On Wednesday, August 5, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln in a letter to Union General Nathaniel Banks forcefully restated his unwavering commitment to end the institution of slavery, noting that he remained “an anti-slavery man” to his very core and stating “For my own part I think I shall not, in any event, retract the emancipation proclamation; nor as executive, ever return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation, or by any of the acts of Congress.”
Continued skirmishing along the Rappahannock in Virginia and a growing buildup of Union forces near Charlestown Harbor marked the beginning of August 1863. Federal cavalry in Virginia constantly probed at Lee’s secure position south of the Rappahannock at Culpeper Court House, but for all practical purposes both Meade’s forces and Lee’s army were content to recuperate and continue to replace their losses from the Gettysburg campaign.
On August 1, 1863 after weeks of personal distress over Southern misfortunes at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis—humbled by Southern defeat--called on the citizenry of the South to exert a greater effort toward victory, noting “no alternative is left you but victory, or subjugation, slavery and utter ruin of yourselves, your families and your country.”
Davis further declared that all soldiers absent without leave or those who had not reported for service would be granted pardons and amnesty, if they reported for duty within twenty days.
In late July 1863 President Abraham Lincoln continued to set Union wartime policy. In a letter to Union General Henry Halleck Lincoln confided that he now opposed “pressing” George Meade to immediately engage Lee’s secure army at Culpeper, Virginia.
In a separate action Lincoln issued orders that his administration would “give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy’s prisoners in our possession.”
On Wednesday, July 29, 1863, in England Queen Victoria addressed the British Parliament and candidly acknowledged that, given the recent Union triumphs on the battlefield, she saw no reason to divert from the strict neutrality which England had observed since the start of the American Civil War.
That statement must have disturbed Confederate representatives in England and throughout Europe who desired specifically English and French recognition of the Confederate States of America in return for Southern cotton.
On Tuesday, July 28, 1863 President Jefferson Davis wrote Lee at Culpeper Court House, Virginia, acknowledging that the Confederate War Department was making efforts to send Lee convalescents and absentees to assist strengthening the Army of Northern Virginia and that his administration was attempting to resolve supply problems which had plagued the Southern war effort.
Davis expressed supreme confident in Lee, noting “I have felt more than ever before the want of your advice during the recent period of disaster.”
On Sunday, July 26, 1863 Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and 364 exhausted and saddle weary, Confederate cavalrymen surrendered to Federal authorities at Salineville, Ohio near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border after a 1000 mile raid into the North.
Morgan’s raid had been spectacular but futile and was considered a waste of Southern manpower, given that his superior, General Braxton Bragg, opposed the raid. Morgan and his main officers were imprisoned in the Ohio State Penitentiary approximately four months until he and three others escaped.
On Sunday, July 26, 1863 two prominent American statesmen died. In Huntsville, Texas Sam Houston died of complications from pneumonia. Opposing secession in 1861 as governor of Texas, he had been replaced by a Confederate state governor.
With his army safely headquartered around Culpeper Court House south of the Rappahannock River, on Friday, July 24, 1863 Robert E. Lee wrote President Jefferson Davis, explaining that after returning to Virginia he had intended to march east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but high water and other obstacles prevented him from accomplishing this task before the Union army under George Meade also crossed the Potomac River into Virginia.
By Monday, July 20, 1863 maneuvering continued between George Meade’s Federal army and Robert E. Lee’s forces. Meade’s army moved southward after crossing the Potomac into Virginia, attempting to block the passes in the Blue Ridge Mountains thus leaving Lee’s army in a vulnerable position and placing Meade closer to Richmond than Lee.