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Civil War

  • Missouri Compromise 1820-1821

    Maine was admitted as a free state and Missouri as a slave state. The rest of the Louisiana Territory was split into two parts. The dividing line was set at 36°30´ north latitude. South of the line, slavery was legal. North of the line—except in Missouri—slavery was banned.
    President: Jackson
  • Abolition

    Forten was joined in his opposition to slavery by a growing number of Americans in the 19th century. Abolition, the movement to abolish slavery, became the most important of a series of reform movements in America.
  • Santa Fe Trail 1821-1860's

    The settlers and traders who made the trek west used a series of old Native American trails as well as new routes. One of the busiest routes was the Santa Fe Trail, which stretched 780 miles from Independence, Missouri, to Santa Fe in the Mexican province of New Mexico.
  • San Felipe de Austin

    The main settlement of the colony was named San Felipe de Austin, in Stephen F. Austin's honor. Moses Austin, received a land grant from Spain to establish a colony between the Brazos and Colorado rivers but died before he was able to carry out his plans. Stephen obtained permission, from Spain and Mexico after it won its independence, to carry out his father’s project. In 1821 he established a colony where “no drunkard, no gambler, no profane swearer, and no idler” would be allowed.
  • The Liberator

    The most radical white abolitionist was a young editor named William Lloyd Garrison. Active in religious reform movements in Massachusetts, Garrison became the editor of an antislavery paper in 1828. Three years later he established his own paper, The Liberator, to deliver an uncompromising demand: immediate emancipation.
  • Mexico Abolishes Slavery

    Many of the settlers were Southerners, who had brought slaves with them to Texas. Mexico, which had abolished slavery in 1829, insisted in vain that the Texans free their slaves.
  • Nat Turner's Rebellion

    Some slaves rebelled against their condition of bondage. One of the most prominent rebellions was led by Virginia slave Nat Turner. In August 1831, Turner and more than 50 followers attacked four
    plantations and killed about 60 whites. Whites eventually captured and executed many members of the group, including Turner.
  • Stephan F. Austin Is Arrested

    Austin had traveled to Mexico City late in 1833 to present petitions to Mexican president Antonio López de Santa Anna for greater self-government for Texas. While Austin was on his way home, Santa Anna had Austin imprisoned for inciting revolution.
  • Texas Revolution

    After Santa Anna suspended local powers in Texas and other Mexican states, several rebellions broke out, including one that would be known as the Texas Revolution.
  • Oregon Trail 1836

    The Oregon Trail stretched from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City, Oregon. It was blazed in 1836 by two Methodist missionaries named Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. By driving their wagon as far as Fort Boise (near present-day Boise, Idaho), they proved that wagons could travel on the Oregon Trail.
  • Texas Enters the United States

    The Texans set Santa Anna free only after he signed the Treaty of Velasco, which granted independence to Texas. In September 1836, Sam Houston was elected president of the new Republic of Texas.
  • Manifest Destiny

    The phrase “manifest destiny” expressed the belief that the United States was ordained to expand to the Pacific Ocean and into Mexican and Native American territory. Many Americans also
    believed that this destiny was manifest, or obvious and inevitable.
  • Mexican-American War

    In 1845, John C. Frémont led an American military exploration party into California, violating Mexico’s territorial rights. In response, Mexican troops crossed the Rio Grande. In a skirmish near Matamoros, Mexican soldiers killed 11 U.S. soldiers. Polk immediately called for war and Congress approved. War basically happened because of territorial disputes in Texas between Mexico and America.
  • The North Star

    In 1847, Frederick Douglass began his own antislavery newspaper. He named it The North Star, after the star that guided runaway slaves to freedom.
  • Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo

    On February 2, 1848, the United States and Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Mexico agreed to the Rio Grande as the border between Texas and Mexico and ceded the New Mexico and California territories to the United States. The United States agreed to pay $15 million for the Mexican cession, which included presentday California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, most of Arizona, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.
  • The Underground Railroad

    Free African Americans and white abolitionists developed a secret network of people who would, at great risk to themselves, hide fugitive slaves. The system of escape routes they used became known as the Underground Railroad. “Conductors” hid fugitives in secret tunnels and false cupboards, provided them with food and clothing, and escorted or directed them to the next “station.” Once fugitives reached the North, many stayed there. Others journeyed to Canada to be completely out of reach.
  • Harriet Tubman

    One of the most famous conductors was Harriet Tubman, born in Maryland in 1820 or 1821. In 1849, after her owner died, she heard rumors that she was about to be sold. Tubman decided to make a break for freedom and succeeded in reaching Philadelphia. Shortly after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, Tubman resolved to become a conductor on the Underground Railroad. In all, she made 19 trips back to the South and is said to have helped 300 slaves—including her own parents—flee to freedom.
  • Compromise of 1850

    Henry Clay presented to the Senate a series of resolutions later called the Compromise of 1850. It contained provisions to appease Northerners and Southerners. For the North, the compromise provided that California be admitted to the Union as a free state. For the South, the compromise proposed a new and more effective fugitive slave law. For both sides, a provision allowed popular sovereignty, the right to vote for or against slavery, for residents of the New Mexico and Utah territories.
  • The Fugitive Slave Act

    Under the law, alleged fugitive slaves were not entitled to a trial by jury. In addition, anyone convicted of helping a fugitive was liable for a fine of $1,000 and imprisonment for up to six months.
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin

    Harriet Beecher Stowe published her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, stressed that slavery was a political contest and a great moral struggle. As a young girl, Stowe had watched boats filled with people on their way to be sold. Uncle Tom’s Cabin expressed her lifetime hatred of slavery. It stirred Northern abolitionists to increase their protests against the Fugitive Slave Act, while Southerners criticized the book as an attack on the South.
  • Kansas-Nebraska Act

    Douglas introduced a bill in Congress on January 23, 1854, that would divide the area into two territories: Nebraska in the north and
    Kansas in the south. The bill would repeal the Missouri Compromise and establish popular sovereignty for both territories. Some Northern congressmen saw the bill as part of a plot to turn the territories into slave states. Southerners strongly defended the proposed legislation. After months of struggle, the Kansas-Nebraska Act became law in 1854
  • Dread Scott V. Sandford

    A big Supreme Court decision was brought by Dred Scott, a slave whose owner took him from the slave state of Missouri to free territory in Illinois and Wisconsin and back to Missouri. Scott appealed to the Supreme Court for his freedom that living in a free state—Illinois—and a free territory—Wisconsin—had made him a free man. March 6, 1857, the Supreme Court ruled against Dred Scott. Scott lacked any legal standing to sue in federal court because he was not and never could be a citizen.
  • Abraham Lincoln and Stephan Douglas Debates

    the race for the U.S. Senate between Democratic incumbent Stephen Douglas and Republican challenger Congressman Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln challenged the man known as the “Little Giant” to a series of debates on slavery in the territories. Douglas believed deeply in popular sovereignty. Lincoln believed that slavery was immoral but did not expect people to give up slavery unless Congress abolished slavery with an amendment. Douglas won the Senate seat.
  • John Brown's Raid / Harper's Ferry

    John Brown was studying slave uprisings in ancient Rome and the French island of Haiti. He believed that it was time for similar uprisings. He secretly obtained financial backing from prominent Northern abolitionists. A band of 21 men, black and white, into Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Seize the federal arsenal and start an uprising. Troops put down the rebellion. Authorities tried Brown and put him to death. Public reaction to Brown’s execution was immediate and intense in the North and South
  • Abraham Lincoln Becomes President

    Lincoln emerged as the winner with less than half the popular vote and with no electoral votes from the South. He did not even appear on the ballot in most of the slave states because of Southern hostility toward him. Lincoln’s victory convinced Southerners—who had viewed the struggle over slavery partly as a conflict between the states’ right of self-determination and federal government control; that they had lost their political voice in the national government.
  • Formation of the Confederacy

    South Carolina left the Union. Mississippi followed, as did Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. delegates from secessionist states met in Montgomery, Alabama, where they formed the Confederate States of America, or Confederacy. They drew up a constitution that resembled the US, but with a few differences. The most important difference was it “protected and recognized” slavery in new territories. They unanimously elected former senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi as president.
  • Attack on Fort Summer

    As soon as the Confederacy was formed, soldiers in each secessionist state began seizing federal installations—especially forts. By Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, 1861, only four Southern forts remained in Union hands. The most important was Fort Sumter, on an island in Charleston harbor. Lincoln decided to neither abandon Fort Sumter nor reinforce it. He would merely send in “food for hungry men.”
  • Battle of Bull Run

    The first bloodshed on the battlefield occurred about three months
    after Fort Sumter fell, near the little creek of Bull Run, 25 miles from Washington D.C. It was a seesaw affair. In the morning the Union army gained the upper hand, but the Confederates held firm, inspired by General Thomas J. Jackson. “There stands Jackson like a stone wall!” another general shouted, coining the nickname Stonewall Jackson. In the afternoon Confederate reinforcements helped win the first Southern victory.
  • Battle at Gettysburg

    Most decisive battle of the war. Confederate soldiers led by Hill encountered brigades of Union cavalry under John Buford. End of the first day 90,000 Union troops under command of General George Meade had taken the field against 75,000 Confederates led by General Lee. Second day Confederates drove Union troops from Gettysburg and controlled the town. Three-day battle produced staggering losses: 23,000 Union men & 28,000 Confederates were killed or wounded Total casualties: more than 30 percent.
  • Battle at Antietam

    McClellan ordered his men to pursue Robert E. Lee, and the two sides fought on September 17 near a creek called the Antietam (Bn-tCPtEm). The clash proved to be the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with casualties totaling more than 26,000. The next day, instead of pursuing the battered Confederate army into Virginia and possibly ending the war, McClellan did nothing. As a result, Lincoln removed him from command.
  • Emancipation Proclamation

    Lincoln decided to authorize the army to emancipate slaves. Emancipation was not just a moral issue; it became a weapon of war. The proclamation did not free any slaves immediately because it applied only to areas behind Confederate lines, outside Union control. Nevertheless, for many, the proclamation gave the war a moral purpose by turning the struggle into a fight to free the slaves. It also ensured that compromise was no longer possible.
  • Income Taxes

    As the Northern economy grew, Congress decided to help pay for the war by collecting the nation’s first income tax, a tax that takes a specified percentage of an individual’s income.
  • Gettysburg Address

    a ceremony was held to dedicate a cemetery in Gettysburg. There, President Lincoln spoke for a little more than two minutes. According to some contemporary historians, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address “remade America.” Before Lincoln’s speech, people said, “The United States are . . .” Afterward, they said, “The United States is . . .” In other words, the speech helped the country to realize that it was not just a collection of individual states; it was one unified nation.
  • Battle at Vicksburg

    Vicksburg itself was particularly important because it rested on bluffs above the river from which guns could control all water traffic. Grant settled in for a siege. He set up a steady barrage of artillery, shelling the city from both the river and the land for several hours a day, forcing the city’s residents into caves that they dug out of the yellow
    clay hillsides. After food supplies ran low the Confederate command asked Grant for terms of surrender. The city fell on July 4.
  • Conscription

    As the fighting intensified, heavy casualties and widespread desertions led each side to impose conscription, a draft that forced men to serve in the army. In the North, conscription led to draft riots, the most violent of which took place in New York City. Sweeping changes occurred in the wartime economies of both sides as well as in the roles played by African Americans and women.
  • Sherman's March

    Sherman began his march southeast through Georgia to the sea, creating a wide path of destruction. His army burned almost every house in its path and destroyed livestock and railroads. Sherman was determined to make Southerners “so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to
    it.” By mid-November he had burned most of Atlanta. After reaching the ocean, Sherman’s forces—followed by 25,000 former slaves—turned north to help Grant “wipe out Lee.”
  • Surrender at Appomattox Court House

    Union troops conquered Richmond, the Confederate capital. Southerners abandoned the city the day before, setting it afire to keep the Northerners from taking it. On April 9, 1865, in a Virginia town called Appomattox Court House, Lee and Grant met to arrange a Confederate surrender. At Lincoln’s request, the terms were generous. Within a month all remaining Confederate resistance collapsed. After four long years, the Civil War was over.
  • Thirteenth Amendment

    After some political maneuvering, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified at the end of 1865. The U.S. Constitution now stated, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.”
  • Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

    On April 14, 1865, five days after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, Lincoln and his wife went to Ford’s Theatre in Washington to see a British comedy, Our American Cousin. During its third act, a man crept up behind Lincoln and shot the president in the back of his head.