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The Antietam Campaign in the fall of 1862 was referred to by many veterans of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia as “the green corn campaign” for what was one of the main foods they subsisted on when they invaded Maryland. Here, historian Keith Bohannan briefly discusses the mindset of this invasion force.

Robert E. Lee enjoyed a number of important advantages when his army forded the Potomac River on September 5, 1862. His men were in high spirits after their victories in the Seven Days and Second Manassas campaigns, and the army boasted a cadre of skilled generals. The physical condition of the Army of Northern Virginia was a different matter, as Lee acknowledged in a September 3 communication with Jefferson Davis. “This army is not properly equipped for an invasion of the enemy’s territory,” Lee noted. It lacked “much of the material of war, is feeble in transportation, the animals being much reduced,. . . the men . . . poorly provided with clothes, and in thousands of instances … destitute of shoes.” Despite being weaker than his opponents in men and military equipments, Lee considered it important that his command remain on the offensive and that he maintain the initiative.

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When moving into Maryland, Lee realized that his men would be far from major southern supply depots or railroad routes. He consequently proposed to Davis on September 5 that the army supply itself with provisions and forage taken from the countryside. Confederate soldiers had done this to some extent during the Second Manassas campaign. The diet of green corn, or “roasting ears,” and green apples usually associated with the Maryland campaign appears in official reports, newspaper columns, and the diaries and letters of many soldiers in early August 1862 and continues through most of September.

Essay by Keith Bohannan (excerpt)
Gary Gallagher “The Antietam Campaign (Military Campaigns of the Civil War)”