Midpoint of the War: May to July 1863

The Army of Northern Virginia Moves North

What was Lee’s plan?

Lee was much better at improvising than at designing a grand strategy, but we cannot lay all the blame on this propensity. The need for food and supplies was so great that the entire Army of Northern Virginia could not march together; it had to march by separate army corps. Then, too, Lee did not often confide all his plans, even to his top generals. On the whole, however, his plan seems to have been simple. He intended to relieve Northern Virginia of the task of supplying his army, if just for a short time, and to march north in order to compel General Joseph Hooker to fight him. One major victory on Northern soil might do the trick, Lee thought.

If Lee’s subordinates were concerned, they did not express those concerns, not yet. Everyone agreed that the time was more propitious than any other. The Federals were still reeling from their defeat at Chancellorsville, and the morale of the Confederates was correspondingly high.


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