Gettysburg Battle Research Paper
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Gettysburg Battle Research Paper

Research Paper on Gettysburg Battle

Abstract

The Gettysburg battle was fought from the first of July 1863 to the 3rd of July 1863. It is seen as the most important American Civil War engagement. After winning at Chancellorsville over Union forces, General Robert E. Lee moved his Northern Virginia Army into Pennsylvania. He did this in the late June of 1863. The advancing Confederates on the 1st of July 1863 had a clash with the Union’s Army of the Potomac under the command of General George G. Meade. The clash took place at the crossroads town of Gettysburg. There was heavier fighting in the next day. This is because the Federals were attacked by the confederates on both right and left. Lee on 3rd of July ordered an attack by less than fifteen thousand troops on the centre of the enemy at Cemetery Ridge. This assault was known as “Pickett’s Charge.” The Pickett’s charge managed to penetrate the Union lines. However, it eventually failed at the huge prize of thousands of rebel causalities. This forced Lee to withdraw his beaten army toward Virginia.

Abstract 2

Statement of the Issues 4

Discussion 4

Conclusion 10

References: 12

Statement of the Issues

Back in history, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in May 1863 had scored an outstanding victory at Chancellorsville over the Potomac’s Army. Full of confidence, Lee made a decision to go on the offensive side and attack the North. This invasion was going to be for the second time. The first invasion had taken place in the previous fall and had stopped at Antietam. Apart from bringing the war out of Virginia and driving or diverting the northern troops away from Vicksburg where the Confederates were held under siege, the hope of Lee was for his confederates to be recognized by the France and Britain. He also hoped to strengthen the mission of the northern “Copperheads” who preferred peace[1].

As far as the Union side is concerned, President Abraham Lincoln had already lost confidence in the Potomac’s Army under the Commander Joseph Hooker. Hooker was quite reluctant to confront the army led by Lee after his army was defeated at Chancellorsville. Lincoln, on June 28, named Major General George Gordon Meade to be Hooker’s successor. Immediately, Meade ordered his army to pursue Lee’s Army, which had 75000 soldiers. By that time, the 75000-troop army had entered Maryland after crossing the Potomac River. The army marched on and got into southern Pennsylvania[2].

Discussion

When Lee learned that the Army of Potomac was on its way, he planned to group his army in the town of Gettysburg in the prosperous crossroads. This was 35 miles southwest of Harrisburg in Pennsylvania. In the process, one of the Confederate divisions in Army of the Potomac under the command of Hill went to the town in search of some items[3]. This was early on the 1st of July. In the town, they found that the 2 Union cavalry brigades had arrived in town the previous day. As majority of both armies went toward Gettysburg, the Confederate forces under the leadership of Hill and Richard Ewell managed to drive the Federal defenders, who were outnumbered back via town to Cemetery Hill, which was located ½ a mile to the South[4].

Lee sought to press and utilize his advantage before the arrival of more Union troops. He did this by giving discretionary orders to Ewell to attack Cemetery Hill. Cemetery Hill had become the commander of the Army if the Second Corps of Northern Virginia following the mortal wounding of the most trusted general of Lee, named Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. This mortal wounding occurred at Chancellorsville. However, Ewell did not order the attack. He declined after considering that the Federal position was too strong. He had many unfavorable comparisons to the great Thomas Stonewall. By night there was arrival of the Union corps led by Winfield Scott Hancock. They arrived and extended the defensive line to the Little Round Top hill from the Cemetery Ridge. There was also arrival of 3 more Union corps at night. They arrived to strengthen its defenses[5].

Following the dawn of the next day, the Union army had formed strong positions strategically placed from the Culp’s Hill to Cemetery Ridge. Lee made assessment of the positions of his enemy and decided, against the advice of his second-in-command to attack the Federal troops at where they stood. The name of his second in command was James Longstreet. Lee ordered Longstreet to lead some army in attacking the Union in the left as the Ewell’s corps was striking the right, near the Culp’s Hill. Despite the fact that his orders were to attack early in the morning, it was until 4 pm that Longstreet got his men into position. This is when they opened fire to the Union corps under the command of Daniel Sickles[6].

There was bloody fighting that raged along Sickles’ line over the next several hours. The fight stretched from the boulders’ nest called the Devil’s Den and went into a peach orchard in addition to a nearby wheat field that lied on the slopes of the Little Round Top. Fortunately, because of the fierce fighting by one of the Minnesota regiment, the Federals managed to hold Little Round Top. However, they lost the Devil’s Den, the wheat field and the peach orchard. Sickles was seriously wounded in the process. Ewell’s men had pushed the Union forces further at the Culp’s Hill as well as at the East Cemetery Hill. This was because they had coordinated with the 4 pm attack by the Longstreet. The Union forces had however stopped their attack by night. On the 2nd of July, both armies suffered extremely huge losses. There were more than 9000 casualties on each side. When the casualty total was combined for the two-day fight, it came to around 35000. This was the largest 2-day toll of the war[7].

On the third day, which was July 3, the Union forces of the 12th Army Corps rose early in the morning and pushed back a Confederate threat, which was focused against Culp’s Hill. This took place after a firefight that lasted for seven hours. Through this fight, the Union forces regained their powerful position. Lee, believing that his troops had been almost victorious the day before, made the decision to send 3 divisions, which were preceded by an artillery barrage[8]. These men were sent against the centre of the Union forces on Cemetery Ridge. Less than 15000 troops, under a divisional leadership of George Pickett were given the task of marching some 3.4 of a mile past open fields so that they could attack Union infantry positions, which were dug-in.

Despite the protests by Longstreet, Lee was very determined. His determination ensured that the attack-later called “Pickett’s Charge” was executed around 3 pm. This attack went forward after some 150 confederate guns had issued an artillery bombardment. The dug-in Union infantry opened fire on the rebels, who were advancing. They opened fire from behind the stone walls. On the other hand, the regiments from Vermont, Ohio and New York hit both flanks of the enemy. Because the Confederates were caught from all sides, hardly half of them survived. This led to the Pickett’s division losing two-thirds of its men. As the survivors went back to their starting position, Longstreet and Lee rushed to shore up and beef up their defensive line following the failed assault[9].

It was when the hopes of Lee to invade the North victoriously vanished, that he waited for a counterattack by the Union, which was to take place on July 4. However, this never counterattack never came to pass. It rained heavily that night. In the same night, the general of Confederate withdrew his small army toward Virginia. Despite the fact that the cautious Meade would receive criticism for not pursuing the enemy after the battle at Gettysburg, the Confederacy experienced a crushing f=defeat from the battle. The number of Union casualties in the battle was 23000. On the other hand, the number of confederate’s casualties in the battle was around 28000 men[10]. These were more than 1/3 of Lee’s army. As the South mourned, the North rejoiced. The hopes of the south to have the Confederacy recognized by foreign nations were erased.

Lee was so demoralized by the Gettysburg’s defeat. This forced him to offer his resignation to Jefferson Davis, the President. The president however refused. Despite the fact that the great Confederate general would proceed to win other battles, the Battle of Gettysburg, together with the Grant victory of Ulysses S. at Vicksburg, which took place also on the

4th of July irreversibly turned the Civil War tide in the favor of Union[11].As far as the historical assessment of the battle is concerned, it is important to note that there were decisive victory controversies. The kind of the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg has become controversial for several years. Despite the fact that the result was not seen as overwhelmingly important at that time, especially since the battle continued for about two years, it has been quoted as the “turning point” normally together with the fall of Vicksburg, which occurred the following day. The basis of this is the insight that following the Gettysburg, there were no more strategic attacks conducted by Lee’s army. Currently, it is a widely believed view that Battle of Gettysburg was the Union’s decisive victory. However, the decisive victory is a term that is seen as imprecise. It is without doubt that the offensive by Lee on July 3 was counteracted decisively. It is also true that Lee’s campaign in Pennsylvania was stopped prematurely. The battle has been termed as a strategic loss for the Confederacy[12]. Some historians argue that Lee together with his men would proceed on to earn more laurels. However, they never again had the power as well as the reputation that they went into Pennsylvania with during the summer days of the year 1863. There was a heavy toll on the Lee’s army on the Potomac. This made Meade to no longer have a really effective instrument that could accomplish Meade’s tasks. There was need for a thorough reorganization in the army. There was need for new troops and new commanders. However, nobody made these changes until the appearance of Grant in the scene in March 1864. The army of Northern Virginia was plagued with lost opportunities as well as near successes. However, after the Battle of Gettysburg, the Army of Northern Virginia turned to be extremely formidable force without breakdown of discipline. Despite the Lee’s invasion of the North being a costly failure, the Army of Potomac is seen to have preserved the strategic stalemate in the Eastern Theater[13].

Considering the battle, Lee can be compared with Meade. Before Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee had built a reputation by becoming an almost unreachable and invincible general. He achieved a lot of victories against many superiors. However, these victories were at the expense of many casualties to his army. Therefore, historians have tried to explain the way Lee’s winning trend was interrupted so drastically at Gettysburg. The historians have come up with main factors that contributed to led to the loss by Lee. One of the factors is the overconfidence of Lee. He was overconfident that his men were invisible. The second factor was that he was also overconfident of the performance of his subordinates as well as his management. There were also health issues which led to the failure of Lee. The last factor that led to the failure of Lee was the great performance of George G. Meade, his opponent from the Army of the Potomac[14].

Throughout battle and campaign, General Lee was driven by the belief that his forces were invincible. In this case, most of the experience that Lee had with the Army of Northern Virginia made him to be convinced that he had the strongest man. It is the great victory that Lee had at Chancellorsville in May that also boosted his overconfidence. Other factors constant, the morale has important role to play in military victory. Lee did not want to spoil the desire of his army to fight as well as to resist suggestions, especially the one by Longstreet to pull off from the Gettysburg, which had been captured.

Meade also had detractors as well. He also had the same situation like Lee. Meade for instance suffered partisan attacks regarding his performance at Gettysburg. However, his misfortune is that he experienced them in person. He was lambasted by those who supported his predecessor called Major General Joseph Hooker[15].

It is important to note that Gettysburg did not mark the end of the war. This is because the Civil War begun following the bombardment of Fort Sumter. This took place on April 12, 1861. This was some months before the eruption of Gettysburg. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox. This surrender occurred twenty one months after the Gettysburg battle. On the other hand, it was until May 26, 1865 when the Confederate Department of Mississippi surrendered. Therefore, Gettysburg almost marked the middle of the war.

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought in Pennsylvania around Gettysburg. Gettysburg was a small crossroads town found in Southern Pennsylvania approximately eight miles to the north of the Maryland boundary. Gettysburg also marked the end of the railroad line that came from Hanover. The Confederate troops however wrecked the railroad. Some of the important factors that led to the battle were the road network as well as the position of this road on the eastern side of the mountains. Little Round Top, Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill all provided good defensive ground[16].

The battle was fought because at the beginning of the Gettysburg campaign, Rappahannock River found in Virginia separated the two armies. Lee knew that sitting at the south of the river was not going to be effective in throwing back Northern attacks. Lee’s army could not contain the casualties. At the same time, the Southern rail system could not provide for his army properly. Lee also knew that the North might get the winning combination some day. Therefore, he planned to take the battle to the north so that they could move up the Shenandoah Valley. By doing so, the farmers in the valley could harvest their farm produce for the Confederacy as Lee’s army forage in the untouched and rich lands of Pennsylvania. Lee`s plan was also to threaten such Union cities as Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Baltimore. These moves could give Lee the opportunity of fighting and winning a fight in the open. Here he could eventually follow and probably destroy the beaten enemy. Therefore, Lee saw it as the best way of ending the war before the South was trapped in a battle of attrition that was unwinnable. When Lee moved to the north, he was defeated by the Union. He moved to stay between Washington and Confederate forces. There, both armies wanted to fight. The fight might have taken place at different places. However, the road network that fed into Gettysburg provided an opportunity for the largest battle ground[17].

Conclusion

The battle was very important. Despite the fact that it did not involve vast numbers of troops, the battle had the largest number of casualties than any fight or battle of the civil war. This battle was also seen as a turning point. For the remaining part of the war, Lee went on the strategic defensive. He was also forced to go into the war of attrition. He was made to fear and finally corned in an unwinnable siege. In other words, Lee was defeated for the first time. As far as the casualties are concerned, the total number of soldiers killed was 7,550. Out of this, 3,150 were from Union while 4400 were from Confederate. A total of 27,450 soldiers were wounded. Out of this, 14500 were from Union while 12, 950 were from Confederate. There were also missing soldiers. Out of this, 5, 165 were from Union while 5350 were from Confederate.

References

Allison, Sandy. The Battle of Gettysburg: 100 Things to Know. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007.

Burgan, Michael, Steve Erwin, Keith Williams, and Charles Barnett. The Battle of Gettysburg. Mankato, Minn: Capstone Press, 2006.

DeAngelis, Gina. The Battle of Gettysburg: Turning Point of the Civil War. Mankato, Minn: Bridgestone Books, 2003.

Dreese, Michael A. The Hospital on Seminary Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co, 2002.

Grimsley, Mark, and Brooks D. Simpson. Gettysburg: A Battlefield Guide. Lincoln [u.a.]: Univ. of Nnebraska Press, 1999.

Harman, Troy D. Lee’s Real Plan at Gettysburg. Mechanicsburg, Pa: Stackpole, 2003.

Haskell, Frank A. The Battle of Gettysburg: A Soldier’s First-Hand Account. Mineola, N.Y. : Newton Abbot: Dover ; David & Charles], 2003.

O’Hern, Kerri, Dale Anderson, and D. McHargue. The Battle of Gettysburg. Milwaukee, WI: World Almanac Library, 2006.

Paradis, James M. African Americans and the Gettysburg Campaign. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2005.

Tarshis, Lauren, and Scott Dawson. I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863. New York: Scholastic, 2013.

  1. Dreese, Michael A. The Hospital on Seminary Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co, 2002.

  2. Paradis, James M. African Americans and the Gettysburg Campaign. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2005.

  3. Allison, Sandy. The Battle of Gettysburg: 100 Things to Know. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007.

  4. DeAngelis, Gina. The Battle of Gettysburg: Turning Point of the Civil War. Mankato, Minn: Bridgestone Books, 2003.

  5. Burgan, Michael, Steve Erwin, Keith Williams, and Charles Barnett. The Battle of Gettysburg. Mankato, Minn: Capstone Press, 2006.

  6. Tarshis, Lauren, and Scott Dawson. I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863. New York: Scholastic, 2013.

  7. Grimsley, Mark, and Brooks D. Simpson. Gettysburg: A Battlefield Guide. Lincoln [u.a.]: Univ. of Nnebraska Press, 1999.

  8. Grimsley, Mark, and Brooks D. Simpson. Gettysburg: A Battlefield Guide. Lincoln [u.a.]: Univ. of Nnebraska Press, 1999.

  9. Haskell, Frank A. The Battle of Gettysburg: A Soldier’s First-Hand Account. Mineola, N.Y. : Newton Abbot: Dover ; David & Charles], 2003.

  10. Haskell, Frank A. The Battle of Gettysburg: A Soldier’s First-Hand Account. Mineola, N.Y. : Newton Abbot: Dover ; David & Charles], 2003.

  11. O’Hern, Kerri, Dale Anderson, and D. McHargue. The Battle of Gettysburg. Milwaukee, WI: World Almanac Library, 2006.

  12. O’Hern, Kerri, Dale Anderson, and D. McHargue. The Battle of Gettysburg. Milwaukee, WI: World Almanac Library, 2006.

  13. Harman, Troy D. Lee’s Real Plan at Gettysburg. Mechanicsburg, Pa: Stackpole, 2003.

  14. O’Hern, Kerri, Dale Anderson, and D. McHargue. The Battle of Gettysburg. Milwaukee, WI: World Almanac Library, 2006.

  15. Haskell, Frank A. The Battle of Gettysburg: A Soldier’s First-Hand Account. Mineola, N.Y. : Newton Abbot: Dover ; David & Charles], 2003.

  16. O’Hern, Kerri, Dale Anderson, and D. McHargue. The Battle of Gettysburg. Milwaukee, WI: World Almanac Library, 2006.

  17. Haskell, Frank A. The Battle of Gettysburg: A Soldier’s First-Hand Account. Mineola, N.Y. : Newton Abbot: Dover ; David & Charles], 2003.

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