Gettysburg: The Turning Point of the War
On July 1, 1863, the Union Army of the Potomac engaged the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia which had advance into the north. This would be the battle of all battles; it would be the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Three days of warfare resulted in a Union victory at the cost was 51,000 American casualties. The Southern reason for rebellion was to break away from the Union and become a separate country, the Confederate States of America. Up to this point the rebels were winning battles with the successful leadership of their Southern generals. The Union was in trouble; their armies were getting beaten even while out numbering and being better supplied than their foes. The North, by winning this battle, had crushed the rebel's spirits and had stopped the seemingly invincible Army of Northern Virginia, and had ended the Confederate army terrorizing of the Union. Now history tells that Gettysburg was an important battle, but many people do not know the significance of the end results of this massive battle. Gettysburg was the major turning point in the Civil War.
Some historians argue that Vicksburg and Sherman's march to the sea also were major turning points of the war; they were. The loss of Vicksburg meant losing the Mississippi River. Having the Union in control of the river split the CSA and stopped the flow of men and supplies to needed places in the Southern struggle. The North's control of the river allowed for an increase in Union war resources. Sherman's march to the sea was extremely demoralizing to the South's will to continue fighting. Sherman and his men carved a sixty-mile wide swath of destruction in the Confederacy's heartland. Later, this hurt the Confederacy greatly, but up to this point the South was at its high tide and thinking a great push into the North would break the Union's will to fight and a peace treaty would come soon.
The Confederate army had been doing what was needed. By repelling the Union armies out of the South the Confederacy lived. After two years the South had been doing a good job. President Lincoln and the American people loyal to the Union were not happy about how the war to restore the Union was going. Lincoln did not know what to do. He had already gone through many generals because they could not get the results the country needed. As the years of war continued, the Northern people were tired of the fighting and showed it; the enlistment numbers were getting lower every day. Many working-class men raised the slogan, "It's a rich man's war but a poor man fight." (Davis p.231) Lincoln and the Union were in a bad situation. Now Lincoln replaced the commanding general, Joseph Hooker, with General George Meade. Lincoln was not pleased with the ground that Hooker had attempted to gain. Meade had "been long enough in the war to want to give the Confederates one thorough licking before any peace is made." (Beringer p. 261) Lincoln on Meade. General Meade might be a solution to Hooker's disappointment. The President still had a problem with the manpower needed to fight the war. The Enrollment Act of Conscription passed on March 3, 1863. This resulted in anger and protests; few wanted to fight an endless war. The Union's prospects looked grim in its ability to win the war. Something major needed to happen in order to turn the war around.
General Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, had once previously tried to invade the north but was forced to retreat. "If successful, the campaign would have baffled Union designs in the east for the entire campaigning season and would have forwarded political objectives by helping "to repress the war feeling in the Federal States."(Hattaway p.398) Lee intended to bring the war to the North. The Confederacy was winning and spirits were high, but Lee wanted to make them higher. By bringing the fight to the North Lee could reap the...
Bibliography: Beringer, Richard E., Hattaway Herman, Jones Archer, and Still William N. Why The South Lost The Civil War. University of Georgia, 1986.
Davis, Kenneth C. Don 't Know Much About History. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
Underwood, Robert. (Editor) Retreat From Gettysburg: Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. New York, Oxford University, 1986
Being for the most part contributions by Union and Confederate officers
Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels. Crown Publishers New York, 1974
Great background information on the battle very detailed story of Gettysburg
Wills, Garry. Lincoln at Gettysburg. Literary Research, 1992
Lincolns views on the result of Gettysburg
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