The three-day
Battle of Gettysburg saw more casualties than any American wartime event until
World War I. Casualties totaled more than 46,000 on both sides. The Battle
of Antietam was the single bloodiest day of the war, with more than 22,000
total casualties. Both battles were triggered by Confederate invasions of Union
states by General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Both battles
affected and were affected by the morale of the troops. Antietam was considered
a strategic Union victory when Lee’s army retreated back across the Potomac
River. Gettysburg was an overwhelming Union victory, climaxed when Lee’s
monumental thrust against the Union center with 15,000 men was repulsed with
heavy losses. In both cases, the Confederate army had hoped to reach Baltimore
and possibly Washington, D. C.

The first four
hours of fighting, much of it across farmer David Miller’s thirty-acre
cornfield, were indecisive. Next came a series of bloody head-on attacks
against Lee’s center that finally overran the area afterward called Bloody
Lane. The last action of the day was against Lee’s right, where Union troops
pierced 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 12,401
casualties (2108 killed, 9540 wounded, 753 missing and captured) (“The
Battle of Antietam Summary & Facts”). The draw that the Union claimed
as a victory provided the Union the needed morale increase so that the Lincoln
administration had enough justification to issue the preliminary Emancipation
Proclamation. This effectively prevented the British Empire from recognizing
the Confederacy as a legitimate government. This roved one of the Confederacy’s
only hopes of surviving the lengthy war against the North’s suffocating naval
blockade (New York State Library”).

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On September 17,
1862, Generals Robert E. Lee and George McClellan faced off near Antietam creek
in Sharpsburg, Maryland, in the first battle of the American Civil War to be
fought on northern soil. Though McClellan failed to utilize his numerical
superiority to crush Lee’s army, he was able to check the Confederate advance
into the north. The Union had 87,000 soldiers and the Confederate had 45,000
soldiers. After a string of Union defeats, this tactical victory provided
Abraham Lincoln the political cover he needed to issue his Emancipation
Proclamation. Though the result of the battle was inconclusive, it remains the
bloodiest single day in American history, with more than 22,000 casualties
(“The Battle of Antietam Summary & Facts”). The large losses on
both sides lowered morale. It showed on the battlefield and at home. The Battle
of Antietam was the first battle to photographed and showed in newspapers
throughout the country. When photos were taken the photographer staged the
pictures to look like most of the dead were of Confederate soldiers, this
lowered the morale of the southerners more so and boosted up the northerners.

Involving around
105,000 men in the Union’s Army of the Potomac under Major General George
Gordon Meade and approximately 75,000 in the Confederacy’s Army of Northern
Virginia, commanded by General Robert Edward Lee. Casualties at Gettysburg “totaled
23,049 for the Union (3,155 dead, 14,529 wounded, 5,365 missing).” Confederate
casualties were “28,063 (3,903 dead, 18,735 injured, and 5,425 missing),” more
than a third of Lee’s army (“The Battle of Gettysburg Summary &

Since the
Confederates lost, the Union’s strategy was helped, their dedication to the war
effort was aided, the aid that might have come from Britain was swayed, and the
Union’s actions from that point forward were affected. The British were
thinking about helping out the Confederates, even though the Union had a
blockade that was near impossible to bust through.  If the british had
helped, the world as we know it could be very different in that if the
Confederates hadn’t surrendered shortly after the battle then the war could
have raged on for much longer and might have been decided differently. If the
Confederates had the much needed help from the british, then the Union would
possibly been outnumbered, thus meaning the South could have won the war. If
this would have happened, then the United States of America as we know it could
have evolved into something completely different.

Generals Lee’s
goal in the battle of Gettysburg was to draw the Union out in the open and out
maneuver them with better leadership skills. In his arrogance he thought that
since he was a better general a difference of a few thousand men wouldn’t
affect the outcome (McPherson). The Battle of Gettysburg swayed the foreign aid,
from the british, that General Lee was hoping for since he lost miserably to
the 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 served
as a substantial milestone for the Union army. The Union had finally defeated
Lee’s army and put him and his men on the run. This definitely supported the
Union’s major strategy to win the war and also supported the Union’s efforts
over the Confederates because the Confederate troops were demoralized after
that huge bloodbath (Dawes). The Union troops, however, had their spirits
lifted to some extent after the battle. The Battle of Gettysburg changed the
Union’s actions because they were on the offense and Lee had just lost a third
of his army. It changed the Confederate’s action because a short time later
General Lee surrendered the Confederate Army.

The Battle of
Gettysburg was the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought in North America. During the first three days of July 1863, the Union Army
of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia turned a small
town in Southern Pennsylvania into the site of a struggle for the future of the
United 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 since
on American soil (“The Battle of Gettysburg Summary & Facts”).
According to many historians, Gettysburg was the turning point of the American
Civil War. It was the Confederacy’s best chance to achieve victory, and it
breathed new life into the Union war effort.   

    The American
civil war took place 150 years ago. The war ripped apart the young country and
turned brother against brother. When the American civil war ended it caused the
nation to struggle for the next decade to recover from the devastation. The war
caused a wealthy class to lose their stranglehold over the southern economy and
ended politics being swayed by whether you were pro or anti-slavery. The war caused
the death of over 620,000 men, around 2% of the population. The American civil
war is worth remembering, even today. It is worth remembering because it shaped
the identity of who Americans are today. Each battle in the Civil War played
their significant part toward the outcome of the war. Certain battles played a
larger role than others. Gettysburg
and Antietam were important battles that influenced general strategy, morale,
and death toll that would lead to a Union victory.