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Pennsylvania, Invasion of


PENNSYLVANIA, INVASION OF (1863). The Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, Virginia, early in May 1863 forced General Robert E. Lee to rethink his battle plans. Lee divided his army into three corps under generals James Longstreet, Richard S. Ewell, and A. P. Hill. He was preparing his army for a tactical gamble: an offensive on northern soil that would free Virginia from the danger of invasion, demoralize the enemy, and turn the tide of northern public opinion for a peaceable settlement.

Between Lee and Pennsylvania stood Union General Joseph Hooker's army on the Rappahannock River. Lee approached Hooker in early June, forcing him northward so as to keep him between Lee and Washington, D.C. On 23 June, Confederate General J. E. B. Stuart and his cavalry dashed into Maryland, and rejoined Lee in Pennsylvania on 2 July. In retrospect it was a fatal detachment. The Confederate army was well into Pennsylvania when Lee learned that Hooker's replacement—General George C. Meade—was in pursuit; on 29 June Lee ordered a concentration of his scattered army. The absence of Stuart's cavalry deprived Lee of exact knowledge of enemy movements and position. As a result, Hill's troops inadvertently and accidentally brought on the three-day battle at Gettysburg that ended in Confederate defeat.

The wounded Confederate army retreated slowly, its progress impeded by driving rain and floods. Meade pursued overcautiously, and by the time he reached a decision to attack, the Potomac River had fallen sufficiently to permit Lee's army to cross over into Virginia during 13 and 14 July. On 8 August, Lee, assuming complete responsibility for the failure of the campaign, asked President Davis to select someone else to command the army. Davis refused.


Hattaway, Herman, and Archer Jones. How the North Won. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983.

Large, George R. Battle of Gettysburg: The Official History by the Gettysburg National Military Park Commission. Shippensburg, Pa.: Burd Street Press, 1999.

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Palmer, Michael A. Lee Moves North. New York: Wiley, 1998.

Thomas RobsonHay/a. r.

See alsoCivil War ; Gettysburg, Battle of ; Pickett's Charge .

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