|Colonel Robert E. Lee of the United States Army,|
as he appeared at the beginning of the Civil War.
After the disastrous retreat of General Robert S. Garnett’s Army of the Northwest from Laurel Hill, and that general’s death at Corricks Ford, General William W. Loring was ordered to Western Virginia to take command of the army. Still anxious over the state of affairs in the region, President Jefferson Davis decided that more help was needed, so he ordered his most trusted advisor to head west. Expectations were high that Lee could recover the region for the Confederacy. However, the general proceeded under the handicap of having no specific orders to take charge, rather, he was given vague instructions to oversee and advise the area commanders. Loring, who had outranked Lee in the pre-war army, and who had only been in command for a short time, viewed Lee’s arrival as a hindrance.
Undertaking a personal reconnaissance of the area, Lee began planning for an offensive which would push the Federal army back out of Western Virginia. The general had high hopes for success. The events which transpired over the month of September would dash those hopes, and cause Lee’s reputation to plummet.