For a president renowned for his literary skills, President Lincoln’s message to the Army of the Potomac following its loss at the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862, stands out as a particularly feeble piece of writing. Certainly the lopsided loss was disheartening enough, but to have it come as it did so close to Christmas must have been especially dispiriting.
I dug up the text of his brief message while putting some finishing touches on Seizing Destiny: The Army of the Potomac’s Valley Forge and the Civil War Winter that Saved the Union, and I thought I’d pass it along:
Message to the Army of the Potomac
Executive Mansion, Washington, December 22, 1862.
To the Army of the Potomac: I have just read your Commanding General’s preliminary report of the battle of Fredericksburg. Although you were not successful, the attempt was not an error, nor the failure other than an accident. The courage with which you, in an open field, maintained the contest against an entrenched foe, and the consummate skill and success with which you crossed and re-crossed the river, in face of the enemy, show that you possess all the qualities of a great army, which will yet give victory to the cause of the country and of popular government. Condoling with the mourners for the dead, and sympathizing with the severely wounded, I congratulate you that the number of both is comparatively so small.
I tender to you, officers and soldiers, the thanks of the nation.