Robert E. Lee Library of Congress

General Robert E. Lee’s Confedeprice Army of Northern Virginia gotten in the final phase of a protracted season of marketing as it marched towards Maryland also during the initially week of September 1862. General Joseph E. Johnston’s disabling wound at the fight of Fair Oaks had actually lugged Lee to command of the army on June 1, 1862, and also within a month he had seized the initiative from Major General George B. McClellan, driving the Union’s Military of the Potomac ameans from Richmond in the Salso Days" Battles. With his funding safe, Lee marched northward in late August and won a stunning victory over Major General John Pope’s Army of Virginia at the Second Battle of Manassas or Bull Run. These two Confederate victories had actually cleared Virginia of any significant Union armed forces presence, and also Lee sshould build on his success by taking the war across the Potomac River right into the United States. Lee’s bold maneuvering finished as soon as he retreated from Maryland adhering to the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, cshedding a three-month duration that have to be perceived as a solitary astronomical procedure that reoriented the war from the outskirts of Richmond to the Potomac frontier and also marked Lee’s spectacular debut as a area commander.

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In taking his army across the Potomac River in at an early stage September, Lee had in mind strategic, logistical, and also political determinants. He believed that the soldiers of McClellan and Pope “lay weakened and demoralized” in the vicinity of Washington, D.C., and also he sought to preserve aggressive momentum fairly than assume a protective position and also allow the Federals to muster their superior toughness to mount an additional offensive. If he continued to be in Virginia, Lee would certainly be required to react to Union motions, whereas in Maryland also or Pennsylvania he would hold the initiative. Lee believed he could easily flank the adversary by crossing the Potomac upriver from Washington and marching the Military of Northern Virginia with Maryland also. A short thrust right into Union area would not be enough; a protracted stay would be the vital to Confederate success. Lee hoped to keep his army on United States soil with much of the loss, not with the intention of recording and also holding territory however with an eye toward accomplishing numerous objectives prior to returning to Virginia as winter approached.

The many necessary of those purposes focused on logistics. Facing important shortages of food, Lee kbrand-new that a activity into the untouched agricultural areas of Maryland and Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley hosted substantial promise. If positioned northwest of Washington, Lee could force the Federals to remajor between him and also their resources, thus liberating war-worn down north and also north-main Virginia, as well as the Shenandoah Valley, from the presence of the contending armies. Southern ranches that had actually endured from the presence of scores of hundreds of troops could recoup, plants can be harvested safely, and also civilians might enjoy a respite from the tension of constant uncertainty around their persons and also residential or commercial property. On the other hand, Lee’s army would gather essential food, fodder, and also other offers from Maryland also and maybe from southerly Pennsylvania. This double-sided logistical bonus, by itself, would certainly be enough to render the Maryland also campaign a success.

Beyond preserving the strategic offensive and also enhancing his logistical case, Lee sensed an opportunity to influence political events in the United States. He check out Northern newsdocuments closely and knew that bitter disputes raged in between Northern Republicans and Democrats around civil liberties, the conduct of the war, and also emancipation. If the project north of the Potomac went as Lee hoped, the North’s fall elections would certainly take location while the Military of Northern Virginia maneuvered in Maryland also or Pennsylvania. The existence of the premier Rebel army on USA soil would hurt Lincoln and also the Republicans, thought Lee, making it easier for Democrats to press for some form of negotiated negotiation.

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Lee addressed the link between army and political events in a letter to Confedeprice President Jefferchild Davis on September 8, 1862, remarking that “for more than a year both sections of the country have actually been devastated by hostilities which have lugged sorrow and experiencing upon thousands of homes, without advancing the objects which our opponents proposed to themselves in beginning the contest.” The time had come to propose peace on the basis of Confedeprice freedom. “Made as soon as it is in our power to inflict injury upon our evil one,” reasoned Lee via his army’s northward movement in mind, such a proposal “would certainly show conclusively to the civilization that our single object is the facility of our self-reliance, and also the attainment of honorable tranquility.” Should the Lincoln government disapprove the proposal, ongoing Lee, Northerners would understand that complete obligation for continuance of the battle rested with the Republicans rather than through the Confederacy. Voters would go to the polls in November 1862 “to identify . . . whether they will assistance those who favor a prolongation of the battle, or those that wish to carry it to a termination, which can however be productive of great to both parties without affecting the honor of either.”


Confedeprice artillery in front of the Dunker Church Rob Shenk


Lee additionally held high really hopes for the state of Maryland also. He joined many type of various other Confedeprices in reasoning that just Federal bayonets maintained that slave state in the Union against the wishes of its occupants. Citizens of Baltieven more had rioted in April 1861. Marylanders had been arrested and incarcerated without benefit of the writ of habeas corpus. Thirty-one secessionist members of the state legislature, in addition to the mayor of Baltimore, had been imprisoned for numerous weeks during the fall of 1861. Thousands of Maryland also citizens wondered if their liberties would stand in abeyance for the duration of the war. Lee believed the influence of his victorious army can embolden Maryland’s military-age males to action forward in energetic assistance of the Confederacy, after which they might when again, as he put it in a proclamation to Marylanders on September 8, “reap the inalipermit legal rights of freeguys, and also gain back freedom and sovereignty to your State.”

Two necessary factors that stood in the balance as Lee relocated into Maryland played no function in the general’s decision-making. He knew nopoint about Abraham Lincoln’s intention to concern a preliminary proclamation of emancipation if Union armies won a victory – somepoint the president would certainly carry out in the wake of Antietam – and therefore planned without considering just how his motions can shape Lincoln’s actions relating to that momentous problem. And he did not march northward via the expectation of persuading England also and also France to extfinish formal diplomatic acknowledgment to the Confederacy. Although leaders in London and also Paris, that in September 1862 edged closer to some kind of diplomatic treatment than at any type of various other time during the battle, watched closely to see whether the Military of Northern Virginia would certainly win one more triumph, Lee constantly insisted that the Confederacy have to never count on assist from Europe to accomplish its freedom. Namong his correspondence at the moment of the Maryland also campaign stated the possibility of affecting foreign observers.

As he considered the feasible outcomes of his campaign, Lee expressed no are afraid of aggressive Federal reaction to his march across the Potomac. Thstormy the first week of September, reports indicated that Northern troops were concentrating in the fortifications exterior Washington. If a Federal army did rouse itself to face Lee, he would certainly have the advantage of fighting on the tactical protective on ground of his own selecting – possibly deffinishing gaps in the South Mountain Range or various other favorable positions. “The only 2 topics that give me any type of uneasiness,” Lee composed Jefferchild Davis on September 4 as his army began to cross the Potomac at White’s Ford, near Leesburg, Virginia, “are my provides of ammunition and also subsistence.” The former was not an instant problem: “I have actually enough for present use,” declared Lee, “and also must await outcomes before deciding to what allude I will certainly have additional supplies forwarded.” As for food and also fodder, the farms of western Maryland would certainly answer the requirements of the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee had summed up his analysis of the situation in the early on fall of 1862 in a letter written to Jefferson Davis the previous day: “The existing seems to be the the majority of propitious time since the beginning of the war for the Confedeprice Army to enter Maryland.”