In United States history, one of the most momentous months was in September of 1862. This was a period of crisis and a very exciting opportunity. The Northerners had high hopes that the rebellion would be squashed over the summer like the leaves falling off of the trees. Under a campaign led by Major General George B. McClellan and is amazing Army of the Potomac to seize the Confederate’s capital known as Richmond ended in a shattering defeat.
Major General John Pope led the Army of Virginia with the reinforcements utilized from the Potomac Army was conquered in the Second Battle over Manassas. As Union armies began to stumble into Washington, they sought out shelter in the fortifications of the capital. Later two of the Confederate armies launched an offense that spread into Kentucky. Discouragement and disgust rang loud throughout the North. A Union soldier at the nation’s capital, reflected the mood of many of the soldiers. His writing revealed “The whole army is disgusted. You shouldn’t be surprised if success falls into the hands of the rebels with a rapidity that is astonishing.”
In the east, General Robert E. Lee the father of the Confederate victories moved in to exploit the opportunities that is Second Manassas victory offered. From the beginning the General understood that the best hop the Confederacy had for independence settled on the morale of the people in the North. If they didn’t believe a war could be victorious or if they thought it would come at too high of a price, the possibility of Southern independence could have been a reality that he couldn’t bear.
The Confederate military relished in their success and knew it was the means to end a bad morale and create a new political climate. Elections in the fall for the North were approaching. France and England stood by in the wings just watching carefully. They weighed whether or not they should even consider recognition of the Confederacy. For General Lee a great opportunity had presented itself.
General Lee felt the Union army was demoralized as well as disorganized. He knew that newly raised regiments were being put together as reinforcements. They were answering the call of President Lincoln in July for volunteers somewhere in the number of 300,000 soldiers. There was only one move that would take the Federals into the field before they had an opportunity to reorganize. They knew they had the opportunity to do the most damage to the morale in the North by invasion of the Maryland state border.