US Civil War
Battle of Antietam
Robert E. Lee

Why did Lee attack Antietam?

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June 05, 2011 11:11PM

Lee was trying to invade Pennsylvania, to convince the British

that the Confederacy was a viable new nation, worthy of official

recognition.

He might have succeeded in this. But one of his officers had

dropped a set of Lee's orders in the field, where they were

discovered by Union troops and shown to McClellan.

These plans revealed that Lee's divisions were widely separated,

and that if McClellan moved fast enough, he could destroy them, one

by one.

Unfortunately, there was a Confederate spy in the Union camp,

who was able to alert Lee of the situation, and Lee was able to

concentrate his army, just in time, at Antietam Creek, near

Sharpsburg, Maryland.

Although Lee lost this battle, he was able to get his army back

to Virginia, to fight another day. Lincoln criticised McClellan

heavily for failing to destroy Lee's army, and would soon fire

him.

However, the Union victory gave Lincoln the credibility to issue

the mancipation Proclamation, which may not have (directly) freed

many slaves, but had the crucial effect of keeping Britain out of

the war.


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