Before the Battle of Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee and his Confederate soldiers were blocking the path to Virginia. Lee’s army stayed along Rappahannock River and they were soon faced with Union troops desperate to cross.
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The Union general at the time was Joe Hooker, who replaced Ambrose Burnside after he failed at Fredericksburg. General Hooker outnumbered Lee’s forces more than two to one and the Union was in a confident position. However, Hooker predicted that Lee would make the obvious move. It was assumed that Lee would put his small number of troops as close as possible in order to make the strongest fight against the Union Yankees. Robert E. Lee had other plans. With the help of Thomas J. Stonewall Jackson (who was killed in this battle), General Lee divided his soldiers and confused the Union army. Hooker was forced to retreat and Lee took this as an opportunity to push north to Pennsylvania. This Civil War encounter was called the Battle of Chancellorsville and was vital in setting up the Battle of Gettysburg. (Shmoop Editorial Team)
Hooker moved his army north along with Lee and wanted to make a move at Richmond. However, after the embarrassing defeat at Chancellorsville, Hooker was denied and replaced by General George G. Meade. A showdown was destined to happen between Lee and Meade, but these were not the only generals in this fight. General J. E. B. Stuart was the brains of the Confederate forces and was sent to get information about Union positions. Stuart decided to go a long way around Meade’s army and lost precious time. Lee was clueless when it came to the Union’s position and suffered greatly. His forces were dispersed, rushed, and not prepared for what would come to be the turning point of the Civil War. (Shmoop Editorial Team)
The Battle of Gettysburg lasted from July 1st to July 3rd in 1863. The lesser known Confederate, General A.P. Hill, made the first advances into battle while General Lee was elsewhere. Some of his men discovered a group of Northern soldiers while looking for supplies. Hill, along with General Ewell, pushed the small Union force away. This realization that the Union forces were close and powerful motivated the Confederates to act quickly. Lee ordered General Ewell to attack at Cemetery Hill, but Ewell refused to fight. He considered the Union forces too powerful for his troop. His decision was seen as very cowardly and may have cost the Confederates a good opportunity to slow the Union’s growing army.(History)
The ideal outcome for the Confederates was a northern win which would hopefully result in a peace treaty or even the destruction of the Army of the Potomac. However, the Union was in a very solid position all around Gettysburg. Lee decided to order an attack from both sides anyways and wanted battle to commence as quickly as possible. Another Confederate, General James Longstreet, despised this decision because the Union had the high ground, but he followed orders anyways. Unfortunately for Lee, Longstreet took longer than desired and didn’t exchange shots until late afternoon. Longstreet went against Union General Daniel Sickles who was only able to hold Little Round Top.
JOSHUA LAWRENCE CHAMBERLAIN
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The well known hero that had a great impact in keeping Little Round Top was Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Chamberlain and his men of the 20th Maine Infantry went against an overpowering Confederate force and was able to hold the high ground for the Union. Chamberlain made the decision to risk a bayonet charge against the Rebels and it succeeded. He even was awarded the Medal of Honor for his life-changing decision.
The Gettysburg Nobody Knows
On the other side of the Union forces, General Ewell advanced at the same time as Longstreet, but didn’t manage to break through Culp’s Hill. All of this fighting took place during the first two days of the battle and resulted in the largest number of casualties that occured over that small amount of time.(History)
On the third day of the battle, both sides continued to push for control over Culp’s Hill. Lee felt confident in his forces (though Longstreet still disproved of offensive procedures) and ordered General Pickett to perform what would be known as Pickett’s Charge. The result was a Confederate failure and only one third of Pickett’s men survived. Lee found himself surrounded and began retreating his army back to a defensive position. After finally giving up any hope of invading north, the Confederates made their way back to Virginia. The Battle of Gettysburg was the last time the Confederates would ever be on the offensive and turned the war to the Union’s favor. (History)
Some changes caused by the Battle of Gettysburg were rather immediate. The battle took place close to the middle of the 4-year war. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant about 2 years later at the Battle of Appomattox. Gettysburg gave the Union more confidence and boosted their morale. General Lee had not been defeated like this before Gettysburg and the battle proved that he was able to be shut down. After the battle, the Rebels didn’t invade the North again. Though they won a few more battles, their position in the Civil War quickly declined.
Union forces also grew after the Battle of Gettysburg. More Northern citizens began supporting the war with people and supplies because of the renewed hope after the victory at Gettysburg. Southern citizens also felt the change after Gettysburg, but it was not to their benefit. More Union forces began invading and the instability of slavery threatened their homes. The Confederates needed as many men as possible following the heavy loss. Gettysburg was not only a turning point militarily, but it influenced the conditions of America and rallied more people to the Northern side of battle. 147 Gettysburg Nobody Knows
Overall, the battle of Gettysburg was a major factor of the Union’s victory. Winning the Civil War resulted in a new unity in America.
On the other hand, there were some changes because of Gettysburg that occured much after the bloodbath. The Gettysburg Address was an influential outcome of the battle. Today, President Lincoln’s speech is considered an important look at independence and democracy. But back when it was spoken, many newspapers and citizen’s criticised both its short length and content. Much time passed before the speech became truly iconic to American History.
This important battle ultimately lead America to a Union victory that would unite the country once again. The battle also changed the lives of many generals involved. Robert E. Lee’s was a hopeful and confident leader of the South, but the humiliating defeat caused him to beg for resignation though he was declined. Lee was once seen as unbeatable and his loss boosted the morale of the Union. (History)
General Longstreet also suffered after Gettysburg. He was accused of stalling on July 2nd on purpose because he did not agree with Lee’s orders. Much controversy arrived on the issue. Longstreet’s defensive approach may have worked better than Lee’s frontal assault. However, Longstreet may have been able to get the upper hand on General Meade if he would have been faster. James Longstreet’s reputation greatly changed from his Old War Horse days with Lee. (Battlefields) https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/james-longstreet
Even though General Meade won the battle, he faced many repercussions as well. President Lincoln especially despised Meade’s decision to not chase after Lee. He even wrote a disproving letter to Meade that was never sent, but showed Lincoln’s feelings towards the decision. There is much debate over whether pursuing Lee was a good idea or not, but Meade was ultimately fired because he chose to stay back. (Battlefields)
The outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg may have been changed. The Confederates position could have easily been strengthened with the help of J.E.B. Stuart or Stonewall Jackson. Stuart was vital in providing information and could have helped Lee make better decisions. Jackson was also a very strong leader that would have been a great asset if he had not died at Chancellorsville. Confederate generals Longstreet and Ewell could have also sped up the battle and put the Reels at the upper hand. If the Army of the Potomac was defeated, Lee could have continued to invade north and win control over the Union. America would be much different today if the Confederates succeeded in becoming their own country. The issue of slavery would have not been resolved and who knows how many more wars would arise between the two divided nations. There are many different views on what would have happened if the south won the Civil War. Overall, America would be divided and slavery and conflict would continue to persist in the North American region.
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