The Door of the War Closed and Opened to Tragedy

The Battle at Gettysburg is considered a turning point in the Civil War because the Confederacy was basically bankrupt of supplies and had to go to the North in search of supplies.  General Robert E. Lee led his army to the North and the Confederacy desperately needed the victory because of their lack of supplies.  The map below shows the battle campaigns of the Confederacy and the Union.  Although the Confederacy had many of their battle campaigns in the South, General E. Lee led the army to the North; the Confederate campaign is shown in the North.  The Battle at Gettysburg was considered a turning point in the Civil War because the Confederacy lost a lot of people and the Union won.  The Gettysburg Address gave the war a new, emotional meaning because soldiers were no longer just fighting for the sake of winning, but were fighting for the freedom of slaves.  Lincoln wrote that, “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom…” (The Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863).  Lincoln spoke about setting goals and the new, emotional purpose that the war now held.


Source: Map created from various sources

It was acceptable for Grant, Sheridan, and Sherman to conduct a total war campaign in the Confederacy because it ultimately kept the war going and had an intentional purpose.  It was justified for the tactic of a siege to be used on the Shenandoah Valley because it kept the war progressing, shut out all the supplies emerging from that territory, and surrounded the Confederacy in the anaconda plan.  Grant “told General Phil Sheridan, “Do all the damage to railroads and crops you can…. If the war is to last another year, we want the Shenandoah Valley to remain a barren waste.” Sheridan carried out these orders to the letter. In the fall of 1864 he wrote Grant: “The people here are getting sick of the war.” Grant answered: “Keep on, and your good work will cause the fall of Richmond.” (America: Pathways to the Present. Chapter 11, Sections 3 and 4. (Accessed April 28th, 2014).  Although Sheridan’s actions were cruel, it caused the people of the South to tire of the war.  Since people were deprived of their usual necessities, they could not feel a desire to continue the war and fight because they were in need of food, water, and shelter.  The siege ultimately helped the Union, I think it as justified because the total war depleted the Confederate army of the necessities it needed to continue.

The nation reacted to the end of the Civil War in many different ways.  The citizens of Washington D.C were overjoyed and ecstatic whereas Lincoln was completely exhausted yet relieved.  The Confederate soldiers were disappointed, but still tried to honor Lee.  Although the Confederate soldiers were disappointed in their loss, they were also relieved because an end to their suffering had finally come.  Union soldiers were overjoyed at their victory, but remained respectful towards the Confederate soldiers.  To the nation’s despair, Lincoln was assassinated on April 14th, 1865.  Below is an announcement declaring a reward for the murderer.  This document shows how the nation reacted very angrily towards the murderer because of the love they had for President Lincoln.



Abraham Lincoln Papers. Library of Congress Manuscript Division and Lincoln Studies Center,

Knox College (accessed March 10, 2011)


Freedom from Below yet granted from Above

Enslaved Americans became free due to their own efforts and the help of President Abraham Lincoln.  Although enslaved Americans who lived in states that rebelled against the Union were granted freedom by Lincoln in the Emancipation Proclamation, their actions caused Lincoln to do this.  Freedom came from mainly below, but freedom came from above as well.  Freedom came from below because of the slaves actions.  Slaves in the south were a nuisance for the army and for Congress.  At first, Lincoln could not free slaves because he was scared that the Border States would secede and generals would give up.   Lincoln replied to the open letter by Horace Greely in the New York Tribune, “In this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union…” (Excerpt from President Abraham Lincoln’s Reply to an Open Letter from Horace Greeley, New York Tribune, 1862).  Lincoln was focused on what would benefit the Union, although he personally wanted slaves to be free, he needed to focus on what would be most beneficial for the Union.  In the Ken Burns Video, Lincoln recommends that slaves go to Africa because they could be captured while escaping to the North.  Many of Lincoln’s actions were caused by what the fugitive slaves did.  Slaves in the South camped with Union armies because they wanted to be freed by them; the Union armies then had to provide for these slaves.

The slaves were an overall nuisance to the government and caused Lincoln to act.  Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in states that rebelled against the Union.  The Emancipation Proclamation was issued to keep the union together and give a moral purpose to the Civil War.  Suddenly, over 10,000 former slaves were freed from the chains of slavery.  Although most freedom came from the slaves efforts, Lincoln put their dreams into action with this proclamation.  Lincoln wrote, “whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom…” (The Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863, Excerpts).  The Emancipation Proclamation completely turned the course of the Civil War around.  It allowed slaves in the South to be free and gave the war an emotional aspect.  This is because the war transformed into a fight for freedom and the triumph of the Confederacy would mean that evil won.

Lincoln was impacted to a great extent by the slaves actions, although he was also focused on what would benefit the Union.  In Lincoln’s Second Inaugrual Address he wrote that, “These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than restrict the territorial enlargement of it.”( President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865 (Excerpts).  Lincoln knows that the slaves were the main cause of the war.  He was impacted by their actions and although he personally wanted every man to be free, he had to act based on what would be best for the Union and what would lead the Union to victory.
Below is a picture entitled “Slaves from the plantation of Confederate President Jefferson Davis arrive at Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi”.  It depicts slaves arriving at the Chickasaw Bayou after the Union had taken over that part of Mississippi.  The portrait represents freedom from below and above.  Freedom was given from above when the Union freed slaves in that part of Mississippi, but the former slaves took action and are leaving the plantations they worked on before.  As shown in the picture, the Union soldiers are not doing anything and the former slaves are travelling together in a large mass, away from their lives as slaves.


In the end, Lincoln issued freedom to enslaved Americans in the rebelling states, but this was only because of the slaves’ actions.