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Battle of Antietam
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   Brilliant Prospects
   Phony War
   AOP on the Peninsula
   Suppression of Pope

Battle of Antietam Sections
Skirmish in the East Woods
The Battle of Antietam
Battle of Antietam
by Kevin S. Lacey

We Had the Most Brilliant Prospects
Several years after the end of the Civil War, Confederate General James Longstreet, the commander of General Robert E. Lee's First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, still remembered the days following the defeat of John Pope's Army of Virginia at the Second Battle of Bull Run as the zenith of Confederate arms during the Civil War. Longstreet wrote that in the late summer of 1862 "we had the most brilliant prospects the Confederates ever had."[1]  Longstreet's heady optimism was understandable. The recent series of military successes achieved by the Army of Northern Virginia beginning with the Seven Days and ending with the drubbing of John Pope's Army of Virginia at Second Manassas would have, under any circumstances, been impressive; but, the morale and political impact of Lee's victories were magnified far beyond their actual military significance because they stood in stark contrast to the seemingly unending series of military setbacks and defeats that had plagued the beleaguered Confederacy from the end of 1861 through the first half of 1862. Lee's campaigns had, quite literally, breathed new life into fading Southern hopes for independence.
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McClellan's 'Phony War' 
In contrast to the sea of trouble engulfing the Confederates in the West, events in the East during the first few months of 1862 had been relatively quiet.[20]  While some Union critics claimed that General Halleck moved too slowly, General McClellan seemed reluctant to move at all. When he first arrived in Washington in July of 1861 amidst the chaos that followed First Bull Run, McClellan at once became the center of attention. By some "strange operation of magic", he wrote his wife Ellen, "I seem to have become the power in the land."[21]  He was feted by Washington society and fawned over by the politicians.[22]  McClellan certainly seemed to be the man of the hour. Indeed, soon after replacing General McDowell after the disaster at First Bull Run, McClellan had reorganized the Army, restored its morale and forged a magnificent fighting machine.[23]  He appeared to be off to an excellent beginning.
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The AOP on the Peninsula
It took the navy some three weeks to transfer the Army of the Potomac to Fort Monroe. During that time, Lincoln discovered a significant discrepancy between the numbers of troops actually available to defend Washington and the number McClellan had promised would be there.[41]  To increase the number of troops available to protect Washington, he immediately countermanded the embarkation order for McDowell's First Corps, depriving McClellan of some 35,000-40,000 men. McClellan was furious and he begged Lincoln to rescind the order that, in his "deliberate judgment", "imperiled" the success of the campaign.[42]  Privately, he "raised an awful row", but apart from venting his rage to a few select friends and his wife, there was nothing he could do.[43]
The Confederate reaction to all this was not swift, for although Davis and Johnston were aware of the Army of the Potomac's embarkation almost as soon as it began, there was some doubt as to the army's ultimate destination.[44]  By the time Johnston began his retreat south toward Richmond and the Peninsula, McClellan already had achieved overwhelming numerical superiority on the Peninsula. Heavily outnumbered, the Confederates did little to impeded McClellan's advance, apart from a few theatrical demonstrations, but McClellan was in no hurry to move until the army was fully concentrated.[45]
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The Suppression of John Pope
Lincoln had selected Major General John Pope to command the Army of Virginia.[89]  Pope possessed an abrasive personality – which was exacerbated when he was operating under pressure – combined with a well-deserved reputation as a shameless self-promoter and braggart that extended back to well before the war.[90]  Acting in characteristic harmony Pope, on July 14, 1862, issued a proclamation to the Army that was hardy calculated to improve morale. Pope unfavorably compared his men with the troops he had commanded in the West where "we have always seen the backs of our enemies; from an army whose business it was to seek the adversary and beat him … whose policy has been attack and not defense."[91]
Pope followed this a few days later with three General Orders: No. 5 announced that The Army of Virginia would "subsist on the country" and that "vouchers" would be given civilians for seized provisions; No. 7 promised that local civilians would be held responsible for guerrilla activity; No. 11 required all civilians to take a loyalty oath and, if they refused, their property would be confiscated and they would be arrested and transported south through Confederate lines.[92]  Pope's Orders caused an immediate hostile reaction from all parts of the Confederacy, and Lee wrote personally to the new Federal commander-in-chief, Henry Halleck to object.[93]  Nevertheless, and although Southerners heaped personal scorn upon Pope, the fact remains that his orders had been approved by Washington and were in harmony with developing Republican policy that was escalating and changing the character of the war.[94]
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Featured Books and DVDs


Lincoln and Lee at Antietam - The Cost of Freedom


Antietam 1862


Landscape Turned Red


The Antietam Campaign


The Antietam Campaign

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