The United States achieved independence in part because foreign
countries such as France and Spain, entered the war against Britain
on the American side. The Confederacy, too, hoped for foreign
aid. In a bold bid to win European support, the Confederacy sought
to win a major victory on northern soil.
In September 1862, Lee launched a daring offensive into Maryland.
No one could be sure exactly what Lee planned to do. But in an
incredible stroke of luck, a copy of Lee's battle plan (which
had been wrapped around three cigars) fell into the hands of Union
General George B. McClellan. After only a brief delay, on September
17, 1862, McClellan forces attacked Lee at Antietam Creek in Maryland.
The Battle of Antietam (which is sometimes referred to as the
Battle of Sharpsburg) produced the bloodiest single day of the
Civil War. Lee suffered 11,000 casualties; McClellan, 13,000.
Lee was forced to retreat, allowing the North to declare the battle
a Union victory. But Union forces failed to follow up on their
surprise success and decisively defeat Lee's army.
Lincoln deeply mistrusted McClellan, an obsessively cautious
general and a Democrat who bitterly opposed the Emancipation Proclamation
and who called Lincoln the "Gorilla." Lincoln was outraged
by the statement of one Union officer, Major John J. Key, whose
brother was a key McClellan adviser, that it was not the objective
of the war to crush the Confederate army. Instead, Key implied,
the goal was simply to drag the war out until both sides gave
up and the Union could be restored with slavery intact. Key was
the only officer to be dismissed from service for uttering disloyal
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