Civil War Timeline

  • South Carolina secedes from the union

    South Carolina is the first state to secessed from the Union
  • Period: to

    Final States Secede

    in order all the states that secedes
    South Carolina
    Mississippi
    Florida
    Alabama
    Georgia
    Louisiana
    Texas
    Virginia
    Arkansas
    North Carolina
    Tennessee
  • Jefferson Davis becomes Presadent of the Conferdation

    The Confederate States of America is formed with Jefferson Davis, a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army officer, as president
  • Lincoln's inauguration

    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.
  • Fort Sumter is attacked

    At 4:30 a.m. Confederates under Gen. Pierre Beauregard open fire with 50 cannons upon Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The Civil War begins.
  • Robert E. Lee resigns his commission in the United States Army

    "I cannot raise my hand against my birthplace, my home, my children." Lee then goes to Richmond, Virginia, is offered command of the military and naval forces of Virginia, and accepts
  • Four Slave States Stay in the Union

    Four Slave States Stay in the Union.
    Despite their acceptance of slavery, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri did not join the Confederacy. Although divided in their loyalties, a combination of political maneuvering and Union military pressure kept these states from seceding.
  • 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.
  • General McDowell Is Replaced.

    Suddenly aware of the threat of a protracted war and the army's need for organization and training, Lincoln replaced McDowell with General George B. McClellan.
  • Bull Run Battle Ends

    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.
  • 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 troops.
  • Abraham Lincoln Takes Action.

    On January 27, President Lincoln issued a war order authorizing the Union to launch a unified aggressive action against the Confederacy. General McClellan ignored the order.
  • Union takes a capital

    Nashville is first Confederate state capital to fall to Union forces
  • 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. McClellan was given command of the Army of the Potomac, and ordered to attack Richmond. This marked the beginning of the Peninsular Campaign.
  • The Battle of Shiloh.

    On April 6, Confederate forces attacked Union forces under General Ulysses S. Grant at Shiloh, Tennessee. By the end of the day, the federal troops were almost defeated. Yet, during the night, reinforcements arrived, and by the next morning the Union commanded the field. When Confederate forces retreated, the exhausted federal forces did not follow. Casualties were heavy -- 13,000 out of 63,000 Union soldiers died, and 11,000 of 40,000 Confederate troops were
  • The Peninsular Campaign.

    In April, General McClellan's troops left northern Virginia to begin the Peninsular Campaign. By May 4, they occupied Yorktown, Virginia. At Williamsburg, Confederate forces prevented McClellan from meeting the main part of the Confederate army, and McClellan halted his troops, awaiting reinforcements.
  • Confederates enact conscription.

  • New Orleans.

    Flag Officer David Farragut led an assault up the Mississippi River. By April 25, he was in command of New Orleans.
  • A New Commander of the Union Army.

    On July 11, Major-General Henry Halleck was named general-in-chief of the Union army.
  • 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 masters. Other generals decreed that the slaves of men rebelling against the Union were to be considered free. Congress, too, had been moving toward abolition. In 1861, Congress ha
  • The First Conscription Act.

    Because of recruiting difficulties, an act was passed making all men between the ages of 20 and 45 liable to be called for military service. Service could be avoided by paying a fee or finding a substitute. The act was seen as unfair to the poor, and riots in working-class sections of New York City broke out in protest. A similar conscription act in the South provoked a similar reaction.
  • Stonewall Jackson dies

    Stonewall Jackson dies of pneumonia following amputation of his arm at Chancellorsville
  • The Vicksburg Campaign.

    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. After six weeks, Confederate General John Pemberton surrendered, giving up the city and 30,000 men. The capture of Port Hudson, Louisiana, shortly thereafter placed the entire Mississippi River in Union hands. The Confederacy was split in two
  • The Battle of Chancellorsville.

    On May 27, Union General Hooker crossed the Rappahannock River to attack General Lee's forces. Lee split his army, attacking a surprised Union army in three places and almost completely defeating them. Hooker withdrew across the Rappahannock River, giving the South a victory, but it was the Confederates' most costly victory in terms of casualties.
  • The Gettysburg Campaign.

    Confederate General Lee decided to take the war to the enemy. On June 13, he defeated Union forces at Winchester, Virginia, and continued north to Pennsylvania. General Hooker, who had been planning to attack Richmond, was instead forced to follow Lee. Hooker, never comfortable with his commander, General Halleck, resigned on June 28, and General George Meade replaced him as commander of the Army of the Potomac.
  • 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 Lin
  • Confederate force fails in its attempt to take Athens,

    Alabama. Confederate cavalry, numbering about 600 men, attacked Athens, held by about 100 Union troops, around 4:00 am on the morning of January 26, 1864. After a two-hour battle, the Confederates retreated. Union forces, although greatly outnumbered and without fortifications, repulsed the attackers.
  • Olustee Florida

    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 m
  • The Battle of Spotsylvania.

    General Grant continued to attack Lee. At Spotsylvania Court House, he fought for five days, vowing to fight all summer if necessary.
  • Grant's Wilderness Campaign

    General Grant, promoted to commander of the Union armies, planned to engage Lee's forces in Virginia until they were destroyed. North and South met and fought in an inconclusive three- day battle in the Wilderness. Lee inflicted more casualties on the Union forces than his own army incurred, but unlike Grant, he had no replacements.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Siege of Petersburg.

    Grant hoped to take Petersburg, below Richmond, and then approach the Confederate capital from the south. The attempt failed, resulting in a ten month siege and the loss of thousands of lives on both sides, Grant won by steadily extending his lines westward.
  • 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 Virginia.
  • Abraham Lincoln Is Re-Elected.

    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 sta
  • 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.
  • Fort Fisher, North Carolina

    After Admiral David D. Porter's squadron of warships had subjected Fort Fisher to a terrific bombardment, General Alfred H. Terry's troops took it by storm on January 15, and Wilmington, North Carolina, the last resort of the blockade-runners, was sealed off.
  • Sherman Marches through North and South Carolina.

    Union General Sherman moved from Georgia through South Carolina, destroying almost everything in his path.
  • A Chance for Reconciliation Is Lost.

    Confederate President Jefferson Davis agreed to send delegates to a peace conference with President Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward, but insisted on Lincoln's recognition of the South's independence as a prerequisite. Lincoln refused, and the conference never occurred.
  • Rivers' Bridge

    Confederate force under McLaws held the crossings of the Salkehatchie River against the advance of the right wing of Sherman's Army. Federal soldiers began building bridges across the swamp to bypass the road block. In the meantime, Union columns worked to get on the Confederates' flanks and rear. On February 3, two Union brigades waded the swamp downstream and assaulted McLaws's right. McLaws retreated toward Branchville after stalling Sherman's advance for only one
  • Skirmish At Gamble's Hotel

    500 federal soldiers, under the command of Colonel Reuben Williams of the 12th Indiana Infantry, marched into the Florence area to destroy the railroad depot. These federal troops were met by a group of Confederate soldiers who drove them away with the help of 400 reinforcements from the area home guard. The Columns is a popular name for The Harwell House at Rankin Plantation, a beautiful antebellum home that dates back over 100 years. The name refers to the
  • Natural Bridge

    Union Major General 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 cro
  • Spanish Fort.

    Maj. Gen. E.R.S. Canby's forces, the XIII and XVI corps, moved along the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, forcing the Confederates back into their defenses. Union forces then concentrated on Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely. On March 27, 1865, Canby's forces rendezvoused at Danley's Ferry and immediately undertook a siege of Spanish Fort. The Union had enveloped the fort by April 1, and on April 8 captured it. Most of the Confederate forces, under the command of Brig.
  • Battle of Anderson South Carolina

    The battle was one of the final conflicts of the war, taking place three weeks after Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. Confederate forces suffered no casualties and the Union forces had two casualties in the skirmish that took place.
  • The Execution of Captain Henry Wirz

    The notorious superintendent of the Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia, was tried by a military commission presided over by General Lew Wallace from August 23 to October 24, 1865, and was hanged in the yard of the Old Capitol Prison on November 10.
  • Slavery abolished

    Thirteenth Amendment to Constitution ratified, abolishing slavery.