2nd Manassas - Aug. 1862
The Maryland Campaign - September 1862
General Lee's First Invasion of The North

Equestrian statue of Robert E Lee
After their crushing victory over Union General John Pope's Army of Virginia at the Battle of Second Manassas, Robert E. Lee was eager to maintain the initiative. Learning that Abraham Lincoln again placed Major General George Brinton McClellan in command of the Union troops opposing him, General Lee believed that he could quickly maneuver out of Virginia, capture the Union arsenal at Harpers Ferry, and win a signal victory on Northern soil. With this in mind, Lee began to move.

On September 8, 1862, General Lee would put pen to paper to outline his thoughts on the invasion of Maryland, continuing his pattern of keeping his president, Jefferson Davis, informed of his actions and ideas.

"HEADQUARTERS.

Near Fredericktown, Md., September 8, 1862.

His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS,
President of the Confederate States, Richmond, Va.:

MR. PRESIDENT: The present position of affairs, in my opinion, places it in the power of the Government of the Confederate States to propose with propriety to that of the United States the recognition of our independence. For more than a year both sections of the country have been devastated by hostilities which have brought sorrow and suffering upon thousands of homes, without advancing the objects which our enemies proposed to themselves in beginning the contest. Such a proposition, coming from us at this time, could in no way be regarded as suing for peace; but, being made when it is in our power to inflict injury upon our adversary, would show conclusively to the world that our sole object is the establishment of our independence and the attainment of an honorable peace. The rejection of this offer would prove to the country that the responsibility of the continuance of the war does not rest upon us, but that the party in power in the United States elect to prosecute it for purpose of their own. The proposal of peace would enable the people of the United States to determine at their coming elections whether they will support, those who favor a prolongation of the war, or those who wish to bring it to a termination, which can but be productive of good to both parties without affecting the honor of either.

I have the honor to be, with high respect, your obedient servant,

R. E. LEE,
General." [9]

Confederate soldiers marching through Frederick Maryland - 1862; Courtesy of the National Archives Later, after the capture of Harpers Ferry, General Lee would add, "To prolong a state of affairs in every way desirable, and not to permit the season for active operations to pass without endeavoring to inflict further injury upon the enemy, the best course appeared to be the transfer of the army into Maryland. Although not properly equipped for invasion, lacking much of the material of war, and feeble in transportation, the troops poorly provided with clothing, and thousands of them destitute of shoes, it was yet believed to be strong enough to detain the enemy upon the northern frontier until the approach of winter should render his advance into Virginia difficult, if not impracticable. The condition of Maryland encouraged the belief that the presence of our army, however inferior to that of the enemy, would induce the Washington Government to retain all its available force to provide against contingencies, which its course toward the people of that State gave it reason to apprehend.

At the same time it was hoped that military success might afford us an opportunity to aid the citizens of Maryland in any efforts they might be disposed to make to recover their liberties. The difficulties that surrounded them were fully appreciated, and we expected to derive more assistance in the attainment of our object from the just fears of the Washington Government, than from any active demonstration on the part of the people, unless success should enable us to give them assurance of continued protection." [11]

Also on September 8, 1862, conscious of the feeling of the people of Maryland whose lands his army would enter, General Lee spoke to the citizens of a land he felt Union soldiers held against its will.

"To the People of Maryland:
Headquarters Army N. Virginia
Near Fredericktown, 8th September, 1862

It is right that you should know the purpose that brought the Army under my command within the limits of your State, so far as that purpose concerns yourselves.

The People of the Confederate States have long watched with the deepest sympathy the wrongs and outrages that have been inflicted upon the citizens of a Commonwealth, allied to the States of the South by the strongest social, political and commercial ties.

They have seen with profound indignation their sister State deprived of every right, and reduced to the condition of a conquered Province.

Under the pretense of supporting the Constitution, but in violation of its most valuable provisions, your citizens have been arrested and imprisoned upon no charge, and contrary to all forms of law; the faithful and manly protest against this outrage made by the venerable and illustrious Marylanders to whom in better days, no citizens appealed for right in vain, was treated with scorn and contempt; the government of your chief city has been usurped by armed strangers; your legislature has been dissolved by the unlawful arrest of its members; freedom of the press and of speech, of the Federal Executive, and citizens ordered to be tried by a military commission for what they may dare to speak.

Believing that the People of Maryland possessed a spirit too lofty to submit to such a government, the people of the south have long wished to aid you in throwing off this foreign yoke, to enable you to again enjoy the inalienable rights of free men, and restore independence and sovereignty to your State.

In obedience to this wish, our Army has come among you, and is prepared to assist you with the power of its arms in regaining the rights of which you have been despoiled.

This, Citizens of Maryland, is our mission, so far as you are concerned.

No constraint upon your free will is intended, no intimidation is allowed.

Within the limits of this Army, at least, Marylanders shall once more enjoy their ancient freedom of thought and speech.

We know no enemies among you, and will protect all of every opinion.

It is for you to decide your destiny, freely and without constraint.

This army will respect your choice whatever it may be, and while the Southern people will rejoice to welcome you to your natural position among them, they will only welcome you when you come of your own free will.

R. E. Lee,
General Commanding." [9]