Battle of Gettysburg Essay

Submitted By tywdenton
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Battle of Gettysburg

In the summer of 1863, both the north and south were dealing with problems all their own. In the north, with presidential elections right around the corner, there was the possibility that that a pro-peace president might be elected who would be willing to let the southern states split in return for an end to the war. In the south, it was becoming increasingly difficult to find supplies, weapons, fighting men and even shoes, to maintain the war effort. According to the author of The Civil War, Geoffrey C. Ward, this contest began as a clash over shoes. “There was rumored to be a large supply of shoes in the town of Gettysburg” (pg 216). With Vicksburg being taken by the north, there was a distinct likelihood that the confederacy might lose the use of the ever-important Mississippi River. General Robert E. Lee’s advance in to the north was crucial for both sides. The potential of him taking Washington was ever present and he, even able to set foot on Union soil was a negative to the campaign of President Lincoln - who needed public support if he was to win the election. Just by having forces present in enemy territory, Lee was a threat to the Union. Although, at the same time, he was also exposing his forces in Northern Virginia to defeat. The Union Army of the Potomac mirrored Lee’s, keeping it from moving into Washington. The Army of the Potomac as well, could not risk defeat or the capital would be open to attack. During this time of limbo, Lee was sending out units in search of vital supplies like clothing, food, and shoes. Because Lee’s troops were out foraging along the countryside, this created confusion for the north as to where Lee planned to strike next. The general confusion was increased by the resignation of Union Army General Hooker after a dispute with General Halleck. His replacement, George Meade, would need time to become familiar with the situation and his new command. There was little time to become familiar as the most bloody battle in American history was just on the horizon. The town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was said to contain a warehouse with large supplies of shoes – as you may recall, one of the main supplies the Confederate Army was sent looking for. Troops under General James Pettigrew were sent into the town to secure goods and were met there by union soldiers under General John Buford. Buford’s men were seen as ‘experimental’ so to speak. An idea toyed with by them was the use of repeating rifles. When Pettigrew’s southern forces began moving against Buford’s men, the Union was able to hold their ground on McPherson Ridge. The arrival of more Union troops helped stave off the offensive and turned the tables in favor of the defendants, which pushed the Confederate forces back. Other troops came in for the north and the south, flanking either side as the battle quickly escalated. With men arriving unexpectedly and rushing straight into action, the battle was riotous. At times, it worked out in the favor of one side and in a split second it was a complete disaster. Near the end of the day one, the Confederates were eyeing victory while the federal troops were gradually pushed back into Gettysburg. Thousands were taken prisoner as whole units were broken. Meanwhile, one after another, Union officers were reaching the field and taking command. This created more confusion but over time order asserted itself and troops began being sent to defensive positions on the ridge. With the Union forces confused and disorganized, this was the best chance Lee had of winning the battle. Lee gave orders that his forces were to go on the offensive, to advance, and push the Union back further - the Confederate troops held off acting on the orders for too long, letting the moment pass right along with the northern force’s disorientation. By dusk on July first, the union army was formed in, what was described by the author of The Civil War as a ‘fishhook’ shape along an area