On Friday, October 16, 1863 Abraham Lincoln telegraphed General Henry Halleck, stoically noting: “If Gen. Meade can now attack him [Lee] on a field no worse than equal for us, and will do so with all the skill and courage, which he, his officers and men possess, the honor will be his if he succeeds, and the blame will be mine if he fails.”
Shown the message, Meade replied that he intended to attack if he could find the proper opportunity. However, he would not find that opportunity before Lee’s army started its retreat from the Manassas area. Lee’s advance had forced Meade’s army to retreat toward the Potomac in order to effectively guard Washington, D.C. However, assuming a strong defensive position effectively negated the opportunity for Meade to attack Lee.