American History Stories—Volume IV - Mara L. Pratt

Lee is Kept from Entering Pennsylvania.

Having so little success in trying to raise troops in Maryland, Lee next decided to go over into the State of Pennsylvania. There he proposed to have Stonewall Jackson join his army, and together they would go on to the very city of New York.
Now it happened, as Lee's army left Frederick on their march through Pennsylvania, some one of his generals accidentally dropped a paper in the streets, upon which was written the one thing of all others which Lee would not for the world have had the Unionists find out. And that was just what General Lee had planned to do; just the route he intended to take; just how he was going to divide his army; and just where he intended to bring them together for battle.

McClellan at once set out in hot haste to overtake this army. On the 16th of September, both armies lay down to sleep in the beautiful, fertile valley of Antietam, knowing that with the rising of the sun must come one of the hottest contested battles of the war.

It was a long bloody battle. Both sides lost, in killed and wounded, large numbers; but neither side could be said to have won the day. It was one of those terrible battles, in which both sides merely held their places, seeming, with all the bloodshed, to gain nothing. The next morning was to have seen the battle renewed; but McClellan, seized again with his over-cautiousness, waited and waited. The next day, Lee escaped over the Potomac. His plans were all broken up by this battle with its terrible losses, and it seemed at the time as if McClellan might, if he had made one bold stroke, have done a great deal more even than that.

[Illustration] from American History Stories - IV by Mara L. Pratt


But McClellan now again waited and waited, although he had been ordered by Lincoln to march against the enemy. At last, Lincoln ordered that the command be taken from him, and given to General Burnside.

[Illustration] from American History Stories - IV by Mara L. Pratt


Lee was now encamped at Fredricksburg. Burnside at once marched against him, and attempted to take the city from him. A hot battle followed, but at night Lee was still in the city, and the Union army had again lost hundreds of men.

And now the army was led back to the old camps. There the soldiers built mud huts; and, sick and wounded, their courage all gone, they settled down for the winter.

This campaign in Virginia had been a wretched failure for the Union army.