Army of Northern Virginia: February to September 1862

Appearance of Robert E. Lee

What were Robert E. Lee’s first plans?

From the day he assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee seems to have always thought in terms of the attack, or offensive. His Mexican War training showed him that a small, highly disciplined number of men could achieve miracles when opposed to larger, less organized bodies of troops. This actually was not the case here—the Army of the Potomac was very well organized—but Lee believed the only answer was to go on the attack.

To that end, he ordered General Stonewall Jackson to bring a section of his army from the Shenandoah Valley to Richmond (this proved much more difficult and trying than anyone anticipated). At the same time, Lee planned a series of audacious attacks, all designed to drive the Federals away from the gates of Richmond. What Lee had going for him was the nearly unlimited confidence of Jefferson Davis.


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