This morning the President seemed depressed by Meade’s despatches of last night. They were so cautiously and almost timidly worded, — talking about reconnoitring to find the enemy's weak place, and other such. He said he feared he would do nothing.
About noon came the despatch stating that our worst fears were true. The enemy had gotten away unhurt. The President was deeply grieved. “We had them within our grasp,” he said; “we had only to stretch forth our hands and they were ours. And nothing I could say or do could make the army move.”
Several days ago he sent a despatch to Meade which must have cut like a scourge, but Meade returned so reasonable and earnest reply that the President concluded he knew best what he was doing, and was reconciled to the apparent inaction which he hoped was merely apparent.
Every day he has watched the progress of the army with agonizing impatience, hope struggling with fear. He has never been easy in his own mind about Gen. Meade since Meade’s General Order in which he called on his troops to drive the invader from our soil. The President says: — “This is a dreadful reminiscence of McC . The same spirit that moved McClellan to claim a great victory because Pennsylvania and Maryland were safe. The hearts of ten million people sunk within them when McC. raised that shout last fall. Will our Generals never get that idea out of their heads? The whole country is our soil.”
SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 85-6; Tyler Dennett, Editor, Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and letters of John Hay, p. 66-7