When Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Potomac River into Maryland in early September 1862 it began a two week period of events that would have far reaching effects for both North and South. Lee’s move north of the river was just one of several Confederate columns that were moving to regain lost territory on a thousand mile front from the Potomac to the Mississippi, with Confederate military might building as never before. Lee hoped for a decisive victory on Northern soil for many reasons, one of which was to entice foreign intervention on behalf of the Confederate states as the only way that the South could keep pace with the North in men and material.
The Federal Army of the Potomac, commanded by the “Young Napoleon” George B. McClellan, pursued Lee across the mountain ridges of Western Maryland. A lost copy of Lee’s campaign plan that fell into Union hands allowed McClellan to move “faster than was convenient” and ultimately prompted General Lee to offer battle on high ground wedged between Antietam Creek and the Potomac. That twelve hour conflict became the worst single day in our military history and brought Lee’s first thrust into northern territory to a halt, the beginning of the reversal of Confederate military fortunes. The outcome also allowed the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation which changed the complexion of the war, from conciliation to conquest, from preservation of the Union to the elimination of slavery, effectively preventing foreign intervention and starting the Confederacy on the decline toward the eventual outcome of the war.
The Maryland Campaign offers drama, elation and sorrow as two armies who have taken on the personalities of their respective commanders vie for victory. The result is a major turning point in the war. It is a story that I never tire of learning about and sharing with others. It is an honor to bring the stories of the men who participated in the battles and the civilians who suffered the depredations of war to the forefront of our memories. A lifelong student of the Civil War, I also enjoy discussing topics beyond the Maryland Campaign, and am happy to offer tours of South Mountain, Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown. I am a member of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation, the Civil War Trust, the Blue and Gray Education Society, the Society of Civil War Historians and the Harpers Ferry Civil War Round Table. I hope you can join me as I continue to explore this pivotal campaign in the history of our nation’s most significant event.