In the end he was forced to withdraw into Virginia
, the campaign, from at least the political point of view, having proved a failure.
As a test of efficient handling of troops in battle, Antietam
, however, is a crowning point in Lee
's military career.
The Army of Northern Virginia repassed the Potomac
in good order, and Lee
took up his headquarters near Winchester
, doing his best to obtain supplies and to recruit his forces.
Here, as later, one sees in him a figure of blended dignity and pathos, making a deep appeal to the imagination.
His bearing and attire befitted the commander of one of the most efficient armies ever brought together; yet his most impressive qualities were his poise, his considerateness for others, his forgetfulness of self.
No choice morsel for him while sick and wounded soldiers were within reach of his ministrations.
Bullets might be whizzing around him, but he would stoop to pick up and care for a stunned young bird.
No wonder that when, on a desperate day in the Wilderness
, he attempted to head a charge, his lovingly indignant soldiers forced him back.
They had visions of a hapless South deprived of its chief champion.
To-day their sons have visions of a South fortunate in being a contented part of a great, undivided country and in possessing that choicest of possessions, a hero in whom power and charm are mingled in equal measure.
But we must take up once more our thin thread of narrative.
, and Lee
, with the support of Longstreet
, encountered him at Fredericksburg
, where, on December 13, 1862, the Federals
suffered one of the most disastrous defeats of the war. Hooker
and began operations well by obtaining at Chancellorsville
a position in Lee
Then came the tremendous fighting of May 2 and 3, 1863, followed by Hooker
's retreat across the Rappahannock
on the 6th.