Why is the battle of Gettysburg considered a turning point in the Civil War?

1 Answer
Dec 30, 2015

The Battle of Gettysburg represented the final effort of General Robert E. Lee to invade the north.


The Battle of Gettysburg represented the final effort of General Robert E. Lee to invade the north. He knew that if he could win major battles on northern soil, that the Confederacy would gain legitimacy and respect while damaging the Union resolve to fight. What he did not know was that the war effort was not, generally speaking, going well in the north and that the Union victory at Gettysburg would embody everything Lincoln and his generals needed to keep pushing at the Confederacy.

After his success at Chancellorsville, Lee led his army through the Shenandoah Valley to continue his invasion of the north. His army was confident and ready to fight. Feeling that he was on a roll, he was trying to shift focus off the war ravaged southern states onto northern turf to pressure the politicians in the north into a negotiation to cease the war. His plan was to push to Harrisburg -- or even as far as Philadelphia if he had to to make that happen.

President Lincoln responded by sending General Hooker up against Lee, and then three days before hostilities began he replaced him with General Meade and his army. Lincoln had been losing confidence in Hooker by mid-1863, and Meade's army was larger. This gave Lincoln the excuse he needed to oust Hooker from this pivotal engagement.

After three days of battle that saw Lee's army enjoy early success, but Meade's army still holding its ground, the ill advised assault by 12,500 Confederate troops upon Cemetery Ridge (known as Pickett's Charge) was the straw that broke the rebels back. The Union line held while pushing the Confederates back, and the Confederates suffered severe loses. The loss at Gettysburg represented more than a simple failure. It represented the first major defeat of Lee on northern soil. While the losses were fairly even, 23,055 for the north and 23,231 for the south, the losses on the Confederate side were devastating to the Northern Army of Virginia at a time when the south could not replace its dead soldiers effectively.

Robert E. Lee's army would not mount another major offensive during the Civil War