Did the Battle of Gettysburg Matter?

We are coming up on the 151st anniversary of what is recognized as one of the most important battles in U.S. History. Brooks Simpson posed a couple of questions about the battle on his blog.  Check out his blog and take a crack at answering when you get the chance. Following his model, I would like to pose some questions of my own just for fun. 

  1. Which was more important, Vicksburg or Gettysburg?
  2. Given the victory at Vicksburg, does a Union defeat at Gettysburg really matter?

Have fun and play nice. 😉

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5 thoughts on “Did the Battle of Gettysburg Matter?

  1. I think Gettysburg was the more important political victory. It happens just a few weeks after the disaster of Chancellorsville, and because of an invasion of the North. A Union loss there, coming on the heels of Fredericksburg and C’ville would have rendered the Northern public more despondent than they already were. Even from a purely military POV, I think G’burg is more important, because if the AoP is defeated there, Lee has the initiative while he’s in Pennsylvania! Nothing good can come of that.

    1. I wonder how much Lee could have done with the initiative. Confederates were hard pressed for food already, and it is unlikely “Total destruction” of the AoP could have been achieved. You make some good, definite points about the political victory though. I usually teach Gettysburg as a victory with more political value than anything.

      I am also left to wonder, how would Lee react to the news of Vicksburg falling? Could he really have kept pressure on D.C. knowing that the West was collapsing?

      1. I agree–there’s no annihilating the AoP. But I think Lee would have sensed the need to press all the harder, had he heard of Vicksburg after he’d won at G’burg. Prof. Gallagher urges us to see Lee as a nationalist; I think he would have taken stock of the national implications of these two battles, and done all he could to politically counter Grant’s victory.

  2. Vicksburg was more important strategically, but Christopher is correct about the political impact of Gettysburg, which was practically in Washington’s back yard — a clear loss there could have so undermined the North’s commitment to the long struggle that it rendered the victories at Vicksburg and Port Hudson irrelevant.

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