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At the outset of the Civil War, the Confederacy had many disadvantages, such as an underdeveloped economy, lack of manpower, lack of railroad systems and a lack of supplies. However, two of its greatest advantages were great military leadership and fighting a defensive war. Due to these advantages, the South had early success in the eastern theater of the Civil War, but after a brilliant Confederate victory in Chancellorsville, VA, General Robert E. Lee decided to invade Pennsylvania, despite losing his best office General Jackson. So why would Lee change the Confederate strategy of fighting a defensive war, despite his early success?
Due to the lack of supplies created by the Southern economy and the blockade created by the Union navy, the Confederate army and citizens were suffering. One way to acquire some of the goods they were lacking was to build an alliance with a foreign power such as Great Britain or France. However, these countries were not going to risk ruining their trading relationship with the United States after the war by supporting the “losing” side during the war. Therefore, Confederacy was desperate to provide evidence to foreign investors that they could be victorious in the war provided they received aid from these foreign powers. A victory on Union soil could be the convincing evidence and General Lee was using an invasion of Pennsylvania as way to achieve that goal.
Another major reason that Lee decided to invade at that time was discourage the Northern citizens’ commitment to the war effort, so as to put pressure on the Union government to withdrawal from the war. After stunning Confederate victories at Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville there was a growing voice in the North, which supported a withdrawal from the war. More and more members of the Union felt that the South and North could never be united completely, so allowing the Confederacy to secede was not a bad thing thus allowing the death and destruction from the war to stop.
Fortunately for President Abraham Lincoln and the Union supporters, the Union army had uplifting victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in July of 1863, which marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. So, despite the damaging effects that resulted in Lee changing the military strategy of the Confederate army, it was a necessary gamble, which he had to take if the Confederacy was to have a realistic chance in winning the war.
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