Lot 74
  • 74

George Meade

Estimate
10,000 - 15,000 USD
Sold
20,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • General Orders 68. Head Quarters Army of the Potomac, [Gettysburg, Pa.], printed on the field, July 4, 1863.
  • Paper, Ink
Letterpress handbill (7 x 6 in.; 178 x 152 mm).

Provenance

Heritage Auction Galleries, 25 June, 2011, lot 52206.

Catalogue Note

GENERAL MEADE'S GETTYSBURG VICTORY. A very rare battlefield-issued copy of the Gettysburg victory message that infuriated Lincoln:

"The Commanding General, in behalf of the country, thanks the Army of the Potomac for the glorious result of the recent operations. 

"An enemy superior in numbers and flushed with the pride of a successful invasion, attempted to overcome and destroy this Army. Utterly baffled and defeated, he has now withdrawn from the contest. The privations and fatigue the Army has endured, and the heroic courage and gallantry it has displayed will be matters of history to be ever remembered. 

"Our task is not yet accomplished, and the Commanding General looks to the Army for greater efforts to drive from our soil every vestige of the presence of the invader.

"It is right and proper that we should, on all suitable occasions, return our grateful thanks to the Almighty Disposer of events, that in the goodness of his Providence He has thought fit to give victory to the cause of the just."

Attuned as always to the power of words, Lincoln expressed disapproval to Major General Halleck, writing “You know I did not like the phrase … ‘Drive the invaders from our soil.’” Lincoln pointed out that all of America, not just the North, was still “our soil.” Further, Meade’s reluctance to pursue Lee disgusted Lincoln, who correctly perceived that Meade wanted “to get the enemy across the river again without a further collision.” 

While Lincoln congratulated the Army of the Potomac for its hard-fought victory, he also drafted a letter lecturing Meade about “the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee’s escape…To have closed upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have ended the war.” Although Lincoln never sent the letter, Meade was aware of the President’s displeasure and offered to resign. Lincoln declined the offer. However, at the end of the year, Lincoln summoned Ulysses S. Grant, the victor at Vicksburg, to Washington to become General-in-Chief. Grant would accompany and direct Meade in the final two years of war in Virginia.

There are fewer than ten known copies of this battlefield-issued first printing of Meade’s victory message, in three variant printings. The use of tabletop printing presses by both the Union and Confederate armies helped make quick field communication possible, but minor typographical differences were certain to occur given the circumstances of their composition.

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