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Home > Civil War Sesquicentennial > George Dyer on Gettysburg Transcript

George Dyer on Gettysburg Transcript

Washington, D.C.
July 11, 1863

My Dear General,

I thank you for the abundant supply of newspapers you have sent me since you returned home, and trust for a continuance of similar favors.

We are waiting very patiently for the next fight, which we expect is on today, or assigned for tomorrow,  Lee seems to be entrenched in a circular line from Shepardstown to Williamsport, reaching from the Potomac to the Potomac again, and fencing in a half a dozen miles of the river where it is shoal.  He seems to have at least one bridge up, and a chance to cross.  He has got over his wounded, the prisoners he took with him, and the surplus cattle and horses.  I suppose he has not crossed his army on account of the risk of losing too many, using only one bridge. If he crossed his trains and guns first, it would leave his lines too weak. If he took a fair proportion of everything in order, the process would be very slow, and Meade would crowd the last of the mourners badly.  I think he means to hold on till about Tuesday, when the river will be fordable and he can cross at night in numerous places. Last night Meade was up within striking distance of Lee’s lines. He, M., has men enough in all conscience. He has the entire pile round here & Baltimore.  I reckon about 135,000 effective reliable men. A Congressman just from there calls it 175,000.  A heap of these 175, 000 are Pennsylvania militia and I don’t count them. Meade has his own army & French’s & Couch’s all at hand.  It is needless to say that the fight if it does come will be a bloody one.  It must be successful for our side on account of the disparity of the forces engaged.  Lee cannot have over 50,000 men: these are all good soldiers.

The lying about Gettysburg battles was more severe than the fighting, and the fighting was unexampled.  On the first day up there we got licked and “licked handsum.”  The second day we did better but got rather the worst of it. The third day the Rebs couldn’t get over our dirt piles, and suffered as we have done at Fredericksburg. Lee came in with 75,000 men and lost 25,000.  Meade went up with 110,000 and has lost 20,000.  Lee went off in perfect order and leisurely and Meade was too much used up to follow in force for several days.  Yet, altogether it has been a substantial victory, for it has given us a Commander, whom his army believe in. The army of the Potomac have licked Lee once and they think they can do it every time now; and so they can until they get licked again.  It is needless to say to you, an old soldier, ahem – that an army does not conquer another by killing and maiming them, but by frightening them. This thermometer of fight is what the French and we call “morale” The individuals of two contending armies have the instinct of self-preservation very strong, controlled by pride and confidence in self and leaders.  Say the “morale of each of the Armies of the Potomac is normally 60° . In a fight in Virginia, State pride & home pride would add about 5° to the Rebel side, and knowledge of the feeling would detract about 5° from our side. Then it would stand 65° de versus 55° .  I think that confidence in Lee would add about 5° more to the Rebs, and knowledge of the same would take from our side about 5° . That would leave 70° to 50° . I think it stood that way under McClellan.  Under Burnside, I would say 80° to 40° .  Under Hooker about 45° to 45° up to Chancellorsville – after that about 90° to 30° degrees.  Getting back into Pennsylvania gave us back our 5° and took it from the Rebs. Taking Meade brought us still more, and on the 4th of July I think the two armies stood at about 60° to 60° s.  Having the numbers, we must win. Q. E. D.

Let me hear from you,
Geo. W. D.