Why no Confederate move to take Virginia near Washington?


Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
Instead of invading Maryland and Pennsylvania, wouldn't it have been a good idea to follow up victories by trying to take Fairfax and Alexandria (now Arlington) Counties? Why not try to control the Virginia side of the bridges to DC? That would threaten an attack on the capital and make it more difficult for the Union Army in Virginia to be supplied. I realize that area was heavily defended and had many forts, and I assume that was the reason. However, I wonder why there wasn't more attempts to move toward Washington. Actually taking Washington would be difficult, but why not make some effort in that direction?
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Oct 2015
The fortifications made such an attack impracticable. There were 24+ enclosed earthwork forts covering the Potomac crossings, Arlington and Alexandria, mounting heavy guns (up to 100 pounders). Plus there were numerous fortified battery positions for field artillery, rifle pits for infantry, and connecting roads so troops and field guns could move quickly around the perimeter. There were usually 20-50,000 troops defending the forts until spring '64 (when many were pulled out to join the field army).

Any move towards Washington (August '62, June '63, Jubal Early in '64) drew immediate response from the Army of the Potomac which would be added to the defenders of the forts. By crossing the Potomac above Washington Lee could threaten the capitol, but force the Federal army to come out of the fortifications and fight in the open field rather than from trenches and forts.
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