How important were Gettysburg and Vicksburg?.
Preceded by two years of bloody and indecisive engagements, the year 1863 is supposed to have seen the turning point of the American Civil War. Although the war went on for two more years, the federal victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg are thought to be at the origin of this turning point. The latter came at the end of a long campaign, while the former was a bloody three-day engagement. .
Why did these battles end the military threat to the North and foreshadow the final surrender of General Lee at Appomatox Court House, in April 1865?.
"Vicksburg is the key. The war can never be brought to a close until the key is in our Pocket", said President Abraham Lincoln. "Vicksburg is the nail head that holds the South's two halves together", said President Jefferson Davis.
Rivers were extremely important to the outcome of the Civil War; a single steamer could carry enough cargo to supply several divisions quite rapidly, while the same transport by land was slower and required wagons, animals and men who also had to be supplied. .
The Mississippi River was the most important of all, the very lifeblood of America. When the southern states seceded, Confederate forces closed the river to navigation, threatening to strangle northern commercial interests. It became imperative for the administration in Washington to regain its control, re-open that important avenue of commerce and allow the rich agricultural produce of the Northwest to reach the world market. By winning control of the River, the Union's objective was also to cut the Confederacy in two, severing a vital supply line and taking an important step towards the completion of the "Anaconda plan" devised by Union General-in-Chief Winfield Scott. The plan was that an effective blockade of Southern ports, combined with a thrust down the Mississippi Valley using a large force and the establishment of a line of strong Federal positions there, would isolate the disorganized rebel nation "and bring it to terms".