Civil War Timeline

  • Missouri Compromise

    Missouri Compromise
    Behind the leadership of Henry Clay, Congress passed a series of agreements in 1820–1821 known as the Missouri Compromise. Under these agreements,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.
  • Underground Railroad

    Underground Railroad
    The system of escape routes they used became known as the
    Underground Railroad. “Conductors” on the routes 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 chose to remain there. Others journeyed to Canada to be completely out of reach of their “owners."
  • Harriet Tubman

    Harriet Tubman
    Harriet Tubman, born a slave in Maryland in 1820 or 1821. She heard rumors that she was about to be sold. Fearing this possibility, 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.
  • Stephen F. Austin goes to jail

    Stephen F. Austin goes to jail
    In 1821 Stephen F. Austin led the first of several groups of American settlers. Drawn by the promise of inexpensive land and
    economic opportunity, Austin established a colony of American settlers in Texas, then the northernmost province of the Mexican state of Coahuila. Austin’s plans didn’t work out as well as he had hoped 12 years later, he found himself in a Mexican prison and his new homeland in an uproar. After his release, Austin spoke about the impending crisis between Texas and Mexico.
  • Santa Fe Trail

    Santa Fe Trail
    Santa Fe Trail, stretched 780 miles from Independence, Missouri, to Santa Fe in the Mexican province of New Mexico. Each spring from 1821 through the 1860s, American traders loaded their covered wagons with goods and set off toward Santa Fe. The first 150 miles, traders traveled individually. After that, fearing attacks by Native Americans, traders banded into organized groups of up to 100 wagons. Traders raced off on their own as each tried to be the first to arrive.
  • San Felipe de Austin

    San Felipe de Austin
    The colony was named San Felipe de Austin, in
    Stephen’s honor. By 1825, Austin had issued 297 land grants to the group that later became known as Texas’s Old Three Hundred. Each family received either 177 very inexpensive acres of farmland, or 4,428 acres for stock grazing, as well as a 10-year
    exemption from paying taxes. “I am convinced,” Austin said, “that I could take on fifteen hundred families as easily as three hundred if permitted to do so.”
  • The Liberator

    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

    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. Meanwhile, Mexican politics had become increasingly unstable. 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.
  • Nat Turner

    Nat Turner
    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.
  • Oregon Trail

    Oregon Trail
    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, they proved that wagons could travel on the Oregon Trail. Following the Whitmans’ lead, many pioneers migrated west on the Oregon Trail. Some bought “prairie schooners,” wooden-wheeled wagons covered with sailcloth and pulled by oxen.
  • Texas Revolution

    Texas Revolution
    The 1836 rebellion in which Texas gained its
    independence from Mexico.
  • Manifest Destiny

    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. Most Americans had practical reasons for moving west. For settlers, the abundance of land was the greatest attraction. As the number of western settlers climbed, merchants and manufacturers followed, seeking new markets for their goods. Many Americans also trekked west because of personal economic problems in the East.
  • Texas enters the United States

    Texas enters the United States
    In March 1845, angered by U.S.-Texas negotiation on annexation, the Mexican government recalled its ambassador from Washington. On December 29, 1845, Texas entered the Union. Events moved quickly toward war
  • Mexican American War

    Mexican American War
    Mexico claimed the Nueces River as its northeastern border, while the U.S. claimed the Rio Grande River, and the day that both troops met at the Rio Grande and the Mexican army opened fire, on April 25, 1846, the Mexican American War began.
  • Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas Debates

    Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas Debates
    U.S. Senate between Democratic incumbent Stephen Douglas and Republican challenger Congressman Abraham Lincoln. To many outsiders it must have seemed like an uneven match. Douglas
    was a well-known two-term senator with an outstanding
    record and a large campaign chest, while Lincoln was a self educated man who had been elected to one term in Congress
    in 1846.
  • The North Star

    The North Star
    Douglass broke with Garrison, who believed that abolition justified whatever means were necessary to achieve it.
    In 1847, 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

    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 present day California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, most of Arizona, and parts of
    Colorado and Wyoming.
  • Compromise of 1850

    Compromise of 1850
    Obtaining support of the powerful Massachusetts senator Daniel Webster, Clay presented to the Senate a series of resolutions later called the Compromise of 1850. Clay’s compromise contained provisions to appease Northerners as well as Southerners. To please the North, the compromise provided that California be admitted to the Union as a free state.
  • Fugitive Slave Act

    Fugitive Slave Act
    Infuriated by the Fugitive Slave Act, some Northerners resisted
    it by organizing “vigilance committees” to send endangered African Americans to safety in Canada. Others resorted to violence to rescue fugitive slaves. Still others worked to help slaves escape from slavery
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin

    Uncle Tom's Cabin
    In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which stressed that slavery was not just a political contest, but also a great moral struggle. As a young girl, Stowe had watched boats filled with people on their way to be sold at slave markets. Uncle Tom’s Cabin expressed her lifetime hatred of slavery. The book stirred Northern abolitionists to increase their protests against the Fugitive Slave Act.
  • Kansas-Nebraska Act

    Kansas-Nebraska Act
    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

    Dread Scott v. Sandford
    A major Supreme Court decision was brought about 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 on the grounds that living in a free state—Illinois—and a free territory—Wisconsin—had made him a free man.
  • John Brown's Raid/Harpers Ferry

    John Brown's Raid/Harpers Ferry
    He believed that the U.S had similar uprisings. Brown secretly obtained financial from the North. On the night of October 16, 1859, he led a band of 21 men, black and white, into Harpers Ferry, Virginia troops put down the rebellion. Later, authorities tried Brown and put him to death. Public reaction to Brown’s execution was immediate and intense in both sections of the country. In the North, bells tolled, guns fired salutes, and huge crowds gathered to hear fiery speakers denounce the South.
  • Abraham Lincoln becomes president

    Abraham Lincoln becomes president
    As the 1860 presidential election approached,
    the Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln appeared to be moderate in his views. Although he pledged to halt the further spread of slavery, he also tried to reassure Southerners that a Republican administration would not “interfere with their slaves, or with them, about their slaves.” Nonetheless, many Southerners viewed him as an enemy.
  • Formation of Confederacy

    Formation of Confederacy
    Mississippi soon followed South Carolina’s lead, as did
    Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. In
    February 1861, delegates from the secessionist states met in
    Montgomery, Alabama, where they formed the Confederate
    States of America, or Confederacy. They also drew up a
    constitution that closely resembled that of the United
    States, but with a few notable differences. The most important difference was that it “protected and recognized” slavery in new territories.
  • Attack on Fort Sumter

    Attack on Fort Sumter
    Confederacy was formed. Confederate soldiers in each secessionist state began seizing federal installations especially forts. By the time of 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 on April 12. Confederate batteries began thundering away to the cheers of Charleston’s citizens. The deadly struggle North and South.
  • Battle of Bull Run

    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, just 25 miles from Washington, D.C. The battle 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.
  • Battle of Antietam

    Battle of Antietam
    McClellan ordered his men to pursue Lee, and the two
    sides fought on September 17 near a creek called the
    Antietam 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

    Emancipation Proclamation
    On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. he 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.
  • Battle of Gettysburg

    Battle of Gettysburg
    The battle of Gettysburg started July 1, 1863 – July 3, 1863. Union victory that stopped Confederate General Robert E. Lee's second invasion of the North. It was a three day battle which was the bloodiest war. Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point in the Civil War, costing the Union 23,000 killed, wounded, or missing in action. The Confederates suffered some 25,000 casualties. The Civil War effectively ended with the surrender of General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in April 1865.
  • Gettysburg address

    Gettysburg address
    In November 1863, 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.
  • Thirteenth Amendment

    Thirteenth Amendment
    The Emancipation Proclamation freed only
    those slaves who lived in states that were behind Confederate lines, and not yet under Union control. The government had to decide what to do about the border states, where slavery still existed. The president believed that the only solution was a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery
  • Battle of Vicksburg

    Battle of Vicksburg
    In the winter of 1862–1863, Grant tried several schemes to reach Vicksburg and take it from the Confederates. Nothing seemed to work—until the spring of 1863.Grant began by weakening the Confederate defenses that protected
    Vicksburg. He sent Benjamin Grierson to lead his cavalry brigade through the heart of Mississippi. Grierson succeeded in destroying rail lines and distracting Confederate forces from Union infantry working its way toward
  • Sherman's March

    Sherman's March
    In the spring of 1864, 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.
  • Abolition

    Abolition, the movement to abolish slavery, became the most important of a series of reform movements in America.
  • Surrender of Appomattox Court House

    Surrender of Appomattox Court House
    On April 3, 1865, Union troops conquered Richmond, the Confederate capital. Southerners had 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 at a private home to arrange a Confederate surrender. Officers were permitted to keep their side arms. Within a month all remaining Confederate
    resistance collapsed. After four long years, the Civil War was over.
  • Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

    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.Our American Cousin. During its third act, a man crept up behind Lincoln and shot the president in the back of his head. Lincoln, who never regained consciousness, died on April 15. John Wilkes 26-year-old actor and Southern sympathizer then leaped down from the presidential box to the stage and escaped.
  • Income Tax

    Income Tax
    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.
  • Conscripton

    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.