Civil War Timeline - U.S. History Period 1

  • Republican Party is formed

    Republican Party is formed
    Members of the former Whig party meet in Ripon, Wisconsin to establish a new political party combating the Kansas-Nebraska act and the expansion of slavery.
  • Kansas-Nebraska Act becomes law

    Kansas-Nebraska Act becomes law
    Drafted by Senator Stephen A. Douglas and signed into law by president Franklin Pierce, the Kansas-Nebraska act repealed the Missouri Compromise line and allowed for popular sovereignty for incoming American states.
  • Abraham Lincoln is elected President

    Abraham Lincoln is elected President
    Abraham Lincoln wins the 1860 election by a handy margin, receiving 40% of electoral votes in a four-way political battle against John Breckenridge, John Bell, and Stephen Douglas. Lincoln is the first Republican candidate to win the presidency since the party's creation six years prior.
  • South Carolina secedes from the Union

    South Carolina secedes from the Union
    After years of rising tensions between the north and south, South Carolina becomes the first state to secede from the United States Union, citing "increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the Institution of Slavery."
  • Battle of Fort Sumter

    Battle of Fort Sumter
    Marking the official beginning of the Civil War, the conflict at Fort Sumter in South Carolina began with Confederate forces opening fire on the Union troops stationed in Fort Sumter on the morning of April 12th, 1861. With supplies nearly exhausted and troops overwhelmed, Union major Robert Anderson surrendered Fort Sumter to Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard's Confederate army.
  • President Lincoln suspends habeas corpus

    President Lincoln suspends habeas corpus
    After the start of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln ordered General Winfield Scott to suspend the writ of habeas corpus between Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. This gave the military the authority to silence rebels and dissenters.
  • Richmond becomes the capital of the Confederacy

    Richmond becomes the capital of the Confederacy
    The decision was made to move the capital of the Confederate States of America from Montgomery, Alabama to Richmond, Virginia in recognition of the state's strategic importance since it was the industrial center of the South.
  • First Battle of Bull Run

    First Battle of Bull Run
    The first battle in the Civil War was fought in the summer of 1861 30 miles west-southwest of Washington, D.C. The conflict began after 35,000 Union troops marched from D.C. to strike a Confederate army of 20,000 at the Bull Run river. The Confederate victory resulted in the South gaining confidence and the North realizing the war would not be as easy as they thought.
  • Jefferson Davis is elected president of the Confederate States of America

    Jefferson Davis is elected president of the Confederate States of America
    The 1861 Presidential Election was the first and only election in the short-lived lifetime of the Confederate States of America. Nonpartisan politician and candidate Jefferson Davis was elected president with Alexander Stephens as vice president. Davis presided over the Confederacy's creation of its own armed forces and army independent from the United States.
  • Battle of Hampton Roads

    Battle of Hampton Roads
    Often known as the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack or the Battle of Ironclads, the Battle of Hampton Roads was the first naval conflict between ironclad warships. The Battle of Hampton Roads took place off the East coast of Virginia, and was a part of an effort by the Confederacy to break the Union blockade of Southern ports imposed at the start of the war. Although the battle did not have a clear winner, it marked a new era of maritime warfare.
  • Battle of Shiloh

    Battle of Shiloh
    Also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, the Battle of Shiloh saw Union troops infiltrate the Confederacy's front lines. The casualties in the Battle of Shiloh were higher than in any conflict in North America up to that date, with over 23,000 dead and wounded by the end of the two-day battle.
  • Robert E. Lee is appointed to commander of the Army of North Virginia

    Robert E. Lee is appointed to commander of the Army of North Virginia
    When Robert E. Lee replaced General Joseph Johnston as general of the Confederate army, he renamed the army (originally called the Confederate Army of the Potomac) to the Army of North Virginia. Lee would command the Army of North Virginia for a year from 1862 to 1863.
  • Battle of Antietam

    Battle of Antietam
    Fought near Sharpsburg, Virginia, the Battle of Antietam resulted in an inconclusive battle between General Robert E. Lee's Army of North Virginia against General George McClellan's Army of the Potomac, climaxing Lee's attempt to invade the North.
  • Battle of Fredericksburg

    Battle of Fredericksburg
    The Battle of Fredericksburg boasted the largest concentration of hostile forces in any Civil War battle, involving almost 200,000 combatants. Union forces led by newly appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac Ambrose Burnside made a two-pronged attack on Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The result of the battle was a Confederate victory, with considerable losses on both sides.
  • Emancipation Proclamation is announced

    Emancipation Proclamation is announced
    Approaching the third year of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that that all persons held as slaves" in slave states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
  • Battle of Chancellorsville

    Battle of Chancellorsville
    The Battle of Chancellorsville was the culmination of the Chancellorsville Campaign, marking a huge victory for Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy. It is also notable as being the battle in which General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was mortally wounded.
  • Battle of Gettysburg

    Battle of Gettysburg
    The Battle of Gettysburg, one of the most significant engagements in the Civil War, was fought from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863. After General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army marched through Pennsylvania, it clashed with the Union's Army of the Potomac. By the end of the three-day conflict, the Union counted 28,000 casualties, while the Confederacy lost 23,000.
  • Confederates surrender at Vicksburg

    Confederates surrender at Vicksburg
    The Confederacy took its biggest blow so far when General John C Pemberton surrendered to forces led by General Ulysses S. Grant at Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Surrender of Vicksburg climaxed the successful Vicksburg Campaign, in which Grant's army marched 180 miles, winning five battles and taking around 6,000 prisoners. Grant's army of 70,000 constructed fifteen miles of trenches, constricting upon Pemberton's 29,000 soldiers inside the perimeter of Vicksburg.
  • New York City draft riots

    New York City draft riots
    The New York City draft riots began as an expression of discontent from working class Americans at new laws passed by Congress introducing a draft for the Civil War. Working class Americans resented that wealthier men were "exempt" from the draft if they could afford to hire a substitute. Although the draft riots began as a way to express anger at the draft system, the protests turned into race riots, remaining to this day the largest civil and most racially charged urban disturbance in America.
  • Lincoln gives the Gettysburg Address

    Lincoln gives the Gettysburg Address
    President Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The President urged Americans to honor those who died in the Battle of Gettysburg by striving to maintain the kind of nation the Founding Fathers would have wanted.
  • Atlanta is seized by Union forces

    Atlanta is seized by Union forces
    Midway through the Atlanta Campaign, an effort to neutralize Atlanta's significant rail and supply hub led by General Richard Sherman, Union troops overwhelmed Confederate forces led by John Bell Hood, capturing and ultimately burning the city of Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Abraham Lincoln wins re-election

    Abraham Lincoln wins re-election
    In the midst of the Civil War, sitting President Abraham Lincoln defeated Democratic candidate George McClellan in a convincing electoral margin of 212-21.
  • Sherman begins his March to the Sea

    Sherman begins his March to the Sea
    The most notable Union military campaign of the Civil War was General William Sherman's March to the Sea. Sherman led an army of 60,000 troops on a 285-mile march from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia in hopes of frightening Georgia civilians into abandoning the Confederacy. Sherman explained that the Union was "not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people," and that the North needed to "make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war."
  • Congress passes the 13th Amendment

    Congress passes the 13th Amendment
    Ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution formally abolished slavery in the U.S. It states "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, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
  • Freedmen's Bureau is founded

    Freedmen's Bureau is founded
    Originally called the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, Freedmen's Bureau was an agency established by Congress in 1865 with the goal of helping poor black slaves after the Civil War. It provided former slaves with food, healthcare, housing, education, and legal assistance. However, the bureau was prevented from fully carrying out all of its program due to a shortage of funding and personnel.
  • Abraham Lincoln gives his second Inaugural Address

    Abraham Lincoln gives his second Inaugural Address
    After successfully winning re-election in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln gives his second inaugural address at the U.S. Capitol Building on March 4, 1865. The President previewed his plans to heal a tense and heavily-divided nation.
  • Richmond falls to the Union army

    Richmond falls to the Union army
    The writing on the wall for the Confederate States of America came when the Rebel capital of Richmond, Virginia, was infiltrated by General Ulysses S. Grant during a major offensive attack in response to General Robert E. Lee's attack against Fort Stedman on March 25th.
  • Robert E. Lee surrenders at Appomattox

    Robert E. Lee surrenders at Appomattox
    The Civil War effectively came to an end when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his 28,000 troops to General Ulysses S. Grant in the Appomattox Court House, Virginia. After being forced out of the Confederate capital of Richmond, blocked from joining surviving southern forces in North Carolina, and being constantly harassed by Union cavalry, Lee faced no other choice then to surrender to the North. Grant told his officers, “The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again.”
  • President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated

    President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated
    While attending a play in Washington, D.C. President Abraham Lincoln is shot and killed by prominent stage actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. The attack came only five days after Southern General Robert E. Lee effectively ended the Civil War by surrendering to the Union. After shooting Lincoln in the back of the head, Booth would leap from the balcony onto the stage and shout "Sic semper tyrannis!", the motto of the state of Virginia.
  • John Wilkes Booth is killed

    John Wilkes Booth is killed
    12 days after assassinating President Abraham Lincoln, stage actor John Wilkes Booth is tracked down to Port Royal, Virginia and killed by police.