24 April 2000
The Battle of Gettysburg " The Turning Point of the Civil War
Gettysburg was the turning point of the American Civil War. This is the most famous and important Civil War Battle that occurred over three hot summer days, July 3, 1863, around the small market town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. More importantly Gettysburg was the clash between the two major American Cultures of their time: the North and the South. The causes of the Civil War, and the Battle of Gettysburg, one must understand the differences between these two cultures. The Confederacy had an agricultural economy producing tobacco, corn, and cotton, with many large plantations owned by a few very rich white males. These owners lived off the labor of sharecroppers and slaves, charging high dues for use of their land. The Southern or Confederate Army was made up of a group of white males fighting for their independence from federal northern dictates (The History Place Battle of Gettysburg 1).
The Union economy was based on manufacturing, and even the minorities in the North were better off than those in the South most of the time. The Northern politicians wanted tariffs, and a large army. The Southern plantation owners wanted the exact opposite.
The South was fighting against a government that they thought was treating them unfairly. They believed the Federal Government was overtaxing them, with tariffs and property taxes making their life styles even more expensive than they already had been. The North was fighting the Civil War for two reasons, first to keep the Nation unified, and second to abolish slavery. Abraham Lincoln, the commander and chief of the Union or Northern forces along with many other Northerners believed that slavery was not only completely wrong, but it was a great humiliation to America. Once can see that with these differences a conflict would surely occur, but not many had predicted that a full-blown war would breakout. One did and after three bloody and costly years for both sides we come to the date of July 1, 1863.
Before the battle, major cities in the North such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, and even Washington, were under threat of attack from General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia which had crossed the Potomac River and marched into Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday morning, June 30, an infantry brigade of Confederate soldiers searching for shoes headed toward Gettysburg (The History Place Battle of Gettysburg 2). The Confederate commander looked through his field glasses and spotted a long column of Federal Cavalry heading toward the town. He withdrew his brigade and informed his superior, General Henry Heth, who in turn told his superior, A.P. Hill, he would go back the following morning for shoes that were desperately needed.
The battle began on July 1, 1863, when some of General Ambrose Powell Hill's advance brigades entered the town of Gettysburg Pennsylvania looking for shoes (The History Place Battle of Gettysburg 2). Because of General Stuart's failure to complete his mission of tracking the Union army, Hill's troops encountered a Union cavalry division commanded by Major General John Buford (Microsoft Encarta Battle of Gettysburg 2). During battle in front of Cemetery Hill, General Hill was faced with stubborn resistance from the Union forces trying to hold until the rest of the forces could arrive and help out. The fighting went on until General Richard S. Ewell arrived and forced the federal troops to retreat to better ground Southeast of Gettyburg (The History Place Battle of Gettysburg 2). Although the Confederates won the day, Ewell made the mistake of not allowing General Hill to force the Union forces back further leaving the Union troops with higher ground, and that is the conclusion of day one.
On the following day, July 2, General George Meade, commander of the Union Army of the Potomac arrived, along...