News of Lee's triumph at the Second Battle of Bull Run sent a ripple of fear through the Lincoln adminis tration, especially since victory suddenly seemed in doubt in the West as well. Only a few months earlier—in the spring of 1862—the Union had seemed ready to completely smash the rebels in the West. Federal forces had seized control of almost fifty thousand square miles of Confederate territory in the region, including such prized Southern cities as Nashville, New Orleans, and Memphis. Even the mighty Mississippi River had fallen into the hands of the North.
During the summer of 1862, however, the Union Army discovered how difficult it was to maintain control over such a large expanse of unfriendly territory. Confederate cavalry parties repeatedly raided Federal outposts and supply trains, and bridges and railroads utilized by the North were sabotaged (destroyed) on a regular basis. By August, these rebel activities had loosened the Union's hold on the West, paving the way for Confederate Army moves into Tennessee and Kentucky.
As Northerners digested the news of the Confederacy's sudden flurry of triumphs, a grim mood descended over the Union. All across the North, people realized that the South suddenly stood on the brink of victory. This possibility stunned everyone, and criticism of Lincoln and his generals became harsh through much of the North. Dispirited Union soldiers, most of whom had served with great bravery, felt as if the sacrifices made by them and their comrades were being wasted by mediocre Union generals.
Northern communities, meanwhile, were already mourning the deaths of friends, neighbors, and family members. Many people wondered if their sacrifices to "preserve the Union" would be in vain.
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