Army of Northern Virginia: February to September 1862

Appearance of Robert E. Lee

Did anyone criticize Lee for this series of attacks?

Many people did. Southern newspapers, especially those in other states, lambasted the Confederate general for his constant attacks and the enormous losses. But the Richmond Enquirer, the mouthpiece of Jefferson Davis’ administration, was fiercely loyal to Lee, and as it became apparent that McClellan would retreat all the way down the James Peninsula, Lee took on the appearance of a major hero.

Those who examine the Peninsula Campaign in detail tend to concur with Stephen W. Sears, who concluded that it was an enormous lost opportunity for the Northern cause. Had McClellan pressed all the way and captured Richmond, it is quite likely that the war would have ended thirty-one months sooner. No one can say just how many lives might have been saved by such a drastic attempt; given that the war went on so long, it is plausible to say that 400,000 lives—North and South combined—might have been preserved.


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