The Battle of Fredericksburg (Virginia)
In November 1862, Major General Ambrose Burnside replaced Major General McClellan as the commander of the Army of the Potomac.
The Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862 involved nearly 200,000 combatants. Burnside led his more than 120,000 troops across the Rappahannock River, where they did a two-prong attack on the right and left flanks of Lee's 80,000 men army. On both ends, Lee's men turned back the Union assault with heavy casualties.
The Battle of Fredericksburg was a crushing defeat for the Union, and the Union morale plummeted. Burnside accepted blame for the defeat. The Battle led to an increase in morale for the Confederates.
Battle of Shiloh (Tennessee)
On April 6, 1863, 40,000 Confederate soldiers under the command of General Albert Sidney Johnston poured out of nearby woods and struck a line of Union soldiers occupying ground near Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. The Union army was unprepared for the attack, but managed to wound Johnston. General Ulysses S. Grant, who commanded the Union army, received reinforcements and was able to overpower the Confederate forces, causing them to retreat.
The casualty totals of the Battle of Shiloh shocked Americans both North and South, with the two-day total exceeding that of all previous wars combined.
Battle of Vicksburg (Mississippi)
From the spring of 1862 until July 1863, Union forces were waging a campaign to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, a Confederate stronghold on the east bank of the Mississippi River, with Memphis to the north and New Orleans to the south. If they were successful, the Union would capture Vicksburg and divide the Confederacy.
The Battle of Vicksburg was the second attempt to capture the city. The battle occurred on both and water. In early May, General Grant moved his Union troops down the west bank of the Mississippi River opposite Vicksburg, crossed back, and drove toward the city of Jackson (Mississippi's capital) while Admiral David Porter ran his flotilla past Vicksburg.
On May 16th, General Grant defeated a Confederate force under General John Pemberton at Champion Hill. Pemberton retreated to Vicksburg, and the Union troops had captured it by the end of May.
Grant and his 70,000 troops were successful in part because Pemberton was unable to get reinforcements. The siege of Vicksburg was so bad that residents of the city left and occupied tunnels and caves dug out from the hillsides to escape the constant bombardment.
Pemberton surrendered on July 4, 1963, and the city of Vicksburg wouldn't celebrate Independence Day for 81 years.
Battle of Gettysburg
When it comes to the Civil War, no battle is more renowned than the Battle of Gettysburg. This was the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on the North American continent and was the turning point of the Civil War.
The Battle of Gettysburg, fought from July 1-3, 1863, is considered the most important engagement of the Civil War.
After another victory in the South, Confederate General Robert E. Lee marched his Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania. On July 1st, the advancing Confederate clashed with the Union's Army of the Potomac, now commanded by General George Meade, at the town of Gettysburg. On July 2nd, the Confederates attacked the Union troops on both the left and right. On July 3rd, Lee ordered an attack on the Union's center at Cemetery Ridge. The assault, known as Pickett's Charge. managed to pierce the Union lines but ultimately failed. Lee was forced to withdraw his army toward Virginia on July 4th.
Gettysburg was a crushing defeat for the Confederacy. Union casualties numbered 23,000 to the Confederate's 28,000 (more than one-third of Lee's army). The failure of the Confederacy to "win" in Antietam and Gettysburg ruined any chance they had for foreign aid.
The Gettysburg Address was, is, the most famous speech in American history. Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, four months after the battle, at the dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery in Gettysburg.
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate-we cannot consecrate-we cannot hollow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. 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 measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead should not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that a government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."
This is where I'm going to stop today. Join me next time for part III, where we'll be finishing up the Civil War.