“Toward the end of the summer of 1862 the mirage of final Southern independence looked briefly and dazzlingly like an imminent reality.” - Bruce Catton.
The subject of Robert E. Lee can be a touchy one. Praise the man and one risks being seen as a supporter of the “Lost Cause.” What can’t be denied is his strategic and tactical brilliance in the Civil War.
The last time we talked, Lee was implementing his battlefield moves for the first time. East of Richmond, he repelled McClellan and sent him back to Washington. On the offensive with this Northern Virginia campaign, Lee met the Federals a second time at Manassas/Bull Run in late August 1862. With strong leadership from his generals, the Confederates flat out whipped Pope’s men, and in doing so, took control of Northern Virginia.
Lee then had his eyes on Maryland and Pennsylvania. McClellan chased him. What came next was the Battle of Antietam, the first battle in Union territory (Maryland was a border state).
This puts me at a crossroads. I could look at both battles but since I toured the Manassas Battlefield already for the first battle, I decided to focus next on Antietam. I may still do both but for now, the one that cost so much and turned the tide.
My decision was influenced by the ton of material on Antietam, including Stephen Sears, Landscape Turned Red. It’s ranked as the best by Brett Schulte. I enjoyed Sears’s "The Gates of Richmond" and was thrilled to learn he also wrote on Antietam.
There’s going to be a lot of attention focused on this battle, and rightfully so. With the future of the nation in the balance, Lincoln had begun to write a document that would change the course of American history. Wanting to proclaim it from a position of strength, he waited nervously to see if Lee could be stopped.
Note: The USPS will begin the sale of two Forever stamps on Tuesday – Antietam/Sharpsburg and The Battle of New Orleans.