By summer 1864, with the Army of the Potomac converging on his capital, Richmond, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee gambled on a counterstrike, sending General Jubal Early to threaten Washington. Overcoming a lacklustre Union army at Lynchburg (June 18), Early closed on Washington’s outer defences, which were manned by inexperienced soldiers: “we have five times as many generals here as we want but are greatly in need of privates” complained General Halleck, Ulysses S. Grant’s chief-of-staff. On 9 July a stout defence at Monocacy, led by General Lew Wallace, delayed Early’s attack for a critical 24 hours, giving the Union time to assemble reinforcements from the south. When the Confederates resumed their assault at Fort Stevens, on the Washington-Maryland border, the veteran reinforcements delivered a “pitiless rain” of fire on Early’s men. President Lincoln personally appeared on the Fort’s battlements, before being told unceremoniously to get down. The attack was repulsed, and the Confederacy’s third, and last, invasion of the North was over.
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