Sep 3 -18 1862
Lee’s First Invasion:
Robert E Lee had taken command of the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) in June 1862. After a few battle victories, he decided to invade the North. That time his plans were less grandiose than the second invasion in 1863.
That invasion was thwarted by a series of unlikely events beginning with to discovery by Union forces of a saddle bag containing Lee’s plan of advance. In what was to be a prelude to the carnage of July 1863, the battle at Sharpsburg (Antietam) was the single bloodiest day of the entire war.
The Battle of Antietam left almost 24,000 WIA, the bloodiest day of the Civil War. 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat on September 17, 1862. The Battle of Antietam ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s first invasion into the North and led Abraham Lincoln to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
April 30 to May 6, 1863
December 11–15, 1862
Although the Battle for the town of Fredericksburg had occurred six months prior, it was still fresh in minds of many of the veterans on both sides. From Marye’s Heights, Lee and Longstreet had rained hellfire down on to the Union forces crossing the open ground below. They didn’t yet know it but Lee and Meade were about to reprise that configuration in reverse! Meade was but a division commander under Reynolds’ Corps command, but he was well acquainted with the terrain and the tactics that swung the battle for the Union. Ambrose Burnside was in overall command of the Union forces. It was only a threat of a flank attack that caused Lee to decide to withdraw from the battle field. Burnside was relieved of command a month later, following an unsuccessful attempt to purge some of his subordinates from the Army. The massive losses beneath Marye’s Heights figured prominently in Lincoln’s decision.
One instance at Chancellorsville was particularly memorable for MG Sickles. His Third Corps had occupied a place called Hazel Grove. To him it was a highly strategic position. Hooker ordered Sickles to move from Hazel Grove to a new position on the Plank Road. Sickles argued with his dear friend but finally complied. Stonewall Jackson’s troops replaced Sickles and bombarded his new position mercilessly. Sickles vowed never to allow such a debacle again. Sickles and Hooker had been close associates, if not precisely friends. Meade and Sickles had personalities and beliefs that clashed in many ways.
All of this would play out on Day 2 at Gettysburg.
[also see Section 29]
A third somewhat more distant battle was still looming in the minds of some of Lee’s army: that at Malvern Hill.
“Lee’s part in the Confederate defeat at Malvern Hill has been criticized by historians. Though he put rested troops on the field and accepted Longstreet’s suggestions, which did not commit him to a charge, Lee himself was not present on the battlefield to observe the fighting. Historian Stephen Sears points out that Lee’s ineffective communication with his generals and apparent failure to write his own communications to his brigadier generals (instead leaving orders open to interpretation) may have contributed to the defeat. Consequently, Lee must also share blame in the repeated lack of coordination of attacks throughout the day.”