In the year following Lee's appointment, his army won four major battles or campaigns and fought Union forces to a draw at the bloody Battle of Antietam. Washington itself was threatened, as a succession of Union commanders failed to stop Lee's offensive. Until Gettysburg, it looked as if Lee might force the Union to negotiate a peace rather than risk surrendering the capital or even losing the war. Lee's victories fired southern ambition and emboldened Confederate soldiers everywhere. Wert shows how the same audacity and aggression that fueled these victories proved disastrous at Gettysburg. But, as Wert explains, Lee had little choice: outnumbered by an opponent with superior resources, he had to take the fight to the enemy in order to win.
For a year his superior generalship prevailed against his opponents, but eventually what Lee's trusted lieutenant General James Longstreet called "headlong combativeness" caused Lee to miscalculate. When an equally combative Union general--Ulysses S. Grant--took command of northern forces in 1864, Lee was defeated.
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The Army of Northern Virginia was the Confederate army commanded by General Robert E. Lee in the Civil War. The Battle of Antietam was fought near Sharpsburg MD in 1862 and represented the bloodiest single day in American military history. James Longstreet was one of the leading generals in the army of the Confederate States and after the war became a Republican and a friend of Ulysses S. Grant.