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 Lee on his part, as we have stated, had not stirred, and at the moment when the Union troops were deploying in his front, through the rich crops that reached down to the steep banks of the Antietam, Jackson was bringing him the moral support of his presence with the reinforcement of two divisions. The situation of the Confederate army, however, was very critical, and its commander must have been a most resolute man not to have recrossed the Potomac under cover of the night, and sought a more favorable position in the valley of Virginia. The invasion which this army had undertaken with so much confidence was, in fact, interrupted. Driven to the frontier of Maryland, it was reduced to the defensive and compelled to fight, with a river at its back, against an adversary who possessed a vast numerical superiority over it. Moreover, the rapid movements which had brought it from the Rapidan to the Potomac had not been performed without great sacrifices. The main body of the army had marched forward; but like those comets which, we are told, leave a portion of their substance in the region of space, it had left a swarm of stragglers behind which had increased at every stage. These were the sick, men utterly broken down, lame, or exhausted for want of food, but still animated by the desire and sustained by the hope of joining their more able-bodied comrades, in order to participate in their glorious labors. Every army is followed by such a tail; but in this respect Lee had an immense advantage over McClellan in Virginia. Whilst the latter beheld his stragglers repulsed in every direction, tracked and captured by partisans, and sometimes even treacherously murdered, those belonging to the Confederate army found everywhere shelter, food, together with the care and encouragement calculated to renew their strength. Their coat was a passport which secured to them the sympathies of all the inhabitants and the means of joining their respective corps. Consequently, they were soon seen rushing in crowds to the shores of the Potomac, but only to learn that their comrades had entered Maryland. They could not follow them thither, for the river was to them an insurmountable obstacle; the Confederate army had disappeared on the other side, and the Federal pickets had again taken possession of the opposite bank which they guarded with care. But Lee had left written
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