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Gettysburg Essay, Research Paper


By:Mike Sidoti

There is a lot of controversy as to why the U.S. Civil War started. Historians believe it was merely a difference in the two cultures. The U.S. Civil War was mainly started because of a difference in these two cultures. The South had an agricultural economy, and the North had a manufacturing economy. Because of such different ideals, both areas were fighting for different reasons. The North was fighting to abolish slavery, while the South was fighting to sustain slavery. The Battle of Gettysburg was a very important battle during the Civil War. The Confederate General, Robert E. Lee had proven to be invincible after his victories at Chancellorsville and Fredricksberg, and was finally defeated at Gettysburg. The Battle of Gettysburg turned the tide of the war permanently against the South. On July 1, 1863 shots were fired outside Gettysburg that marked the beginning of what would become one of the largest and most significant battle in the world. After a Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, General Robert E. Lee divided his army into three different corps. Corp I was under the command of General James Longstreet, Corp II under General R.S. Ewell, and Corp III under General A.P. Hill. Before he decided to move North, Lee sent one of his Generals, Jeb Stuart into Union territory to get information on the Union army. Knowing it was a risky task; Stuart proceeded as Lee?s eyes and ears. Jeb Stuart was sent to invade was sent to take the front and right flank of Ewell’s army, but as he was completing his orders, he did not notice that General Mead?s army was marching straight at him with about 82,000. Without any hesitation, Lee decided to push north in order to invade Pennsylvania from Maryland, threatening the Union capital, Washington DC. General A.P. Hill?s corp were in bad conditions, most soldiers did not have any shoes, and so decided to invaded Gettysburg with the purpose of getting shoes. On Tuesday morning, June 30 Hill?s corps had started their way to Gettysburg when they noticed a long line of Union cavalry heading toward the town. He withdrew his corp, and informed General Heth. The following day, General Heth was given permission to attack Gettysburg, and taking the city. Shots were exchanged between Heth?s and Union General Buford. Late that afternoon, General Lee arrived at the sight of the shootings still without any news from Stuart. After the shots exchanged by Buford and Heth outside of Gettysburg, the rebels began to push the Union back into town until General Winfield Scott Hancock positioned his troops on Culp?s Hill and Cemetary Hill. Thinking that this was an opening to another Confederate victory, Lee, who had arrived late that afternoon, sent his second corp under General Ewell to attack the Union army. Ewell decided to hold his ground, which is characterized as the mistake that cost the fight, battle, and maybe even their independence. Ewell also decided to stop pushing the Union army back, which would have given him the advantage of having the high ground. Hours later, General Lee said, ?If I had Stonewall Jackson at Gettysburg, I would have won that fight; and a complete victory would have given us Washington and Baltimore, if not Philadelphia, and would have established the independence of the Confederacy? (Davis 299). After Ewell?s unexpected decision, commanding General Longstreet decided that it was the right time to move around the Union?s left. This movement would put them right between Washington and Mead. On July 2, 1863, General George Gordon Mead arrived at Gettysburg with most of the Union army. Mead positioned his army in the shape of a ?U?, occupying Little Round Top, Big Round Top, Cemetery Hill, and Culp?s Hill. Still without hearing from Stuart, General Lee decided to prepare an assault. His main intention was to obtain the high ground, making it easier to take over Gettysburg. He planned to send Longstreet to attack the Union?s left side, taking both Round Tops, while Ewell was sent to take over Culp?s Hill on the right. The preparation took him most of the day. Early that afternoon, Stuart came back to the Confederates and informed Lee about the Union. Stuart was now going to help them attack the left flank. The Union?s left flank was under the command of General Sickles. Sickles had disobeyed the orders he was given, which were to stay and protect Cemetery Ridge, and decided to shift his men to Peach Orchard. Peach Orchard was a flat plain that would be much harder to fight on, also leaving the Round Tops undefended. Confederate sharpshooters covered by boulders at Devil?s Den soon fired upon them. Mead called back General Sickles to his post, Cemetery Ridge, but it had already been too late. The Confederates had already started to run up Big Round Top, where Union General Oates saw a chance to ambush the Confederate soldiers. If he could get enough guns on Little Round Top, he could destroy all the Confederate soldiers. Without any news from Sickles, Mead sent General Warren to Little Round Top to see what was going on. The Confederate?s were defeating Sickles at Peach Orchard. The Union pushed the Confederate?s back and then retreated. Union reinforcements were sent, but left a gap Cemetery Ridge, giving the Confederate?s a chance to get through the Union line. Unfortunately a small brigade led by Scott Hancock stopped them. 262 Union soldiers charged upon 1,600 rebels, the Union soldiers lost more than 82 percent in less than 5 minutes. ?82 percent of them fell in less than five minutes, the highest percentage of casualties taken by any Union regiment in the war? ( 226). Meanwhile, Lee had already been planning an attack on the weakest area of the Union line. The extreme end was under the command of General Chamberlain. This was a critical area, because if it were to give in, it would give the Confederates the high ground. His orders were to hold Little Round Top at any costs. Before he could give any orders, Union General Oates and his army were already pushing back on the Confederates that were climbing the hill. Chamberlain thought he had been beaten, but then saw the rebels retreating. This attack/retreat by the rebels happened four times, until Chamberlain?s men ran out of ammunition. He changed his strategy, and ordered a bayonet charge which defeated the rebels. General Oates mentions that, ?We ran like a herd of wild cattle? ( 221). This heroic act by General Chamberlain saved the far end of the Union line, and gave him a Congressional Medal of Honor. The third day of battle had begun badly for the Confederates. Ewell?s men were brought back from Culp’s Hill, and Stuart was attacked by Union cavalry, repulsing his attack from the rear. It was all up to General Longstreet?s attack on the Union center at Cemetery Ridge. Unfortunately, General Longstreet hesitated on attacking. Lee decided to give the order to General George E. Pickett. Pickett and his men went into the woods, and lined up, waiting for the command. As the desperately waited for the command, guns and cannons were fired at the line, making it weaker. The command was then given, and Pickett?s Charge had begun with 15,000 soldiers marching towards the Union Line. It was a successful charge; Pickett?s men had penetrated Union line. Then again, just as in day two, Scott Hancock gave the orders to his men, to charge at the Confederates, which stopped Pickett. Pickett lost 75 percent of his men, and the charge was over. Thousands of rebels threw down their weapons, and gave in as prisoners. During the evening of July 3, 1863, the Confederate troops began their march back to Virginia. During the three-day battle, the Union had lost 23,000 men, and the Confederates lost 28,000 men. These men were killed, wounded, or missing. This was the bloodiest battle of the war. The battle of Gettysburg was a very significant battle. It changed the tide of the war severely. Lee had never been defeated, and was coming from a victory at Chancellorsville and Fredricksberg. This only proved that General Robert E. Lee was human, and was not invincible. Lee gathered his men, and apologized to them, for what he had done. ?It was all my fault. Get together and let us do the best we can toward saving that which is left of us? ( 235). After the attack on Gettysburg, the south feared to ever invade or attack on union soil again

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