Fatal Decision: Lee Chooses to Invade the North

General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia entered the final stage of a protracted season of campaigning as it marched toward Maryland during the first week of September 1862. General Joseph E. Johnston’s disabling wound at the battle of Fair Oaks had brought Lee to command of the army on June 1, 1862, and within a month he had seized the initiative from Major General George B. McClellan, driving the Union’s Army of the Potomac away from Richmond in the Seven Days' Battles. With his capital safe, Lee marched northward in late August and won a stunning victory over Major General John Pope’s Army of Virginia at the Second Battle of Manassas or Bull Run. These two Confederate victories had cleared Virginia of any major Union military presence, and Lee sought to build on his success by taking the war across the Potomac River into the United States. Lee’s bold maneuvering ended when he retreated from Maryland following the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, 

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