Battle Of Gettysburg Term Paper

This essay has a total of 1630 words and 11 pages.

Battle Of Gettysburg

Collin Greenwood
Mr. Baker
Honors History
24 April 2000
The Battle of Gettysburg " The Turning Point of the Civil War
Gettysburg was the turning point of the American Civil War. This is the most famous and
important Civil War Battle that occurred over three hot summer days, July 3, 1863, around
the small market town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. More importantly Gettysburg was the
clash between the two major American Cultures of their time: the North and the South. The
causes of the Civil War, and the Battle of Gettysburg, one must understand the differences
between these two cultures. The Confederacy had an agricultural economy producing tobacco,
corn, and cotton, with many large plantations owned by a few very rich white males. These
owners lived off the labor of sharecroppers and slaves, charging high dues for use of
their land. The Southern or Confederate Army was made up of a group of white males
fighting for their independence from federal northern dictates (The History Place Battle
of Gettysburg 1).

The Union economy was based on manufacturing, and even the minorities in the North were
better off than those in the South most of the time. The Northern politicians wanted
tariffs, and a large army. The Southern plantation owners wanted the exact opposite.

The South was fighting against a government that they thought was treating them unfairly.
They believed the Federal Government was overtaxing them, with tariffs and property taxes
making their life styles even more expensive than they already had been. The North was
fighting the Civil War for two reasons, first to keep the Nation unified, and second to
abolish slavery. Abraham Lincoln, the commander and chief of the Union or Northern forces
along with many other Northerners believed that slavery was not only completely wrong, but
it was a great humiliation to America. Once can see that with these differences a conflict
would surely occur, but not many had predicted that a full-blown war would breakout. One
did and after three bloody and costly years for both sides we come to the date of July 1,
1863.

Before the battle, major cities in the North such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, and even
Washington, were under threat of attack from General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of
Northern Virginia which had crossed the Potomac River and marched into Pennsylvania.

On Tuesday morning, June 30, an infantry brigade of Confederate soldiers searching for
shoes headed toward Gettysburg (The History Place Battle of Gettysburg 2). The Confederate
commander looked through his field glasses and spotted a long column of Federal Cavalry
heading toward the town. He withdrew his brigade and informed his superior, General Henry
Heth, who in turn told his superior, A.P. Hill, he would go back the following morning for
shoes that were desperately needed.

The battle began on July 1, 1863, when some of General Ambrose Powell Hill's advance
brigades entered the town of Gettysburg Pennsylvania looking for shoes (The History Place
Battle of Gettysburg 2). Because of General Stuart's failure to complete his mission of
tracking the Union army, Hill's troops encountered a Union cavalry division commanded by
Major General John Buford (Microsoft Encarta Battle of Gettysburg 2). During battle in
front of Cemetery Hill, General Hill was faced with stubborn resistance from the Union
forces trying to hold until the rest of the forces could arrive and help out. The fighting
went on until General Richard S. Ewell arrived and forced the federal troops to retreat to
better ground Southeast of Gettyburg (The History Place Battle of Gettysburg 2). Although
the Confederates won the day, Ewell made the mistake of not allowing General Hill to force
the Union forces back further leaving the Union troops with higher ground, and that is the
conclusion of day one.

On the following day, July 2, General George Meade, commander of the Union Army of the
Potomac arrived, along with the majority of the army. He formed his forces in a widely
recognizable horseshoe formation, anchored at Big and Little Round Top on the West, Culp's
Hill on the East, and got positioned in behind a stone wall along Cemetary Ridge (Funk &
Wagnalls Encyclopedia Vol. 11 pg. 384). The large Union forces faced an ad-hoc formation
of Southern Troops preparing for a hasty attack (The History Place Battle of Gettysburg
2). The Confederate forces roughly mirrored the Union line, commanded left to right or
East to West by James Longstreet, Amrose Powell Hill, and Richard Ewell.

Determined to destroy the Army of the Potomac, and end the war quickly Confederate General
Robert E. Lee ordered an attack over the protests of James Longstreet, who was a major
force in defensive warfare mixed with strategic offensive movement (Microsoft Encarta
Battle of Gettysburg 2). The ill-fated attack was delayed numerous times, eventually
getting under way just before noon and failing once again in a short time period
afterwards. Confederate gains of land were limited to a peach orchard and an area called
Culp's Hill, which was lost to a counter attack by Union forces (The History Place Battle
of Gettysburg 2). Major losses were suffered in personnel, equipment, ammunition, and
morale. The second day ended with planning for the third and final day of this climatic
battle. General Meade and the Federal forces believed an attack would come, but expected
an attack to come in the same place as earlier that day (The History Place Battle of
Gettysburg 2). Oddly, given a large amount of losses to forces going against Longstreet's
first attack, the troops led under the command of Colonel Chamberlain were moved to the
center of the line, which, they were promised, was sure not to see much action on July
3rd. General Lee was determined to strike at the center of the Union Line believing that
Meade would move most of his forces to sure up the flanks that barely held on the 2nd, and
so ending day two.

The morning of July 3rd was not filled with much action with the exception of light
shelling by both sides (Funk &Wagnalls Encyclopedia Vol. 11 pg. 384). Preparing for
Southern attacks were delayed, but the half-hearted attack began around noon with the
infamous Pickett's charge. Major General George Pickett, and division commander
Longstreet, led about 30,000 men across hundreds of yards of open fields, across a road
and a number of fences, and up the side of Cemetery Ridge, all the time under enormous
fire from Union cannons and muskets (The History Place Battle of Gettysburg 3). This
onslaught and its achievements, which small portions did infact reach or even cross the
wall in the face of such overwhelming odds are an incredible tribute to the leadership of
General Lee, Longstreet, and Pickett, among a number of others, as well as the great
spirit of the Confederate troops. One must not forget to mention, however, the heroic
stand by the Union troops, from the first day and the Cavalry of John Buford to the third
day and the combined effort of the entire Potomac Army (Microsoft Encarta Battle of
Gettysburg 2). Even if not other factors influenced the attack, due to the number and
firepower of the entrenched Union troops; the assault was going to fail and was destined
to fail. On the night of July 3rd, General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army began
their retreat back to Virginia. During the costly three days the Union casualties were
3,070 soldiers killed, 14,497 wounded, and 5,434 captured or missing (The History Place
Battle of Gettysburg 4). The Confederacy suffered 2,992 deaths, 12,706 wounded, and 5,l50
captured or missing (The History Place Battle of Gettysburg 4). Gettysburg had important
psychological effects, as well as, ruining the South's morale and causing the North to
celebrate a great victory. The night of July 3rd and into the next day, Saturday, July
4th, Confederate wounded was loaded aboard wagons that began the journey back toward the
South. Lee was forced to abandon his dead and begin a long, slow withdrawal of his army
back to Virginia. Union Commander Meade, out of fatigue and caution, did not immediately
go after Lee, getting President Lincoln very angry who wrote a mad letter to Meade, which
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