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[402] was heard from Warren, till ten minutes before 9, when his dispatch reached Meade, stating that he had found the enemy's defenses so strong that he did not feel able to carry them, and had suspended his attack in consequence. Sedgwick was thereupon directed to hold off till further orders, while Meade galloped to Warren, four miles off, and conferred with him as to the situation. He found Warren fixed in the conviction that an attack on this flank was hopeless; and now it was too late to concentrate for a determined attack on the center; while, if the attempt to flank the enemy's left was to be further prosecuted, the whole army must be moved toward our left, abandoning the turnpike, which was our main line of communication and of retreat.

Meade concluded to desist for the day: the 5th and 6th corps, with two divisions of the 3d, returning to their former positions. Meanwhile, the opening of our batteries in the morning had exposed to the enemy the point on his left where we had purposed to attack, and he had made haste to strengthen it by earthworks, abatis, and guns.

Our supply trains had been left north of the Rapidan. If the movement should be persisted in, they must be brought over, in order that our soldiers' haversacks might be replenished. Then the turnpike and plank roads must be abandoned, and our army cut loose from its resources, at a season when a few hours' rain would convert the river in its rear into a raging, foaming flood. All the important roads in this region run from Gordonsville and Orange Court House eastward to Fredericksburg; and our army, moving southward to flank the enemy, must cut and bridge roads for its guns and trains. That army, if not discouraged by the bungles and failures of the last week, must by this time have been soured and intensely disgusted. To rush it now on the Rebel defenses — which had grown and were growing stronger each hour — would be to expose it to defeat in a position where defeat was sure to be disastrous, and might prove ruinous. Meade decided, therefore, to back out — and this was the least wretched part of the entire wretched business. He says he should have marched to the heights of Fredericksburg, if Halleck had left him at liberty to do so; but he probably evinced more sense, if less spirit, in plumply retreating, so bringing his army back across the Rapidan during the night,1 and taking up his pontoons next morning, without having been pursued, or anywise molested during his retreat.2 And this terminated, with the Army of the Potomac, the campaign of 1863.

1 Dec. 1-2

2 Gen. A. P. Howe, testifying before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, thus sums up the judgment of those officers of his army who were dissatisfied with Meade's leadership:

I do not think they have full confidence in the ability or state of mind of Gen. Meade. What I mean by that is the animus that directs the movements of the army. They do not think there is that heart, and energy, and earnestness of purpose in the war, to make every use of the means at his command to injure the enemy and earry on the war successfully. I do not think they have, I will not say confidence, but faith in him. They do not expect from him what the crisis seems to call for. They believe that, if he is attacked, he will do all he can to defend his position. But that he will act with zeal and energy, or that his whole heart and soul are in the bringing all the means successfully to bear to break down the enemy, so far as I can judge, they do not look for that; they do not expect it. So far as I can judge, a great many officers think he can do very well in a defensive fight. If he was called upon to guard the Potomac or Washington, he will make good marches to stop the enemy; but that he will be active, zealous, energetic, in using his means to strike successful offensive blows against the enemy, not at all; he is not the man for that — at least that is my impression.

Question: The same observation you apply to Gen. Meade will apply to the corps commanders you refer to, will it not?

Answer: I think so. I do not know as it would be proper for me to state here the terms we use in the army. However, we say there is too much Copperheadism in it. This is so for different reasons: with some, there is a desire to raise up Gen. McClellan; with others, there is a dislike to some of the measures of the Government; they do not like the way the Negro question is handled. And, again, the impression is made upon my mind that there are some who have no faith in this war, who have no heart in it; they will not do any thing to commit themselves; but there is a wide difference between doing your duty so as not to commit yourself, and doing all that might reasonably be expected of you at these times. I do not know as I can express myself better than saying that there is Copperheadism at the root of the matter.

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