dead0man- I agree with your analysis of Lee...McClellan and Burnside gave him glory thru their failures
Just out of curiousity, and I hope this doesn't derail the thread, but had Lee commanded the Army, would Dixie would've gone down sooner or later? And who was the best man for the job? Fremont? Grant from day one? Or keep Scott? Or something else? I'm sorry but I just wanted to know your opinions.
Had Lee stayed with the Union then like McDowell he would have roundly pilloried after losing Bull Run, so McClellan still ends up being promoted to Maj. Gen. first and placed in charge of the Army of the Potomac. As the ranking brigadier, Lee gets command of I Corps of the Army of the Potomac when Lincoln becomes impatient and appoints corps commanders for McClellan based on seniority. As such Lee is likely in charge of the III Corps of the Army of Virginia when Cedar Mountain is fought.
If Lee is bold enough to take the objective of Gordonsville when he learns that Banks and Jackson are fighting again near Cedar Mountain (and if the terrain permits such a move which I am not certain of) then perhaps Halleck does not order Pope to go on the defensive after Cedar Mountain. Such a result is even more likely since there likely is no Seven Days Battles if Lee in not commanding the Army of Northern Virgina. Hence Pope can close in on Richmond from the north and either the Army of Northern Virginia retreats from Richmond or Richmond falls to a siege that autumn.
If Halleck orders the Army of Virgina to take a defensive stance after Cedar Mountain anyway what happens next is cloudy. With no Seven Days to drive the Army of the Potomac to Berkeley Plantation, I can't see Longstreet being sent north to join Jackson in an attack on the Army of Virginia. There are enough butterflies possible at this point that any number of alternate histories could written with this as the starting point.
However, what is common to both forks of what happens after Cedar Mountain is that unless the Union forces in the east have a major collapse at some point or Lee is sent out west, it is doubtful that Lee rises any higher than Corps command after being removed from command of the Army of Northeastern Virginia after the Battle of Bull Run.