"Lee is Trapped and Must be Taken" focuses on the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg and addresses how Maj. Gen. George G. Meade organized and motivated his Army of the Potomac in response to President Abraham Lincoln’s mandate to bring about the “literal or substantial destruction” of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s retreating Army of Northern Virginia. As far as the president was concerned, if Meade aggressively pursued and confronted Lee before he could escape across the flooded Potomac River, “the rebellion would be over.” The long and bloody three-day battle exhausted both armies. Their respective commanders faced difficult tasks, including the rallying of their troops for more marching and fighting. Lee had to keep his army organized and motivated enough to conduct an orderly withdrawal away from the field. Meade faced the same organizational and motivational challenges, while assessing the condition of his victorious but heavily damaged army, to determine if it had sufficient strength to pursue and crush a still-dangerous enemy. Central to the respective commanders’ decisions was the information they received from their intelligence-gathering resources about the movements, intentions, and capability of the enemy. The eleven-day period after Gettysburg was a battle of wits to determine which commander better understood the information he received, and directed the movements of his army accordingly.
Richard R. Schaus, Sergeant Major, U.S. Army (Ret.), served on active duty for more than 30 years in a variety of army and joint military intelligence assignments both at home and abroad. Rick is a lifelong student of the Civil War and American military history in general, and the Gettysburg Campaign in particular.
Description courtesy of Savas Beatie.
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