Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Antietam: The End of the Overland Campaign...of 1862

An unknown Confederate soldier lies dead next to the recent grave of
 Lt. John A. Clark, 7th Michigan Infantry
     The Battle of Antietam signaled the end of the Civil War's first Overland Campaign. That's an intriguing thought. The first time that notion crossed my mind was while reading Joseph Harsh's Taken at the Flood. Three military campaigns--the Seven Days', Second Manassas, and Maryland campaigns--constituted the larger whole. "Each had a distinct aim," Harsh writes.
Lee did not plan them all in advance at one sitting. He did not plot his move against McClellan on the Chickahominy as the first step toward the Potomac. Nonetheless, Lee's three operations do connect to make one larger campaign. As events evolved, Lee lifted his eyes from one freed frontier to the next. One campaign grew naturally from the other, and when completed they formed an organic whole. What started as a campaign to relieve Richmond became a campaign to win the war.(1)
While Lee and the Confederate high command did not envision driving the Army of the Potomac away from Richmond and then immediately moving north into Maryland, bringing that state into the folds of the Confederacy was a goal for the southern government. However, Lee took advantages of the opportunities that were presented to him, which led to a three-month-long stretch from the end of June to September 1862 that witnessed nearly--but not entirely--constant marching and fighting.