Civil War Interactive Discussion Board Home
Home Search search Menu menu Not logged in - Login | Register


The value of Gettysburg - General Civil War Talk - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
 Moderated by: javal1 Page:    1  2  3  Next Page Last Page  
 New Topic   Reply   Printer Friendly 
 Rate Topic 
AuthorPost
 Posted: Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 01:50 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
1st Post
PvtClewell
Member


Joined: Wed Jun 13th, 2007
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 420
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Actual civil war discussion has been pretty slow lately so thought I'd drum up something to actually talk about that relates to the, umm, civil war.

This idea was spawned by a comment from Kentucky Orpahan on another thread where to him, the more significant battle was Antietam rather than Gettysburg. While he didn't say why, and without putting words into his keyboard, I'm guessing it's because the battle at Antietam, a non-loss for the Union, allowed Lincoln to issue a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (EP), which changed the nature of the war from a fight to preserve the Union to a fight to free a peoples. KO will have to correct me on this if I'm misrepresenting his views.

Having said that, the Union nearly squandered its Antietam momentum before the EP went into effect on Jan. 1, 1863, Grant was stymied in the first seige of Vicksburg late in 1862, Sherman lost a Chicasaw Bayou in Dec. 1862 and Burnside got clobbered at Fredericksburg in Dec. 1862. Only Rosecrans at Stones River provided something of a victory for Lincoln at this critical juncture that otherwise might have made the EP a hollow joke. Lincoln even thanks Rosecrans for his victory.

I'm not going to argue that Stones River was the critical battle of the war — I mention it only to illustrate what a near thing the winter of 1862 was for Lincoln — but I will argue that Gettysburg changed everything for the Union. Lee was forever on the defensive after Gettysburg, something even Lee knew he couldn't sustain indefinitey. The only true hope the CSA had left was a defeat for Lincoln in the elections of 1864 to McClellan and the peace democrats that might end the war and bring recognition to the CSA.

So, yes, I'm saying that Gettysburg was the significant battle of the war. It's why there are thousands of books about the battle. It's why there's a Gettysburg Address. It's why I go to the Civil War Institute in Gettysburg and not the Civil War Institute in Antietam.

Let the debate roll! Any takers?



 Posted: Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 02:38 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
2nd Post
HankC
Member


Joined: Tue Sep 6th, 2005
Location:  
Posts: 517
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top


Gettysburg is significant for one reason: it gave Lincoln the opportunity to recast his vision of America on November 19th.

As you note, Lee had been rebuffed before, at Antietam 10 months earlier. Few soldiers felt that Gettysburg was much more than another big battle. Lee lost the same percentage as at Chancellorsville and the Union had their typical difficulties following *any* battle, victory or defeat. Lee continued his offensive operations both strategically (Bristoe Station, Mine Run and the 1864 Shenandoah campaign) and tactically (attacks at both the Wilderness and Spotsylvania).

Gettysburg ‘benefits’ by being near to the major Northern population centers, from the post-war Lost Causers (centered in nearby Virginia) wish to pin defeat on a specific person and moment in time and from our very human emotion of picking an instant (almost always in retrospect) of permanent change. 
 

HankC

Last edited on Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 02:39 pm by HankC



 Posted: Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 04:53 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
3rd Post
j harold 587
Member


Joined: Tue Jun 12th, 2007
Location: Wilmington, Ohio USA
Posts: 166
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Ok I'll take the bait.

Antietam although a USA victory was hollow as it was not followed with a pursuit of the physically exhausted CSA troops. (Many USA units were minimally committed or had not actually seen battle. None of them had marched over 20 miles and then been committed) Antietam did allow the Lincoln administration an opportunity to issue the EP and due to his inaction to cashier McClellan. It also set in motion the political and military actions that led to Fredricksburg,  first seige of Vicksburg, and Stones River. All these actions were after much proding from Washington.

Gettysburg was unquestionably a USA victory. Both armies had marched hard and fought hard. The manpower losses of the CSA could not be replaced. Other than the fodder obtained in Pa (which was used up in the retreat) and what food the troops were able to consume or carry there were no substancial spoils (as in past northern incursions).  The stage was set for Grant to come on board and use the manpower and resourses of the north to bulldoze the CSA into submission.

Without Antietam we would not have had issuance of the EP, and removal of McClellan.

Without Gettysburg We do not have a decisive victory with crushing loss of troops and material that can not be replaced leading to surrender. 



 Posted: Sat Aug 4th, 2007 02:16 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
4th Post
CleburneFan
Member


Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Florida USA
Posts: 1021
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Just my own personal thinking on the matter, but I prefer to link the double victories of Vicksburg and Gettysburg as a kind of double-whammy that buffered Northern hopes for a decisive victory and early end to the war.

While each victory was definitely important by itself, together they gave the North a force multiplier of nearly simultaneous demoralizing defeats for the South. Even better, each victory took place in a different major theater of the war...a one-two punch from which the South would not fully recover.



 Posted: Sat Aug 4th, 2007 03:59 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
5th Post
Lars
Member
 

Joined: Thu Sep 7th, 2006
Location:  
Posts: 3
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Amen, Fan!

ole



 Posted: Sat Aug 4th, 2007 11:57 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
6th Post
CleburneFan
Member


Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Florida USA
Posts: 1021
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Thanks, Lars--Ole. Ole, are you Lars now?

I'd like to change my name too. I call myself Cleburne Fana nd I do admire Cleburne, but I admire so many other figures of the Civil War too...significant leaders on both sides. I need a better name.  



 Posted: Sun Aug 5th, 2007 12:09 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
7th Post
CleburneFan
Member


Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Florida USA
Posts: 1021
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Pvt Clewell, I'm not sure I'd say Gettysburg changed "everything" for the Union. One example would be that the Union was unable to mount a swift and decisive pursuit of Lee just after Gettysburg allowing the ANV to cross the Potomac River.

The Union still had some of the same problems that plagued it before Gettysburg (and Vicksburg), but they did have more confidence.  An important chnage was that with the Battle of Brandy Sation and Gettysburg, the Union cavalry was showing itself to be a force to reckon with.  Another factor in the Union's favor was the notion of Southern invincibility that fueled the Confederate army early in the war had been shaken.

Last edited on Sun Aug 5th, 2007 01:53 am by CleburneFan



 Posted: Sun Aug 5th, 2007 01:31 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
8th Post
PvtClewell
Member


Joined: Wed Jun 13th, 2007
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 420
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

CF,

I think you're actually making my point for me. After an unending string of losses or nonvictories up until the Gettysburg Campaign (I use that reference to include Brandy Station), the Union seized the momentum and never let go. Sure, there were bumps and burps along the way, but the general Union offensive, beginning with the Overland Campaign, was relentless afterwards. I agree that all your points are valid — I can't debate you over those, hence, my view that Gettysburg really did change everything for the Union, which didn't experience those things prior to the Gettysburg Campaign.

I don't think Meade could mount a serious pursuit of Lee immediately after Gettysburg, having been beaten up pretty badly himself. Plus, I think Lee was able to establish a strong defense along the Wiliamsport-Falling Waters line. Unlike Lee, however, Meade ultimately had unlimited resources from which to draw men and material. After Gettysburg, Lee was forced to become a superior defensive tactician, which manifested itself in the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna River and Cold Harbor. But each of those battles eventually resulted in Lee withdrawing closer to Richmond. You can argue that Lee never won after Gettysburg.

CF, nice use of Vicksburg to tie in with Gettysburg, by the way. When I originally posted the premise of this thread, I was thinking in terms of one specific battle. My gaff. In the immortal words of Curly Howard, 'Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.' (How come I can quote the Three Stooges and not Shakespeare?)

But since both victories came in tandem, it's difficult to say which was more important. What if the Union had won at Vicksburg, but lost at Gettysburg? Would Vicksburg alone still have brought an earlier end to the war? Very doubtful, even though it splits the Confederacy in half. The Union must regroup and figure out what to do next. Complicating the issue is the New York draft riots, a serious distraction just a few weeks after Gettysburg. By contrast, I think a Gettysburg victory and a defeat at Vicksburg still maintains the Union momentum.

It's why I don't go to the Civil War Institute at Vicksburg.

Last edited on Tue Aug 7th, 2007 03:28 am by PvtClewell



 Posted: Sun Aug 5th, 2007 02:01 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
9th Post
CleburneFan
Member


Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Florida USA
Posts: 1021
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

I read somewhere, I think it was in one of the Civil War magazines or perhaps a blog, that Gettysburg wasn't the actual "turning point" of the war. The writer, a historian, said the Battle of Champion Hill, May 16, 1863, was the actual turning point. I have puzzled over this so many times. The writer didn't say why. So I have tried to find out, but cannot point to a factor that would make Champion Hill be a more conclusive "turning point" than Gettysburg, Vicksburg, or other battles that might compete for attention.

If anybody here knows why Champion Hill would stand above Gettysburg for this distinction, I'd appreciate knowing what it is.



 Posted: Sun Aug 5th, 2007 02:23 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
10th Post
Lars
Member
 

Joined: Thu Sep 7th, 2006
Location:  
Posts: 3
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

If anybody here knows why Champion Hill would stand above Gettysburg for this distinction, I'd appreciate knowing what it is.

Can't say, Fan. I can say that the path to becoming a known author or historian is to start a controversy. It's much better if you can persuade others to accept your theory, but it isn't necessary.

I think I've heard the story but can't remember the punch line--so many better theories.

ole

Yes. It's still ole. Just am far from home on a laptop with no cookies. It's a long story and not important.



 Posted: Sun Aug 5th, 2007 02:40 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
11th Post
CleburneFan
Member


Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Florida USA
Posts: 1021
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Gee! I wonder if I can make myself famous drumming up a Civil War conflict!  I'll have to do a lot of research first though to be able to defend my outrageous claims.  :D



 Posted: Sun Aug 5th, 2007 02:54 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
12th Post
PvtClewell
Member


Joined: Wed Jun 13th, 2007
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 420
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

CF,

Whatever you do, make sure that 'Gettysburg' is in the title because it's the one thing that will sell a civil war book. 'Champions' Hill, The Gettysburg of the West' can't miss.

I know next to nothing about Champion's Hill. If it's more significant than Gettysburg, I've been studying the wrong thing for 17 years. I'm pretty sure Lincoln didn't write the Champion's Hill Address. I guess it's why I don't go to the Civil War Institute in...never mind.



 Posted: Sun Aug 5th, 2007 12:49 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
13th Post
javal1
Grumpy Geezer


Joined: Thu Sep 1st, 2005
Location: Tennessee USA
Posts: 1503
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

For more on Champion Hill being the "most important", take a look at this review:

http://brettschulte.net/ACWBlog/archives/000184.html 



 Posted: Mon Aug 6th, 2007 11:58 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
14th Post
javal1
Grumpy Geezer


Joined: Thu Sep 1st, 2005
Location: Tennessee USA
Posts: 1503
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Pvt. -

It's a shame you posted this intriguing question at a time we're experiencing one of our worst "dead periods" as far as board postings are concerned. I know you did it to liven the place up, and I don't really know what the problem is - other than the oppresive heat in much of the country :X

But I'll tell you this... I've studied the war for over 3 decades, and have yet to find anyone who agrees with my pick as "most important" battle. I came to the conclusion many years ago that in the overall scheme of things, Fort Donelson desrves that title. You can wait to reply till you stop laughing ;) 

Gettysburg gets the accolades for a few reasons, none (IMO) having to do with the actual importance of the battle itself. First, the GB Address, which just as easily could have been the Antietam Address or the Vicksburg Address. Second, it gave the north a Civil War tourist attraction. Three and Four are related to Two: GB is where the $$$ is today. That's the only reason it makes the CWPT endangered list every year. Lastly, because of the ease of visiting from cities like NY and Philly, lots of folks cut their Civil War teeth there. If Shiloh was the first field they visited, they would probably think it was the most important!

Just my two cents....



 Posted: Tue Aug 7th, 2007 02:00 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
15th Post
PvtClewell
Member


Joined: Wed Jun 13th, 2007
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 420
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Joe,

I know what you mean about the heat. My car's exterior thermometer read 104 degrees at 2 p.m. today. It was 80 degrees at 6 a.m. when I went for my walk. Don't feel much like posting these days, either.

Fort Donelson? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. (Just kidding you. I suppose we all could make an argument for any battle being the most important.)

The last two days I've been catching up on my reading of Champion Hill (Sidebar: Champion Hill or Champion's Hill? I've seen it both ways. I've seen a photograph with the apostrophe-S is on a historical marker near the battlefield. And if the battle occurred on Sid Champion's farm, then it would be grammatically correct that way. But in an article by Stephen Ambrose for 'The Battle Chronicles of the Civil War,' (1989) the owners of the property (is it privately owned? I don't know) prefer Champion Hill).

Ambrose, incidentally, writes: "...To the winner of the battle that followed would go the final victory in the campaign for the Mississippi River. Champion Hill is thus, at first blush, one of the decisive battles of the Civil War.
Such a view of Champion Hill is superficial."
He doesn't, however, explain why that is so. He goes on to give a description of the battle itself.

I will say this — I've gained a new perspective and appreciation for Champion Hill that I never had before. But I just can't bring myself to the precipice and say that it is the decisive battle of the war.

To me, that still remains Gettysburg, and for the reasons I stated in my original post.

I agree that Gettysburg is the crown jewel of Civil War battlefields. It probably generates the most revenue and attracts the most visitors — about 1.5 million people a year, I think — but that doesn't mean it's not threatened by development. It just shook loose of the casino debacle, and more threats may be coming. The sprawl from Washington DC is relentless. Just look at Fredericksburg-Salem Church-Chancellorsville. Salem Church has about disappeared in a sea of shopping malls. Manassas is another field in serious danger. So is Petersburg.

I have this vision (or nightmare) that within the next 100 years, when the tentacles of the metropolis of New-Bos-Wash-Mond-Adelphia finally have nothing more to grab, all our Rev War and Civil War battlefields will be nothing more than green spaces good for picnics and bicycle trails. Why, I bet they might even put up an obtrusive observation tower at Gettysburg.

Last edited on Tue Aug 7th, 2007 03:36 am by PvtClewell



 Posted: Tue Aug 7th, 2007 02:16 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
16th Post
Texas Defender
Member


Joined: Sat Jan 27th, 2007
Location: Texas USA
Posts: 920
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Pvt Clewell-

   I gather that you wouldn't consider that a towering achievement.  :cool:



 Posted: Tue Aug 7th, 2007 02:26 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
17th Post
CleburneFan
Member


Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Florida USA
Posts: 1021
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

javal1 wrote: For more on Champion Hill being the "most important", take a look at this review:

http://brettschulte.net/ACWBlog/archives/000184.html 

Javal, I really want to read the book cited in the book review you linked. I have been intrigued about Champion Hill (Variations I have seen--Campion Hills, Campion's Hill) ever since I read the comment that this little discussed battle was the true turning point of the war. Thanks for the link.



 Posted: Tue Aug 7th, 2007 11:15 am
   PM  Quote  Reply 
18th Post
PvtClewell
Member


Joined: Wed Jun 13th, 2007
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 420
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

TD,

Well, anyway, that's my observation. :D



 Posted: Tue Aug 7th, 2007 03:26 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
19th Post
booklover
Member


Joined: Sat Jun 23rd, 2007
Location:  
Posts: 222
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

Could it be possble that the most decisive battle of the Civil War was the last one?:P

Seriously, I can't see Gettysburg as being the most decisive. To me the term "decisive" means the one that led to the close of the conflict, and Gettysburg (or even Vicksburg) didn't do that. It would take several more months for the fighting to end. I think one could make a case for the Overland Campaign or Petersburg being just as decisive as it showed that the Union finally had a general who would keep fighting day after day regardless of the number of causualties. Can you imagine what McClellan (or any other general) would have done if they had experienced Cold Harbor?

I think Joe hit on it when he talked about the proximity of Gettysburg to the major population centers and the fact that Lincoln made the greatest (even greater than his second inauguaral address) speech ever given as reasons for Gettysburg's popularity. I would add the influence of Michael Shaara's book and Ken Burns' series with its focus of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. I've always wondered how the numbers of those visiting the park went up from the point before Shaara and Burns compared to after.

Of course, some will even argue that the South had lost at Sumter, but that's a little too Lost Cause for me.

Best
Rob



 Posted: Tue Aug 7th, 2007 07:08 pm
   PM  Quote  Reply 
20th Post
ole
Member


Joined: Sun Oct 22nd, 2006
Location:  
Posts: 2027
Status: 
Offline
Mana: 

  back to top

If one looks closely at each battle and, perhaps, squinches the left eye just a touch, there are omens portending the end in all of them. Ft. Donelson has been mentioned, and I can see that. Shiloh ranks right up there. Both Corinths count favorably. Antietam figures right up there.

Which is the actual knell on the death bell makes good copy and discussions. I tend to hold on the side of that first shot at Sumter (which, by the way, was not fired by Ruffin) placed the Confederacy on the slippery slope. The chances of a successful separation after that were slim and none.

ole



 Current time is 08:28 amPage:    1  2  3  Next Page Last Page  
Top




UltraBB 1.17 Copyright © 2007-2008 Data 1 Systems
Page processed in 0.2159 seconds (12% database + 88% PHP). 25 queries executed.