I am reading Joseph Harsh’s “Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862” and he mentions Robert E Lee’s thoughts just before the Antietam campaign and later in the war regarding moving his troops into Northern states. It’s interesting regarding Lee’s thoughts about the efficacy of doing this. I think that Lee’s plans for the Antietam and the Gettysburg campaigns were fairly simple, threaten Washington or Baltimore, get the yankees in a fight to destroy them and get the northern population to press for peace. Here is what Harsh says.
It is also unlikely that on the afternoon of September 2, the Confederate commander gave more than passing thought to an invasion of the North. To Lee “invasion” meant more than a mere incursion across the border. In his mind it was a “very decided offensive movement” and involved deep penetration and occupation of the free states themselves. Looking backward in February of 1864, Lee would declare bluntly, “We are not in a condition, and never have been, in my opinion, to invade the enemy’s country with a prospect of permanent benefit.” An invasion of conquest would clearly exceed Confederate war aims, and such a drastic departure from policy ought not be undertaken without approval from Richmond. More to the point was the obvious question of what Lee would do with either land or cities he might capture. He dare not spread his forces too thin and become bogged down in a military occupation.
Another interesting quote attributed to Lee shows how not much has changed in the press covering wars and the military.
On another occasion Lee wryly observed that the South might lose the war because of a mistake it had made at the outset. “In the beginning,” he explained, “we appointed all our worst generals to command the armies, and all our best generals to edit the newspapers.”