Major Genl Halleck
We have certain information that Vicksburg surrendered to General Grant on the 4th of July. Now, if Gen. Meade can complete his work so gloriously prosecuted thus far, by the litteral(sic) or substantial destruction of Lee’s army, the rebellion will be over.
President Abraham Lincoln penned this note to his General-in-Chief Henry Halleck on July 7, 1863, three days after the Battle of Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg.
The note, which had long eluded historians until it was found among the Adjutant General’s Records in 2007, expresses Lincoln’s optimism that if General Meade could destroy Confederate General Lee’s army, the war would be over. The President feared that once Lee crossed the river Meade’s golden opportunity to strike the wounded army would be lost. Lincoln’s fears became reality on July 14 when Lee’s army escaped Meade’s clutches and crossed the Potomac at Williamsport, Maryland, into Virginia.
Upon hearing the news a dispirited Lincoln sat down and wrote:
“… my dear general, I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee’s escape. He was within your easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely…Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasureably(sic) because of it.”
Lincoln did not send this message to Meade, instead the President wrote on the envelope “To Gen. Meade, never sent, or signed.” And so the Civil War raged on until the spring of 1865.