The Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg

The battle happened in the year 1863 from July 1 to July 3’ it has been considered the most important battle in the history of the United States. It was a crucial participation of the American Civil War. It started when Robert E. Lee, had had a series of victories over his enemies, Union forces which occurred at Chancellorsville; he, therefore, decided to enter Pennsylvania with his army of Northern Virginia. This was back in the year 1863 during the month of June. During the following month, July, the Union’s Army of the Potomac was involved in a clash with the advancing Confederates. This was on July 1st. General George G. Meade was the commander of the army. The battle occurred at the crossroads of a town called Gettysburg (Sauers 2006, p.99). On the second day, July 2nd, the fight intensified, the Federals were attacked by the Confederates from both sides: left and right. It was a serious battle, and they had to fight harder not to lose. Then the battle got to its third day, July 3rd, Lee had to do something to beat his opponents. He commanded his army to attack, with less than 15,000 troops, the opponent’s center at Cemetery Ridge (McNamara 2016, p.56).  This was later known as the “Pickett’s Charge.”  The assault managed to penetrate through the Union lines but did not succeed. It happened at the expense of thousands of rebel casualties. Lee was therefore left with no option rather than to withdraw his army that was already battered and headed towards Virginia on the fourth day of July.

But since Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under the leadership of Robert E. Lee’s had defeated their enemies, the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville in May 1863. Lee confidently planned for an offensive. He decided to invade the North again since the first one was the one that had ended at Antietam during the previous fall. Lee had hope that his action would gain recognition of the Confederacy by France and Britain and as well make the course of northern “Copperheads” stronger since they favored peace.  He hoped to do this through driving conflict out of Virginia. This would be vital in diverting northern troops from Vicksburg since that is the place the Confederates were already under siege (DeAngelis 2013, p.85).

President Abraham Lincoln, who was the Union leader by that time, had already lost confidence in Joseph Hooker who was the commander of the Army of the Potomac. This is because of his seemingly reluctance to confront Lee’s army after they were defeated during the previous confrontation at Chancellorsville. Therefore, on the 28th day of June, Lincoln decided to name Major General George Gordon Meade as Hooker’s successor. To prove his significance and determination, Meade immediately commanded his army to pursue Lee’s army which had around 75,000 soldiers. By then, this army (Lee’s) had already crossed the Potomac River and were now in Maryland. They were headed for Pennsylvania through the southern side.

Aftermath and impact of the battle

Since Lee’s hopes of having a successful invasion of the North dashed, he had already decided to wait for a counterattack from the Union. It came as he had expected on the 4th of July. The night was marked by heavy rains, and therefore the Confederate general decided to withdraw his army, which was already decimated towards Virginia. Meade, who was always cautious, was to be criticized since he did not pursue the opponents after Gettysburg. However, this was a crushing defeat for the Confederacy (Fradin 2008, p.66).  The union had at least 23,000 casualties while those of the Confederates numbered more than 28,000. This was more than one-third of Lee’s army. It was a celebration for the North but mourning for the South. The hopes the South had for foreign recognition of the Confederacy were dwindled Lee was demoralized by the Gettysburg defeat and therefore decided to resign and offered the position to President Jefferson Davis. Davis did not accept the offer.

Although the great general of the Confederate went on winning other battles, the most important one was the Battle of Gettysburg. This together with the victory of Ulysses S. Grant at Vicksburg, that happened on the 4th of July as well, was of irrevocable importance to the Union since they turned the tide of the Civil War to favor the Union (Council on Foreign Relations 2011, p.56).

The significance of the victory gained on July 4th at Gettysburg was a major step in Pennsylvania in the whole month of July 1863.  The importance of Gettysburg, however, continued to increase as time went by to date.

There is some reason we can say the battle was significant in. The reasons include the following. Gettysburg mattered in providing a basic understanding of the confrontation. It explains why 4th of July is very vital in the history of the Americans. It occupies quite a large part in the Union’s history.

Gettysburg was as well the civil war’s turning point. This battle that took place in three days became the turning point of the War due to the plans Robert E. had initially before he was defeated. The defeat demoralized him and therefore he was not willing to organize more battles. His plan was to cross the Potomac, get through to Maryland, and then start an offensive war on the Union soil. This was planned to start in Pennsylvania.

Lee gathered for and clothing which was then the most significant commodities then. He got them from southern Pennsylvania. With the commodities at hand, he as, therefore, able to threaten cities such as Baltimore, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, and even Washington, D.C. which seemed to be the greatest prize.

If the plans Lee had succeeded, his army, the Army of Northern Virginia, would have gained control over the nation’s capital and finally conquer it. This could have disabled the federal government and might have even captured high officials in the government and possibly the president himself.

The Union would then have been forced to go by the Confederate States of America’s rule and agree on making peace with them. The Union would have existed as a slave-holding nation forever. The battle at Gettysburg, therefore, played the major role in putting an end to Lee’s audacious plan.

The Union was then sure that no major Confederate invasion by Lee to the North would happen after the victory they had over him at Gettysburg. They were sure that even if the battle continued, it would have to be fought on the Southern ground but not the North as was the plan.

The other major significance of the battle is the location where the battle occurred. Though the location was accidental. After failing to heed the advice of his seniors, Lee decided to invade the north. His senior, Jefferson Davis, who was the president of the C.S.A, was against Lee’s plan. Lee had all the confidence since he had conquered battles that had happened earlier.

Lee’s army started to march Virginia on June 3, 1863. By the end of the month of June, the elements of the Army of Northern Virginia were already scattered all over. There were high concentrations in some parts mainly in areas across southern Pennsylvania (Council on Foreign Relations 2016, p.9). York and Carlisle received many Confederate soldiers who visited. Newspapers in the North were therefore filled with confused articles and stories giving accounts of raids for clothing, horses, food, and shoes.

Though Gettysburg, which is a little town, had no military significance, there were some significant roads that converged there. The town looks like the hub of a wheel on the map of the region. Therefore, when the two armies met at the point, General George Meade and Lee’s, it was not out of choice but just because the roads covered there.

Another reason why the battle of Gettysburg is significant is that it was one of the most enormous battles that happened in the region. At any standards, the loss of a total of 170,000 lives was remarkable (Sauers 1999, p.57). These included the Union and the Confederate soldiers altogether.

The heroism and drama that happened at Gettysburg have become one of greatest Legends. This is because the battle consisted of different engagements. As in major battles, several of them ought to have stood alone. Two of the most remarkable assaults include the assault at Little Round Top by Confederates during day two, and Pickett’s Charge on day three (Sauers 1999, p.44).

Some of the dramas that happened include legendary acts of heroism such as the holding of the Little Round Top by the 20th Maine and Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, people who died defending Little Round Top like Col. Patrick O’Rourke and Col. Strong Vincent, the great number of Confederates that marched across a whole mile that was on an open ground under heavy fire during Pickett’s Charge (Sauers 1999, p.55). Others are the charges that were led by George Armstrong Custer. He was a young cavalry officer and had just been promoted to the position of general.

Later on, four months down the line, President Abraham Lincoln during his visit to the place used Gettysburg to put a justification to the Cost of the Civil War. The place of the small town in the American history was enhanced by the president’s visit

The speech Lincoln delivered during the dedication of a new cemetery that was to hold the soldiers who died in the battle fighting for the Union was remarkable. It was a short speech that was 300 words in length but has remained to be one of the most brilliant speeches in the Union’s history.




Reference list

Sauers, Richard A. The Generals of Gettysburg: The Leaders of America. Greatest Battle. Civil War History 45, no. 3 (09, 1999): 267-8,

McNamara R. (2016). 5 Reasons the Battle of Gettysburg Mattered. Education London: Penguin. Web resource Battle-Of- Gettysburg.htm

Gettysburg. Council on Foreign Relations.

Fradin, D. B. (2008). Turning points in U.S. history. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark.

Ten Facts about Gettysburg. Council on Foreign Relations Accessed June 26, 2016.

DeAngelis, G. (2013). The Battle of Gettysburg: Turning point of the Civil War. Mankato, Minn: Bridgestone Books.