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The American Civil War is one of the bloodiest conflicts in American History. It is a war that still scars the nation to this day. The number of soldiers who died in the Civil War nearly equals the total number of American deaths in all of the nation's wars combined.
Despite the Civil War being a gruesome and bloody war, I like to think of it as a war of missed opportunities. There were so many chances that the Union Army had to end the war immediately and they were passed up. One of the most missed opportunities was by Major General George Meade, one of the two Union generals who lead the Union army in the Battle of Gettysburg. Robert E. Lee began his quick retreat from Gettysburg, however his was unable to cross into Virginia because the Potomac River had been flooded by rain. Seeing a golden opportunity to immediately end the war, President Lincoln ordered General Meade to pursue Lee and capture him while he was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Meade however, went against Lincoln's orders and waited to engage Lee. This resulted in Lee's Army escaping once the river had lowered. Lincoln was enraged and even had written a letter explaining his anger towards Meade, however he didn't send it.
Now that you know more about the Battle of Gettysburg, it's rather hard to believe how a Major General wouldn't take advantage of such a golden opportunity to end the war immediately. But what if Meade had followed Lincoln's orders and pursued Lee's retreating army? How would this had affected American History? How would have affected world history? What would this world be like had there been a Pursuit of Meade?
Point of Divergence
On July 3, 1863, General Robert E. Lee retreats with his army after their defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg. General Lee finds himself trapped between the flooded Potomac River and General George G. Meade's Union Army. Lincoln, seeing an opportunity to end the war once and for all, orders General Meade to pursue Lee before he can cross the river. Realizing the opportunity at hand, General Meade follows President Lincoln's orders and pursues Lee's army. Meade's army reaches the Potomac and attacks Lee's army, beginning the Battle of the Potomac River. Lee finally surrenders to Meade's forces on July 5, 1863. With simultaneous Union victories across Confederate Territory, and Meade's beginning his march towards Richmond, Confederate President Jefferson Davis surrenders to the North on July 9, 1863. Meade is hailed as a hero across the nation and is given full military honor by President Lincoln, who commends him for his victory at the Potomac River.