Meanwhile, since Gettysburg, no conspicuous event had attracted attention in Virginia. The President had been disappointed that Meade had not fought at Williamsport, but soon afterward he gave decisive advice against forcing a fight at a worse place in order to cure the blunder of having let go the chance to fight at the right place. About the middle of September, however, when Lee had reduced his army by leaves of absence and by dispatching Longstreet to reinforce Bragg, Mr. Lincoln thought it a good time to attack him. Meade, on the other hand, now said that he did not feel strong enough to assault, and this although he had 90,000 men “between him and Washington,” and by his estimate the whole force of the enemy, “stretching as far as Richmond,” was only 60,000. “For a battle, then,” wrote Mr. Lincoln, “General Meade has three men to General Lee’s two. Yet, it having been determined that choosing ground and standing on the defensive gives so great advantage that the three cannot safely attack the two, the three are left simply standing on the defensive also. If the enemy’s 60,000 are sufficient to keep our 90,000 away from Richmond, why, by the same rule, may not 40,000 of ours keep their 60,000 away from Washington, leaving us 50,000 to put to some other use?... I can perceive no fault in this statement, unless we admit we are not the equal of the enemy man for man.” But when, a few days later, Stanton proposed to detach 30,000 men from Meade to Rosecrans, Mr. Lincoln demurred, and would agree only to let go 13,000, whom Hooker took with him to Chattanooga. Probably he did not wish to diminish the Federal strength in Virginia.
Late in October, Lee, overestimating the number of troops thus withdrawn, endeavored to move northward; but Meade outmanoeuvred and outmarched him, and he fell back behind the Rapidan. General Meade next took his turn at the aggressive. Toward the close of November he crossed the Rapidan with the design of flanking and attacking Lee. But an untoward delay gave the Southerners time to intrench themselves so strongly that an attack was imprudent, and Meade returned to the north bank of the stream. The miscarriage hurt his reputation with the people, though he was not to blame for it.
Now, as the severe season was about to begin, all the armies both of the North and of the South, on both sides of the mountain ranges, turned gladly into winter quarters. Each had equal need to rest and recuperate after hard campaigns and bloody battles. For a while the war news was infrequent and insignificant; and the cessation in the thunder of cannon and the rattle of musketry gives opportunity again to hear the voices of contending politicians. For a while we must leave the warriors and give ear to the talkers.
 Palfrey, The Antietam and Fredericksburg, 132.
 Swinton says: “The moment he confronted his antagonist he seemed to suffer a collapse of all his powers.” Army of Potomac, 280.