The Battle of Gettysburg, involving the Confederate and Union forces, and fought from the 1st to the 3rd of July 1863, is considered to be, by far, the most crucial and significant engagement in the history of the American Civil War .The war is regarded as the largest and bloodiest clash ever witnessed in North America, involving the highest number of casualties in the history of the American Civil War. The battle of Gettysburg was characterized by the end of Robert Lee’s Confederate forces after the Army of the Potomac defeated them as they unsuccessfully tried to invade and take over the North. The Battle of Gettysburg was the most influential battle of the American Civil War and certainly its turning point, as shown by the manner in which it breathed new life into the efforts of the Union war and the Americans in general. This paper gives a detailed description of the battle of Gettysburg and shows how important it turned out to be in the history of the United States.
The Gettysburg clash began when the Confederate and Union forces collided at Gettysburg as the Confederates tried to invade Gettysburg. This altercation came to be two months after Robert Lee’s Confederate Army had stunningly defeated the Army of the Potomac, led by Joseph Hooker, at Chancellorsville, Virginia .Buoyed by that victory, Lee believed it was a perfect time to invade the North and, therefore, made strategic and bold plans to move northward, through Pennsylvania. On the other end, the Union Army had made changes to their top leadership, with George Gordon Mead replacing Joseph Hooker as the Major General. George Gordon Meade immediately changed tactics and set up the Army of the Potomac to pursue Lee’s army that had already crossed into Pennsylvania.
Lee learned of their pursuit by the Army of Potomac and gathered his army at the crossroads town of Gettysburg. On the morning of the first day of the battle, one division of the Confederates came into contact with two Union cavalry bridges that had arrived the previous night just outside Gettysburg, resulting in a brawl that attracted other units into the region, and by midday, the antagonism was raging . John Reynolds, Union’s General, was killed in the early hours of the battle just before the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac had arrived to provide reinforcements for the Union cavalry bridges. Almost immediately, the Federal Eleventh Corps arrived at the field and aggravated the battle even further much to the displeasure of Lee who resorted to committing his full army to the clash at Gettysburg .The move proved crucial as the first day of battle ended in a Confederate victory, successfully managing to push the Union and Federal forces out of their positions. However, the Federal forces managed to move to a much stronger defensive ground which eventually worked in their favor while more Union troops arrived overnight to strengthen its positions defensively.
On the second day of the battle, more Federal troops were deployed as the Union forces strengthened their defensive position by assuming a fishhook shape on the southern part of Gettysburg. Despite being advised on attacking the Federal troops, Lee opted to attack the left flank of the Union army, which he believed was not well protected, and at the same time, ambush the end of the right flank in a move that was aimed at rolling up the Union flank . Nevertheless, Lee’s plan was not executed as he had hoped with one of the troops getting to its end much later than initially planned.
One wrong move by the commander of the Third Corps of the Union Army, Daniel Sickles, altered the defensive lines of the Union Army and led to an ambush and a bloody shootout with the Confederates . However, thanks to the rapid thinking of Brigadier Warren, the Union forces managed to hold their lines despite suffering significant losses. On that day, the Confederates came very close to a triumph, nearly breaking the Union lines, after they had carried out several insistent attacks that were brought to a close by the onset of darkness.
The third and final day of the battle saw the fight resume on Culp’s Hill where the Twelfth Army Corps of the Union forces had pushed the Confederate threat. By the start of the day, Lee believed that they were close to victory and decided to send more troops to the Cemetery Ridge to attack the Union center, a move that was opposed by certain quarters of his camp. Despite the opposition, Lee proceeded with the attack, that was later named the Pickett’s Charge, that began at around 3pm in the evening .As they moved to execute their assault plan, the Union forces opened fire on them as the regiments from New York, Vermont, and Ohio moved to attack them from the flanks. More than half of the Confederates were killed in the failed assault as the survivors scrambled back to the opening position.
Contrary to many expectations, the Union forces did not counterattack the Confederates who, later on, withdrew towards Virginia. The battle resulted in the death of 23,000 soldiers of the Union Army and up to 28,000 of Lee’s Army. Lee later on offered his resignation that was turned down. This battle turned the waves of the Civil War in the favor of the Union forces much to the delight of the majority of the Americans. President Lincoln later on organized and dedicated a ceremony in honor of the fallen Union soldiers . The battle is a very important happening in the history of the United States. Today, the Gettysburg National Military Park and the Gettysburg National Cemetery constitute two of the most treasured national historic landmarks and are well take care of by the United States National Park Service.