The Battle of Gettysburg was a three-day battle between the Union and the Confederate States of America that took place on July 1-3, 1863 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, decided that the time was right to invade the north and capture the Union’s capital. So, Davis commanded General Robert E. Lee and his 75,000 men to attack D.C while the Union forces, led by General Ulysses S. Grant, were focused on capturing Vicksburg in the southern territory to split the Confederacy into two territories, which interrupts the flow of supplies in the south. General Lee wanted to approach the capital by looping around D.C, however, in the process, they encountered Union forces in the town of Gettysburg, thus leading to the Battle of Gettysburg. On July 4, 1863, Lee was forced to retreat back to the south due to his army being in a terrible situation, therefore, declaring the battle as a Union victory. This investigation will focus on analyzing the three main effects of the Battle of Gettysburg: military deficit, loss of Confederacy morale, and rise in Union confidence, as well as which one of these effects were the most significant to the outcome of the Civil War.
This first aspect will discuss the significance of the military deficits after the battle. Throughout the duration of the war and especially after 1863, the Confederacy was at a predicament due to the fact that they lacked in every department in comparison to the Union. The numbers of men, resources, and industrial capacity were relatively negligible because they were a new country that formed in 1861. Therefore, as the war progressed, the need for these numbers began to increase. With that being said, General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, The Confederacies army based in the eastern theater, consisted of about 75,000 men. This meant that the Confederacy did not have many men to lose whereas the Union had 77,000 men. Although this may not have seemed like a problem, it was because the Union had a total population of roughly 22,100,000 people while the Confederacy had a total population of roughly 9,000,000. Furthermore, out of the 9,000,000 population in the south, the Confederacy had a total slave population of 3,950,000. This was also a problem because the south was dependent on their slaves to run their economy, which in turn did not allow them to enlist into the military.
In the Battle of Gettysburg, General Meade’s Army of Potomac, the Union’s army based in the eastern theatre, was faced with a casualty count of 23,049 (29.9% of the Union army) while the Army of Northern Virginia faced a casualty count of 28,000 (37.3% of the Confederate army). These losses of men were detrimental to the Confederacy because they were not able to find men to replenish and keep up with the Union’s numbers. This made winning battles against the Union difficult throughout the remainder of the war, which directly impacts the performance of the Confederacy and more importantly, the outcome of the Civil War. However, according to Gary W. Gallaher, the outcome of Gettysburg depended to a significant degree on the leadership in the respective armies, this is significant because it offers a different viewpoint on the reasoning behind the loss of the battle that contradicts the views of many other historians by blaming the outcome on leadership and not the way that the positioning played out.
The second aspect will evaluate the state of the Confederacy’s morale following the battle. From the beginning of the war, the Confederacy conducted a defensive war. A defensive war is when one nation attempts to approach the war in a passive manner instead of being aggressive and pushing opposing territory. This was beneficial to the south because this allowed the south to stay within the territory that they were familiar with and allowed them to stay close to their supply lines. While the Confederacy’s morale was at a peak in 1863, Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia confidently pushed north in an attempt to capture Washington D.C, which led to the Battle of Gettysburg. Lee was faced with a tragic defeat and was forced to retreat. According to Harry W. Pfanz, neither corps would recover from its losses, this shows that along with a large military loss, the defeat diminished the Confederacy’s morale.
In addition, the same day that Lee retreated, General Grant and his Army of the Tennessee successfully forced General Pemberton and his men to surrender the 47-day Siege of Vicksburg. This meant that the Union had complete control over the Mississippi and split the South into two territories. This was a part of Lincoln’s Anaconda Plan, which was a plan to defeat the Confederacy proposed by General Winfield Scott at the start of the Civil War. This loss of morale played an effect on the performance of the Confederacy because it created a lot of inefficient productivity, a social disconnect within the military, and destroyed the willpower the men had to have in order to fight for the military. Although the loss of Confederate morale had a significant impact on the Civil War, the military losses proved to hinder the performance of the Confederacy more than the low morale because the south was not able to recover from the casualties of the war, which was the main reason why they lost a lot of their battles, whereas the Confederacy’s morale was slowly brought back to a neutral state unlike the numbers of men.
The third aspect will talk about the rise of Union morale after their victory at Gettysburg. There were two main reasons contributing to the rise of Union morale and confidence, the first was the Gettysburg Address and the other was the victory itself. The Gettysburg Address was a concise speech given by President Abraham Lincoln a few months after the victory at Gettysburg. According to Harold Holzer, the speech was one of the greatest given, which gave the Union hope and inspiration. This is significant because it shows how impactful the speech was because it injected a lot of spirit into the men of the union as well as honored those who fought their souls out on the battlefield. It is also noteworthy to include that the Address led to a large number of enlistments because Lincoln’s address convinced many people to believe that the war was in their favor and with national rejuvenation, the Union can win the war.
The second reason for the Unions spike in morale was the fact that they won the battle itself. This was significant because the defeat caused the Confederacy to hesitate from pushing up north again and flipped the tides against the Confederacy by giving the Union a boost in pride while they were at an all-time low. This aspect goes hand in hand with the previous one because they are dependent on each other’s performance during the war. For example, while the Confederacy had a high morale, the Unions’ plummeted and vice versa. This aspect is more significant than the previous because of the rise of Union morale along with the military losses that the Confederacy faced almost ensured that the Union would win the war. However, the first aspect concerning military deficits had the greatest impact on the outcome of the war compared to the aspect concerning Union morale because the shortage of men for the Confederacy was too overwhelming for them to handle, hence they lost the war, while on the other hand, the Union morale was like a small advantage that was able to be overcome with time and cooperation.
It can be concluded that the most significant effect of the Battle of Gettysburg is the military deficits because these losses impacted the Confederacy in such a way that they could not keep up with the demand on the Union side because of the numbers of their population being relatively small compared to the Union meaning that did not have enough manpower to put up a good fight. Other effects of the battle included the Confederacy’s loss of morale and rise in Union confidence, which both had a great deal of effect towards the outcomes of the war, but not the most impactful.
The Battle of Gettysburg that occurred in 1863 is considered the turning point and one of the most significant battles in the Civil War. It is because the Union Victory ruined Gen. Robert E. Lee’s attempt to occupy the territory of the Union.
The Battle of Gettysburg was more than a simple defeat for the Confederates and Gen. Robert E. Lee. The Confederates had to deal with several losses already, and the Battle of Gettysburg was the biggest downfall on the northern soil.
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