my support, if required. I have also sent a bridge train there, with an engineer party, the bridge to be thrown over only when any command, cavalry or other, should arrive there to cross. I leave the Seventh New York Regiment and a battery of six pieces to defend this depot against raids.
GEO. G. MEADE,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
July 8, 1863-2 p. m. (Received 2. 55 p. m.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
General Couch learns from scouts that the train at Williamsport is crossing very slowly. So long as the river is unfordable, the enemy cannot cross. My cavalry report that they had a fight near Funkstown, through which they drove the enemy to Hagerstown, where a large infantry force was seen. From all I can gather, the enemy extends from Hagerstown to Williamsport, covering the march of their train. Their cavalry and infantry pickets are advanced to the Hagerstown and Sharpsburg pike, on the general line of the Antietam. We hold Boonsborough, and our pickets, 4 miles in front toward Hagerstown, are in contact with the enemy's pickets. My army is assembling slowly. The rains of yesterday and last night have made all roads bud pikes almost impassable. Artillery and wagons are stalled; it will take time to collect them together. A large portion of the men are barefooted. Shoes will arrive at Frederick to-day, and will be issued as soon as possible. The spirit of the army is high; the men are ready and willing to make every exertion to push forward. The very first moment I can get the different commands, the artillery and cavalry, properly supplied and in hand, I will move forward. Be assured I most earnestly desire to try the fortunes of war with the enemy on this side of the river, hoping through Providence and the bravery of my men to settle the question, but I should do wrong not to frankly tell you of the difficulties encountered. I expect to find the enemy in a strong position, well covered with artillery, and I do not desire to imitate his example at Gettysburg, and assault a position where the chances were so greatly against success. I wish in advance to moderate the expectations of those who, in ignorance of the difficulties to be encountered, may expect too much. All that I can do under the circumstances I pledge this army to do.
GEO. G. MEADE,
WASHINGTON, D. C., July 8, 1863.
There is reliable information that the enemy is crossing at Williamsport. The opportunity to attack his divided forces should not be lost. The President is urgent and anxious that your army should move against him by forced marches.
H. W. HALLECK,