Essay on Gettysburg: American Civil War and Union

Submitted By 33bmurph
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Pages: 7

U.S. History

The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most crucial conflicts of the Civil War and of American history. The battle was fought on July 1st, 2nd and 3rd, 1863 between General Robert E. Lee and his Confederate army and Major General George Gorgon Meade and his Union army. Despite early Confederate success, the Union won the Battle of Gettysburg through the use of strategic military planning. This battle greatly impacted the United States in many ways. It brought devastation to the North and the South because of the men that were lost and wounded. Not only did the Confederacy retreat back to Virginia, but it marked the end of the Confederate States of America’s hopes of winning the Civil War. After General Robert Lee won an unexpected victory at Chancellorsville, Va., he wanted to use the momentum of his army to find another win. This would keep building the confidence and spirits of the South. If he made a charge north to Pennsylvania, this would take the fighting away from the South, especially Virginia, which was beaten up from the battles. He also wanted to raid and collect a lot of supplies from the Pennsylvania farmland. And most importantly, he wanted win a major battle in the North, so that the North would question the value of fighting this Civil War.
On July 1, 1863, General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia of 75,000 men encountered General Meade’s Army of the Potomac of 95,000 men at the town of Gettysburg, a town where ten roads converge (“Gettysburg”, 2014). On the first day, the battle took place west and north of the town of Gettysburg. 30,000 Confederates made a strong charge and pushed the 20,000 Union soldiers back through the town of Gettysburg, to the hills south of the town, Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill. Although the Union lost the first day of battle, it was ultimately to their advantage because they were relocated to an area of higher ground (which is always an advantage in war).
At the beginning of day two, the Union made a strategic battle move - they formed their army of 90,000 soldiers into a giant fish hook. In this formation, they could easily reinforce sides that were being attacked and General Meade could stay in the center where he could have good visibility of his army and easily command them. The Confederate Army of 70,000 men wrapped around the Union soldiers (“Gettysburg”, 2014). There was heavy fighting and the Union soldiers got pushed back, but at the end of the day, the Union soldiers still had the better position on the hills.
On the third day of battle, the fighting resumed at Culp's Hill and the Union secured the hill in a morning battle. Then, the third strategic move by the Union occured: General George Meade anticipated the next battle move of General Lee and was able to stop it. General Lee had General Pickett and 12,000 Confederates emerge from Cemetery Ridge and charge against the center of the Union line. Unfortunately, they had to cross one mile of open ground, so General Meade took advantage of the poor position that the Confederates had. The charge was repulsed by Union infantry and artillery fire (“Battle of Gettysburg”). The Union won. It was the greatest defeat of Lee’s career.
After the failure of Pickett’ s Charge, Lee’s army was dismantled and was not able to carry out any attacks. So Lee had only one option - retreat. He would take his time and stay in Gettysburg for 24 hours, in order to transport the wounded and prepare his army for departure. In addition, Lee wanted to see if Meade would unwisely pull a counterattack. This could give Lee the chance to turn the tables and gain control of the battle. Lee tried to trick Meade into attacking by building fake entrenchments, but this did not work. So, on the night of July 4th, in pouring rain, Lee retreated to Virginia.
Meade’s final strategic decision was not to beat General Lee’s army to a pulp. Meade knew it was unnecessary because the battle was clearly a victory for the North and that