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Xvii. Lee's army on free soil-gettysburg.


while Gen. Hooker and his army, having returned to their old quarters about Falmouth, were still looking across the Rappahannock at the heights and woods so recently and so fruitlessly crimsoned with their blood, Gen. Lee was impelled to break the brief rest by a determined and daring offensive. He was, of course, aware that our army had been depleted, directly after its sanguinary experience of Chancellorsville, by the mustering out of some 20,000 nine months and two years men; while his own had been largely swelled by the hurried return of Longstreet and his corps from their sterile and wasteful demonstration on Suffolk, and by drafts on every quarter whence a regiment could be gleaned; so that it is probable that the superiority in numbers was temporarily on his side; but why not seek directly a collision, which “Fighting Joe” would so readily have accorded? Why shun the convenient and inspiring neighborhood of Cedar Mountain and Bull Run for one more remote, and which invoked ominous recollections of South Mountain [368] and the Antietam? Grant was beginning to be triumphant in Mississippi, and would soon be thundering at the gates of Vicksburg; Dick Taylor, chased almost out of Louisiana by Banks, could do little toward the rescue of threatened Port Hudson: why not spare Longstreet to needy, beseeching Jo. Johnston, enabling him to overwhelm Grant and then to crush out Banks, restoring the Confederate ascendency on the Mississippi, while simply holding on along the Rappahannock, trusting to the great advantages afforded to the defensive by the rugged topography of that region, and to the terrors inspired by the memories of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville?

In fact, Lee's invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania at that juncture was justifiable on political grounds alone. The Confederate chiefs must have acted on the strength of trusted assurances that the Northern Peace Democracy, detesting the Emancipation policy now steadfastly ascendant at Washington, and weary of high taxes, dear fabrics, a disordered currency, and an enormous yet swelling National Debt, were ripe for revolt: so that a Rebel victory on Northern soil would enable the devotees of Slavery in the loyal States to seize upon the pending Conscription and wield it as an engine of revolution. Lee hints this obscurely where, in the opening of his report on this campaign, after trying to give military reasons for his movement, and failing to satisfy himself of their plausibility, he says:

In addition to these results, it was hoped that other valuable results might be attained by military success.

A month had barely elapsed since Hooker recrossed the Rappahannock, when Lee put his columns in motion up the southern bank of that river. McLaws's division of Longstreet's corps led1 the march from Fredericksburg, followed2 by Ewell's corps; while Hood moved up from the Rapidan; all concentrating, with the cavalry under J. E. B. Stuart, on Culpepper Court House. These movements were of course carefully screened from observation on our side;

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