James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
reason to believe the attack would have been unsuccessful and would have resulted disastrously. This opinion is founded on the judgment of numerous distinguished officers after inspecting Lees vacated works and position. I had great responsibility thrown on me. On one side were the known and important fruits of victory, and, on the other, the equally important and terrible consequences of a defeat.1
In the end it was Lincoln himself who suggested the sanest possible view of the episode. In a letter of July 21 he wrote, I am now profoundly grateful for what was done without criticism for what was not done [at Gettysburg]. General Meade has my confidence as a brave and skilful officer and a true man. The change in Northern sentiment between July 1 and 4 reveals unmistakably the sense of a great deliverance.2
Although indeed a great deliverance, the victory at Gettysburg had been gained by an army acting on the defensive, whilst the nature of the conflict required that the North should wage an aggressive war. And fortunately the aggressive leader had at last been found. On January 20, 1863, Grant had assumed the immediate command of the expedition against Vicksburg.
Note 2. Authorities: O. R., XXVII, Pt. I, II, III; General Meade; Frank Haskell; C. W., 1865, I; Picketts Letters; W. R. Livermore; T. L. Livermore, Milt. Hist. Soc., XIII; IV; B. & L., III; Longstreet; Alexander; Welless Diary; Schurz, Reminiscences; Pickett and his Men, L. S. Pickett; Picketts Men, Harrison; Francis A. Walker; Pennypacker; Fitzhugh Lee; Fremantle; Hosmers Appeal; Swinton, Army of the Potomac. [back]