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[208]

On assuming command, General Meade addressed his army in the following characteristic order:

By direction of the President of the United States, I hereby assume command of the Army of the Potomac. As a soldier, in obeying this order — an order totally unexpected and unsolicited — I have no promises or pledges to make. The country looks to this army to relieve it from the devastation and disgrace of a hostile invasion. Whatever fatigues and sacrifices we may be called upon to undergo, let us have in view constantly the magnitude of the interests involved, and let each man determine to do his duty, leaving to an all-controlling Providence the decision of the contest. It is with just diffidence that I relieve in the command of this army an eminent and accomplished soldier, whose name must ever appear conspicuous in the history of its achievements; but I rely upon the hearty support of my companions in arms to assist me in the discharge of the important trust which has been confided to me.

Our army at this time consisted of the First Corps, General Reynolds; Second, General Hancock; Third, General Sickles; Fifth, General Sykes (who succeeded General Meade); Sixth, General Sedgwick; Eleventh, General Howard, and Twelfth, General Slocum; the cavalry under General Pleasonton, and the artillery under General Hunt, the Chief of Artillery. Nothing was known of General Lee excepting that he was north of us threatening Harrisburg. It should be mentioned here that we had been reduced in material strength by the expiration of the term of service of many of the two years and nine months regiments, while the enemy had been reinforced by the return of Longstreet's Corps. Two corps of our army were on the north side of the Sharp Mountain, separated from the main column by the ridge. General Meade ordered these corps to recross the ridge, and on the morning of June 29th, put his whole force in motion, his right flank covering Baltimore, and his left opposing Lee's right. General Meade says of his own intentions in this movement: “My object being, at all hazards, to compel the enemy to loose his hold on the Susquehanna, and meet me in battle at some point. It was my firm determination, never for an instant deviated from, to give battle wherever and as soon as I could possibly find the enemy.” On the night of June 29th, Lee learned that the Army of the Potomac, which he thought was still in Virginia, was advancing northward, threatening his communications. He therefore suspended the movement on Harrisburg, which he had ordered, and directed Longstreet, Hill, and Ewell to concentrate at Gettysburg. On the night of the 30th, after the Army of the Potomac had made two days marches, General Meade heard that Lee was concentrating his army to meet him, and being entirely ignorant of the nature of the country in front of him, he at once instructed his engineers to

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George G. Meade (5)
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