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3 Disasters Lincoln Faced in the War

Updated on December 11, 2016
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

The Northern army faced multiple disasters that embarrassed Lincoln in both theaters of the war. Three main ones stood out and would forever be remembered in history. They were the Second Battle of Bull Run, Battle of Fredericksburg, and the Union's attempt to take Richmond.

It took these losses for Lincoln to realize that he had underestimated the South and that the generals he had were not the equals to those he fought against. The encounters would be what would open the Union's eyes to the truth and help them adjust their strategy in order to win.

The Second Battle of Bull Run

The Second Battle of Bull Run was a huge embarrassment for Lincoln and the Union army. Leadership was atrocious and confusing for the Union side. Orders from Pope could not be followed which revealed the inability of Pope to assess his own army and meet its needs. He would give orders that would require resources the army did not possess. He would command movement that was confusing to those under him. Pope made assumptions that would lead to a rebel victory. When Jackson shifted his men, Pope took that to mean the Confederate's were retreating. He did not wait to "assemble a large force, but sent divisions in smaller assaults on the Confederate positions...with heavy casualties on both sides." (

It was mainly due to Pope's inability to command that the Union lost this particular battle. He misjudged the actions of Lee's army which led to a disastrous end to the battle for the Union side. In the end, Lee was able to push the Union back and move dangerously close to Washington all because Pope was ineffective.


Battle of Fredericksburg

It was the Battle of Fredericksburg that was the end for Union leader, Burnside. He had been placed in charge after McClellan had been removed due to continual lack of performance and inability to deliver the Union what it needed. Burnside was a great planner, but when he got to Fredericksburg, his plans fell all apart.

His boats were not in place where he needed them to cross the Rappahannock. By the time, he was able to cross the river, Lee was in place on the other side. Timing was critical, and the result was in favor of the Confederates. Beforehand, there were no Confederate soldiers to stop them. It was the perfect time to cross. Delay left him now without the advantage.

The Union found itself walking into a version of hell as the battle commenced along with the loss of it. Burnside was driven back ,and the blood was heavy that flowed into the river. One strategical misstep caused the large loss for the Union..


Failure to Capture Richmond

Lincoln wanted... no, needed the Union army to take Richmond and hopefully end the war. Moving toward the Confederate capital, Jackson blocked the Union army in the Shenandoah Valley where numerous battles were fought. The Confederates knew what the capture of Richmond would do to the morale of the rebel fighters. The capital had to be kept safe at all costs if they had any chance to win the war. Lincoln was well aware of that which was why he pushed toward that result.

The Union lost and was pushed back away from its target of Richmond. Lincoln had to admit defeat in being able to beat the South just by surging forward. He had to rethink his strategy. Neither side found the war going the way they planned, but the Union found too many failures unacceptable.

Matter of :Appearances

Both sides in the war faced embarrassments, but in order to win the war, Lincoln had to show the public that the Union was capable. If the Union couldn't win these major battles, how could it win the war? How could people support the war financially and morally if the Union lost such major victories? It was all about the appearance of strength.

Lincoln underestimated the South and had to find the right leaders to counterattack the genius strategy of Jackson and Lee. These were men who knew how to fight and knew their opponents quite well. But sometimes you have to lose in order to see how to win.


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