strong; but whether they are designed only to watch us and to retreat before us, or whether they will be reinforced and give us battle at this place, are questions that time only can solve. I should think the former, inasmuch as it would be very dangerous for them to leave a force so far in front of Richmond, with McClellan so near, cutting off their retreat, and we pressing them in front. I therefore hardly expect much opposition till we get close to Richmond and in communication with McClellan, where I expect they will give us a big fight just outside the city and do their best to drive us away. If McClellan can see his way clear, and thinks he can get into Richmond without our co-operation, he will be greatly tempted to try it. At the last accounts he was only eight miles off, and could have a fight any hour he advanced. His troops were nearly all up, and he had almost completed the repairs to the railroad from West Point, by which he expected to draw his supplies.
SOURCE: George Meade, The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Vol. 1, p. 267-8