From “Lincoln 365,” by Arnold Kunst
‘Lincoln and Anger Management 101: Following the South’s defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg, Lee retreated back to Virginia on July 4. However, when he reached the Potomac he found it too swollen with summer rains for him to cross. His Army of Northern Virginia was dangerously short on ammunition, exhausted by three days of the most intensive combat of the war; it was mortally wounded, clogged with thousands of the infirm [the wagon train of sick and wounded was over 15 miles long]. Finally, Lee had his back to a swollen river he couldn't ford; he had neither the dexterity nor the space to maneuver. In short, for virtually the only time in his entire military career, Robert E. Lee was a sitting duck. But within a few days the waters receded and the Army of Northern Virginia crossed safely into Virginia to regroup and fight for another 22 months.
‘In the meantime the Northern commander, George Meade, remaining in Gettysburg, sent a dispatch to Washington DC stating proudly, ‘We have driven the invader from our soil!’ Gideon Welles the Secretary of the Navy wrote cynically in his diary, ‘Meade is watching Lee as fast as he can.’ Lincoln for his part was furious because in failing to pursue Lee vigorously, Meade had missed a golden opportunity to annihilate the South's most fearsome military force – and if that had happened the war would have been drastically shortened, if not ended. Lincoln wrote him a blunt letter: “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 ... have ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely. ... Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it.” We know the letter was written because it was discovered in a drawer in the White House after Lincoln's assassination. If I had been President I wouldn’t have behaved like that. If I had written that letter I would have sent it; on the other hand if I weren’t going to send it I never would have written it. But Lincoln wrote a letter he never intended to send in order to deal effectively with his sense of rage – having put that fury onto paper he had exorcised it out of his system. Now he could think his way through to the next step.’
- Arnold Kunst
'Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.'
- Lao Tzu