April 1862–November 1862
In spring 1862, the Union Army of the Potomac took the offensive on the Virginia Peninsula, where its ultimate target was Richmond, the Confederate capital. Northern morale was high. Recent Union victories in the West prompted expectations of a similar outcome in the Peninsula Campaign that would lead to a swift and successful end to the war.
As the Army of the Potomac pushed forward, it was hampered not only by Confederate forces but also inclement weather, inferior roads, geographical surprises not indicated on the army’s unsatisfactory maps, and overcautious leadership. It was further hampered by Stonewall Jackson’s spring Shenandoah Valley Campaign and, after June 1, by the skill of the new commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee. After the failure of the Peninsula Campaign, the Union suffered additional disappointing setbacks. General Lee’s first incursion into Northern territory ended with heavy Union and Confederate losses along Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862, when more than 23,000 men were killed, wounded, or missing in action in this, the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War.
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