With Independence Day just one day away, and me unlikely to be near a computer tomorrow, I thought this would be a nice time to put together some brief thoughts about the Civil War and this day, particularly what many see as 2 of the most important battles of the entire war.
In 1863, of course, the 3rd and 4th of July saw the Union gain significant victories at Gettysburg in the east and Vicksburg in the west. Some thought these two battles might signal the approach of the end of the war, but still the fighting continued for almost 2 more years, with hundreds of thousands more casualties to come. And though some do still call Gettysburg the "high water mark of the Confederacy" or the "turning point of the Civil War" I feel that neither is correct, as the fall of 1864, and Sherman's capture of Atlanta was truly the one major turning point after which Confederate victory was highly unlikely.
Regarding the "high water mark" reputation, I guess that is true if you look at it geographically and in terms of how far a major Confederate force penetrated Northern soil, but that high water was soon turned back, so while that is a nice little phrase, I'm not sure how much meaning it truly has.
Gettysburg is truly a legendary battle and name, one that captivates people's attention just by its mention. It was the largest battle in North America, and the sight of the famed Pickett's Charge (or Picket-Pettigrew Charge if you prefer). President Lincoln's speech 4 months later would eventually become legendary itself, adding to the lore of this battle.
Still, the outcome at Vicksburg must not be forgotten. After several months of trying to capture the "Gilbralter of the West" with various schemes resulting only in failure, General Grant finally succeeded in capturing this stronghold and, along with the capture of Port Hudson a short time later, opened the Mississippi River up for trade for the Northwest lands of the Union and split the Confederacy in halves, east and west. Grant's continued determination to capture this city, his creative attempts to reach this goal, and, finally, his campaign and feeding off the land to lay siege to Vicksburg was truly one of the greatest accomplishments of the war. One failure did not mean giving up on the goal, and the unexpected method of living off the land while beating Joe Johnston on one side, then John Pemberton on the other are evidences of General Grant's true abilities to win a campaign. He was more than a mere "butcher."
I hope July 4, 2009 turns out to be an enjoyable and safe weekend and that people will remember what that day is truly about, what the word "sacrifice" means and all those men and women who personified or still personify the term "hero."
God Bless the USA.
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