The three-dayBattle of Gettysburg saw more casualties than any American wartime event untilWorld War I. Casualties totaled more than 46,000 on both sides. The Battleof Antietam was the single bloodiest day of the war, with more than 22,000total casualties. Both battles were triggered by Confederate invasions of Unionstates by General Robert E.
Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Both battlesaffected and were affected by the morale of the troops. Antietam was considereda strategic Union victory when Lee’s army retreated back across the PotomacRiver. Gettysburg was an overwhelming Union victory, climaxed when Lee’smonumental thrust against the Union center with 15,000 men was repulsed withheavy losses. In both cases, the Confederate army had hoped to reach Baltimoreand possibly Washington, D.
C.The first fourhours of fighting, much of it across farmer David Miller’s thirty-acrecornfield, were indecisive. Next came a series of bloody head-on attacksagainst Lee’s center that finally overran the area afterward called BloodyLane. The last action of the day was against Lee’s right, where Union troopspierced the line but were stopped by late-arriving Confederate reinforcements.
Lee withdrew across the river on September 18, suffering 10,316 casualties(1546 killed, 7752 wounded, and1018 missing and captured) to McClellan’s 12,401casualties (2108 killed, 9540 wounded, 753 missing and captured) (“TheBattle of Antietam Summary & Facts”). The draw that the Union claimedas a victory provided the Union the needed morale increase so that the Lincolnadministration had enough justification to issue the preliminary EmancipationProclamation. This effectively prevented the British Empire from recognizingthe Confederacy as a legitimate government. This roved one of the Confederacy’sonly hopes of surviving the lengthy war against the North’s suffocating navalblockade (New York State Library”). On September 17,1862, Generals Robert E. Lee and George McClellan faced off near Antietam creekin Sharpsburg, Maryland, in the first battle of the American Civil War to befought on northern soil.
Though McClellan failed to utilize his numericalsuperiority to crush Lee’s army, he was able to check the Confederate advanceinto the north. The Union had 87,000 soldiers and the Confederate had 45,000soldiers. After a string of Union defeats, this tactical victory providedAbraham Lincoln the political cover he needed to issue his EmancipationProclamation. Though the result of the battle was inconclusive, it remains thebloodiest single day in American history, with more than 22,000 casualties(“The Battle of Antietam Summary & Facts”).
The large losses onboth sides lowered morale. It showed on the battlefield and at home. The Battleof Antietam was the first battle to photographed and showed in newspapersthroughout the country. When photos were taken the photographer staged thepictures to look like most of the dead were of Confederate soldiers, thislowered the morale of the southerners more so and boosted up the northerners. Involving around105,000 men in the Union’s Army of the Potomac under Major General GeorgeGordon Meade and approximately 75,000 in the Confederacy’s Army of NorthernVirginia, commanded by General Robert Edward Lee.
Casualties at Gettysburg “totaled23,049 for the Union (3,155 dead, 14,529 wounded, 5,365 missing).” Confederatecasualties were “28,063 (3,903 dead, 18,735 injured, and 5,425 missing),” morethan a third of Lee’s army (“The Battle of Gettysburg Summary “).Since theConfederates lost, the Union’s strategy was helped, their dedication to the wareffort was aided, the aid that might have come from Britain was swayed, and theUnion’s actions from that point forward were affected. The British werethinking about helping out the Confederates, even though the Union had ablockade that was near impossible to bust through. If the british hadhelped, the world as we know it could be very different in that if theConfederates hadn’t surrendered shortly after the battle then the war couldhave raged on for much longer and might have been decided differently. If theConfederates had the much needed help from the british, then the Union wouldpossibly been outnumbered, thus meaning the South could have won the war. Ifthis would have happened, then the United States of America as we know it couldhave evolved into something completely different.
Generals Lee’sgoal in the battle of Gettysburg was to draw the Union out in the open and outmaneuver them with better leadership skills. In his arrogance he thought thatsince he was a better general a difference of a few thousand men wouldn’taffect the outcome (McPherson). The Battle of Gettysburg swayed the foreign aid,from the british, that General Lee was hoping for since he lost miserably tothe Army of the Potomac. The British were considering helping the Confederates,but because of General Lee’s loss decided against it. The Battle of Gettysburg servedas a substantial milestone for the Union army. The Union had finally defeatedLee’s army and put him and his men on the run. This definitely supported theUnion’s major strategy to win the war and also supported the Union’s effortsover the Confederates because the Confederate troops were demoralized afterthat huge bloodbath (Dawes). The Union troops, however, had their spiritslifted to some extent after the battle.
The Battle of Gettysburg changed theUnion’s actions because they were on the offense and Lee had just lost a thirdof his army. It changed the Confederate’s action because a short time laterGeneral Lee surrendered the Confederate Army.The Battle ofGettysburg was the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought in North America. During the first three days of July 1863, the Union Armyof the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia turned a smalltown in Southern Pennsylvania into the site of a struggle for the future of theUnited States.
“More than 50,000 men fell as casualties (men listed as killed,wounded, or missing/captured),” a scale of suffering never seen before or sinceon American soil (“The Battle of Gettysburg Summary & Facts”).According to many historians, Gettysburg was the turning point of the AmericanCivil War. It was the Confederacy’s best chance to achieve victory, and itbreathed new life into the Union war effort. The Americancivil war took place 150 years ago. The war ripped apart the young country andturned brother against brother. When the American civil war ended it caused thenation to struggle for the next decade to recover from the devastation. The warcaused a wealthy class to lose their stranglehold over the southern economy andended politics being swayed by whether you were pro or anti-slavery.
The war causedthe death of over 620,000 men, around 2% of the population. The American civilwar is worth remembering, even today. It is worth remembering because it shapedthe identity of who Americans are today. Each battle in the Civil War playedtheir significant part toward the outcome of the war. Certain battles played alarger role than others.
Gettysburgand Antietam were important battles that influenced general strategy, morale,and death toll that would lead to a Union victory.