Sunday, October 24, 2010

Civil War 1863 the Turning Point


          With major battles like Chancellorsville, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga, the year 1863 was certainly a turning point in the Civil War. In fact, with the major battles fought and the outcomes, 1863 was probably the most significant year of the war.
            At Chancellorsville, considered by some to be Lee's greatest victory the massively outnumbered Confederates drove the Federal army from the battlefield. The Confederates suffered 14,000 casualties, while inflicting 17,000. Perhaps the most damaging loss and the biggest impact on the Confederacy was the death of Lee's "right arm," Stonewall Jackson, who died of pneumonia while recuperating from his wounds.
During the siege at Vicksburg the 20,000-man garrison was reduced by disease and starvation surrendering the last major Confederate stronghold on the mighty Mississippi River to General U.S. Grant on July 3rd.
At the same time in July at the Battle of Gettysburg, both sides suffered great casualties. The Confederate losses had a much greater impact on the Southern cause. Gettysburg (especially Picket’s charge) has been called the “high water mark of the Confederacy” because Lee’s army, while it would continue to fight would never again have the strength for a major offensive victory. Many consider this battle and Lee’s overly ambitious assault on the center of the Union line at Cemetery Ridge the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.
       The Confederate tactical victory at Chickamauga was a maker and breaker of reputations. Thomas's performance elevated him to top command, and Granger was also given more responsibility. Rosecrans, Alexander McCook, Crittenden, and Negley were relieved. Confederate Commanding General Bragg also relieved Polk, D.H. Hill, and Hindman for unsatisfactory performance during the campaign all causing major leadership shifts in the Confederate army.
            At Chattanooga Lincoln placed the perilous situation in the hands of Ulysses S. Grant. Losing no time, Grant launched assaults that cleared the Confederates from their positions on the heights of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. The South would never recover from the loss of Chattanooga, which brought Bragg's relief and opened the gateway to the Confederate heartland. More importantly this victory thrust U.S. Grant to the forefront as the overall commander of the Union forces.
Stonewall Jackson’s death, Union control of the Mississippi, Confederate losses at Gettysburg, shifts among Confederate commanders and the propulsion of U.S. Grant into the Union’s top military position all combine to make 1863 a significant turning point in the Civil War.