5 Pivotal Battles that Changed the Course of the Civil War
5 Pivotal Battles that Changed the Course of the Civil War

5 Pivotal Battles that Changed the Course of the Civil War

Matthew Weber - March 13, 2017

5 Pivotal Battles that Changed the Course of the Civil War
The Battle of Gettysburg 1863. Kent State University

The Battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg (1863)

There may be no more famous Civil War battle than Gettysburg. Almost everyone knows at least something about it, if for no other reason that the site of the battle was later used for President Lincoln’s most famous address (you know the one that starts: “Four Score and Seven Years Ago”). The battle itself, along with the one that happened simultaneously at Vicksburg, is often argued as the most important battle during the entire war. The question is, why?

The answer to that question is complex. The two battles were both won decisively by the Union. The Battle of Vicksburg denied the Confederacy control of the Mississippi River, which in turn prevented them from getting supplies from Texas and Arkansas. In war, major battles usually are fought over strong points that are used for transportation of supplies. It comes down to denying your opponent the ability to supply themselves.

The Battle of Gettysburg, on the other hand, was important because it was the first major defeat of Robert E. Lee. It also marked the end of his second invasion of the North. As with the first invasion attempt, Lee failed with most of his objectives. After the loss at Gettysburg, Lee seemed to go on a defensive, as the North pressed their advantages. Lee would make no more offensive moves for the rest of the war.

From a historical perspective, the twin battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg are very popular choices for most important battles of the Civil War. The economic impact saw the coffers of the South suffer and those of the North expand. The morale of the South took a huge hit after the defeats, which gave the North yet another advantage as they pressed south. And while the war would go on for another two years, these two battles turned the tide for the North and led directly to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House in 1865.

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