Turning Point of Civil War
Research illustrates that the turning point in the Civil War was the battle of Gettysburg. Lee’s march into Pennsylvania was considered the South’s last opportunity. Failure in previous attempts to enter Pennsylvania turned The Confederacy’s upper hand now into a struggle to remain on the offensive. By 1863, General Lee knew that time was of the essence and he concentrated on winning in Pennsylvania. This perhaps can be viewed as the reason the success of Gettysburg went to the North. Lee’s strategic plans were compromised by his consuming need to be victorious in Pennsylvania. The over zealous attitude of General Lee may have cost him the victory and caused him to no longer think as clearly as he had in other battles.
Nonetheless, on July 1, 1863, Lee attacked Gettsyburg. Devising a plan that spread his troops amongst the low lands Lee managed to push the Union troops, under the command of Major General Meade, to the outskirts of town. The second day of battle was a struggle over the small knoll called Little Round Top. Occupied by Chamberlain and his men from Maine, the Confederate army pursued them relentlessly in hopes of taking over this hill from which strategic attacks could be made on all of Gettysburg.
Once again an astute mind would claim the battles success. Victory this time would come from the Union commander. Chamberlain struck an unlikely plan of attack that would hold his front flanks while the left flank would open up on the confederates like a gate swinging open. This plan surprised the Confederate soldiers to such a degree that many of them turned on foot and ran. Added to this surprise was the re-emergence of Company B from the woods that Chamberlain thought was missing. The South did not stand a chance and 400 Confederate soldiers were captured.
The final day of battle in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania brought the most climactic mistake by the Confederate army. On July 3rd, Major General Pickett was chosen to lead the charge at Cemetery Ridge. Pickett was untrained in actual combat and was over eager to make a name for himself. This was a significant error on the part of General Lee. The Confederate army lost a third of its army and was forced into retreat. The battle of Gettysburg was considered a victory for the Union and an enormous loss for the South.
The battle of Gettysburg reveals several distinct reasons for why it was the turning point in the Civil War:
- General Lee’s determination to move into Pennsylvania and create a strong hold on enemy territory. This may have been too consuming of a goal.
- Lee lost his ability to render the most fortuitous of decisions for the Confederate army.
- Lee chose a commander of virtually no experience to accomplish the task of removing the Union army from Cemetery Ridge. This was a critical battle and one that should not have been left in the hands of such inexperience.
- There were the decisions made by one Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain that were definitive in providing the North with a victory at Gettysburg.
For all intents and purposes, Chamberlain remained in control of his position through the cool collected thought process of a great commander. If Oates had captured Little Round Top the battle of Gettysburg may have been a significant victory for the South.