In an article in the April 2011 issue of Civil War Times, Gary W. Gallagher discusses "The War's Overlooked Turning Points." He concludes that, "Because of its striking reorientation of the strategic situation during the summer of 1862, as well as the long-term consequences of Lee's generalship regarding morale, the possibility of emancipation and the duration of the war, the Seven Days' Campaign belongs in the front rank of Civil War turning points."
Intrigued by Dr. Gallagher's article, it was decided to conduct a review of strategic battles. The analysis started with the National Park Service's listing of "A" ranked battles. These battles are considered as "having a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war." The list contains 45 battles from 33 campaigns
The first issue to address is the definition of a turning point. According to the Free Online Dictionary, a turning point is the point at which a very significant change occurs; a decisive moment, a moment when the course of events is changed a point at which there is a change in direction or motion. Applying this definition to the Civil War suggests that there may be many turning points in a war where the trend in battle changes from one side to the other.
The obvious first cut on the "A" battles were those that the South won. This eliminates Confederate victories at Chancellorsville, Chickamauga, Fredericksburg, Cold Harbor, First Winchester, Fort Sumter, First and Second Manassas, Wilson's Creek, Gaines Mill, Mansfield, The Crater, and Second Petersburg. Not surprising, Union casualties in these engagements (99,717) outnumbered Confederate losses (61,597). Inconclusive battles, such as Spotsylvania Court House and The Wilderness, were also eliminated from the candidates. These edits reduced the list to 30 battles in 24 campaigns.
Please see Civil War Turning Points for more information.