George W. Dyer
July 11, 1863
After serving Governor Israel Washburn and the State of Maine in various capacities since 1861, George W. Dyer was appointed Aide-de Camp to Governor Abner Coburn in the winter of 1863 1863. By May, Dyer was once again in Washington, now serving the Federal Government as a paymaster.
On July 11, he writes to Maine Adjutant General John Hodsdon about the battle of Gettysburg: "On the first day up there we got licked and 'licked Handsum.' The second day we did rather 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."
Washington at that point was a hot-bed of rumor, gossip, misinformation, and speculation, and Dyer could only try to interpret what he heard as best he could.
"The lying about Gettysburg was more severe than the battle" he says, "and the fighting was unexampled."
He writes, "We are waiting very patiently for the next fight which we expect is on today, or assigned for tomorrow."
Dyer describes the location of Lee’s retreating army and evaluates the chances of the Confederate army escaping into Virginia, Dyer remains confident, however, that the Union Army under General George Meade will attack before that happens.
Meade failed to follow Lee.
Washington rumor also greatly exaggerated the number of troops that were engaged at Gettysburg.
Dyer reports that, “A Congressman just from there calls it 175,000” on the Union side, adding that, “Lee cannot have over50, 000 men.”
In reality Meade had nearly 94,000 men; Lee had barely 23,000.
Dyer then assesses the “thermometer of fight” that would determine the outcome of a battle he believes is about to happen.
The battle does not occur.
Nevertheless, Dyer recognizes that a change has occurred in the attitude about the war, and about fighting against Robert E. Lee. His perspective is grounded in human nature.
"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," Dyer concludes.
- What do you think of George Dyer’s "thermometer of fight"?
- Do you agree with him that morale is the greatest factor in the outcome of a battle?
What does "Q.E.D." mean?