Army of Northern Virginia: February to September 1862

Appearance of Robert E. Lee

Could the Confederacy sustain casualties of that magnitude?

Absolutely not. If Joseph Johnston had still been in command—he was out with a wound for the next six months—the daring set of attacks on the Union positions would have been halted after that very first day. But Robert E. Lee was adamant. He had to attack.

The second great battle was at and around Gaines’ Mill, about eight miles due east of Richmond. The Confederate attacks were better coordinated on this occasion, but Stonewall Jackson was still not at his best. Again, a fight over a long afternoon resulted in thouands of casualties for both sides. By now, General McClellan had become thoroughly alarmed. Believing that there were 200,000 Confederates in the field, he made accusations of treason against Secretary of War Stanton, alleging that he intended to destroy the Army of the Potomac. By this point, Lincoln and Stanton had given up attempting to persuade McClellan of anything. “Save your army by all means,” the president telegraphed.


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