Greetings Cosmic Americans!
Gettysburg, my place of residence for the next few days, is a wonderful place to contemplate turning points. Not because I believe the battlefield represents one (or the, as it were), but precisely because the field persists as the culmination of the Confederate war effort in public memory - as the turning point of the Civil War.
I find this troubling primarily because nobody thought this in July 1863. The "high water mark" is a post war construction - written into history by those looking retrospectively for the exact moment when the Rebel cause came at last crashing down...never to rise again. I suppose if you tilt your head to the side, squint, and ignore 1864 entirely, you might arrive at a similar conclusion. But even then the logic is more than slightly flawed.
It might be instructive at this juncture to provide my definition of Civil War turning points - so as not to ruffle too many "high water mark" feathers. A turning point represents a contemporary sea change in opinion, attitude, strategy, or tactics. The battle of Gettysburg does not suggest this to me - nor did it suggest it to the soldiers who fought there (for the most part).
As part of the Civil War Institute Conference, I will be speaking on - and leading a discussion about - turning points in 1862. My talk, titled - strangely enough, 1862: A Year of Turning Points, will cover topics from Ironclads to Emancipation...but not the Battle of Gettysburg There is also an analytical component to the talk that might surprise the audience. I do not want to give away too much before the fact, so I will save the slam dunk for the debriefing next week.
Until then - be sure to follow the Civil War Institute Twitter feed at #cwi1862 and as always - Peace,