BLOG 15-154TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE TURNING POINT OF THE CIVIL WAR
This weekend-July 1st to July 4th, 2017 celebrates the 154th anniversary of what is called the turning point of the Civil War when the Union forces in two major campaigns defeated the Confederacy and turning a string of defeats into victories and saw the birth of a leader whom was willing to fight for the Union-US Grant. From this point of time –July 1863-the Union won more battles than they lost and the Confederacy’s rein of the war had come to an end from this point of time.
The ensuing Campaigns in the west and north, , the Battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg, became the turning points in the Union’s struggle against Confederates during the American Civil War (1861-1865).
The year opened poorly for the Northern military. In the West, their efforts to capture Vicksburg during the winter and spring were continually frustrated. In the East, the Union forces were defeated at Chancellorsville in early May. The North rebounded in June and July with a trio of successes: the Tullahoma campaign, which cleared major Confederate forces from Tennessee; the capture of Vicksburg, which together with the fall of Port Hudson, Louisiana, gave the North control of the Mississippi River; and the Battle of Gettysburg, where Lee’s last movement across the Potomac River ended in bloody repulse
Beginning of the Vicksburg Campaign
In December 1862 Grant began to gather troops for a campaign directed at opening the Mississippi River to the Union and dividing the Confederacy in two. The key to the Confederate defences was Vicksburg, the heavily fortified Mississippi city that commanded the river from its high bluffs. Grant first planned to march south from Memphis, Tennessee, while another army under William Tecumseh Sherman proceeded by water to Chickasaw Bluffs, just north of Vicksburg. Grant’s advance was stopped on December 20, when Confederate General Earl Van Dorn cut in behind him and destroyed Grant’s supply base at Holly Springs, Mississippi. Sherman’s advance continued, but a week later he was repulsed with heavy losses at the Battle of Chickasaw Bluffs. His report was short but accurate: “I reached Vicksburg at the time appointed, landed, assaulted, and failed.”
Before crossing the river, Grant had sent the federal cavalry commander Benjamin H. Grierson on a daring raid that Grant hoped would divert the attention of the Confederates from his own operations. Grierson and 1700 men left La Grange, Tennessee, on April 17, 1863. Sixteen days later, after covering 966 km (600 mi), he reached Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He had destroyed miles of railroad, taken 500 prisoners, and eluded thousands of Confederate troops sent against him. He achieved this great feat with the loss of only 24 men.
In the west Grant turned to new land and water tactics in cooperation with the Union river fleet commanded by Admiral David D. Porter. From January through March 1863, four attempts were made to bypass Vicksburg by cutting canals or changing the course of rivers. All failed.
In April Grant put his final plan into operation. He would march his army down the west side of the Mississippi to a point below Vicksburg. Porter’s gunboats and barges would run past the Confederate artillery on the river, thus supplying the army and furnishing transports for ferrying the men to the east side of the river. The army would then march into Mississippi behind Vicksburg. It would either defeat the Confederates in open battle or drive them into the river stronghold, where they would be forced to surrender sooner or later. On the night of April 16, 1863, Porter ran through the fire from the shore batteries and lost only 1 of his 12 boats. A few nights later, 6 transports and 13 barges tried the same feat, and 5 transports and 6 barges came through. In spite of the losses, Grant had enough supplies and shipping to proceed with his plan.
Along the Mississippi, Grant moved out from his base on May 7 with 44,000 men. His first objective was Jackson, Mississippi, the capital of the state, held by 6000 Confederates. In a battle on May 12, the Confederates were defeated and withdrew northward.
Having disposed of the only force that could threaten his rear, Grant turned west. At Champion’s Hill, halfway between Jackson and Vicksburg, two of his corps commanders, James B. McPherson and McClernand, attacked John C. Pemberton, the commander of the Confederate Army defending Vicksburg. The battle, fought on May 16, was the most severe of the campaign. The Union troops were victorious, and Pemberton retreated. On the next day he made a stand at the Big Black River, was again defeated, and withdrew his army to prepared positions in Vicksburg. After two assaults in which he lost heavily, Grant decided that Vicksburg would have to be starved out. The siege lasted almost six weeks, until July 4, 1863, when Pemberton surrendered.
The Campaign of Vicksburg was of utmost importance to the cause of the Union. It took a Confederate army from the field (the captured Confederates were paroled) and freed Grant’s army for other operations. It cut the Confederacy in two and opened a highway for trade between the Middle West and the outside world. In Lincoln’s picturesque phrase, “the Father of Waters” would henceforth flow “unvexed to the sea.”
One reason for the success of Grant’s campaign was that Confederate troops that might have been sent from Tennessee to relieve Pemberton were held there by the Army of the Cumberland. After Murfreesboro, Rosecrans kept his army in its camps until the middle of June, much to the dismay of the impatient authorities in Washington. Bragg, however, opposing Rosecrans with the Army of Tennessee, dared not weaken his forces. When Rosecrans did move, he undertook a series of maneuvers known as the Tullahoma campaign, which with very little fighting forced Bragg to retreat. In two weeks, Bragg moved about 200 km (about 125 mi) to the southeast and left Middle Tennessee defenseless.
While Grant slowly strangled Vicksburg and Rosecrans feinted Bragg halfway across Tennessee, Lee decided to march his troops north toward Pennsylvania. There were several reasons for this bold move. The Confederate government hoped that a decisive victory on Northern soil would win foreign recognition of the Confederacy. In addition, Lee argued that an invasion of the wealthiest urban area of the North would probably lessen the pressure on Confederate forces in Tennessee and at Vicksburg. Perhaps most important, the lush Cumberland Valley would yield food and clothing for Lee’s ragged and hungry army.
On June 3, 1863, Lee began to move his Army of Northern Virginia across the Rappahannock. Hooker, who was aware of Lee’s movements, shifted the Army of the Potomac northward, using it as a shield between Lee and the capital at Washington. Late in June, Hooker resigned his command, convinced that he had lost the confidence of the administration. On June 28, General George G. Meade replaced Hooker. Meade had been one of Hooker’s corps commanders.
On July 1, 1863, one of the bloodiest battles of the United States Civil War began at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Confederate troops led by General Robert E. Lee initially drove back General George Meade’s Union forces, who then took a strong defensive position. After two days of fighting in which Lee was unable to break the Union line, he sent Major General George Pickett and his forces on an infamous charge at the centre of Union defences. More than three-quarters of Pickett’s force suffered casualties, and the charge was repelled, effectively ending the battle. On the night of July 4, the Confederate Army began its retreat to Virginia.
On July 1 advance units of the two armies stumbled into each other near the little town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 16 km (10 mi) north of the Maryland border. Both Lee and Meade realized that a battle was unavoidable. Fighting began that day. Union troops, after early reverses, managed to hold a strategic position on Cemetery Hill. The second day, July 2, saw confused fighting on both Union flanks. Generals Longstreet and John B. Hood assaulted high ground at the Peach Orchard and Little Round Top, but by night the Federals held key positions. The most dramatic action of the battle came on the third day, when General George E. Pickett led a gallant but hopeless charge against the Union center, “the bloody angle.” Pickett’s drive tried to charge across an open field at Cemetery Ridge, but concentrated Union fire stopped him. The battle was a decisive Union victory, but both armies suffered very heavy losses. Meade’s casualties numbered 23,000 and Lee’s about 25,000. Lee began his retreat on July 4. To the great disappointment of President Lincoln, Meade did not pursue the Confederate army and make Lee stand and fight. By July 14 the Confederate commander had brought the remnant of his army back to the safety of Virginia. Gettysburg had been a severe defeat for the South, both in terms of men lost and the army’s morale. In November 1863 President Lincoln dedicated a national cemetery to those who had died in the Battle of Gettysburg. His speech, known as the Gettysburg Address, became famous as an expression of the democratic spirit and reconfirmed Lincoln’s intention to reunite the country.
Casualties at Gettysburg
During the American Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg began on July 1, 1863, when a Confederate brigade searching for a badly needed supply of shoes in the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, ran into Union cavalry. After the three days of battle were over, Union forces claimed victory, although both sides suffered heavy casualties.