Chancellorsville was fought and lost, and again, under political pressure from Richmond rather than with any hope of advantage on simple military lines, Lee leads his army to an invasion of the North. For this there were at the time several apparent advantages; the army of the Potomac had been twice beaten and, while by no means demoralised, was discouraged and no longer had faith in its commander. There was much inevitable disappointment throughout the North that, so far from making progress in the attempt to restore the authority of the government, the national troops were on the defensive but a few miles from the national capital. The Confederate correspondence from London and from Paris gave fresh hopes for the long expected intervention.
Lee’s army was cleverly withdrawn from Hooker’s front and was carried through western Maryland into Pennsylvania by the old line of the Shenandoah Valley and across the Potomac at Falling Waters. Hooker reports to Lincoln under date of June 4th that the army or an army is still in his front on the line of the Rappahannock, Lincoln writes to Hooker under date of June 5th, “We have report that Lee’s army is moving westward and that a large portion of it is already to the west of the Blue Ridge. The ‘bull’ [Lee’s army] is across the fence and it surely ought to be possible to worry him.” On June 14th, Lincoln writes again, reporting to Hooker that Lee with the body of his troops is approaching the Potomac at a point forty miles away from the line of the entrenchments on the Rappahannock. “The animal [Lee’s army] is extended over a line of forty miles. It must be very slim somewhere. Can you not cut it?” The phrases are not in military form but they give evidence of sound military judgment. Hooker was unable to grasp the opportunity, and realising this himself, he asked to be relieved. The troublesome and anxious honour of the command of the army now falls upon General Meade. He takes over the responsibility at a time when Lee’s army is already safely across the Potomac and advancing northward, apparently towards Philadelphia. His troops are more or less scattered and no definite plan of campaign appears to have been formulated. The events of the next three weeks constitute possibly the best known portion of the War. Meade shows good energy in breaking up his encampment along the Rappahannock and getting his column on to the road northward. Fortunately, the army of the Potomac for once has the advantage of the interior line so that Meade is able to place his army in a position that protects at once Washington on the south-west, Baltimore on the east, and Philadelphia on the north-east. We can, however, picture to ourselves the anxiety that must have rested upon the Commander-in-chief in Washington during the weeks of the campaign and during the three days of the great battle which was fought on Northern soil and miles to the north of the Northern capital. If, on that critical third day of July, the Federal