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Robert E. Lee

"The current seems to be the the majority of propitious time because the beginning of the battle for the Confedeprice Military to enter Maryland also ... we cannot afford to be idle, and though weaker than our enemies in men and also army equipments, need to venture to harass if we cannot damage them. I am aware that the motion is attfinished via much threat, yet I perform not take into consideration success impossible ..." - Robert E. Lee, in a letter to President Jefferboy Davis, 3 September 1862

After a really effective summer of fighting in the Peninsula and also 2nd Bull Run campaigns, General Robert E. Lee and also his Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) found themselves with undiscussed possession of the majority of of Northern Virginia. The Federal militaries had tumbled ago into the defenses of Washington in some disrange and also the Confederate Capital, Richmond, at leastern for the moment being, was safe. Lee then had to decide what to do following.

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Lee could not reprimary long wright here he was. Northern Virginia had been largely stripped of food, fodder, and supplies by the Union occupation and also tough fighting of the preceding months. He necessary to feed and re-supply his troops, yet he was also mindful of the extremely reason his army existed: to achieve the goal of Southern Independence.

Lee's Choices

One alternative was to rotate South or West, toward Richmond or out to the lush Shenandoah Valley, to rest and also provision his army. Though fairly safe, and also maybe logical, this would certainly have actually been an unmost likely choice for Lee. To have actually done so would have shed the hard-earned armed forces gains of the summer, and reverted the initiative to the Federals. Lee was constantly most effective once he referred to as the shots, and he would certainly not easily give that up.

Another possibility was to strike the Union armies then in Washington. This would additionally have been a negative alternative - Washington was well fortified and also manned. As Lee created in his letter to President Davis, "I had actually no intention of attacking him in his fortifications, and am not ready to invest them. If I possessed the vital munitions, I have to be unable to supply provisions for the troops". Lee intended to threaten the Capital, but not hit head-on.

The last real choice, then, wregarding head north into Maryland. Obviously, this is what Lee chose to do, and his plans were apverified by President Davis. So what were the determinants in Lee's decision? Before now, the Confedeprice army strategy had strictly been just one of defending the borders and also territory of the Confederacy, yet perhaps this was a great time for a readjust. There were great risks, to be sure, but additionally glorious possibilities.

The Stakes

Lee had actually a variety of excellent factors for venturing North, and also we'll look at them below. First and forea lot of, as he put it in an 1868 interwatch, he "entered Maryland also to give battle." Whatever else could come from this, he wanted to fight the Federals. He knew tright here was bit chance of winning the war otherwise. Lee's aim was to destroy the adversary, or at least harass him.

Once on Northern soil, the ANV would certainly instantly constitute a hazard to Washington and various other northern cities, which would force the Military of the Potomac (AOP), George B. McClellan commanding, to come out in quest. Lee approximated that the AOP was disorganized and also demoralized complying with the 2nd battle at Bull Run, and that many of the new replacement troops were not yet well trained. This convinced Lee he could obtain a great jump on the Federals, and also accomplish them somewbelow in Maryland on better than also terms in a fight of his choosing.

For the Confederacy, a glittering prize which can be won by a successful project was the opportunity of armed forces or political treatment by a European power, particularly England also or France. Tbelow was solid sentiment and also political press, at leastern in England, to take some kind of action in the American dispute, presumably taking the part of the Confedeprice States. Tbelow were many in America both north and also southern that thought that, after the negative Union reflecting on the Peninsula and at Bull Run, another comprehensive Rebel victory could be enough to carry the outsiders in.

Lee additionally hoped that by the existence of his Military he might "liberate" Maryland; assist them "throw off the yoke" of Yankee oppression, and also carry the state right into the Confederacy. A Border state, Maryland had actually a huge and also vocal minority who sympathized with the Southern position. If they joined the Confedeprice States, the Union's Capital would need to be abandoned - surrounded. Even if the state didn't actually secede from the Union, possibly big numbers of recruits could be included to the army. At the very least, Lee would have the ability to feed and equip his troops on Northern offers (to be bought, not taken) quite than those of Virginia.

In enhancement, Lee calculated that he would certainly be protecting Richmond by keeping the Federals busy in Maryland also. He did suggest that if the troops continuing to be near the Southern Capital were not enough, some of General Braxton Bragg's troops (from Tennessee) can be carried East if it seemed the Federals were threatening. Operations in Maryland would certainly also store the Union forces out of the Shenandoah Valley. The Valley is wealthy farming nation, and was the "breadbasket" of Virginia. The farmers tbelow necessary time to carry in the coming harvest, and provide for the next winter. Lee's calculation on this was correct, of course: tright here wasn't so a lot as a hint that any Federal force wregarding be sent out south while Lee was in Maryland.

Probably the many vital possible benefit, and also outcome a lot of desirable to Lee, was the hope that the presence of his army would certainly convince Northern civilians that the war could not be won (or was no much longer worth fighting), strengthening the reason of those calling for a negotiated end to the battle. Lee had actually in the back of his mind the opportunity that he might current a tranquility proposal, from a place of stamina, that would certainly market an finish to the fighting in exchange for Confederate freedom. Although peace discussions of this type did occur later on in the war, the Maryland Campaign did not achieve this hope.

The Dangers

When Lee admitted that tright here was "much risk" in his plan to relocate north, he meant the actual opportunity that his army would certainly be destroyed in combat or trapped in foe area. In reality, his place at Sharpsburg was extremely practically a trap: had the fight gone badly and also he'd been out-flanked on the northern component of the area, or been reduced off from the fords, he would have actually been difficult pressed to gain his army safely ago to Virginia.

Lee likewise knew that his Military of Northern Virginia was in sad shape after months of nearly constant marketing. He detailed in his letter to the President that "the army is not correctly equipped for an invasion of an enemy's region. It lacks much of the material of battle, is feeble in transportation, the pets being much reduced, and also the men are poorly gave via clothing, and also in hundreds of instances are destitute of shoes..." It would get worse.

When Lee decided to relocate he had actually about 60 000 troops on hand. By the time he met McClellan at Sharpsburg, he was dvery own to around 40 000 effectives. A few of the absent were left behind at Winchester VA bereason, although brave fighters defending Southern ground, they felt it wrong to invade the North. The army additionally endured from considerable straggling on the roads of Maryland: many kind of soldiers fell out of their units bereason of sickness, hunger, and also fatigue brought on by an extremely lean diet of green corn and also apples, and strenuous marching, frequently in bare feet. Many kind of troops were also shed at the South Mountain Gaps on September 14 and in the withdrawal to Sharpsburg following. While Lee might not have anticipated the magnitude of these losses, he knew his army was exhausted, yet still had actually great confidence that his soldiers were the equal of any variety of Federal troops.

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It was this confidence, together with all the potential gains, that most likely assisted General Lee conclude that a drive right into Maryland was his ideal different. Even without advantage of the historians' hindsight, it is challenging to view what various other option Lee can have made.