Why Lee Invaded Maryland

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Why did General Lee Invade Maryland?

Why Lee Invaded Maryland: Lee's greatest objective was that a victory in the North could possibly gain diplomatic recognition from Europe and bring England and France to the aid and assistance of the South. Such a victory might cause the people of the North to question President Abraham Lincoln's leadership and force him to sue for peace.

Just one week after the Second Battle of Bull Run, General Robert E. Lee decided it was time to take the war into the North. By marching his victorious army into Maryland, Lee had several objectives. He wanted to maintain the momentum achieved with his stunning victory at Bull Run, which left the retreating Union army in chaos. By advancing into Maryland, Lee could relieve Virginia of enemy occupation. He knew the Union army would have to mirror his movements and take up defensive positions in front of Washington and Baltimore.

Lee hoped that by marching into Maryland he could rally the Border State for the Southern cause. He could perhaps influence the upcoming Congressional Elections and persuade more Democrats (who favored peace) to outvote the Republican majority in the House and demand an end to the Civil War.

Logistically, moving his army into the unharvested, virgin countryside of western Maryland would provide new food supplies for Lee's hungry soldiers, and the merchant stores in Frederick could resupply his troops with new clothing and shoes. September and October mark the key harvest months. Without Union armies impeding them, the Southern farmers could gather their harvests and subsequently feed Lee's armies during the winter.

On Thursday morning, September 4, 1862, the dirty, ragged Army of Northern Virginia splashed across the shallow fords of the Potomac River just north of Leesburg to the strains of "Maryland, My Maryland." By midmorning, Saturday, September 6, General "Stonewall" Jackson's advance force of 5,000 men marched down Market Street in Frederick and made camp on the north side of town. The remainder of Lee's 40,000-man army soon followed.

Upon his arrival in town, Lee designed the Proclamation to the People of Maryland, inviting them to side with the Southern movement. For the next several days Lee's troops, upon strict orders not to pillage, bought all the food, shoes and clothing they could find at the stores. But soon it became obvious that the citizens of Frederick, though polite, had little sympathy for the Southern cause.

So Lee comprised a new set of plans. He would divide his forces into four sections, sending Gen. Jackson with six divisions of 22,000 men to eliminate the 12,000-strong Federal garrison at Harpers Ferry to the southwest. The remaining three divisions of Lee's forces--18,000 men, under Gen. James Longstreet- would move northwest over the Catoctin and South Mountain ranges to Boonsboro and Hagerstown, a distance of 25 miles.

Later, Jackson would rejoin Lee and Longstreet at Hagerstown. Then, using these mountain ranges to protect his right flank, Lee could move his combined Confederate forces northeast along the rail line to Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania and a key rail center for the Union. Early on Wednesday morning, September 10, Lee's forces began leaving Frederick to carry out their assignments.

Three unforeseen events, however, would disrupt Lee's plans. General George McClellan would reorganize the Army of the Potomac in days, rather than weeks as Lee expected, and arrive in Frederick on Friday, September 12th. Second, the garrison at Harpers Ferry, rather than fleeing, was ordered to stand until reinforcements could arrive. Third, an official copy of Lee's Special Orders No. 191--wrapped around three cigars--would be found by a Union private in an abandoned Confederate campsite the next day. (Maryland Civil War History.)

When Lee learned that McClellan's army was moving westward from Frederick, he realized the peril of his divided forces. He rapidly sent troops to block the three main passes over South Mountain, providing sufficient time to concentrate the majority of his forces in a defensive position around Sharpsburg, six miles to the southwest of Boonsboro. Concurrently, McClellan's 85,000 men gathered on the east bank of the Antietam Creek. And thus, late on September 16, the die was cast for the battle that would begin at sunrise the next morning; the battle that would become known as the bloodiest day in America's history.

Sources: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; Antietam Battlefield Board; Antietam National Battlefield Park; National Park Service.

Recommended Reading: The Antietam Campaign (Military Campaigns of the Civil War). Description: The Maryland campaign of September 1862 ranks among the most important military operations of the American Civil War. Crucial political, diplomatic, and military issues were at stake as Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan maneuvered and fought in the western part of the state. The climactic clash came on September 17 at the battle of Antietam, where more than 23,000 men fell in the single bloodiest day of the war. Continued below...

Approaching topics related to Lee's and McClellan's operations from a variety of perspectives, numerous contributors to this volume explore questions regarding military leadership, strategy, and tactics, the impact of the fighting on officers and soldiers in both armies, and the ways in which participants and people behind the lines interpreted and remembered the campaign. They also discuss the performance of untried military units and offer a look at how the United States Army used the Antietam battlefield as an outdoor classroom for its officers in the early twentieth century. Also available in paperback: The Antietam Campaign (Military Campaigns of the Civil War)

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Recommended Reading: General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse. Review: You cannot say that University of North Carolina professor Glatthaar (Partners in Command) did not do his homework in this massive examination of the Civil War–era lives of the men in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Glatthaar spent nearly 20 years examining and ordering primary source material to ferret out why Lee's men fought, how they lived during the war, how they came close to winning, and why they lost. Glatthaar marshals convincing evidence to challenge the often-expressed notion that the war in the South was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight and that support for slavery was concentrated among the Southern upper class. Continued below...

Lee's army included the rich, poor and middle-class, according to the author, who contends that there was broad support for the war in all economic strata of Confederate society. He also challenges the myth that because Union forces outnumbered and materially outmatched the Confederates, the rebel cause was lost, and articulates Lee and his army's acumen and achievements in the face of this overwhelming opposition. This well-written work provides much food for thought for all Civil War buffs.

 

Editor's Pick: The Maryland Campaign of September 1862: Ezra A. Carman's Definitive Study of the Union and Confederate Armies at Antietam (Hardcover). Description: Completed in the early 1900s, The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 is still the essential source for anyone seeking understanding of the bloodiest day in all of American history. As the U.S. War Department’s official expert on the Battle of Antietam, Ezra Carman corresponded with and interviewed hundreds of other veterans from both sides of the conflict to produce a comprehensive history of the campaign that dashed the Confederacy’s best hope for independence and ushered in the Emancipation Proclamation. Nearly a century after its completion, Carman's manuscript has finally made its way into print, in an edition painstakingly edited, annotated, and indexed by Joseph Pierro. The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 is a crucial document for anyone interested in delving below the surface of the military campaign that forever altered the course of American history. Continued below...

Editorial Reviews:

Ted Alexander, Chief Historian, Antietam National Battlefield

"The Ezra Carman manuscript is the definitive study of that bloody September day in 1862. By editing it Joseph Pierro has done a tremendous service to the field of Civil War studies. Indeed, this work is one of the most important Civil War publications to come out in decades."

 

James M. McPherson, author of Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam

"Many accounts of Civil War battles were written in the decades after the war by soldiers who had participated in them. None rivals in accuracy and thoroughness Ezra Carmen's study of the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, in which he fought as colonel of the 13th New Jersey. Students of the 1862 Maryland campaign have long relied on this manuscript as a vital source; Joseph Pierro's scrupulous editorial work has now made this detailed narrative accessible to everyone. A splendid achievement."

  

Jeffry D. Wert, author of The Sword Of Lincoln: The Army of the Potomac

"At last, after a century, Ezra A. Carman's The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 has received the attention it deserves. A Union veteran, Carman authored a remarkable primary study of the critical operations that ended along Antietam Creek. Editor Joseph Pierro has given students of the Civil War and American history a most welcome and long overdue book."

 

Edwin C. Bearss, author of Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War

"My introduction to the Ezra A. Carman Papers at the Library of Congress and National Archives came in the spring of 1961. I was astounded and amazed by their depth and scope. The correspondence, troop movement maps, etc, along with Carman's unpublished manuscript on the Antietam Campaign constitutes then as now an invaluable legacy to the American people by Carman and the veterans of Antietam. But for too long that resource has only been available to the general public as microfilm or by traveling to Washington. Now thanks to the publishers and skilled, knowledgeable, sympathetic, but light-handed editor Joseph Pierro, an annotated copy of Carman's masterpiece The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 will be available to the public."

 

William C. Davis, author of Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America

"Joseph Pierro brings into the open one of the great and largely unknown masterworks of Civil War history. Ezra Carman's work on Antietam is a fountainhead for study of that pivotal battle, written by a man who was in the fight and who spent most of his life studying and marking the battlefield. No student can afford to ignore this stunningly thorough and brilliantly edited classic."

 

Recommended Reading: Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam (Pivotal Moments in American History) (Hardcover). Description: The bloodiest day in United States history was September 17, 1862, when, during the Civil War battle at Antietam, approximately 6,500 soldiers were killed or mortally wounded, while more than 15,000 were seriously wounded. James M. McPherson states in Crossroads of Freedom the concise chronicle of America’s bloodiest day and that it may well have been the pivotal moment of the war, as well as the young republic itself. Continued below...

The South, after a series of setbacks in the spring of 1862, had reversed the war's momentum during the summer, and was on the "brink of military victory" and about to achieve diplomatic recognition by European nations, most notably England and France. Though the bulk of his book concerns itself with the details--and incredible carnage--of the battle, McPherson raises it above typical military histories by placing it in its socio-political context: The victory prodded Abraham Lincoln to announce his "preliminary" Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves. England and France deferred their economic alliance with the battered secessionists. Most importantly, it kept Lincoln's party, the Republicans, in control of Congress. McPherson's account is accessible, elegant, and economical. Also available in paperback: Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam (Pivotal Moments in American History)
 

Recommended Reading: The Civil War Battlefield Guide: The Definitive Guide, Completely Revised, with New Maps and More Than 300 Additional Battles (Second Edition) (Hardcover). Description: This new edition of the definitive guide to Civil War battlefields is really a completely new book. While the first edition covered 60 major battlefields, from Fort Sumter to Appomattox, the second covers all of the 384 designated as the "principal battlefields" in the American Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report. Continued below...

As in the first edition, the essays are authoritative and concise, written by such leading Civil War historians as James M. McPherson, Stephen W. Sears, Edwin C. Bearss, James I. Robinson, Jr., and Gary W. Gallager. The second edition also features 83 new four-color maps covering the most important battles. The Civil War Battlefield Guide is an essential reference for anyone interested in the Civil War. "Reading this book is like being at the bloodiest battles of the war..."

Why Did General Robert E. Lee Invade Maryland? Reason Why Lee Invaded Maryland Reasons Details History Results of the Maryland Campaign Lee’s Strategy Civil War

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