‘  have resulted disastrously.’ When asked the reasons for that opinion, he replied:
If I had attacked the enemy in the position which he then occupied—he having the advantage of position, and being on the defensive, his artillery in position, and his infantry behind parapets and rifle-pits—the very same reasons and causes which produced my success at Gettysburg would have operated in his favor there, and be likely to produce success on his part.Our preparations being completed, and the Potomac, though still deep, being pronounced fordable, the army commenced to withdraw to the south side on the night of the 13th. Ewell's corps forded the river at Williamsport, those of Longstreet and Hill crossed upon the bridge. Owing to the condition of the roads the troops did not reach the bridge until after daylight on the 14th, and the crossing was not completed until 1 P. M., when the bridge was removed. General Lee said that the enemy offered no serious interruption, and the movement was attended with no loss of material except a few disabled wagons and two pieces of artillery, which the horses were unable to move through the deep mud. During the slow and tedious march to the bridge, in the midst of a violent storm of rain, some of the men lay down by the way to rest. Officers sent back for them failed to find many in the obscurity of the night, and these, with some stragglers, a few of Heth's division most remote from the bridge, were captured. On the following day the army marched to Bunker Hill in the vicinity of which it encamped for several days. Owing to the swollen condition of the Shenandoah River, the campaign which was contemplated when the Potomac was recrossed could not be immediately commenced. Before the waters had subsided, the movements of the enemy required us to cross the Blue Ridge and take position south of the Rappahannock. The strength of our army at Gettysburg is stated at 62,000 of all arms.1 The report of the Army of the Potomac under General Meade, on June 30, 1863, states the force present at 112,988 men. Before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, General Meade, in reference to his force at Gettysburg, said, ‘Including all arms of the service, my strength was a little under 100,000 men—about 95,000.’ If the strength of General Lee's forces, according to the last accessible report before the movement northward, be compared with that made after his return into Virginia, there is a decrease of nineteen thousand of the brave men who had set the seal of invincibility upon the Army of Northern Virginia.