Blog #44 – Most important turning point
This blog asks you to pick which of the three turning points in the Civil War are the most important and why.
Turning Point #1 — Battle of Antietam – Sept. 17, 1862 — On this day, America suffered more casualties (23,000) than the total casualties of the Revolution, War of 1812, and Mexican War combined. At stake was the Confederate invasion of Maryland and General George McClellan’s reputation as the next great American general. McClellan stopped the invasion and Lee turned back. Britain and France delayed their vital recognition of the Confederacy (which could have aided the cash-strapped rebels and also provided them with much-needed aid). In addition, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation four days later which completely changed the scope of the war by making it not just about keeping the Union together but also ending slavery. With the EP in place on January 1, 1863, freed blacks could now join the Union Army and fight for their own freedom. And lastly, the momentum swung to the Northern side, if just for a little while.
http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/antietam/maps/antietam-animated-map.html Antietam animated map.
Turning Point #2 – Battle of Gettysburg – July 1-3, 1863 — After two crushing defeats, the Army of the Potomac (led by General George Meade, a.k.a. the snapping turtle) finally got one in the win column by defeating General Lee and the Confederacy on a hot, sweaty battlefield in eastern Pennsylvania. Over three days, the Union Army was able to defend their positions from ferocious Confederate assaults and turn the tide of the war. The largest and deadliest battle on the North American continent (53,000 casualties), this Union victory slammed the door shut on any chance of foreign recognition that the Confederacy had left. Also, Confederate hero Robert E. Lee never went on a major offensive again afterwards, b/c his army was too crippled and further large scale attacks would have been futile. Coupled with the victory at Vicksburg, Mississippi, Gettysburg dealt a serious blow to the Confederacy’s hopes of winning this war. They could not continue to lose 1/3 of their best army every time they took on the Union nor lose valuable commanders and field generals. For many, this July 4 of 1863 had a special meaning as the Union headed towards victory.
Turning Point #3 – The Election of 1864 – this political battle is considered by James McPherson to be the third turning point of the war because it had still not been decided on the battlefield in the summer of 1864. Ulysses S. Grant had taken command of all of the Union armies and been expected to bring his pounding style of attack to the eastern theatre of the war (Virginia) like he had done out west in Mississippi and Tennessee. However, the 4-pronged attack on the Confederacy soon got bogged down in the reality of war and many Americans had expressed their war weariness in many ways. One of those ways was to support silly peace plans with Jeff Davis that would have ended the war w/o ending slavery. Another way Americans showed their war weariness was by picking Democrat George McClellan to be their presidential nominee. The Peace Democrats wanted to end the war w/o ending slavery, but McClellan publicly contradicted them by saying he would push for peace through victory – read, war! Lincoln’s party flirted w/ picking another candidate but never really did that, and by putting Tennessean Andrew Johnson on the ticket as his V.P., Lincoln was trying to be the “Union” candidate. Luckily for Lincoln (and the country), Union general William T. Sherman captured the pivotal Confederate city of Atlanta in September, and the hits just kept coming. In October, Union General Sheridan defeated the Confederate army in the Shenandoah Valley. 78% of the Union soldiers voted for Lincoln and only 29% of McClellan’s former army, the Army of the Potomac, voted for their old boss. Lincoln swept up the electoral college 212 to 21 as well. This was the final turning point of the war b/c the end of slavery and the Confederacy appeared just to be a matter of time. Lincoln planned on having a forgiving Reconstruction policy as exemplified in his 2nd Inaugural address (http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres32.html). If McClellan had won this election, who knew what would have happened? Would there have been peace after four long bitter years with nothing to show for it except the dead and injured?
Pick what you think is the most important turning point in the Civil War and explain why in your own words.
200 words minimum (except for Tamia! You know how much you have to do) due by class on Thursday, Dec. 13.
Here’s the closing paragraph of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”