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[539] with a large river behind him whose sudden overflows were always to be feared, nor to renew the attack upon the army that had so gallantly fought at Sharpsburg, before he was fully prepared to undertake an offensive campaign. According to his own calculation, he did not then possess the means of subsisting his large army at more than one day's march from a railroad or canal. His soldiers could not make long marches, some of them having marched during five weeks, almost without interruption, from the borders of the Rapidan to those of the Antietam, the others being newly-enlisted troops, a large number of whom had been wholly disabled by the last ten days campaign. The rapidity with which the Confederate army had dwindled away during the three weeks intervening between the battle of Manassas and that of Antietam, although entirely composed of tried soldiers long inured to every kind of hardship, fully accounts for all the difficulties which kept McClellan on the left bank of the Potomac. A general-in-chief, especially one whose army has just made a victorious effort, is alone able to judge what he may expect from his troops. Consequently, although his inaction after Lee's retreat in Virginia was entirely to the advantage of the latter, we should unquestionably defer to his judgment, if this judgment had not been influenced by an overestimate of the enemy's forces. In fact, as we have already said, the staff department of the army of the Potomac had from the very first contracted the habit of making no abatement from the figures given by deserters and fugitive negroes, and thereby furnished General McClellan with statements regarding the condition of the Confederate army which had no foundation in fact. Thus, for instance, whilst Lee was only able to oppose forty thousand men at Sharpsburg, McClellan imagined that he had to deal with ninety-seven thousand combatants.1 As will presently be seen, Grant committed a contrary error in his campaign against Vicksburg, when, thinking that his adversary was not so strong as he really was, he attacked him with a degree of boldness which proved successful, but which such a general as Lee would probably have made him pay dear for.

On the 22d of September the Federals entered Harper's Ferry without opposition, of which place they were already virtually in

1 See state of the situation in the Appendix.

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