American civil war timeline


January 1861: The South secedes.

When Abraham Lincoln, a known opponent of slavery, was elected president, the South Carolina legislature perceived a threat. At a state convention, the delegates voted to remove the state of South Carolina from the union known as the United States of America. South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas seceded. Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina teetered on the edge of secession. These states eventually formed the Confederate States of America.


February 1861: The South creates a government.

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 James Buchanan (Lincoln's predecessor) refused to surrender federal forts in the South to the seceding states, southern state troops seized them. In Charleston harbor, South Carolina troops repelled a supply ship trying to reach federal forces based in Fort Sumter. The ship was forced to return to New York without delivering its supplies.


March 1861: Lincoln's inauguration.

During Lincoln's First Inaugural Address on March 4, 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.

April 1861: Attack on Fort Sumter.

In an attempt to avoid hostilities, President Lincoln notified South Carolina of his plans to send supplies to Fort Sumter. South Carolina, however, feared a trick; the commander of the fort, Robert Anderson, was asked to surrender immediately. Anderson offered to surrender, but not until he exhausted his remaining supplies. His offer was rejected, and, on April 12, the Civil War began with shots fired on the fort. Fort Sumter eventually was surrendered to South Carolina.



April 1861: Operations in Charleston Harbor



April 1861: Four more states join the Confederacy.

The attack on Fort Sumter pushed four other states, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina into the Confederacy. After Virginias secession, Richmond was named the Confederate capital.

May - June 1861: Blockade of the Chesapeake Bay



June 1861: West Virginia Is born.

Residents of the western counties of Virginia did not wish to secede 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.



June - December 1861: Operations in Western Virginia




June 1861: 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, political maneuvering and Union military pressure kept these states from joining the Confederacy.

July 1861: First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas.

Bowing to public demand, General-in-Chief Winfield Scott sent the Army of the Potomac south before adequately training his untried troops. Scott ordered General Irvin McDowell to advance on Confederate troops stationed near 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 Union retreat toward Washington.



July 1861: Manassas campaign



July 1861: General McDowell is replaced.

Lincoln replaced McDowell with General George B. McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac.

July 1861: A blockade of the South.

To blockade the coast of the Confederacy effectively, the Union navy had to be enlarged. By July, it was big enough to blockade the large Confederate ports. The South responded by building small, fast ships, called blockade runners, that could outmaneuver Union vessels.



September - December 1861: Operations in Eastern Kentucky



August 1861: Blockade of the Carolina coast




October 1861: Operations of the Gulf blockading squadron




October - December 1861: McClellan's operations in Northern Virginia



October 1861 - January 1862: Blockade of the Potomac River

1861-1862: Port Royal, South Carolina

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.


November 1861: Operations at the Ohio and Mississippi River confluence




January 1862: Lincoln orders action.

On January 27, President Lincoln issued a war order authorizing the Union to launch a unified aggressive action against the Confederacy. General McClellan, not satisfied with the readiness of his Army, disregarded the order.


January 1862: Jackson's operations Against the B&O Railroad


January 1862: Offensive in eastern Kentucky

February 1862: The Union takes the offensive in Tennessee.

On February 6, the Union captured Fort Henry, Tennessee, and on February 16, Fort Donelson, Tennessee. On February 25, Nashville became the first Conference state capital to fall to Union forces.



February - June 1862: Union penetration up the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers



February 1862: Davis elected to six-year term

Jefferson Davis was inaugurated President of the Confederacy for a six-year term.



February - June 1862: Joint operations against New Madrid, Island No. 10, and Memphis


February - June 1862: Burnside's North Carolina expedition



March 1862: McClellan loses command.

On March 8, President Lincoln reorganized the Army of Virginia and relieved McClellan of supreme command. McClellan was given command of the Army of the Potomac and ordered to attack Richmond.



March - July 1862: Peninsula campaign



March 1862: Battle of Monitor and Merrimac.

In an attempt to end the Northern stranglehold of Southern ports, Confederate engineers converted a scuttled Union frigate, the U.S.S. Merrimac, into an iron-sided vessel and rechristened it the C.S.S. Virginia. On March 9, in the first naval engagement between ironclad ships, Monitor fought Virginia to a draw, but not before Virginia sank two wooden Union warships off Norfolk, Virginia.



March 1862: "Stonewall" Jackson defeats Union forces.

Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, commanding forces in the Shenandoah Valley, attacked Union forces in late March, forcing them to retreat across the Potomac. As a result, Union troops were rushed to protect Washington, D.C.

March - June 1862: Jackson's Valley campaign




April 1862: 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 Union troops were almost defeated. But during the night, reinforcements arrived, and the next morning the Union commanded the field. When Confederate forces retreated, the exhausted Union forces did not follow. Casualties were heavy - 13,000 out of 63,000 Union soldiers, and 11,000 of 40,000 Confederate soldiers, were killed.


April 1862: Fort Pulaski, Georgia

In less than two days, General Quincy A. Gillmores fleet battered into submission Fort Pulaski, the imposing masonry structure near the mouth of the Savannah River (April 10-11, 1862).

April 1862: Operations Against Fort Pulaski




April 1862: New Orleans

Flag Officer David Farraguts fleet led an assault up the Mississippi River. By April 25, he was in command of New Orleans.

April - May 1862: Expedition to, and capture of, New Orleans

June 1862: The Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks).

On May 31, the Confederate Army attacked at Seven Pines, but last-minute reinforcements saved the Union from a serious defeat. Confederate commander Joseph E. Johnston was wounded, and Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia.




June 1862: Operations against Charleston




June - July 1862: Operations against Tampa




June - October 1862: Confederate heartland offensive



July 1862: The Seven Days' battles.

Between June 26 and July 2, Union and Confederate forces fought at Mechanicsville (June 26-27), Gaines Mill (June 27), Savage's Station (June 29), Frayser's Farm (June 30), and Malvern Hill (July 1). On July 2, the Confederate forces withdrew to Richmond, ending the Peninsular campaign.



July 1862: A new commander of the Union Army.

On July 11, Major General Henry Halleck was named general-in-chief of the Union Army, replacing General Winfield Scott.


July - August 1862: Operations against Baton Rouge




August 1862: Pope's campaign.

Union General John Pope suffered defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 29-30. General Fitz-John Porter was held accountable for the defeat, because he had failed to commit his troops to battle quickly enough; he was coerced into leaving the Army by 1863.


August 1862: Northern Virginia campaign




September 1862: Harper's Ferry.

Union General McClellan defeated Confederate General Lee at South Mountain and Crampton's Gap in September, but was to slow to save Harper's Ferry, which fell to Stonewall Jackson.

September 1862: Antietam.

On September 17, Confederate forces under General Lee and Union forces under General McClellan engaged in battle near Sharpsburg, Maryland. This battle was the bloodiest day of the war - 2,108 Union soldiers were killed and 9,549 wounded; 2,700 Confederates were killed and 9,029 wounded. 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 considering official recognition of the Confederacy, to reserve action. This also 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 1862: Maryland Campaign




September - October 1862: Iuka and Corinth operations



September - October 1862:Expedition to St. John's Bluff




October 1862: Operations in LaFourche District


November - December 1862: Fredericksburg campaign


December 1862: The Battle of Fredericksburg.

General McClellan's slow movements, General Lee's escape from Maryland, and continued raiding by Confederate cavalry disheartened the North. On November 7, Lincoln replaced McClellan with Major General Ambrose E. Burnside. Burnside's forces were defeated in a series of attacks against entrenched Confederate forces at Fredericksburg, Virginia, and Burnside was replaced by General Joseph Hooker.


December 1862: Goldsboro Expedition




January 1863: Emancipation Proclamation.

In an effort to placate the slave-holding border states, Lincoln initially resisted the demands of radical Republicans for the complete abolition of slavery. In 1861, Congress 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 issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring that all slaves in areas still in rebellion were free. This did not free the slaves in the Union slave-holding states.

December 1862 - January 1863: Stones River Campaign



December 1862 - January 1863: Forrest's Expedition into West Tennessee

December 1862 - January 1863: Operations Against Vicksburg



February - April 1863: Middle Tennessee operations

March 1863: The First Conscription Act.

Because of recruiting difficulties, the Union passed an act that made all men between the ages of 20 and 45 liable to be called for military service. Men could avoid service 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 act in the South provoked a comparable reaction.


March 1863: Naval attacks on Fort McAllister

March 1863: Cavalry Operations along the Rappahannock



March - April1863: Longstreet's Tidewater Operations



April 1863: Operations in West Louisiana



April 1863: Streight's raid in Alabama and Georgia


April - September 1863: Operations against the defenses of Charleston



April - May 1863: Chancellorsville campaign

May 1863: The Battle of Chancellorsville.

On April 27, Union General Hooker, commanding the Army of the Potomac, 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 his Army across the Rappahannock River, giving the South a victory. It was the Confederates' most costly victory. The casualties were the highest of any single battle, and the South lost one of their greatest generals, Stonewall Jackson, who was shot and mortally wounded by his own troops.


March - July 1863: Grant's Operations Against Vicksburg




May 1863: 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.



May - July 1863: Siege of Port Hudson




June 1863: 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 then continued north to Pennsylvania. General Hooker, who had planned to attack Richmond, was instead forced to follow Lee. Hooker, who was 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.


June - July 1863: Gettysburg

On July 1, the Battle of Gettysburg began after a chance encounter over much-needed supplies. The Unions General Meade had greater numbers and better defensive positions. He won the battle, but did not follow Lees retreating forces 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.Lincoln's Gettysburg Address


June - July 1863: Gettysburg Campaign



June 1863: Tullahoma or Middle Tennessee Campaign




June - September 1863: Taylor's Operations in West Louisiana



July 1863: Morgan's Raid in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio




August - September 1863: Chickamauga Campaign


September 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.



September - October 1863: East Tennessee Campaign



October 1863: Reopening the Tennessee River



October 1863: Expedition to Hillsboro River




October - November 1863: Bristoe Campaign



November 1863: Averell's Raid on the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad




November 1863: Operations on the Memphis & Charleston Railroad




November 1863: Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign



November - December 1863: Mine Run Campaign




November - December 1863: Longstreet's Knoxville Campaign




December 1863 - January 1864: Operations about Dandridge


January 1864: Operations in North Alabama


February 1864: Meridian and Yazoo River expeditions




February 1864: Demonstration on Dalton




February 1864: Demonstration on the Rapidan River



February 1864: Florida expedition




March 1864: Kilpatrick-Dahlgren raid




March - April 1864: Forrest's Expedition into west Tennessee and Kentucky



April - May 1864: Operations against Plymouth




May 1864: Grant's Wilderness campaign.

General Grant, promoted to commander of the Union armies, planned to fall upon Lee's forces in Virginia and annihilate them. They met in an inconclusive three-day battle known as the Wilderness. Lee inflicted greater casualties on the Union forces, but unlike Grant, he had no replacements.


May - June 1864: Grant's Overland campaign



May 1864: Crook-Averell raid on the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad



May 1864: Bermuda Hundred campaign


May - June 1864: Lynchburg campaign



May - September 1864: Atlanta campaign



June 1864 -- The Battle of Cold Harbor.

Grant again attacked Confederate forces at Cold Harbor, and lost over 7,000 men in twenty minutes. Although Lee suffered fewer casualties, his Army never recovered from Grant's continual attacks. Grant was haunted by his heavy losses and never forgave himself for ordering the last attack.




June 1864 -- The siege of Petersburg.

Grant hoped to take Petersburg, which is south of Richmond, and then attack 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.


June 1864: Morgan's Raid into Kentucky



June - August 1864: Forrest's Defense of Mississippi



June - August 1864: Early's Raid and Operations against the B&O Railroad


Richmond-Petersburg campaign [June-December 1864]



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., before withdrawing to Virginia.

August 1864: Sherman's Atlanta campaign.

Union General Sherman and the Federal Army of Tennessee left Chattanooga, and were soon met by Confederate troops under General Joseph Johnston. Johnston held off Sherman's numerically superior force with adept strategy. However, Johnston's superiors were displeased about his tactics and replaced him with General John Bell Hood, who was soon defeated. Hood evacuated Atlanta, Georgia, on September 1; Sherman occupied the city the next day. The fall of Atlanta boosted low Northern morale, and virtually assured Lincolns re-election.


August 1864: Operations in Mobile Bay




August - October 1864: Sheridan's Valley campaign



September - December 1864: Franklin-Nashville campaign



October 1864: Burbridge's raid into southwest Virginia




November 1864: Sherman's March to the Sea.

General Sherman continued his march through Georgia to the sea, where he could resupply his forces. During the march, Sherman cut off his source of supplies, and told his troops to scrounge off the land. His men cut a path 300 miles long and about 50 miles wide through Georgia, destroying factories, bridges, railroads, and public buildings as they passed. After three and a half months of constant maneuvering and a lot of hard fighting, Sherman forced Hood to relinquish Atlanta, the munitions center of the Confederacy.




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. Early on, general war-weariness in the North made re-election for Lincoln seem very unlikely; but Sherman's victory in Atlanta boosted Lincoln's popularity and helped him win re-election by a wide margin. Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address


November 1864: Breckinridge's advance into east Tennessee




November - December 1864: Savannah campaign



December 1864: Hood attacking Nashville

General Hood continued to attack at any cost. He brought his reduced Army before the defenses of Nashville, where it was crushed by General George H. Thomas on December 15-16, in the most complete victory of the war.



December 1864: Stoneman's raid into southwest Virginia


January 1865: The Fall of Fort Fisher.

After Admiral David D. Porter's warships massively shelled Fort Fisher, General Alfred H. Terry's troops captured it on January 15. This opened the way for Union forces to move against Wilmington, North Carolina, which was the last haven of the blockade runners.



January - February 1865: Operations against Fort Fisher and Wilmington




January - March 1865: Richmond-Petersburg campaign continued



January 1865: The collapse of the Confederacy.

Transportation problems and successful blockades caused brutal shortages of food and supplies in the South. Famished soldiers began deserting from Lee's forces, and although President Jefferson Davis authorized arming slaves as a means of expanding the shrinking Army, the process was never implemented


February 1865: Sherman marches through North and South Carolina.

Union General Sherman moved from Georgia through South Carolina, destroying everything in his path.




February - March 1865: Carolinas campaign



March 1865: Sheridan's expedition to Petersburg


March 1865: Operations near Saint Mark's




March - April 1865: Mobile campaign




March - April 1865: Appomattox campaign




April 1865: Richmond falls.

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


April 1865: Wilson's raid in Alabama and Georgia


April 1865: Surrender at Appomattox.

General Lee's troops were soon surrounded, and on April 7, Grant called on Lee to surrender. On April 9, the two commanders met at Appomattox Courthouse, and agreed on the terms of surrender. Lee's men were sent home on parole; soldiers were permitted to keep their horses, and officers their side arms. All other equipment was surrendered.



April 1865: The assassination of President Lincoln.

On April 14, as President Lincoln was watching a performance of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., he was shot by John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln died the next morning. Booth escaped to Virginia, but was shot and killed eleven days later by a Union solider.


Apri l865: Final surrenders.

Remaining Confederate troops surrendered between the middle of April and the end of May. Jefferson Davis was apprehended in Georgia on May 10.