The telegram that GEN Halleck hand-carried to the White House on the morning of 2 July was a long and sad one. Meade had detailed as best he could his situation and plan. Nearly three Union Corps and about a dozen Union generals were now CSA POWs. But since he had had no communication what so ever from Hancock, he had no true picture of what the Army of Northern Virginia was up to. There was one short telegraph message saying that MG Early had reversed his march to York but then the lines went dead.
Then he received the dispatch purporting to have come from GEN Lee. Pending confirmation, he had little choice but to invoke the Pipe Creek Plan and pull back the Corps that he still controlled.
He sent details of his consolidation of his 4 remaining corps at Pipe Creek. Three where already in place with the Fifth Union Corps approaching Manchester where it would become the right flank. His planned defensive line was thinned to 4 corps but BG Hunt his artillery commander assured him that he could intersperse batteries between the infantry strongholds. He had placed Hays’ Division at Middleburg to protect that southern approach to Westminster. The basic alignment at Pipe Creek was to block the two main approaches: the Taneytown Road and the Baltimore Pike. There was a vulnerable gap south of Middleburg but Meade did not think Lee could maneuver his army that far south and west without being detected. Westminster was safe for now.
Meade’s closing plea to Halleck was to send at least one more corps to replace the three he had lost. Lincoln was reluctant to weaken the defenses of WASHDC, until Halleck reminded him that the reason for the existence of the Army of the Potomac was to protect the District and it would be better to do so at Westminster than Bethesda. So Lincoln agreed to load the Fourth Union Corps on trains. This would slow the delivery of supplies to Westminster, but Halleck assured him that there were more than sufficient stores there already. Between them, they decided that BG Buford would undergo a courts marshal for his failure to follow orders and for usurping GEN Meade’s authority in committing Union forces to that ill-fated ambush and rescue.
So the die was cast for a confrontation at Pipe Creek. Lee would need to decide when and how.
OR Lincoln could sue for peace and go to the negotiating table to work out the details of a divided nation!