How did the battles at Gettysburg and Vicksburg significantly change the tide of the war?

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Mark B. Share
Jan 18, 2016

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They set the South on the course to defeat.

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General Robert E. Lee's second effort to invade the North resulted in the Battle of Gettysburg. It was the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War. After three days of fighting in the July heat, Lee was defeated. He retreated the next day, July 4, 1863.

Lee would never again mount an invasion of the North. Indeed, most historians say that after Gettysburg, Lee's army would be continually falling back, until his lines were broken at the siege of Petersburg, Virginia, on April 2, 1865, which led to his surrender one week later.

On July 4, 1863, the same day Lee retreated from Gettysburg, Confederate forces at Vicksburg, Mississippi surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant. Vicksburg had been the South's last bastion on the Mississippi River. With the surrender of Vicksburg, the North controlled the entire river--as Lincoln said, "The Mother of all waters now flows unvexed to the sea"--and that means that the South was now split in two.

Either of these events were tragic for the South. Taken together, they insured the South's defeat twenty-one months later.

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