Initial Major Turning Point of the Civil War

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Initial Major Turning Point of the Civil War

 

History

 

The initial turning point of the Civil War was which battle or event?
That is eventually a question asked to anyone who has studied the Civil War. What was the initial turning point of the Civil War, was it the First Battle of Manassas, the Emancipation Proclamation, or some other event? Because the answer has varied since the war was fought some 150 years ago, let us review the history of what is believed to be the first major turning point of the Civil War.

 

First Battle of Manassas: A Major Turning Point?

Many historians refer to the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) as the initial major turning point of the American Civil War, while the writer does not espouse that view. The Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865, but both the North and South had taken some strong measures to prepare and ready for war by 1859 and two years prior to the first shots.

 

While the First Battle of Manassas indicated that any notion of a "90 Day War" was incorrect and that a prolonged war was inevitable, some individuals had previously embraced the "prolonged war concept."

 

Governor Sam Houston of Texas in 1860 and 4 years prior to Civil War:

Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives you may win Southern independence, but I doubt it. The North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche.

 

General Robert Edward Lee prior to the American Civil War:

If it comes to a conflict of arms, the war will last at least four years. Northern politicians do not appreciate the determination and pluck of the South, and Southern politicians do not appreciate the numbers, resources, and patient perseverance of the North. Both sides forget that we are all Americans. I foresee that our country will pass through a terrible ordeal, a necessary expiation, perhaps, for our national sins.

 

As early at 1859 the Southern states accelerated their acquisition of arms and munitions in anticipation of war, because, while the masses believed and hoped for a short war, most Southern governors, military officers, senators, and congressmen understood that a protracted conflict was looming and therefore made preparations. In North Carolina, for example, James Green Martin (later Confederate brigadier general) met with the governor prior to hostilities and began organizing a State military and recruiting blockade runners in anticipation of a protracted conflict. The North already enjoyed a robust warmaking capability prior to Civil War, including the nation's major shipyards. The Northern states held  the advantage by hosting most of the nation's factories, too, which manufactured from arms to munitions. When signaled to mass produce firearms, for example, the Northern juggernaut simply transitioned its economy and ramped its existing facilities to a wartime economy which would soon be known for manufacturing at a pace and scale unseen in the Northern Hemisphere.

(See related reading below.)

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Recommended Reading: Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War, by Edwin C. Bearss (Author), James McPherson (Introduction). Description: Bearss, a former chief historian of the National Parks Service and internationally recognized American Civil War historian, chronicles 14 crucial battles, including Fort Sumter, Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Sherman's march through the Carolinas, and Appomattox--the battles ranging between 1861 and 1865; included is an introductory chapter describing John Brown's raid in October 1859. Continued below...

Bearss describes the terrain, tactics, strategies, personalities, the soldiers and the commanders. (He personalizes the generals and politicians, sergeants and privates.) The text is augmented by 80 black-and-white photographs and 19 maps. It is like touring the battlefields without leaving home. A must for every one of America's countless Civil War buffs, this major work will stand as an important reference and enduring legacy of a great historian for generations to come. Also available in hardcover: Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War.
 

Recommended Reading: Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam (Pivotal Moments in American History) (Hardcover). Description: The bloodiest day in United States history was September 17, 1862, when, during the Civil War battle at Antietam, approximately 6,500 soldiers were killed or mortally wounded, while more than 15,000 were seriously wounded. James M. McPherson states in Crossroads of Freedom the concise chronicle of America’s bloodiest day and that it may well have been the pivotal moment of the war, as well as the young republic itself. Continued below...

The South, after a series of setbacks in the spring of 1862, had reversed the war's momentum during the summer, and was on the "brink of military victory" and about to achieve diplomatic recognition by European nations, most notably England and France. Though the bulk of his book concerns itself with the details--and incredible carnage--of the battle, McPherson raises it above typical military histories by placing it in its socio-political context: The victory prodded Abraham Lincoln to announce his "preliminary" Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves. England and France deferred their economic alliance with the battered secessionists. Most importantly, it kept Lincoln's party, the Republicans, in control of Congress. McPherson's account is accessible, elegant, and economical. Also available in paperback: Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam (Pivotal Moments in American History)

 

Recommended Reading: The Antietam Campaign (Military Campaigns of the Civil War). Description: The Maryland campaign of September 1862 ranks among the most important military operations of the American Civil War. Crucial political, diplomatic, and military issues were at stake as Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan maneuvered and fought in the western part of the state. The climactic clash came on September 17 at the battle of Antietam, where more than 23,000 men fell in the single bloodiest day of the war. Continued below...

Approaching topics related to Lee's and McClellan's operations from a variety of perspectives, numerous contributors to this volume explore questions regarding military leadership, strategy, and tactics, the impact of the fighting on officers and soldiers in both armies, and the ways in which participants and people behind the lines interpreted and remembered the campaign. They also discuss the performance of untried military units and offer a look at how the United States Army used the Antietam battlefield as an outdoor classroom for its officers in the early twentieth century. Also available in paperback: The Antietam Campaign (Military Campaigns of the Civil War)

 

Recommended Reading: The Civil War Battlefield Guide: The Definitive Guide, Completely Revised, with New Maps and More Than 300 Additional Battles (Second Edition) (Hardcover). Description: This new edition of the definitive guide to Civil War battlefields is really a completely new book. While the first edition covered 60 major battlefields, from Fort Sumter to Appomattox, the second covers all of the 384 designated as the "principal battlefields" in the American Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report. Continued below...

As in the first edition, the essays are authoritative and concise, written by such leading Civil War historians as James M. McPherson, Stephen W. Sears, Edwin C. Bearss, James I. Robinson, Jr., and Gary W. Gallager. The second edition also features 83 new four-color maps covering the most important battles. The Civil War Battlefield Guide is an essential reference for anyone interested in the Civil War. "Reading this book is like being at the bloodiest battles of the war..."
 

Recommended Reading: The Fighting Men of the Civil War, by William C. Davis (Author), Russ A. Pritchard (Author). Description: "A must for any Civil War library!" The sweeping histories of the War Between the States often overlook the men in whose blood that history was written. This account goes a long way toward redressing the balance in favor of the men in the ranks. The reader follows the soldiers from enlistment and training to campaigning. Attention is also given to oft-forgotten groups such as the sailors and black troops. Continued below...

No effort has been spared to include rare war era photographs and color photos of rare artifacts. Engagingly written by William C. Davis, the author of more than thirty books on the American Civil War. Award winning author and historian James M. McPherson states: "The most readable, authoritative, and beautifully designed illustrated history of the American Civil War."

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