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What is the significance of the Battle of Gettysburg?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As said in the other answer, and as is overwhelmingly agreed upon by historians, the Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point in the Civil War. After that battle, the South had no hope of winning the war.

General Lee attacked in Gettysburg on July 1, 1863 with the plan of destroying the Union army in one decisive blow. Instead, his army was badly defeated and suffered extreme casualties. He was able to successfully manage the retreat of what was left of his army, but that did the South little good.

Southern leaders knew from the start that they had to win quick and decisive victories if they wanted to succeed in breaking away from the United States to form their own country. They hoped showing that they were strong fighters would bring England to their side, especially as the English cotton mills relied on Southern cotton. Without the English, the South had almost no industrial capacity to fall back on: almost all the factories were in the North.

The English stayed out of the conflict, which meant the South was almost certainly going to lose sooner or later. The Battle of Gettysburg simply brought that conclusion all the closer.

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larrygates eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Battle of Gettysburg is considered the turning point in the war, and the point at which the outcome was inevitable. General Robert E. Lee had previously invaded the North in hopes of securing recognition from England and France for the Confederacy; but was defeated at the battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg.) He invaded the North again after a successful campaign at Shenandoah in hopes of bringing pressure on Northern politicians to end the war on favorable terms. During the final days of the battle, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens approached the lines under a flag of truce, presumably to discuss prisoner exchanges; although there is some speculation he may have also hoped to discuss peace. However, after word of the Union victory, President Abraham Lincoln refused to allow Stephens to cross Union lines.  The battle destroyed any hope of aa Confederate victory, let alone recognition from Europe. Henry Adams, son of John Quincy Adams, commented after the battle:

The disasters of the rebels are unredeemed by even any hope of success. It is now conceded that all idea of intervention is at an end.

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