The Battle of Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg
According to author Brian Holden Reid, the generals and officials who fought in the American Civil War seemed to be influenced by Creasy’s ideology – victories could be achieved easily if the wars were made decisive. Creasy, when writing his great book on the fifteen wars that changed the world, said that there would be fought one great war that would bring an end to all wars. For a while, it was thought that Napoleon’s advance would bring about the one great war. However, years later, the American Civil War proved the thought wrong CITATION Rei13 p 1 l 16393 (Reid 1).
The battle of Gettysburg started when Henry Heth’s crops marched towards the town to buy some shoes. Although the company knew of the presence of a small Union cavalry in town, they underestimated their numbers and weapons resources. The cavalry, in fact, turned out to be two brigades, who had already scoped out the area and placed themselves at strategically advantageous positions in order to defend themselves until reinforcements from John Reynolds arrived. The effort, however, resulted in a bloodbath, and John Reynolds was left for dead on the road CITATION Jul13 p “par. 1-2” l 16393 (Winona County Historical Society par. 1-2).
On the second day, Confederate forces, led by Commander Robert E. Lee, attacked the Union fronts, and was nearly successful. The third day brought a resounding victory for the Union forces again. His defeat lay in the simple fact that he had underestimated general Maede’s defences, which eventually led to Lee’s forces being trapped and forced to dig their way out CITATION Rei13 p 3-4 l 16393 (Reid 3-4).
Gettysburg was, without a doubt, one of the bloodiest wars in American history. Over 51000 lives were lost in a matter of four days. Lawrence Elliot, in his article, Gettysburg, an Epilogue, calls it a battle that was ruled largely by chance, saying that though neither parties wanted to battle in the town, the unprecedented became reality very quickly. He wonders what would have happened had the minor decisions that led to the carnage not been taken. Gettysburg might once again be a quaint town, but two markers and a torch of peace is not enough to rub away the wounds inflicted during war CITATION Ell49 p 131 l 16393 (Elliot 131).
Like him, an account by General Josiah Gorgas called the events of Gettysburg disasters that escalated with an alarming speed. Brutal it was in nature, and left the confederates with only the dim hope that the north might get tired of bearing the costs of advancing on them and call it a truce. He mourned the death of fellow lives lost, and was amazed that such incredible damage and carnage could be inflicted in such a ‘small space’. Where one day the Confederate forces had been celebrating their victories and strongholds, the Battle of Gettysburg had been a brutal check in reality. In fact, it could very well be said that the army had walked into its own destruction CITATION Gor54 p “pars. 1-3” l 16393 (Gorgas pars. 1-3).
In such a sense, Gettysburg was indeed a decisive battle: it turned the tables drastically, but also resulted in the realization that America was a nation slowly tearing itself apart with its own hands. It may have added to the advantage of the Union forces, but it also declared, at the expense of 51000 lives, that the civil war would not end soon. It was a war of erosion, and surely, ate away at the social fabric and structure of society in America.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Elliot, Lawrence. “Gettysburg – an Epilogue .” Coronet Magazine 1949: 131. Web.
Gorgas, Gen. Josiah. “The Summer of 1863: The Beginning of the End for the Rebels.” Vicksburg – National Park Service Historial Handbook 1954, 21 ed. Web.
Reid, Brian Holden. “1863: Military Turning Points, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Tullahoma.” OAH Magazine of History (2013) (2013): 23-27. Print.
Winona County Historical Society. July 1, 1863: Reports Company K. 10 March 2013. Web. 1 December 2015.