Holly B. Hampton
History 141 TTH
The eleven states of the Confederacy
established a functioning government at
Richmond in May 1861 with its armies in control
of virtually all of the 750,000 square miles that
constituted its natural territory. To win the war the
South only needed to defend what it already
President Abraham Lincoln wished to
achieve his war aims of preserving the United
States as a whole nation- a union of all states.
After the defeat at Bull Run, Lincoln had
called 34 year old McClellan to take command
of the army of the Potomac. The political
leaders and press called him, “The Young
Napoleon.” McClellan wrote, “I am fighting to
preserve the integrity of the Union.”
Unlike McClellan, who had known nothing
but success in his life and was afraid to risk
failure, Grants experience of failure before the
war made him willing to take risks.
The first cloud on the horizon of the Union
military success in 1862 appeared in the
Shenandoah Valley. The Union commander was
General Banks, appointed because of his
political influence. To Banks misfortune, he
faced Confederate General “Stonewall”
Jackson who succeeded so brilliantly that he
became the most renowned commander in the
During the weeks surrounding the Seven
Days, Lincoln took several actions to revitalize
the Union war effort, in the long run these
changes changed the course of the war.
On June 17th the president summoned
General John Pope from the war to take
command of the newly designed army of
Virginia. Pope was to cooperate with McClellan
against the Confederate. Pope and McClellan
did not get along at all.
Little good news for the Union came out of
the western theatre to offset bad news in Virginia
during July and August. Northern solders tried to
dig a bypass canal of range of Vicksburg’s
batteries, but low water in the Mississippi flooded
their efforts. The men fell sick with several dying
Meanwhile Buell failed in liberating East
Lees’ victorious but worn-out army should
have gone into camp for rest and refitting after
Second Manassas. They had been marching or
fighting with out cessation for 10 weeks. He had
the initiative and was loath to give it up. Lee
believed that in a long war the greater numbers,
resources and industrial capacity of the North
Walter Taylor declared on September 7th
that, “Now is the time for Maryland or never.”
The wish soon became fact, as viewed from
Richmond with optimistic reports that large
number of Maryland men were joining Lees’
army. But the reality was quite different.
The outward appearance of solders in the
Army of Northern Virginia did not inspire
confidence among Marylanders. They were
unwashed, unshaven and hungry.
On September 14th Jackson tightened the
noose around Harper Ferry and Confederate
artillery began firing at the garrison trapped like
fish in a barrel. The next morning Harpers Ferry
surrendered. Miles’s was mortally wounded and
would never have to answer to the charge of
suspicion of treason.
Messages went out to Lees’ scattered units
to march to Sharpsburg. McClellan got the
victory at Antietam and was irritated by the lack
of praise or recognition from Washington.
The Army of Northern Virginia was not
destroyed at Antietam, as Lincoln had hoped,
nor was it beaten utterly as McClellan claimed.
But it was hurt badly.
The army indeed did not exhibit its former
temper for some time after Antietam. A Georgia
captain wrote on September 23rd, “We lost more
than we gained in it.”
To the end of his life McClellan believed
that Antietam was his finest hour, when he
saved the Union and earned the gratitude of
the republic. McClellan was also involved in two
pivotal moments in the Civil War. One more
punch by him and he might have knocked the
Confederacy out of the war. No other
campaign and battle in the war had such
momentous, multiple consequences as
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