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Civil War Timeline


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Title: Civil War Timeline

Civil War Timeline
  • 1860

November 6, 1860
  • Abraham Lincoln, who had declared
  • "Government cannot
  • endure permanently
  • half slave, half free...
  • is elected president,
  • the first Republican,
  • receiving 180 of 303
  • possible electoral votes
  • and 40 percent of the
  • popular vote.

December 20, 1860
  • South Carolina secedes from the Union.

Western Theater 1861
Eastern Theater 1861
January 1861- The South Secedes
  • When Abraham Lincoln, a known opponent of
    slavery, was elected president, the South
    Carolina legislature perceived a threat. Calling
    a state convention, the delegates voted to remove
    the state of South Carolina from the union known
    as the United States of America. The Secession of
    South Carolina was followed by the secession of
    six more states -- Mississippi, Florida, Alabama,
    Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas -- and the threat
    of Secession by four more -- Virginia, Arkansas,
    Tennessee, and North Carolina. These eleven
    states eventually formed the Confederate States
    of America.

January 9, 1861
  • Mississippi seceded from the Union

January 10, 1861
  • Florida seceded from the Union

January 11, 1861
  • Alabama seceded from the Union

January 19, 1861
  • Georgia seceded from the Union

January 26, 1861
  • Louisiana seceded from the Union

January 29, 1861
  • Kansas seceded from the Union

February 1, 1861
  • Texas seceded from the Union

February 1861
  • The South
  • creates a
  • Government

February 1861
  • At a convention in Montgomery, Alabama, the seven
    seceding states created the Confederate
    Constitution, a document similar to the United
    States Constitution, but with greater stress on
    the autonomy of each state. 
  • Jefferson Davis  was named provisional president
    of the Confederacy until elections could be held.

February 1861
  • The South seizes Federal Forts
  • When President Buchanan (Lincoln's predecessor)
    refused to surrender southern federal forts to
    the seceding states, southern state troops seized
    them. At Fort Sumter, South Carolina troops
    repulsed a supply ship trying to reach federal
    forces based in the fort. The ship was forced to
    return to New York, its supplies undelivered.

March 4, 1861
  • Lincoln is inaugurated
  • At Lincoln's inauguration the new president said
    he had no plans to end slavery in those states
    where it already existed, but he also said he
    would not accept secession. He hoped to resolve
    the national crisis without warfare.

March 11, 1861
  • Confederate Constitution
  • We, the people of the Confederate States, each
    State acting in its sovereign and independent
    character, in order to form a permanent federal
    government, establish justice, insure domestic
    tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty
    to ourselves and our posterityinvoking the favor
    and guidance of Almighty Goddo ordain and
    establish this Constitution for the Confederate
    States of America

April 12-14, 1861
  • Attack on Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter Attack
  • When President Lincoln planned to send supplies
    to Fort Sumter, he alerted the state in advance,
    in an attempt to avoid hostilities. South
    Carolina, however, feared a trick. On April 10,
    1861, Brig. Gen. Beauregard, in command of
    provisional Confederate forces at Charleston,
    South Carolina, demanded the surrender of the
    Union garrison of Fort Sumter in Charleston
  • The Garrison commander Anderson refused. On
    April 12, Confederate batteries opened fire on
    the fort, which was unable to reply effectively.
    At 230 p.m., April 13, Major Anderson
    surrendered Fort Sumter, evacuating on the
    garrison the following day.
  • The bombardment of Fort Sumter was the opening
    engagement of the American Civil War. Although
    there were no casualties during the bombardment,
    one Union artillerist was killed and three
    wounded (one mortally) when a cannon exploded
    prematurely when firing a salute during the
    evacuation. From 1863 to 1865, the Confederates
    at Fort Sumter withstood a 22 month siege by
    Union forces. During this time, most of the fort
    was reduced to brick rubble. Fort Sumter became a
    national monument in 1948.

April 17, 1861
  • Virginia seceded from the Union

May 6, 1861
  • Arkansas seceded from the Union

May 20, 1861
  • North Carolina seceded from the Union

June 1861
  • West Virginia is born
  • Residents of the western counties of Virginia did
    not wish to secede along with the rest of the
    state. This section of Virginia was admitted into
    the Union as the state of West Virginia on June
    20, 1863.

July 18, 1861
  • First Battle of Bull Run
  • Public demand pushed General-in-Chief Winfield
    Scott to advance on the South before adequately
    training his untried troops. Scott ordered
    General Irvin McDowell to advance on Confederate
    troops stationed at Manassas Junction, Virginia.
    McDowell attacked on July 21, and was initially
    successful, but the introduction of Confederate
    reinforcements resulted in a Southern victory and
    a chaotic retreat toward Washington by federal

Battle of Bull Run
  • On 16 July, 1861, the untried Union army under
    Brigadier General Irvin McDowell, 35,000 strong,
    marched out of the Washington defenses to give
    battle to the Confederate army, which was
    concentrated around the vital railroad junction
    at Manassas
  • The Confederate army, about 22,000 men, under the
    command of Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard,
    guarded the fords of Bull Run.
  • On July 18, McDowell reached Centreville and
    pushed southwest, attempting to cross at
    Blackburn's Ford. He was repulsed.
  • This action was a reconnaissance-in-force prior
    to the main event at Manassas / Bull Run.
  • Because of this action, Union commander McDowell
    decided on the flanking maneuver he employed at
    First Manassas.
  • Result (s) Confederate victory
  • Location Prince William County and Fairfax
  • Date (s) July 18, 1861
  • Principal Commanders Brigadier General Irvin
    McDowell US Brigadier General P.G.T.
    Beauregard CS
  • Forces Engaged Brigades
  • Estimated Casualties 151 total (US 83 CS 68)

July 21, 1861
  • The Union Army under Gen. Irvin McDowell suffers
    a defeat at Bull Run 25 miles southwest of
    Washington. Confederate Gen. Thomas J. Jackson
    earns the nickname "Stonewall," as his brigade
    resists Union attacks. Union troops fall back to
    Washington. President Lincoln realizes the war
    will be long. "It's damned bad," he comments.

July 27, 1861
  • President Lincoln appoints George B. McClellan as
    Commander of the Department of the Potomac,
    replacing McDowell

July-November 1861
  • A Blockade of the South.
  • To blockade the coast of the Confederacy
    effectively, the federal navy had to be improved.
    By July, the effort at improvement had made a
    difference and an effective blockade had begun.
    The South responded by building small, fast ships
    that could outmaneuver Union vessels. On November
    7, 1861, Captain Samuel F. Dupont's warships
    silenced Confederate guns in Fort Walker  and
    Fort Beauregard. This victory enabled General
    Thomas W. Sherman's troops to occupy first Port
    Royal and then all the famous Sea Islands of
    South Carolina.

  • 1862

January 31, 1862
  • President Lincoln issues General War Order No. 1
    calling for all United States naval and land
    forces to begin a general advance by Feb 22,
    George Washington's birthday.

March 1862
  • The Peninsular Campaign begins as McClellan's
    Army of the Potomac advances from Washington down
    the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay to the
    peninsular south of the Confederate Capital of
    Richmond, Virginia then begins an advance toward

March 8, 1862
  • McClellan Loses Command.
  • On March 8, President Lincoln -- impatient with
    General McClellan's inactivity -- issued an order
    reorganizing the Army of Virginia and relieving
    McClellan of supreme command.

April 6-7, 1862
  • Confederate surprise attack on Gen. Ulysses S.
    Grant's unprepared troops at Shiloh on the
    Tennessee River results in a bitter struggle with
    13,000 Union killed and wounded and 10,000
    Confederates, more men than in all previous
    American wars combined. The president is then
    pressured to relieve Grant but resists. "I can't
    spare this man he fights," Lincoln says.

April 24, 1862
  • 17 Union ships under the command of Flag Officer
    David Farragut move up the Mississippi River then
    take New Orleans, the South's greatest seaport.
    Later in the war, sailing through a Rebel mine
    field Farragut utters the famous phrase "Damn the
    torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

May 31, 1862
  • The Battle of Seven Pines as Gen. Joseph E.
    Johnstons Army attacks McClellan's troops in
    front of Richmond and nearly defeats them. But
    Johnston is badly wounded.

July 11, 1862
  • After four months as his own general-in-chief,
    President Lincoln hands over the task to Gen.
    Henry W. (Old Brains) Halleck

August 29-30, 1862
  • 75,000 Federals under Gen. John Pope are defeated
    by 55,000 Confederates under Gen. Stonewall
    Jackson and Gen. James Longstreet at the second
    battle of Bull Run in northern Virginia. Once
    again the Union Army retreats to Washington. The
    president then relieves Pope.

September 4-9, 1862
  • Lee invades the North with 50,000 Confederates
    and heads for Harpers Ferry, located 50 miles
    northwest of Washington

September 17, 1862
  • The bloodiest day in U.S. military history as
    Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Armies are
    stopped at Antietam in Maryland by McClellan and
    numerically superior Union forces. By nightfall
    26,000 men are dead, wounded, or missing. Lee
    then withdraws to Virginia.

  • On September 17, Confederate forces under General
    Lee were caught by General McClellan near
    Sharpsburg, Maryland. This battle proved to be
    the bloodiest day of the war
  • 2,108 Union soldiers were killed and 9,549
  • 2,700 Confederates were killed and 9,029
  • The battle had no clear winner, but because
    General Lee withdrew to Virginia, McClellan was
    considered the victor.
  • The battle convinced the British and French --
    who were contemplating official recognition of
    the Confederacy -- to reserve action, and gave
    Lincoln the opportunity to announce his
    Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (September
    22), which would free all slaves in areas
    rebelling against the United States, effective
    January 1, 1863.

September 22, 1862
  • Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation freeing
    slaves issued by President Lincoln

November 7, 1862
  • The president replaces McClellan with Gen.
    Ambrose E. Burnside as the new Commander of the
    Army of the Potomac. Lincoln had grown impatient
    with McClellan's slowness to follow up on the
    success at Antietam, even telling him, "If you
    don't want to use the army, I should like to
    borrow it for a while."

  • 1863

January 1, 1863
  • President Lincoln issues the final Emancipation
    Proclamation freeing all slaves in territories
    held by Confederates and emphasizes the enlisting
    of black soldiers in the Union Army. The war to
    preserve the Union now becomes a revolutionary
    struggle for the abolition of slavery.

Emancipation Proclamation
  • In an effort to placate the slave-holding border
    states, Lincoln resisted the demands of radical
    Republicans for complete abolition. Yet some
    Union generals, such as General B. F. Butler,
    declared slaves escaping to their lines
    "contraband of war," not to be returned to their
  • Other generals decreed that the slaves of men
    rebelling against the Union were to be considered
    free. Congress, too, had been moving toward
  • In 1861, Congress had passed an act stating that
    all slaves employed against the Union were to be
    considered free.
  • In 1862, another act stated that all slaves of
    men who supported the Confederacy were to be
    considered free.
  • Lincoln, aware of the public's growing support of
    abolition, issued the Emancipation Proclamation
     on January 1, 1863, declaring that all slaves in
    areas still in rebellion were, in the eyes of the
    federal government, free.

January 25, 1863
  • The president appoints Gen. Joseph (Fighting Joe)
    Hooker as Commander of the Army of the Potomac,
    replacing Burnside.

March 3, 1863
  • Because of recruiting difficulties, the U.S.
    Congress enacts an act was passed making all men
    between the ages of 20 and 45 liable to be called
    for military service The U.S. Congress enacts a
    draft, affecting male citizens aged 20 to 45, but
    also exempts those who pay 300 or provide a
    substitute. "The blood of a poor man is as
    precious as that of the wealthy," poor
    Northerners complain.

May 1-4, 1863
  • The Union Army under Gen. Hooker is decisively
    defeated by Lee's much smaller forces at the
    Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia as a
    result of Lee's brilliant and daring tactics.
    Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson is mortally
    wounded by his own soldiers. Hooker retreats.
    Union losses are 17,000 killed, wounded and
    missing out of 130,000. The Confederates, 13, 000
    out of 60,000.

May 10, 1863
  • The South suffers a huge blow as Stonewall
    Jackson dies from his wounds, his last words,
    "Let us cross over the river and rest under the
    shade of the trees."
  • "I have lost my right arm," Lee laments.

June 3, 1863
  • Gen. Lee with 75,000 Confederates launches his
    second invasion of the North, heading into
    Pennsylvania in a campaign that will soon lead to

July 1-3, 1863
  • The Battle of Gettysburg 
  • A chance encounter between Union and Confederate
    forces began the Battle of Gettysburg. In the
    fighting that followed, Meade had greater numbers
    and better defensive positions. He won the
    battle, but failed to follow Lee as he retreated
    back to Virginia. Militarily, the Battle of
    Gettysburg was the high-water mark of the
    Confederacy it is also significant because it
    ended Confederate hopes of formal recognition by
    foreign governments.
  • On November 19, President Lincoln dedicated a
    portion of the Gettysburg battlefield as a
    national cemetery, and delivered his memorable
    Gettysburg Address."

July 4, 1863
  • Union General Grant won several victories around
    Vicksburg, Mississippi, the fortified city
    considered essential to the Union's plans to
    regain control of the Mississippi River. On May
    22, Grant began a siege of the city. Vicksburg,
    the last Confederate stronghold on the
    Mississippi River, surrenders to Gen. Grant and
    the Army of the West after a six week siege
    giving up the city and 30,000 men. With the Union
    now in control of the Mississippi, the
    Confederacy is effectively split in two, cut off
    from its western allies.

July 10, 1863
  • Fort Wagner South Carolina
  • Union artillery on Folly Island together with
    Rear Adm. John Dahlgren's fleet of ironclads
    opened fire on Confederate defenses of Morris
    Island. The bombardment provided cover for Brig.
    Gen. George C. Strong's brigade, which crossed
    Light House Inlet and landed by boats on the
    southern tip of the island. Strong's troops
    advanced, capturing several batteries, to within
    range of Confederate Fort Wagner. At dawn, July
    11, Strong attacked the fort. Soldiers of the 7th
    Connecticut reached the parapet but, unsupported,
    were thrown back.
  • July 18 -- After the July 11 assault on Fort
    Wagner failed, Gillmore reinforced his beachhead
    on Morris Island. At dusk July 18, Gillmore
    launched an attack spearheaded by the 54th
    Massachusetts Infantry, a black regiment. The
    unit's colonel, Robert Gould Shaw, was killed.
    Members of the brigade scaled the parapet but
    after brutal hand-to-hand combat were driven out
    with heavy casualties. The Federals resorted to
    siege operations to reduce the fort. This was the
    fourth time in the war that black troops played a
    crucial combat role, proving to skeptics that
    they would fight bravely if only given the chance.

August- December 1863
  • Bombardment of Fort Sumter 
  • Federal batteries erected on Morris Island opened
    fire on August 17 and continued their bombardment
    of Fort Sumter and the Charleston defenses until
    August 23. Despite a severe pounding, Fort
    Sumter's garrison held out. Siege operations
    continued against Fort Wagner on Morris Island.

September 6, 1863
  • Charleston Harbor
  • The night of September 6-7, Confederate forces
    evacuated Fort Wagner and Battery Gregg pressured
    by advancing Federal siegeworks. Federal troops
    then occupied all of Morris Island. On September
    8, a storming party of about 400 marines and
    sailors attempted to surprise Fort Sumter. The
    attack was repulsed.

September 19, 1863
  • The Battle of Chickamauga
  • On September 19, Union and Confederate forces met
    at Chickamauga Creek in Tennessee. After a brief
    period of fighting, Union forces retreated to
    Chattanooga, and the Confederacy maintained
    control of the battlefield. After Rosecrans's
    debacle at Chickamauga, Confederate General
    Braxton Bragg's army occupied the mountains that
    ring the vital railroad center of Chattanooga.

November 1863
  • The Battle of Chattanooga
  • Grant, brought in to save the situation, steadily
    built up offensive strength, and on November 23-
    25 burst the blockade in a series of brilliantly
    executed attacks. Union forces pushed Confederate
    troops away from Chattanooga. The victory set the
    stage for General Sherman's Atlanta Campaign.

  • 1864

February 20, 1864
  • In February, the commander of the Department of
    the South, Major General Quincy A. Gillmore,
    launched an expedition into Florida to secure
    Union enclaves, sever Rebel supply routes, and
    recruit black soldiers. Brig. General Truman
    Seymour moved deep into the state, occupying,
    destroying, and liberating, meeting little
    resistance on February 20, he approached Brig.
    General Joseph Finegan's 5,000 Confederates
    entrenched near Olustee. One infantry brigade
    pushed out to meet Seymour's advance units. The
    Union forces attacked but were repulsed. The
    battle raged, and as Finegan committed the last
    of his reserves, the Union line broke and began
    to retreat. Finegan did not exploit the retreat,
    allowing most of the fleeing Union forces to
    reach Jacksonville.

May 20, 1863
  • Ware Bottom Church
  • Confederate forces under General P.G.T.
    Beauregard attacked Butler's Bermuda Hundred line
    near Ware Bottom Church. About 10,000 troops were
    involved in this action. After driving back
    Butler's advanced pickets, the Confederates
    constructed the Howlett Line, effectively
    bottling up the Federals at Bermuda Hundred.
    Confederate victories at Proctor's Creek and Ware
    Bottom Church enabled Beauregard to detach strong
    reinforcements for Lee's army in time for the
    fighting at Cold Harbor.

June 1864
  • The Battle of Cold Harbor
  • Grant again attacked Confederate forces at Cold
    Harbor, losing over 7,000 men in twenty minutes.
    Although Lee suffered fewer casualties, his army
    never recovered from Grant's continual attacks.
    This was Lee's last clear victory of the war.

July 1864
  • Confederate Troops Approach Washington, D.C.
  • Confederate General Jubal Early led his forces
    into Maryland to relieve the pressure on Lee's
    army. Early got within five miles of Washington,
    D.C., but on July 13, he was driven back to

August 1864
  • General Sherman's Atlanta Campaign
  • Union General William T. Sherman departed
    Chattanooga, and was soon met by Confederate
    General Joseph Johnston. Skillful strategy
    enabled Johnston to hold off Sherman's force --
    almost twice the size of Johnston's. However,
    Johnston's tactics caused his superiors to
    replace him with General John Bell Hood, who was
    soon defeated. Hood surrendered Atlanta, Georgia,
    on September 1 Sherman occupied the city the
    next day. The fall of Atlanta greatly boosted
    Northern morale.

September- November 1864
  • Sherman in Atlanta 
  • After three and a half months of incessant
    maneuvering and much hard fighting, Sherman
    forced Hood to abandon Atlanta, the munitions
    center of the Confederacy. Sherman remained
    there, resting his war-worn men and accumulating
    supplies, for nearly two-and-a-half months.

October 26-29 1864
  • Franklin-Nashville Campaign 
  • General John B. Hood's Army of Tennessee, in an
    attempt to cross the Tennessee River at Decatur,
    Alabama encountered Union forces under the
    command of Brig. General Robert S. Granger for
    most of the battle, numbered only about 5,000
    men, but successfully prevented the much larger
    Confederate force from crossing the river.

October 27-28, 1864
  • Boydton Plank Road 
  • (aka Hatcher's Run, Burgess' Mill)
  • Directed by Major General Winfield Scott
    Hancock, divisions from three Union corps (II, V,
    and IX) and Gregg's cavalry division, numbering
    more than 30,000 men, withdrew from the
    Petersburg lines and marched west to operate
    against the Boydton Plank Road and Southside
    Railroad. The initial Union advance on October 27
    gained the Boydton Plank Road, a major campaign
    objective. But that afternoon, a counterattack
    near Burgess' Mill spearheaded by Major General
    Henry Heth's division and Wade Hampton's cavalry
    isolated the II Corps and forced a retreat. The
    Confederates retained control of the Boydton
    Plank Road for the rest of the winter.

November 1864
  • Sherman's March to the Sea
  • General Sherman continued his march through
    Georgia to the sea. In the course of the march,
    he cut himself off from his source of supplies,
    planning for his troops to live off the land. His
    men cut a path 300 miles in length and 60 miles
    wide as they passed through Georgia, destroying
    factories, bridges, railroads, and public

November 1864
  • Abraham Lincoln Is Re-Elected
  • The Republican party nominated President Abraham
    Lincoln as its presidential candidate, and Andrew
    Johnson for vice-president. The Democratic party
    chose General George B. McClellan for president,
    and George Pendleton for vice-president. At one
    point, widespread war-weariness in the North made
    a victory for Lincoln seem doubtful. In addition,
    Lincoln's veto of the Wade-Davis Bill --
    requiring the majority of the electorate in each
    Confederate state to swear past and future
    loyalty to the Union before the state could
    officially be restored -- lost him the support of
    Radical Republicans who thought Lincoln too
    lenient. However, Sherman's victory in Atlanta
    boosted Lincoln's popularity and helped him win
    re-election by a wide margin.

December 1864
  • Sherman at the Sea
  • After marching through Georgia for a month,
    Sherman stormed Fort McAllister on December 13,
    1864, and captured Savannah itself eight days

  • 1865

January 1865
  • The Fall of the Confederacy
  • Transportation problems and successful blockades
    caused severe shortages of food and supplies in
    the South. Starving soldiers began to desert
    Lee's forces, and although President Jefferson
    Davis approved the arming of slaves as a means of
    augmenting the shrinking army, the measure was
    never put into effect.

February 1865
  • Sherman Marches through North
  • and South Carolina
  • Union General Sherman moved from Georgia through
    South Carolina, destroying almost everything in
    his path.

March 6,1864
  • Natural Bridge
  • Maj. Gen. John Newton had undertaken a joint
    force expedition (including 2nd U.S. Colored
    Infantry and 99th U.S. Colored Infantry) to
    engage and destroy Confederate troops that had
    attacked at Cedar Keys and Fort Myers and were
    allegedly encamped somewhere around St. Marks.
    The Navy had trouble getting its ships up the St.
    Marks River. The Army force, however, had
    advanced and, after finding one bridge destroyed,
    started before dawn on March 6 to attempt to
    cross the river at Natural Bridge. The troops
    initially pushed Rebel forces back but not away
    from the bridge. Confederate forces, protected by
    breastworks, guarded all of the approaches and
    the bridge itself. The action at Natural Bridge
    lasted most of the day, but, unable to take the
    bridge, the Union troops retreated to the
    protection of the fleet.

April 1865
  • Fallen Richmond
  • On March 25, General Lee attacked General Grant's
    forces near Petersburg, but was defeated --
    attacking and losing again on April 1. On April
    2, Lee evacuated Richmond, the Confederate
    capital, and headed west to join with other

April 14, 1865
  • The Stars and Stripes is ceremoniously raised
    over Fort Sumter.
  • That night, Lincoln and his wife Mary see the
    play "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theatre. At
    1013 p.m., during the third act of the play,
    John Wilkes Booth shoots the president in the
    head. Doctors attend to the president in the
    theatre then move him to a house across the
    street. He never regains consciousness.

April 15, 1865
  • President Abraham Lincoln dies at 722 in the
    morning. Vice President Andrew Johnson assumes
    the presidency.

April 26, 1865
  • John Wilkes Booth is shot and killed in a tobacco
    barn in Virginia.

May 4, 1865
  • Abraham Lincoln is laid to rest in Oak Ridge
    Cemetery, outside Springfield, Illinois.

December 6, 1865
  • The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States
    Constitution, passed by Congress on January 31,
    1865, is finally ratified. Slavery is abolished.