The historic battle of Gettysburg in the summer of 1863 pretty well ended the Civil War in favor of the Union is a perception held by many Americans today. However, Dr. Gary Gallagher, who has served as a professor at the University of Virginia and the University of Texas, said tonight at the Wichita Falls Civil War Roundtable meeting that the North was in greater danger of losing the war a year later during the summer of 1864 rather than right after Gettysburg.
Gallagher's comments were made during the September Civil War Roundtable meeting tonight, Wednesday, Sept. 25 in Wichita Falls, Texas.
"The public was getting disenchanted in the North with the lack of a clearcut victory by the summer of 1864. During a one-month stretch of brutal fighting the Union suffered 60,000 fatalities and the Confederates suffered 30,000 deaths," according to Dr. Gallagher, who is one of America's pre-eminent experts of the Civil War.
"It was a period of continuous fighting during August of 1864 with General Ulysses Grant losing 2,000 men everyday and General Robert E. Lee losing 1,000 soldiers everyday. Proportionately, those losses were devastating to the South because they had a much smaller army to begin with," the acclaimed professor said.
"General Grant knew the public was tired of the war and many people were thinking the killing should stop and a truce should be reached with the South being allowed to leave the Union. That is why Grant picked up the pace of the fighting during this timeframe to try and achieve a conclusive victory," Gallagher further said.
Cold Harbor was one of the bloodiest battles during this time during which Grant threw the full force of his army at Lee in an attempt to land a knockout blow. This attempt failed.
Lee, on the other hand, was hampered by poor health during this critical time in the war. Gallagher said had Stonewall Jackson been alive at the time Lee would've turned the campaign over to him, and he might have led a counterattack which could've possibly turned the tide of the war. However, Jackson had mistakenly been killed by one of his own snipers and was no longer available as Lee's right hand man. Gallagher said Lee's health is thought by some to have been a factor at Gettysburg as some observers have speculated he suffered a heart attack which affected his judgment during that titanic struggle and particularly Pickett's Charge.
Jack Hill, head of the Civil War chapter, confirmed that most people today believe Gettysburg was pretty much the end of the war while in reality the North was very vulnerable a year later during the summer campaign of 1864.
Scott Fitts also showed slides of his visit along with wife Sherry Fitts to the Gettysburg Re-enactment on July 4, 2013 during the meeting Wednesday night at Jack Hill's home.
Fitts also showed pictures of Thomas Jefferson's home Monticello which he and his wife also visited.
"The house was built to include four stories with about 20,000 square feet," Fitts explained to the group tonight.
The Fitts' family also visited President Monroe's and President Madison's homes during their summer trip.
Wichita Falls members of the group who attended the Gettysburg Re-enactment this summer include Ronnie Hicks, Bob Hampton, Scott and Sherry Fitts and Jack Hill and Carolyn Hill. Wichita Falls dentist Glen Beck also participated at Gettysburg by firing his cannon.
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