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[307]

Chapter 3:

Harper's Ferry.

THE excitement in Washington was intense. One may imagine what must, then, have been the consternation of those who, three months before, had already trembled for the safety of the capital at the mere announcement of Banks' defeat. They must certainly have thought that this time the Confederates would not fall into the same error they were supposed to have committed the previous year, and that they would pursue the vanquished army into the very gardens of the White House. These alarms were in reality without cause. The fortifications which had been erected by the army of the Potomac protected Washington from a sudden attack. Lee had not been able to follow Pope's retreat with the main body of his troops. The Federal general had, in fact, fallen back upon his depots, while the Confederate army absolutely needed revictualling before it could resume the offensive. As soon as Lee was made aware that the enemy was encamped under the cannon of the forts of Washington, he directed his attention elsewhere, and withdrew the feeble advanced posts which alone had followed the retreat of the Federals.

His victory had opened to him the gates of Maryland. On the 3d of September, he put his army in motion toward Leesburg, and prepared to cross the Potomac.

This crossing was a great event for the cause of the Confederates. They had abandoned the defensive to assume at last an offensive part. In a strictly military point of view, this was perhaps a rash determination, as it was calculated to jeopardize the results of the brilliant campaign which had just transferred the army of Northern Virginia from the borders of the Rapidan to those of the Potomac. This campaign had left it in a state of destitution which seemed to render a season of rest absolutely

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