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By telling the Gettysburg story from Federal and Rebel perspectives, Shaara forces the reader to be sympathetic and apprehensive to both sides. For example, during the Longstreet chapters the Confederate forces are the protagonists and the Union forces are the antagonists.
The Union wins the Battle at Gettysburg when Pickett’s charge fails. Lee’s plan for a massed assault to break the Union line’s center is a disaster because Lee does not sufficiently take into consideration the new instruments of war (the long distance rifle, canister, etc) and the power of a strong defensive position.
Gettysburg marks the end of the South’s second and final attempt to invade the North. Lee retreats to defend Virginia, where he will be slowly battered down over the next two years. Gettysburg marks the turning point in the Civil War, and paired with Vicksburg it tipped the scales heavily in the Union’s favor. The Union victory in 1865 means the reunification of the United States and the end of slavery therein. On the cultural front, the "new aristocracy" of merchants replaces the Old World gentry that had formerly reigned in the South as urbanization and industrialization swept the former Confederate states.