The Civil War turned in favor of the Union in 1863 with victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg.
On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. It only applies to states and territories in the Union, and exempts the four loyal slave states and areas of the South occupied by Federal forces. Later that month, Lincoln replaces Ambrose Burnside as head of the Army of the Potomac with General Joseph Hooker. On January 30, Ulysses S. Grant begins the Vicksburg Campaign, with the goal of taking control of the Mississippi River. In April, Grant moves his troops across the river and on May 1 he defeats Confederate forces at Port Gibson, Mississippi.
In the East, the South continues to find success. Lee defeats Hooker at the Battle of Chancellorsville, and both sides suffer more than 10,000 casualties. But there is one casualty that stands out for the Confederacy. In his zeal to pursue the Union forces after sunset, Stonewall Jackson is accidentally shot by his own men. The injuries cost his him arm, and then his own life when he develops pneumonia and dies soon after.
In Ohio, Copperhead leader Clement Vallandigham is arrested on May 2. Later, he is courtmartialled. His sentence is commuted and President Lincoln banishes him.
On May 14, 1863, Jackson, Mississippi falls to Union forces under the command of Ohioans William T. Sherman and James B. McPherson. On the 16th and 17th, Grant claims victories at Champion Hill and Big Black River Bridge. These were the final battles of the Vicksburg Campaign. On May 22, the Seige of Vicksburg began. The Seige continues through early July and ends on the 4th when Grant demands “immediate and unconditional surrender.” 29,000 Confederate troops under the command of John C. Pemberton surrender, giving control of the Mississippi River to the Union.
Meanwhile, in the East, Robert E. Lee devised a plan for a second invasion of the North — the Gettysburg Campaign. On June 24, he takes his army back across the Potomac at Harper’s Ferry and heads towards Gettysburg. The following day, Joseph Hooker resigns his command due to conflicts with Henry Halleck. General George G. Meade is named as his replacement. A week later, Confederate and Union forces stream into the small town of Gettysburg. They fight in and around the town on the various ridges and hills for three days. On the first day of fighting, Condeferate troops drive the Union forces back, but fail to capture strong defensive positions. Meade arrives on the second day of the battle, which sees the Union hold positions on the right and left flanks, including the legendary bayonet charge of the 20th Maine down Little Round Top. On the third day, Lee, determined to break the Union line, orders troops to march from Seminary Ridge across a field to the Union positions on Cemetery Ridge. The field is nearly a mile wide. The Conderates advance begins late in the afternoon, they are cut to pieces as they cross the field, but are able to reach the Union positions, briefly, before they are repulsed near a small cluster of trees and an angled stone wall on Cemetery Ridge. This attack, known as Pickett’s Charge, culminates in the “High Water Mark of the Confederacy.”
Between Vicksburg in the West and Gettysburg in the East, it was indeed the beginning of the end of the Confederacy, but they would fight on for two more years. Shortly after Vicksburg, Port Hudson, Mississippi surrenders. Despite the success, anti-war sentiment in the North boils over in rage against the Union Conscription Act. Riots break out in New York, people pillage homes and lynch blacks before the riots are put down by Federal troops after four days.
In September, Confederate Braxton Bragg evacuates Chattanooga, a vital rail center for the Southern supply chain. Federal troops under the command of Ohioan William S. Rosecrans occupy the city. Then, on September 19th, the Battle of Chickamauga commences between the forces of Rosecrans and Bragg. On the second day of fighting, Union troops under the command of George H. Thomas make a stand, preventing a rout and enabling the Federal army to withdraw to Chattanooga. On October 16, Lincoln makes the decision to put Grant in charge of all Union forces in the West, and he replaces Rosecrans with Thomas in Chattanooga.
As winter fell, the national cemetery at Gettysburg was dedicated. It was there on November 19, 1863 that President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. In less than two minutes, he delivers one of the most important speeches, perhaps the most important, in American history. Less than a week later, the Union armies under Grant’s leadership attacked Confederate forces on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, sweeping the Confederate troops away from Chattanooga. The South was now split vertically and the Union army could plan an advance through Georgia and attempt to split the Confederacy horizontally.