Head-Quarters, Army of the Potomac
Gettysburg July 5. 8 P.M. 1863
Genl. W. F. Smith
West left here this morning. When he arrived last night the enemy were apparently in full force before my centre & left, but had withdrawn from my right—I knew he was in a strong position awaiting my attack, which I declined to make in consequence of the bad example he had set me, in ruining himself in attacking a strong position—at the same time I feel a little nervous about your position as Couch telegraphed you were going to Cashtown, where I could not have helped you—I therefore retained but till morning, when we found the enemy had retired on the Cashtown & Fairfield walls. I then told Couch you could safely join me by keeping a little to the left—my instructions to Couch were to cross & make a demonstration in my favor, always looking to his return to the Susquehanna in case of disaster to me or other cause requiring it—I have never given him any other orders, and I do not like to run the risk of taking his troops away from the position they may be so important to hold—After I found the strength of your command, & its proximity, in consideration of my lines, I thought I invited you to join me, but if you consider your command essential to the defence of the Susquehanna you had better return after I leave here—I say this because Couch insists he has now only men to guard the forces & seems to be nervous—One of your messengers that arrived this P.M—I sent back asking you to come forward in person as I should like to see you—As I understand you are 12 or 14 miles from here I can hardly expect you—Should you arrive with the intention of joining me, I will in case I am not here leave notes for your guidance—
Geo. G. Meade
I am not able to say what Lee is going to do, but expect he is off for the Potomac,a the lower [illeg.] of the valley. He may however remain behind the mountains.