Battle of Antietam — Overview of the 1862 Maryland Campaign

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Battle of Antietam —Overview of the 1862 Maryland Campaign

Battle of Antietam —Overview of the 1862 Maryland Campaign

Why General Robert E. Lee and PresidentJefferson Davis decide to invade the North

Thedecision to invade the North was primarily an advocacy by GeneralRobert Lee that was based on various military considerations,including the limited likelihood for the Confederacy to sustain theconflicts. The invasion was aimed at imparting psychological tormentby following up his victory in various battles such as at SecondManassas and Peninsula, and cause panic in the major cities such asPhiladelphia and Harrisburg, mobilize secessionists within Marylandand beyond and create a terrible feeling on the Congress and attracttheir attention. General Robert E. Lee and President Jefferson Davishoped that through the invasion, it would coerce Washington andpressurize senators to encourage President Abraham Lincoln to curtailhostilities and negotiate with Richmond, and even recognize theConfederacy. However, it has also been believed that a victory forthe South within the Northern territory was going to play a crucialrole in recognizing the Confederate cause and attract financialsupport from France or England1.

In this regard, the decision to invade theNorth did not tend to be a shift from the initial plans that had beenprimarily oriented towards defending the Confederate States. If only,the goal of the invasion of the North went beyond just protecting theConfederate States through coercing Washington, to attracting concernand financial support from France or England2.

The Confederate States’ War Strategyduring the campaign, the advantages and disadvantages aspect of thestrategy

First, the Confederate States acknowledged thefact that they were outnumbered regarding population and industrialoutput, and that the only strategy they would now use was to exploita few advantages they had. These benefits lay in their compactgeography, strong internal lines of communication, and their largeproportion of the army overrepresented in the United States’ Army,and enthusiasm of wearing down the union of the North to engage inwar. The Confederate States also believed that because Britainheavily relied on the Southerners for the supply of cotton to itsmills, its attention would quickly be drawn in their favor, providingmilitary and financial support3.

Therefore, Confederate States used coercivestrategies such as privateering within the Atlantic Ocean, harassingmerchants and pressurizing the Washington DC by attacking itsterritories. Since the intention was not to annex and occupy theNorthern lands, the Confederate States believed that their attackswould mainly be in defense of their territories and that its soldierswould be motivated and committed to defending the cause.

Nevertheless, this strategy had somedisadvantages that eventually resulted in the failure. First, eventhe main objectives for protecting the Confederates were not even anymuch prospective than what was felt in the antebellum situationbecause it had been argued they would not do any better on their own.Bleeding Kansas had stipulated they would no longer be able tointroduce the slavery practices into the fronting territories.Secondly, the United States was not yet inclined to start viewing theblacks as equals, and the right to vote was still limited in theNorth. The view to abolishing slavery was still supported by only afew people and even those who supported the Union during the civilwar would have done little to interfere with the institutional orderin the South. This issue did not matter so much after South Carolinatried to secede. Once the southern States engaged in the secession,the prospects of the states that would have remained within the Unionstarted growing dim because the federal government domination startedincreasing. Eventually, the strategy of the South to strive to winthe battle was rendered unsuccessful4.

The Union WarStrategy during the campaign, the advantages and the disadvantagesaspect of the strategy

TheUnion’s strategy for the war was to cut off the supplies needed bythe Southerners during the war. Some of the actions they undertookbased on this strategy included shutting down the ports along theGulf of Mexico, as well as in the Atlantic, preventing the south fromexporting Cotton to Europe. This strategy was advantageous in thesense that it was aimed at incapacitating the South by limiting theresources it needed. In particular, the fact that the South could notexport cotton implied that it would not have any financial resourcesto fund the war5.

Secondly,the Union also employed the divide the Southern States. To accomplishthis strategy, the Union took over the Mississippi River with the aimof cutting the Confederate States into two, while striving to captureRichmond, which was the capital of the south. The essence cutting theConfederate states into two was to weaken them by dividing theirconcentration and breaking the chain of communication. Also, theConfederates used their many resources they had at their disposal.The Northern states had a large population, with advanced transportnetwork and many industrial workers that gave them the advantage ofsubduing the southerners.

Thestrategy was successful. Russellhas discussed that the success of the Union lay in the use of thisstrategy6.


Russell, McClintock, Lincolnand the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession.Oxford University Press, 2012.

Susan-Mary, Grant, Northover South: Northern Nationalism and American Identity in theAntebellum Era (2000) MelindaLawson, Patriot Fires: Forging a NewAmerican Nationalism in the Civil War North.Oxford University Press, 2013

1 Susan-Mary, Grant, North over South: Northern Nationalism and American Identity in the Antebellum Era (2000) Melinda Lawson, Patriot Fires: Forging a New American Nationalism in the Civil War North (Oxford University Press, 2013), pp 70

2 Ibid 75

3 Russell McClintock, Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession. (Oxford University Press, 2012), pp 257.

4 Russell McClintock, Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession. (Oxford University Press, 2012), pp 257.

5 Russell McClintock, Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession. (Oxford University Press, 2012), pp 257.

6 Ibid, pp 257

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