The Battle Of Gettysburg Term Papers Example
The Battle of Gettysburg: Introduction
American civil war has affected various important aspects of modern day America. Slavery was abolished and millions of people became free. United States of America gone through a reconstruction as the nation was literally devastated by a number of battles on the American soil. Americans were divided between union and confederate forces and fought a number of battles. The Battle of Gettysburg is considered as one of the most important and decisive battles of the American civil war. This paper proposes a discussion on the Battle of Gettysburg and analyses how it affected the American civil war and changed the outcome of the war.
The Battle of Gettysburg: Background
The Battle of Gettysburg was started on 1st July 1863 and was ended on 3rd July 1863 between confederate and union forces. This battle was fought near Gettysburg town of Pennsylvania, and is considered by many people as turning point of the American civil war. Major general George Meade and John F Reynolds lead union forces while General Robert E. Lee led confederate forces in the Battle of Gettysburg. This battle was a blow on efforts of confederate forces to attack the north (McPherson, 1988).
General Lee was a brilliant military officer and after his victory in Virginian expedition, Lee decided to invade north. Another reason why Lee decided to attack the Gettysburg is the rumour of huge resources in the town of Gettysburg. He came to hear that there is large chunk of shoes for men in the town (Woodworth, 2008). Confederate army faced lack of such resources and Lee decided to invade the town in order to acquire all these things.
Lee crossed Shenandoah Valley and led his men towards Gettysburg. After reaching Gettysburg, Lee reorganised his army and planned to engage the opponent forces. He made a foolproof plan to attack the city that was heavily guarded by union forces. Lee succeeded in breaking the defence of union army in his initial moves, but union forces retaliated devastatingly and confederate forces were forced to retreat.
The Battle of Gettysburg: Important Events
On very first day of battle, Union army anticipated the march of confederates from the west of Gettysburg; hence army deployed its defences. The army adopted effective strategy to buy some time and control the situation till Union infantrymen arrived and took strong positions at Culp’s Hill, Cemetery Hill, along with Cemetery Ridge (McPherson, 1988). Gaining control at hills was a priority as it would provide a strong position to Union army over its rivals.
During first day, Davis suffered significant losses due to actions performed near unfinished railroad. However, Davis was successful in his attempt made against L. Cutler. First day of battle was not just a prologue of the battle, however, it was considered as 23rd largest battle in terms of troops that were engage in the war. Meade’s army comprised around 22,000 soldiers and Lee’s army around 27,000 soldiers. Lee’s army was highly motivated after winning battle of Chancellorsville. Lee wanted to drift Northern cities and fuel peace movement (DeAngelis, 2002).
During second day of Gettysburg battle, Union was able to defend South ridges & hills of Gettysburg along with 90,000 soldiers. Confederates surrounded Union soldiers with strength of 70,000 soldiers. Lee by afternoon attacked heavily on Devil’s Den and Union left flank. On right side of Union demonstration further escalated into attack on Cemetery and Culp’s Hill. Despite of the gains of Confederates army, Union soldiers were in strong positions on second day of the battle (Guelzo, 2013).
On the third day of battle, soldiers resumed fight at Culp’s Hill. They moved forward to east & south. However, major event of the day was attack by around 12000 soldiers of Confederates on centre Union. The attack on Cemetery Ridge resulted in weaponry fire from Union army, which causes significant losses to Confederate soldiers and army. Lee decided to retreat his army to Virginia.
The three day battle impacted both armies in great manner. Both armies lost around eight thousand soldiers in three days battle. Huge number of soldiers (around 43,000) were wounded, seized or went missing in these three days. General Lee in the hope of victory waited for counterattack on day four, but that day no soldiers attacked. Due to heavy rain, Confederate authorities withdrew their army and were forced to head towards Virginia (DeAngelis, 2002).
Meade and Union army received criticism as they did not pursue their enemy in Virginia, after the end of Battle of Gettysburg. The battle was great defeat of Confederates’ army due to loss of human and other resources. Lee after the defeat of his army and loss of resources, resigned from his position and given his resignation to the president. However, his resignation was not accepted by the President. The North region celebrated their victory while South mourned.
The Battle of Gettysburg: Effects and Significance
The Battle of Gettysburg affected the American civil war in many ways. First of all the defeat at the battle of Gettysburg affected the morale of the confederate army. Lee and his army were defeated badly and suffered huge losses. Confederate army lost thousands of men. Such a huge loss affected Lee’s will to invade northern states. General Lee was known as an invincible general and also for his offensive strategies, but after the defeat at the battle of Gettysburg, lee was forced to be defensive.
Strategies and performance of General Lee in this battle was not as per his reputation. There were several reasons of his defeat at this battle. There was a lack of cooperation among his subordinates. They did not perform in the Battle of Gettysburg as they used to perform in earlier battles. Falling health of General Lee also came in his way. Heavy rainfall, strategies of union army General Meade also ruined expectations of confederate General Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg.
There are differences on effects of this battle on the American civil war. Different people interpret the effects and significance as per their own thoughts. There are many people who consider this battle as decisive. James M. McPherson acknowledges the decisiveness of the battle of Gettysburg in these words, “Lee and his men would go on to earn further laurels. But they never again possessed the power and reputation they carried into Pennsylvania those palmy summer days of 1863” (McPherson, 1988, p. 665).
At the same time there are many people who suggest that Battle of Gettysburg was not decisive and did not affect American civil war. Historians like Steven E. Woodworth do not consider the Battle of Gettysburg decisive. Steven E. Woodworth addresses this battle in these words, “Gettysburg proved only the near impossibility of decisive action in the Eastern theatre” (Woodworth, 2008, p. 13).
Union army also suffered losses, but northern states were able to sustain such losses due to their considerable population. When Lee was defeated, northern states celebrated his defeat and this battle was compared with Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. Union army became offensive and they got reasons to attack southern states. Had Lee won this battle, he would have got several allies, but his defeat at the battle changed the whole situation. Confederates were completely disheartened after the defeat and their leading role in the American civil war came to seize.
After analysing the significance and effect of the battle of Gettysburg on the American civil war, it can be concluded that the battle of Gettysburg played a decisive role in the American civil war. This battle affected and changed the American civil war in many ways. Confederate victorious expedition was successfully stopped by union army. General Lee and his army was disheartened and their morale was affected which affected the confederate’s performance in negative ways. Though there are different opinions about effects of the battle of Gettysburg, but no one can doubt that this Battle changed the ways of the American civil war, and considerably affected its outcome.
DeAngelis, G. (2002). The Battle of Gettysburg: Turning Point of the Civil War. USA: Capstone.
Guelzo, A. C. (2013). Gettysburg: The Last Invasion. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
McPherson, J. M. (1988). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Woodworth, S. E. (2008). Beneath a Northern Sky: A Short History of the Gettysburg Campaign. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.