Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War because it shifted the advantage from the South up to the North, where they maintained their edge and went on to win the war. In the beginning of the war, the South had the momentum, because they had pride for what they were fighting for and they were defending their home turf. But as the war waged on, they were loosing moral, as well supplies. The battle of Gettysburg would have been a huge moral booster for them, seeing as if they had not won a battle in a long time. Also, this battle was taking place in the North, while most of the other battles had been fought in the South. If the South won, they would have been able to bring much needed resources back down to their bases.
Since the North won, the South became devastated. Not only had they not been able to get more supplies, but even their leader, Robert E. Lee, was giving up. In a letter to the president he wrote, “I therefore, in all sincerity, request Your Excellency to take measures to supply my place”. He did not feel as if he was fit for the job anymore, and it showed. To add on to their troubles, the battle of Gettysburg had one of the highest mortality rates for both sides. Both sides had about the same number of people die, but the South did not have enough men to replace the dead. They lost 20,000 to 25,000 men, but only had a total of 1,200,000. Although this was a negative turning point for the South, it was a very positive turning point for the North. Even thought they lost 230, 040 men in the battle, they had in total six million men. This battle also allowed Abraham Lincoln to give the Emancipation Proclamation, which allowed slaves in rebelling states to be free. This boosted moral in the North, and also changed the whole reason of the war. Before, the war was viewed as a war about states rights: the South was upset that the federal government was dictating what individual states could do. Once Lincoln gave his speech, the reason for the war switched to being about slavery. This speech did not cause the end of the war, though. Lincoln and his army needed to find a way to completely end it, and the way they did was through a strategy called “total war”.
“Total war” is when an army goes all in to completely deplete the resources of their opponents. This even includes going after civilians, which is where the controversy comes in. Some view it as excessive, and aggressive to attack the innocent citizens living in the area. But in this situation of the Civil war, it was acceptable for Grant, Sheridan, and Sherman to conduct a total war campaign in the Confederacy. The war had been going on for much longer than they all had originally thought, and it needed a way to be ended. The quickest way to do this was to take all the South’s resources. They destroyed towns and cities, along with farmland and railroads. This made the Confederates unable to support themselves. Vicksburg, a key city to the Confederacy, was very tough to capture because of its position. The only way it was captured was when the Union went full out on it. It caused many citizens to live in caves, but it did give them complete control of the Mississippi River. Grant told Sherman, “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.”One specific way they destroyed the South was destroying railroads, a tactic known as “Sherman Neckties”. This was when the Union would heat up the railroad, and morph them into shapes so the trains couldn’t travel along them. Along with this, they also slaughtered livestock, and stole crops for themselves. Although an aggressive and devastating tactic, total war lead to the end of the Civil War.
For both sides, the end of the war a big sign of relief. For the North, they were happy that they had won, and that the country was whole once again. And for the South, they were happy simply because it was over and they could stop fighting. The soldiers were especially relieved, because the war had gone on for a lot longer than they thought. When the Northern soldiers celebrated the victory, their general told them to stop, because now the men they had defeated were their countrymen. Although the war separated the country, one side winning brought them back together. This end of the war meant there needed to be a lot of healing and patriotism between the two sides. But for some extremist confederates, the end of the war was devastating because now freed slaves were considered equal. One man, John Wilkes Booth, took it to the extreme and assassinated Lincoln. The assassination created uproar from all places in the United States, and causes citizens to mourn their great leader. The country mourned in may ways for Lincoln, through parades and poems. Lincoln’s death was a sad way to end the Civil War, at a time where the country was finally starting to heal.