What was supposed to last 90 days, now dragged on for more than two years. It was apparent, now more than ever, that little was being accomplished but the taking of hundreds of thousands of lives. The war between the Union and Confederacy had been in a sort of deadlock where each side could claim victories as easy as defeats. By this time the south had the upper hand "militarily wise," just coming off a magnificent tactical victory at Chancellorsville in May. General Lee headed the Confederacy's, Army of Northern Virginia, General Meade headed the Union's Army of the Potomac. Both sides saw the need to win that one, crucial victory to turn the tide completely in their favor. They would get their chances at a small town in Pennsylvania. The battle was dubbed the Battle of Gettysburg for the town of Gettysburg, PA.
By June of 1863 General Lee asked President Davis to march his army north out of VA. Davis granted Lee permission. Lee, with 75,000 troops, made his way north, just west of the Blue Ridge Mountains into Maryland. Lee made haste in doing so. He wanted the advantage to set up a defensive position forcing the Union to attack him there. His troops went from town to town for food and supplies. On June 28th they crossed into Pennsylvania and toward Gettysburg. Upon arrival about a mile northwest of town, Colonel Buford's cavalry unit met Lee's III Corps headed by General Hood. Much to his disappointment his troops had began to fight without his acknowledgement. Meanwhile, the Army of the Potomac was hot on Lee's heels but marched east of the Blue Ridge so as not to be detected. Meade with 100,000 men would arrive piece by piece in the next two days from the south of town.
The battle was inevitable and it began here in a little known farm town. Both sides knew that Antietam was just a prelude, a year earlier, to the carnage which was to come. General and soldier alike could see what was unraveling. These armies saw a similar scenario the first time Lee brought his army north.
Many reasons can be attributed to why General Robert E. Lee wanted to lead his troops into hostile northern territory. He knew he would be vastly outnumbered and without support.
One reason was that for 2 years now Virginia was being destroyed do to battle and armies. There was a constant shortage of food for soldier and civilian. With this in mind, Lee wanted to bring the fighting out of Virginia for harvest and to give the people a chance to resupply for awhile. While in the north, General Lee would draw the Army of the Potomac out of the Confederacy. Lee's troops had a chance to eat regularly and plentiful when they went north, they feasted on the lush farms of Pennsylvania. This helped add to their already high morale, reaching its highest point of the war.
After his stunning victory in late May of 1863 at Chancellorsville, General Lee, and his army had their highest morale. They had a sense of "invincibility," because they had finally defeated the Army of the Potomac in a major engagement. This battle was really just the "beginning," of the Battle of Gettysburg, for both armies thought that Chancellorsville settled nothing. Lee knew that he would have to destroy the Army of the Potomac in northern territory to accomplish his ultimate goal. No time seemed more right than now to do that. He knew the north would just replenish its ranks and try again next summer to capture Richmond. The time was now, Lee must act quickly to accomplish his goal and rid of the Army of the Potomac.
It was imperative now, more than ever that if Britain was to acknowledge the Confederacy and send aid then Lee had to produce. Great Britain wouldn't support a losing nation but if the south could win a significant victory on northern soil then Britain would surely realize it had worth. The Confederacy had been counting on the British Navy to break the Union blockade of the south that had been strangling them. If the blockade could be broken then the south...
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