Course of the Civil War

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Southern Secession

1860

Seven states (South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia) seceded from the union after Lincoln's election.

Battle at Fort Sumter

April 12, 1861

General Beauregard was in command of the Confederate forces around the Charleston Harbor. He opened fire on the Union Troops holding Fort Sumter.

Battle of Bull Run

July 21, 1861

Also called the Battle of Manassas, it was the first major land battle of the armies in Virginia. The Union marched from Washington to fight against the Confederate Army. On the 21st, Irvin McDowell crossed at Sudley Ford and attacked the Confederate left flank on Matthews Hill. Fighting raged throughout the day as Confederate forces were driven back to Henry Hill. Late in the afternoon, Confederate reinforcements extended and broke the Union right flank. By July 22, the Union army reached the safety of Washington.

Emancipation Proclamation

January 1, 1863

Lincoln's famous proclamation freed all slaves residing in states that had rebelled against the Union. This was a military move to help win the war. Lincoln offered other plans for dealing with the problems of slavery after the war.

Capture of Vicksburg

1863

General Grant captured Vicksburg, cutting off the West from the rest of the Confederacy.

Battle of Gettysburg

1863

After defeating invading northern armies, General Robert E. Lee invaded the North and was himself defeated at Gettysburg in the crucial battle of the war.

Battle at Chancellorsville

April 30, 1863 - May 6, 1863

Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker’s well-executed crossing of the Rappahannock fords on April 30, 1863 placed his rejuvenated and reorganized Army of the Potomac on Lee’s vulnerable flank. Rather than retreat before this sizable Federal force, Lee opted to attack Hooker while he was still within the thick wilderness. Late on May 1, 1863, Lee and Jackson conceived one of the boldest plans of the war. Jackson, with 30,000 Confederates, would follow a circuitous route to the Union right and from there conduct an attack on that exposed flank. The May 2, 1863 flank attack stunned the Union XI corps and threatened Hooker’s position, but the victorious Confederate attack ended with the mortal wounding of Stonewall Jackson. On May 3, 1863, the Confederates resumed their offensive and drove Hooker’s larger army back to a new defensive line nearer the fords. Swinging east, Lee then defeated a separate Federal force near Salem Church that had threatened his rear. Lee's victory at Chancellorsville is widely considered to be his greatest of the entire war.

Capture of Atlanta

1864

General Sherman captured Atlanta, and, in a famous march through Georgia, destroyed everything in his path that might help the enemy. This action, plus the capture of Vicksburg, cut the South into three sections.

Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse

April 1865

Lee surrendered after steadily losing ground and after finding himself unable to lift the siege of Petersburg. Petersburg fell to Grant on April 2nd. Lee then abandoned Richmond, the Confederate capital, and fled west only to surrender a week later on April 9th. This essentially ended the war, although some fighting continued until the end of May.