In this paper I will discuss four points concerning the civil war in detail. The first issue discussed will be Professor McPherson's arguments in the text Ordeal by Fire and whether Antietam and Emancipation, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga, represent the three critical turning points in the Civil War. Second, I will rank the three points from greatest to least in terms of their importance on the Civil War. Third, I will add a fourth event I feel was significant to the turning of the war.
Antietam and Emancipation The Union and Confederate Armies met at Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862, in the bloodiest single day of the war: more than 4,000 died on both sides and 18,000 were wounded. McClellan failed to break Lee's lines or press the attack, and Lee was able to retreat across the Potomac with his army intact. The professor suggests that this may have been the major turning point in the Civil War. I would have to agree, had the confederates been successful in this battle it is quite possible the European nation would have become involved in the war. The European nations had a special interest in the war from a financial point, since Most of the European nation and the south where dependent on the trade of cotton.
Mediation would have been a most plausible interceding by Great Britain or France. The Confederates where hoping for financial or military support, but I do not think that Great Britain was willing to come back to North America and fight another war. Lee had suffered his first defeat, this would not have been so important if it where not for the numbers of casualties the South suffered in this battle. Had they been able to fall back with minimal losses, they may have been able to regroup into a more offensive position and continue the quest to Washington. McClellan, being the eternal idiot, failed to literally win the war on this day. By his choosing to hold back three quarters of his men he was unable to give a decisive defeat to Lee’s army and prolonged the war to see more bloody days. Had McClellan attacked with his entire army, it is quit possible he may have driven Lee’s army back to Richmond and ended the war. However, the fact that he was able to fight the rebels to a draw, kept the European nation from becoming involved with the war. The South’s only real hope in this war was the movement into Union territory in an effort to gain realistic consideration from the European nations.
Lee’s inability to take Antietam may have been the actual defeat of the Confederate army. President Lincoln needed a strong showing by the Union troops to shift the focus of the war to a cause higher than man himself. Lincoln was a calculating individual. He knew that with the casualties being suffered in this war, therefore, the American people would not let it continue for the sake of land and principal. This battle enabled him to issue the proclamation, which abolished slavery. While this proclamation did not free slaves in any of the Confederate States, it did create a new hope to the war. Once again the American people where fighting for freedom, something they understood and valued above all else. While the proclamation in it legality was inconsequential in its affect on the Confederate states, it carried great power in the Union. The people needed a will to fight, they had previously been given a reason. The professor alludes to this same point by quoting, “ A poor document, but a mighty act” .
Emancipation may have very well been another reason why the European nations stayed out of the war. Great Britain, being an anti-slavery country, in all likelihood felt it prudent to wait and see if it could resume normal relation with an anti-slavery country. Should the Confederacy prevail, they would deal with the two parties as independent nations. The emancipation had another unique aspect. It created over 100,000 new troops in the Union army, granted many of them never saw battle,...
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