The Tide Turns

A New War for Freedom | Winning the West | Lee's Assurance | Confederates Move North | Devastated | The Raider | Opening up the Deep South | Dissent | A Reminder

In 1863, the war shifted toward a Union victory. The Emancipation Proclamation turned the Northern war against slavery and strengthened the Union military by allowing black soldiers to enlist. At Gettysburg, the Union defeated General Lee’s invading army. The rest of the war was fought in the South.

Despite these gains, morale declined on the Northern home front. Many civilians opposed emancipation, and Lincoln faced a difficult battle for support at home.

A New War for Freedom


On January 1, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all slaves in rebellious territory forever free. The Proclamation gave new moral force to the Union war effort, although it did not free slaves in Northern border states or in Confederate territory already under Union control. (Library of Congress)


On May 22, The War Department created the United States Colored Troops with General Order No. 143. 180,000 African Americans joined to fight for the destruction of slavery. (National Archives)

Winning the West

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On January 2, Union General William Rosecrans clashed with Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at Stones River. The next day, the Union claimed a key strategic victory in the first battle of 1863. (Library of Congress)

Grierson's Raid
From April 17 to May 2, Colonel Benjamin Grierson and 1,700 Union cavalry-men ransacked the Confederate countryside in a raid that extended from Tennessee to Louisiana. Grierson’s 600-mile ride helped General Ulysses S. Grant in his campaign against Vicksburg, Mississippi. (Library of Congress)

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On May 19th, General Grant launched the first assault in a two-month siege on Vicksburg. On July 4th, Confederate General John Pemberton surrendered the city, splitting the Confederacy in half. Vicksburg cemented Grant’s reputation as an effective and capable leader. (Library of Congress)

Vicksburg diary
The siege took a tremendous toll on the civilians in Vicksburg. Mary Ann Loughborough described hearing the “shriek of death itself,” as she and her family sought shelter in a cave during the battle. (Library of Congress)

Lee's Assurance

On April 30, 1863, General Lee and Stonewall Jackson planned to attack Union General Hooker’s army, on the banks of the Rappahannock. At the battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson snuck 30,000 Confederate soldiers around Union forces to attack Hooker’s right flank.  (Library of Congress)

Stonewall Jackson
Jackson’s maneuver secured a major victory for the Confederacy, convincing Lee that his men were ready to invade the North. Jackson, however, was mortally wounded, and died on May 10, 1863. (Library of Congress)

Confederates Move North


Lee’s men invaded Pennsylvania in June of 1863. Lee was convinced that a major victory on Northern soil would demoralize Northern civilians and potentially end the war. Union General George Meade and his men pursued the Confederates, and the two armies met outside the small town of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.  (Library of Congress)

Pickett's Charge
Over 100,000 soldiers fought at Gettysburg—the costliest battle of the Civil War. After three bloody but indecisive days, the tide turned toward Northern victory, when General George Pickett led 12,000 Confederate soldiers in a failed charge on Union lines.


Dead at Gettysburg

By the end of the battle on July 4, more than 51,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were missing, wounded, or dead. General Lee began his retreat to Virginia. (Library of Congress)

Dead at Gettysburg

Alexander Gardner captured this photograph of a fallen soldier several days after the battle ended. Images of dead soldiers, printed in Northern newspapers, brought the war home for many civilians. (Library of Congress)

The Raider

General Morgan, the Raider
Even as battles raged at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, Confederate Brigadier General John Morgan captured the attention of the nation. From June 11 to July 26, Morgan led a 1,000-mile cavalry raid across Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio, terrorizing Northern civilians and capturing approximately 6,000 Union soldiers before he was defeated. (Library of Congress)

Opening up the Deep South

Fort Wagner
Two weeks after Gettysburg, the Massachusetts 54th, a regiment of free black men, led the assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina. The 54th faced devastating artillery and musket fire, and fought hand-to-hand with Confederate soldiers. Although the assault failed, the courage and sacrifices of these soldiers advanced the fight for black freedom and citizenship.  (Library of Congress)


On September 19, Union forces battled General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate soldiers by the Chickamauga creek in Georgia. Confederate reinforcements under General James Longstreet drove Union men back to Chattanooga, where they remained under siege until late November. (Library of Congress)


With reinforcements from Grant, the Federals began fighting their way out of Chattanooga on November 23. After two days, they forced a Confederate withdrawal that opened up the Deep South to Union invasion. (Library of Congress)


Draft Officer and Lottery Box
The Northern Congress responded to the military’s rising demand for recruits by passing the Conscription Act on March 3, 1863. The law created quotas of soldiers for each congressional district. This image shows a draft officer drawing names from a lottery box. (Library of Congress)

Substitute cartoon
The Conscription Act allowed men to escape the draft by purchasing a substitute for $300. This became a hated policy among men who could not afford the fee. (Library of Congress)

Draft riots
On July 13, mob violence exploded in New York City as thousands of working people gathered to protest the draft. Rioters destroyed the draft office, attacked the New York Times headquarters, and looted and burned an African American orphanage. The riots remain the bloodiest civil insurrection in American history. (Library of Congress)

Habeas Corpus cartoon
Lincoln worked with Congress to repress civilian opposition. On September 15, Congress granted Lincoln wide latitude in suspending the writ of habeas corpus, which guarantees that citizens who have been arrested will not be unlawfully detained. (Library of Congress)

A Reminder

Gettysburg Address

Lincoln delivered the speech now known as the “Gettysburg Address” at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Military Cemetery, on November 19, 1863. His speech reminded Americans of the “great task remaining before us…that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth." (National Archives)

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