Gettysburg Essay

953 words - 4 pages

Armies under Union General George Gordon Meade of the Army of the Potomac, and Confederate General Robert E. Lee encountered each other on July 1-3 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in the infamous and most virulent battle of the Civil War, with over 43,000 casualties out of approximately 150,000 men. The battle destroyed the Confederacy's attempt to wage an offensive war and constrained them to a defensive strategy. Further, inadequacies in manufacturing and transportation intensely impeded any chance for success. The United States and Britain were engaged in a profitable exchange of goods. Conflict between the civil and military forces of the South led to the assertion that the government was becoming a military dictatorship. Instability and dependence on foreign nations led to the political demise of the Confederacy. Without foreign recognition and intervention, the South would be doomed to defeat. Coupled with previous Union victories, Gettysburg confirmed to the British that the Confederacy's chances were inauspicious, and that recognition and intervention would be imprudent. Thus, all prospect for a Southern victory was destroyed.
Confederate hopes were lifted after its victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run, but depressed after the Union victory at Antietam. Ambrose Powell Hill's victory at Fredericksburg and Lee and 'Stonewall' Jackson's victory at Chancellorsville opened an opportunity for the South. Lee took the initiative and divided his army into three corps under Longstreet, Ewell, and Hill and prepared for an invasion of Pennsylvania. Lee's decision was consistent with previous Southern strategies that proposed an offensive strike into the North, which would increase Northern war-weariness and force the North into recognition of Southern independence. The better prepared and equipped Northern troops, though, were able to acquire strategic high positions like Little Round Top and Cemetery Hill. After initial victory, the Confederates were slow to continue their attack. Meanwhile, Meade vowed not to retreat at any cost and on the second day of battle, Union forces recaptured lost ground (e.g. Culp's Hill). In a last attempt to gain victory, Confederate General George Pickett made an infamous attempt to break through Union lines on Cemetery Ridge, but failed, losing over three-quarters of his men. With the repulse of Pickett's charge the battle was virtually over.
Lee regrettably retreated and offered his resignation to Jefferson Davis, but it was refused. Meanwhile, Meade procrastinated in mobilizing his war-weary troops and allowed Lee and his men to escape across the Potomac into Virginia. The South's loss at Gettysburg checked their second and last attempt at a significant invasion of the North, and compelled them to fight a defensive war. The battle was similar to the Battle of the Bulge in WW II, because it crushed the enemy's (South/Germany) last attempt to invade allied (Union/French) territory.
The South was initially...

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