In September 1862, the Union was at a low ebb. In July, their Army of the Potomac had been repeatedly outfought and outthought by Robert E. Lee, their attempt to capture Richmond a humiliating failure. In August, the Army of Virginia was decisively defeated at the Second Battle of Bull Run. Further Confederate success could turn northern public opinion against the war, and prompt recognition of the Confederacy by European powers, rendering southern independence a strong likelihood. Lee decided to press home his advantage with an opportunistic invasion of Maryland. Once in enemy territory, he adopted a high-risk strategy and divided his already outnumbered forces. ’Stonewall’ Jackson was sent to take Harper’s Ferry, General Walker to take Loudoun Heights. Still split, his forces were confronted by the Union army at Antietam Creek (17 September). The bloodiest battle of the war ensued. It was no Union victory, but the invasion was over. Lincoln’s Emancipation Declaration followed five days later.
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