Was the Battle of Gettysburg the Turning Point of the Civil War?
I got an email recently from a Battle of Gettysburg student (Mike B.) asking me to clarify something I said about the battle on the Interwebs. I mentioned something along the lines of "Gettysburg is not as important as you might think it is." Thanks for the note, Mike - lets see if I can clear things up a bit.
When analyzing history from the vantage point of the present (as I have warned people not to do), one could surmise that the battle was indeed the turning point. The Confederates never again could claim a decisive victory along the lines of Chancellorsville or Fredericksburg. But the Union victory here was not by any means the stepping off point towards guaranteed victory.
The participants and citizens of their respective countries certainly didn't think so. Just read a newspaper from the period. The Confederates, with Lee at the helm the Army of Northern Virginia, still firmly believed that victory was within their grasp - Gettysburg or not. The Union Army was bogged down in Virginia, the northern civilian population was growing increasingly weary of the war, and even Abraham Lincoln thought he was going to lose the election of 1864 and perhaps the war along with it.
Sure as shit - the letters home from the Confederate Army indicated that morale was up. I have read them myself...tons of these letters are housed at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. Go there yourself and check them out if you don't believe me.
So all this "High Tide of the Confederacy" stuff is a postwar creation. Sure, the citizens of the North and South thought the battle was important to be sure, but perhaps for different reasons than many Americans believe today.
And...if you read all the way to the end of this post I have a got a surprise for you - you can get my Gettysburg web-course HERE. You're welcome :)