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PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2021 8:49 am 
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Well, I'd have to say that Gettysburg was decisive because:

1. ANV offensive capability was destroyed, hence the long drawn out ANV defensive campaigns that followed (Early in 1864 being the exception)

2. The cream of the ANV tactical leadership was essentially destroyed; having already suffered 1/3 losses at Chancellorsville roughly a month earlier.

3. The ANV suffered losses that could not be made good with the South's limited manpower pool of 1863 and beyond. Witness the 3rd CSA Conscription Act (February 17, 1864) which changed inclusive ages to from 17 to 50 and service period to unlimited. Also, on 13 March, 1865 the Confederate Congress authorized President Jefferson Davis to recruit up to 300,000 black troops... given the CSA's [criminally flawed] racial ideology, if that's not desperation for manpower I don't know what is.

4. The "Myth of Invincibility" that had grown up around Lee and the ANV was shattered (Lee had [rightly so] blamed Antietam on the lost orders). This greatly benefitted Union morale and caused a storm of bad press in the South against Lee.

5. Lee's own confidence may have turned. Shortly after the battle, he privately offered his resignation to Jefferson Davis, writing “I have been prompted by these reflections more than once since my return from Pennsylvania to propose to Your Excellency the propriety of selecting another commander for this army… No one is more aware than myself of my inability for the duties of my position. I cannot even accomplish what I myself desire… I, therefore, in all sincerity, request your Excellency to take measure to supply my place.” Davis denied the request of course.

Admittedly, 1,2, and 3 are hindsight. And in fact the notion of Gettysburg as "the turning point" is a retrospective view as well. However, 4 and 5 were contemporary assessments.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2021 2:16 pm 
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Just to keep playing devil's advocate and keep the debate going...

... did Gettysburg disrupt Lee's offensive power/plans?

Longstreet's detachment to Tennessee in late 1863 seems to have put an obvious end to Lee's offensive capacity. With 1/3 of his army detached there was little he could do except parry any thrusts by the Army of the Potomac (Mine Run) and await Longstreet's return.

Further, Lee didn't just wait for Grant to call the shots in the Overland Campaign, he attacked him viciously and successfully in the Wilderness just as Longstreet returned.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 22, 2021 9:45 am 
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I think it matters as a psychological turning point more than a military one. Lee was never going to capture Philadelphia or Washington and that wasn't even the plan. He hoped to defeat Hooker in the north and sue for peace but failed. Even if defeated the Union would not have accepted an armistice the day after Vicksburg fell. Turning back Lee was a morale boost to the Army of the Potomac and matters just for that.

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