In what ways did the Battle of Gettysburg change the Civil War?
In May 1863 the Confederate army scored a major victory at Chancellorsville, Virginia. The victory proved costly, though, because it resulted in the death of Gen. Stonewall Jackson, one of Lee's bravest and most capable generals.
Lee decided that the Confederates must demonstrate that they could not only defend the South but could also invade the North. He laid plans to move northward into Pennsylvania, then sweep eastward toward Washington. On July 1-3, 1863, Lee's army of 75,000 soldiers met 90,000 U.S. troops at Gettysburg, a small town in Pennsylvania. The third day of fighting proved decisive, and for the Confederates, disastrous. In a rare blunder known as Pickett's Charge, Lee ordered his troops to assault Union forces who were entrenched on higher ground. When the Battle of Gettysburg was over, 25,000 men, one third of Lee's army, had been killed or wounded. The Confederates retreated south to Virginia and would never again invade the North.
On July 4,1863, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant captured Vicksburg, Mississippi, after a brutal siege that lasted six weeks and reduced the town's residents to starvation. The Union had gained control of the Mississippi River, cutting the Confederacy in two. From a military viewpoint, Gettysburg and Vicksburg were the war's turning points.
In November 1863 President Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg to dedicate a cemetery for the soldiers who died there. In a speech of only 272 words, the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln declared poetically that the war was fought not merely to hold the Union together, but to reaffirm America's commitment to equality for all its citizens. Just as the battle was a military turning point, the address provided a philosophical turning point. The speech declared that the war's purpose was to save and extend the American experiment in democratic government.