Army of Northern Virginia: February to September 1862
Appearance of Robert E. Lee
Could the Confederates have attacked McClellan in his new position and perhaps ended the war on their terms?
From our modern-day vantage point, it seems possible. But the Confederacy struggled under a heavy burden throughout the war: the burden of getting the right number of men into place at the right time.
Lee had perhaps 50,000 men ready for battle, but just one serious defeat could have turned the entire equation upside down. Conferring with President Jefferson Davis, Lee reluctantly came to the conclusion that it was better to leave McClellan alone and press the advantage in other parts of Virginia. Stonewall Jackson and his brigade had already been sent back to the Shenandoah Valley, and it was possible that a turn of events there would allow the Confederates to menace Washington, D.C.