Why was the battle of Gettysburg a turning point in the civil war? At the time of the massive three-day conflict that took place over hills and fields in rural Pennsylvania at the beginning of July 1863, the significance of the Battle of Gettysburg in the context of the American Civil War was readily apparent.
It was clear from the dispatches that were telegraphed to the media how significant and extensive the combat had been.
The conflict seemed to take on a greater significance as time went on. And when seen from our vantage point, the collision of two gigantic armies has the potential to be regarded as one of the most significant occurrences in the annals of American history.
These five explanations for the significance of the Battle of Gettysburg provide a foundational comprehension of the conflict and explain why it has a vital position not just in the course of the American Civil War but in the whole annals of United States history.
In the first few days of July 1863, two massive armies met in the vicinity of the little town of Gettysburg, which is located in southern Pennsylvania. The skirmish between Union cavalry and Confederate infantry searching for supplies was the beginning of what would become one of the deadliest battles of the Civil War. The skirmish evolved into one of the major engagements of the conflict.
If the Union were to win the Battle of Gettysburg in the end, it would provide a significant morale boost to the Northern armies and put a stop for good to the audacious plan that Confederate General Robert E. Lee had to invade the Northern states. The fight, which was already widely considered to be a significant turning point in the war, would gain even more significance later that year when President Abraham Lincoln journeyed to Gettysburg to dedicate the cemetery that is located on the battlefield.
The failure of Robert E. Lee’s strategy to invade the North and bring about a rapid end to the war was the primary factor that made the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place from July 1–3, 1863, the defining moment of the American Civil War.
It was General Robert E. Lee’s (1807–1870) intention to cross the Potomac River from Virginia, go through the border state of Maryland, and then enter Pennsylvania in order to launch an attack against the Union on their home turf. After securing supplies of food and clothes in the affluent area of southern Pennsylvania, Lee would be in a position to pose a danger to places such as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Baltimore, Maryland. If the conditions had been favorable, General Lee’s army could have even been able to capture Washington, District of Columbia, the most coveted prize of them.
If the strategy had been carried out to its full potential, General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia could have been able to encircle and possibly take control of the nation’s capital. It was possible that the federal government would have been incapacitated, and senior government officials, all the way up to and including President Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865), might have been taken hostage.
The United States of America would have been compelled to make peace with the Confederate States of America had they not been defeated. At the very least for a period of time, the presence of a country in North America that supported the institution of slavery would have been rendered permanent.
That grandiose strategy was thwarted when it collided at Gettysburg with two enormous armies. After three days of fierce warfare, Lee was forced to retreat and march his heavily damaged army back across western Maryland and into Virginia. This journey took them almost exactly the same route they had taken before.
After that time, the Confederacy would not launch any significant invasions of the Northern states. After the battle of Gettysburg, the war would continue for almost another two years, but it would be fought on southern terrain from then on.
In the early summer of 1863, Robert E. Lee made the decision to invade the North despite the fact that his superiors, notably Jefferson Davis (1808–1889), the president of the Confederate States of America, advised against it. After gaining several successes over the Army of the Potomac, which belonged to the Union, during the spring of that year, Lee believed he had the opportunity to start a new phase in the conflict.
On June 3, 1863, Lee’s armies started their march into Virginia. By the end of June, sections of the Army of Northern Virginia were dispersed over southern Pennsylvania in different concentrations. Confederate forces made their way to the Pennsylvania cities of Carlisle and York, and the northern newspapers were replete with reports of raids for horses, clothes, shoes, and food at this time.
At the end of June, word reached the Confederate forces that the Army of the Potomac, which belonged to the Union, was moving in their direction with the intention of capturing them. In the days leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg and Cashtown, General Lee ordered his forces to concentrate in the area.
The little town of Gettysburg was not significant in any way to the soldiers. However, there were many routes that met there. The location of the town on the map was reminiscent of the center of a wheel. 7,000 Confederate soldiers were sent to Gettysburg on the 30th of June, 1863, in response to reports that advance cavalry forces of the Union Army had begun arriving there.
The next day, the fight started at a location that neither General Lee nor his Union counterpart, General George Meade (1815–1872), would have picked on purpose had they known it would be there. It seemed almost as though the routes were chosen at random to get their forces to that particular location on the map.
The battle that took place at Gettysburg was massive by any measure, and it included a combined total of 170,000 Confederate and Union forces who converged on an area that ordinarily only had 2,400 people living in it.
The entire number of Union forces was around 95,000, whereas the number of Confederate troops was approximately 75,000.
It is estimated that the Union suffered roughly 25,000 losses over the course of the three days of battle, while the Confederacy suffered approximately 28,000 casualties.
The battle of Gettysburg was the biggest conflict that had ever taken place in North America. Several commentators saw parallels between it and a Waterloo in the United States.
In reality, the Battle of Gettysburg was comprised of a number of separate actions, many of which were large enough to have qualified as important battles in their own right. The attack on Little Round Top by Confederate forces on the second day, and Pickett’s Charge on the third day, are two of the most important engagements that took place during the Civil War.
Numerous human dramas were played out, and some of the most renowned acts of bravery included:
Col. Joshua Chamberlain (1828–1914) and the 20th Maine holding Little Round Top Union officers, including Col. Strong Vincent and Col. Patrick O’Rorke, who both perished while defending Little Round Top.
During Pickett’s Charge, the tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers who marched across a mile of open terrain while being heavily fired at.
Charges of valorous cavalry that were led by George Armstrong Custer (1839–1876), a young commander in the cavalry who had just been raised to the rank of general.
The valor shown at Gettysburg continues to inspire people in this day and age. 151 years after the battle of Gettysburg, a campaign to bestow the Medal of Honor upon Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing (1814–1863), a hero of the Union Army, finally came to a successful conclusion. At a ceremony that took place in November 2014 at the White House, President Barack Obama presented the belated honor to distant relatives of Lieutenant Cushing. The event took place at the White House.
Gettysburg could never have been forgotten. However, the significance of the combat was elevated when President Abraham Lincoln traveled to the site of the conflict in November 1863, which was four months after the battle itself.
Lincoln was asked to attend the ceremony that would dedicate a new cemetery to keep the remains of Union soldiers who had died in the conflict. At that time, Presidents did not have the opportunity to give speeches that were extensively broadcast very often. And Lincoln made the most of the chance to deliver a speech that would eventually serve as a rationale for the war.
The Gettysburg Address that Abraham Lincoln gave is today considered to be among the very finest speeches that have ever been given. The content of the speech, which is brief but brilliant, expresses, in less than 300 words, the nation’s commitment to the cause for which the war is being fought.
At June of 1863, after having just led his Army of Northern Virginia to a spectacular victory in the Battle of Chancellorsville, General Robert E. Lee was on top of the world. From this position of power, he urged Confederate authorities to accept a daring plan of invading Pennsylvania in the hope of dealing the Yankees a resounding defeat on their own territory. The goal of this strategy was to win the war for the South.
Jennifer Murray, a history professor at Oklahoma State University and the author of On A Great Battlefield: The Making, Management, and Memory of Gettysburg National Military Park, 1933-2013, explains that “Lee says more than once that he believes his men would be invincible.” Murray is the author of the book “On A Great Battlefield: The Making, Management, and Memory of Gettysburg National Military Park, 1933-2013.” The Confederate general’s goal was that a successful invasion of territory controlled by the Union would persuade Northerners to give up their support for President Lincoln’s military effort in large numbers.
Lincoln withdrew Joseph Hooker from his position as commander of the Force of the Potomac on June 28, and replaced him with George G. Meade. This was done because Lee’s army was making progress in Pennsylvania at the time. Of 1863, the Army of the Potomac went through a total of three changes in leadership before reaching this point.
Murray asserts that the troops of the Union had a high level of self-esteem. However, they have some reservations about their leadership and the succession of commanders who keep coming in over and over again. Soon after hearing of the change in leadership, Lee was also informed that the Union forces were much closer to him than he had anticipated they would be. Murray makes the observation that “[Lee’s] cavalry, which is headed by J.E.B. Stuart, is out kind of fun riding, and they are not doing a particularly good job of delivering information across to Lee,” as he puts it. Lee ordered his troops to concentrate in Cashtown, a small town situated around eight miles west of Gettysburg. This was after he decided to abandon his plan to advance farther into Pennsylvania, toward Harrisburg.
Gettysburg was an important location for the movement of soldiers due to the fact that it had almost a dozen roadways flowing into and out of the town. A few Confederate divisions proceeded there on June 30 in quest of shoes and other supplies, and they ran upon two brigades of Union cavalry along the way.
In November of 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave a speech called the Gettysburg Address, which gave the battle an even greater importance. In one notoriously short address, President Abraham Lincoln sanctified the battleground, recognized the sacrifice of the troops who died there, and reinterpreted the war as a conflict that was not only for the Union, but for the country as a whole.
In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “…that we here strongly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…that this country, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom…and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not vanish from the earth.”
The Union’s victory at the Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the American Civil War. Prior to that victory, the Confederates were pulling ahead in the conflict; but, following the Union’s victory, the conflict became more closely contested. Because the Union eventually prevails in the war, we may deduce that this particular engagement was the impetus for the Union to keep fighting.
There is widespread consensus that the Fourth of July, 1863 was the decisive turning point in the American Civil War. Both the Battle of Gettysburg (Pennsylvania), which took place from July 1 to 3, and the Fall of Vicksburg were significant, well-known, and well-documented engagements that ended in Confederate losses (Mississippi).
The Union forces emerged victorious from the conflict that was known as the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place between July 1 and July 3, 1863. The significance of this fight lies in the fact that it made it possible for Abraham Lincoln to deliver the Gettysburg Address. On July 21, 1861, combatants engaged in what became known as the First Battle of Bull Run. This battle was the first significant one to take place during the Civil War.
Some people consider the Battle of Gettysburg to be the defining moment of the war because it brought a stop to the Confederacy’s last major invasion of the Northern states. The fall of Vicksburg to the Union forces was possibly even more significant due to the fact that it paved the way for the Union to capture control of the entire Mississippi River, thereby dividing the Confederacy in two halves.