The Emancipation Proclamation given by Abraham Lincoln in January, 1863 was a pivotal turning point in the war. Lincoln had decided to “free” the slaves of the Confederacy, but yet not free the slaves still under the Union power. Thus freeing the slaves he could not free and keeping the slaves he could free, this was an extremely questionable and controversial decision that gained support of many to support the war in the North and gained support of the slaves in the South, along with preventing outside help from France and Britain to help the Confederacy, which put immense pressure on the Confederate army.
General Robert E. Lee’s Army was at its peak in battle, and he took his Northern Virginia Army north in an attempt to gain a foothold and possibly sway the war in favor of the Confederates. The battles of the Civil War had been primarily fought on southern soil or near the dividing point between the Union and Confederacy. In 1862 the Confederate army failed in gaining ground in the north but they hoped Lee would be successful in 1863. The decision for Lee to march to Pennsylvania would prove to be the principal turning point in the war, and the Confederacy had no room to fail.
The turning point and most pivotal battle of the Civil War was at Gettysburg. This battle was also the bloodiest with a tally of 51,000 total casualties, and it lasted three days with highly controversial decisions of both Union and Confederate Leadership.
General Daniel E. Sickle’s directly disobeyed orders from Major General Meade on the second day of battle at Gettysburg. In a defensive standpoint that was taken on the first day by the Union on top of Cemetery Ridge, a defensive stronghold strategy was put in place for the second day of battle. Sickle’s ordered his corps which held the left flank of the army position to move nearly a mile in front of Cemetery Ridge, breaking the line of Union defense. His tactic has been credited with being able to confront and deplete Lee’s Confederate offense, which was intended not to attack Sickles, but to attack the whole Union line of defense.
Lee demanding General Longstreet to send Pickett and his division straight into the center of the union defense, through a mile of open field on the third day of battle, marked the end for the Lee at Gettysburg. Pickett’s division was dismantled and destroyed as they marched the battlefield, the few remaining survivors returned to Lee’s position. Upon return General Lee asked Pickett to rally his division, and Pickett returned with the famous quote “General Lee, I have no division.”
- Evaluation of Sources
Gettysburg: The Souvenir Guide to the National Military Park is a 72 page account of the Battle of Gettysburg by James A. Gross and Andre B. Collins. The purpose of this guide is to accompany a visitor to the national park as they walk the fields of battle, and follows the battle in-depth in every aspect. The book has miniature biographies of Major Generals involved in the battle along with Abraham Lincoln. Also it gives a descriptive and illustrated battlefield tour, along with 20 different maps of Gettysburg over the three day span of the war. The maps illustrate the different positions of the Union and Confederate troops from the advancement of Lee’s Army to the retreat, and the three days of battle in-between. Along with specific details of every aspect of the bloody three day battle, it gives background and conclusion information with reasoning of the Union and Confederacy. To add to the vast amount of information given by this book, all of the facts from casualties of every military unit after every confrontation in Gettysburg and all the types and amount of artillery used in battle are given. Gettysburg: The Souvenir Guide to the National Military Park is a great source for specific details about Gettysburg and almost everything that is needed to be known about Gettysburg is in this guide.
The difference between Gettysburg: The Souvenir Guide to the National Military Park and the encyclopedia article “Civil War” from the Encyclopedia of The United States at War is the coverage of the entire Civil War in the Encyclopedia and only Gettysburg in the guide. With vast analysis of what took place before and after the battle of Gettysburg, this article gives better emphasis on what Gettysburg meant for the Civil War and what it meant for the United States.
The controversy of the Emancipation Proclamation was great in multiple ways. Lincoln altered the purpose of the civil war sole on the subject of slavery, this bold step by Lincoln caused the British and French to not come support the Confederacy. What was stated in the proclamation was controversial in itself because Lincoln freed the slaves of the Confederacy which technically he could not do, but nevertheless it completely altered the course of the war. The pressure the Confederate army had grew immensely because of this and the Confederacy had no choice but to try and make a final stand in the North.
Daniel E. Sickles has had a history of disobeying direct commands, as he did in the battles preceding Gettysburg. The most controversial move made by the Union at the Battle of Gettysburg was indeed Sickles move from his position of Cemetery Ridge over a mile in front of his original position. This broke the whole line of defense which created gaps all throughout the original Union stance, and units scrambled to fill gaps in the line without succeeding. Sickle’s line was spread out to thin and Lee’s army saw this as a weak spot and attacked it. Although Sickle’s unit was beaten badly and Sickle’s battlefield career was ended by a cannonball to the leg, Lee’s army suffered heavy casualties depleting the Rebel units. The move by sickles which spelled near disaster actually weakened the Confederate cause at Gettysburg which gave the Union a tremendous edge.
On the third day Robert E. Lee made the most costly decision of the battle. Knowing the numbers of the Union soldiers, he sent in Rebel units across a mile of open battlefield most notably General Pickett’s division. Lee knew the possible outcome of his decision, but his thinking was that the enemy was there and he was going to strike at them. The bloodbath which ensued was catastrophic for the Confederate forces, and when the few survivors returned, Lee eventually took the blame for what had happened and tried to comfort the troops.
The Battle of Gettysburg ended after three days in the Union’s favor in large part due to Sickle’s risky decision, and Lee sending his troops into a deathtrap. Of course the Battle of Gettysburg might not have occurred had it not been for the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation, because General Lee might not have needed to make a stand in the north if he had the support of foreign allies. Due to Lincoln though foreign aid backed away from the Confederacy and they were left weak.
Without the actions of Daniel E. Sickles and Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg the battle could have ended in a different manner. If the south had won the battle they would have gained a stronghold in the north and the outcome of the Civil War could be different. The Battle of Gettysburg is arguably the most pivotal turning point in the Civil War. Although the battle was nearly two years before the war officially ended, after the battle the Confederate army began retreating to the south. They never recovered from the losses in the north, and eventually the Confederate States of America officially lost the war and rejoined the Union as the United States of America.
English, June A., and Thomas D. Jones. "The Civil War." Encyclopedia of The United States at War. Scholastic, 1998. 34-69. Print.
Gettysburg. Dir. Ronald F. Maxwell. Turner Pictures, 1993. DVD.
Gross, James A., and Andre B. Collins. Gettysburg: The Souvenir Guide to the National Military Park. 4th ed. Gettysburg, 1991. Print
Scott, Ridley, and Tony Scott, prods. Gettysburg. History Channel. 31 May 2011. Television.
"Time Line of The Civil War, 1863." American Memory. Library of Congress, 15 Jan. 2000. Web.