Civil War Timeline




The Copperheads formed and played a role in politics in the 1860s. Copperheads were Democrats in the North who opposed the Civil War. Copperheadism was a major issue in the 1864 presidential election; its strength increased when Union armies were doing poorly, and decreased when they won great victories.

Winfield Scott


Winfield Scott was the first Union commander of the Civil War, but soon was replaced because he was too old and unhealthy to lead troops into battle.

Confiscation Acts

1861 - 1862

The Confiscation Acts were laws passed by the United States Congress during the Civil War with the intention of freeing the slaves still held by the Confederate forces in the South. The First Confiscation Act of 1861 authorized the confiscation of any Confederate property by Union forces. The Second Confiscation Act stated that any Confederate official, military or civilian, who did not surrender within 60 days of the act's passage would have their slaves freed. However, this act was only applicable to Confederate areas that had already been occupied by the Union Army. Lincoln opposed these acts, however he signed them into law because he could see that they would lead to emancipation.

Ambrose Burnside

1861 - 1865

Ambrose Burnside was the colonel of the 1st Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry. He took part in major battle such as Anteitam, the First Battle of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Seige of St. Petersburg, and more.

U.S. Sanitary Commision

June 18, 1861

The United States Sanitary Commission was a private relief agency created by federal legislation to support sick and wounded soldiers of the U.S. Army during the Civil War. It operated across the North, raised its own funds, and enlisted thousands of volunteers. This is important because it shows how people throughout the North didn't sit idly by while the war was waged; they volunteered and helped.

George McClellan

November 1861 - March 1862

George McClellan was the general-in-chief of the Union Army. He was commander at the Battle of Anteitam, a famous battle in the Civil War. He was also the Democratic party candidate in 1864.

Clement Vallandigham

January 14, 1863

Clement Vallandigham was an Ohio politician who served two terms in the United States House of Representatives. He was the leader of the Copperhead faction of anti-war Democrats during the Civil War. On January 14, 1863, he gave a speech entitled "The Constitution-Peace-Reunion," in which he stated his opposition to abolitionism, and denounced Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.

Joseph Hooker

April 30, 1863 - May 6, 1863

Joseph Hooker was a major general of the Union army. He is best remembered for his defeat by Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Women's National Loyal League

May 14, 1863

The Women's National Loyal League was formed by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. This organization sought to end the American Civil War through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that abolished slavery. They organized a Mammoth Petition that urged Congress to emancipate all slaves. This is important because this was one of the main roles that women played back then.

West Virginia

June 20, 1863

West Virginia was admitted to the Union when it broke away from Virginia. West Virginia was the only state in the Union to secede from a Confederate state during the American Civil War.

New York City Draft Riots

July 1863

The New York City draft riots involved working-class Irish immigrants who had been signed up as citizens to swell the machine vote, not realizing it made them liable for the draft. The riots were the largest civil insurrection in American history.

George Meade

July 1863

George Meade was the Union general who replaced Hooker. He is best known for defeating Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg.

National Union Party


The National Union Party was the name used by the Republican Party for the 1864 presidential election, held during the Civil War. The party nominated President Abraham Lincoln and former Democrat Andrew Johnson, who were elected in a landslide.

Clara Barton


Clara Barton was appointed by Union General Benjamin Butler as the "lady in charge" of the hospitals at the front of the Army of the James. She is known as the "Angel of the Battlefield."

Ulysses S. Grant

March 9, 1864 - March 4, 1869

Ulysses S. Grant was Commander General of the Army of the Potomac from 1864 to 1869. He was the commander to finally end the war and achieve a Union victory. He took part in many famous battles such as Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Petersburg.


Battle of Fredericksburg

December 11, 1852 - December 15, 1852

The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought between General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside. It was an easy Confederate victory. The casualties sustained by each army showed clearly how disastrous the Union army's tactics were.

Bleeding Kansas

1854 - 1861

Bleeding Kansas was a series of violent political confrontations involving anti-slavery Free-Staters and pro-slavery Border Ruffians, that took place in the Kansas Territory and the neighboring towns of Missouri. The conflict that was being fought over was if Kansas would enter as a slave state or a free state. Popular sovereignty was allowed in Kansas, which was why so many people crossed the border into Kansas.

Dred Scott v. Sanford

March 6, 1857

Justice Roger B. Taney ruled that Scott was still a slave even though he had lived in free states because slaves were considered property, and a person's property was protected under the 5th amendment. In saying this, Taney also threw out the Missouri Compromise, because property could be brought anywhere and still remain property.

Lincoln-Douglas Debates


These debates are important because they influenced the election of 1860. The competition for this election was between Lincoln and Douglas. Douglas lost the support of the South in these debates, therefore guaranteeing Lincoln the presidency.

Raid on Harper's Ferry

October 16, 1859

John Brown and 18 other abolitionists attacked the Harper's Ferry arsenal. This is important because it scared the South, which lead to the Southern state militias to being training.

Habeas Corpus


The term habeas corpus was coined in 1215, and the idea has been around since then. Habeas corpus is a legal action which requires a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court. This ensures that a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention—that is, detention lacking sufficient cause or evidence.

Crittenden Compromise

December 18, 1860

The unsuccessful Crittenden Compromise was proposed by Kentucky Senator John Crittenden. it was aimed to persuade the South to not secede. The compromise extended the Missouri Compromise line west, and it guaranteed the permanent existence of slavery in the South. Though it was never passed, it was brought up many times when the United States was trying to keep the South from seceding.


1861 - 1865

Ironclads were a steam-propelled warship protected by iron or steel armor plates. These ships were used to strengthen both the Confederate and the Union navy. The Union navy was stronger, so the Confederacy stood a lot to gain from obtaining ironclads. And the Union ironclads played an important role in the Mississippi and tributaries by providing tremendous fire upon Confederate forts.

Anaconda Plan


The Anaconda Plan is the name widely applied to an outline strategy for subduing the seceding states in the American Civil War. Proposed by General-in-Chief Winfield Scott, the plan emphasized the blockade of the Southern ports, and called for an advance down the Mississippi River to cut the South in two. The Union army planned to try this on the Mississippi River, the Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Ex Parte Merryman


Ex parte Merryman was a well-known U.S. federal court case which arose out of the Civil War. It was a test of the authority of the President to suspend "the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus" under the Constitution's Suspension Clause. Chief Justice Roger Taney ruled that the authority to suspend habeas corpus lay with Congress, not the president. President Lincoln ignored the ruling, as did the Army under Lincoln's orders.

Emancipation Ideologies


Emancipation, at this time, meant freeing all black slaves. This was a huge step, and one that would not be able to be achieved easily. The emancipation of the slaves would not happen for a while.

Abraham Lincoln's 1st Inaugural Address

March 4, 1861

In his First Inaugural Address, Lincoln said that he wasn't going to do anything about slavery in the South, so Southerners had no reason to be fearful. He also said that the Southern states didn't have the power to secede, but he wasn't going to attack them over it. This speech was important because he publicly expressed his thoughts and future plans for the dilemma facing him.

Border States

April 1861

The four border states, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri, were slave states who did not declare secession when the other states seceded in April 1861. Since these states were divided between seceding and not seceding, there were many conflicts and arguments within these states.

Attack on Fort Sumter

April 11, 1861

The Confederacy opened fire on Fort Sumter, controlled by the Union. The fort eventually fell to the Confederacy. This attack is important because these were the first shots of the Civil War.

1st Battle of Bull Run

July 21, 1861

The First Battle of Bull Run, also known as First Manassas (the name used by Confederate forces) was the first major land battle in the Civil War. The commanders of both armies were very inexperienced; for the Union, General Irvin McDowell, and for the Confederacy, General P.G.T. Beauregard. It ended up being a Confederate victory. This battle was important because it was the largest and bloodiest battle in American history up until that point.

Trent Affair

November 8, 1861

The Trent Affair was an international diplomatic incident that happened in 1861. The USS San Jacinto, commanded by Union Captain Charles Wilkes, intercepted the British mail packet RMS Trent and removed two Confederate diplomats, James Mason and John Slidell. The envoys were bound for Great Britain and France to press the Confederacy’s case for diplomatic recognition in Europe. The resolution of the Trent affair dealt a serious blow to Confederate diplomatic efforts because it created a feeling in Great Britain that the United States was prepared to defend itself when necessary.

National Draft Law


The Confederate Congress passed this act requiring military service for three years from all males aged eighteen to thirty-five. The Union followed suit 3 months later and passed a very similar act authorizing a militia draft within a state when it could not meet its quota with volunteers. In the Confederacy, bribes and cheating took place in order for someone to aviod the draft, creating more conflict between state and local governments. In the North, this act caused the New York City draft riots.

Union and Central Pacific Railroads

1862 - 1863

The Union and Central Pacific Railroads were built in the 1860s as part of the Transcontinental Railroad system. With railroads running across the entire United States, transportation became much easier, especially for people who wanted to move out West. The Union Pacific Railroad is still running today.

Peninsular Campaign

March 1862 - July 1862

The Peninsula Campaign of the American Civil War was a major Union operation launched in southeastern Virginia. It was the first large scale offensive in the Eastern states. The operation was lead by George McClellan. It was a big turning movement against the Confederate States Army in Virginia; it was intended to capture the capital of the Confederacy, Richmond. McClellan was initially successful against the cautious General Joseph Johnston, but the emergence of the aggressive General Robert E. Lee turned the battle into a Union defeat.

Battle of Shiloh

April 6, 1862

The Battle of Shiloh (a.k.a. the Battle of Pittsburgh Landing) was fought in southwestern Tennessee. The Union army, under Ulysses S. Grant, fought the Confederate army under Johnston and Beauregard. The end result was a Union victory.

Conscription Acts

April 18, 1862 - 1863

The Confederacy passed its Conscription act on April 18, 1862. This was an act requiring military service for three years from all males aged eighteen to thirty-five. In 1863, the Union passed its version called the Enrollment Act. This act set up under the Union Army a system for enrolling and drafting men between twenty and forty-five years of age. This is important because it showed the need for soldiers, and also this was the first genuine conscription act.

Homestead Act of 1862

May 20, 1862

The Homestead Act, signed by Abraham Lincoln, stated that anyone who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government (including freed slaves) and was at least 21 years old or the head of a household, could file an application to claim a federal land grant. The occupant had to reside on the land for five years, and show evidence of having made improvements. This act didn't work very well; people started claiming huge pieces of land, saying it had been given to them through this act, and there was no way to prove who's land was who's.

Battle of Seven Pines

May 31, 1862 - June 1, 1862

The Battle of Seven Pines was an offensive up the Virginia Peninsula by the Union's George McClellan, in which the Army of the Potomac reached the outskirts of Richmond. Both sides claimed victory with roughly equal casualties, but neither side's accomplishment was impressive. George McClellan's advance on Richmond was halted and the Army of Northern Virginia fell back into Richmond.

Morrill Land Act 1862

July 2, 1862

The Morrill Land Act of 1862 established colleges that would teach military tactics as well as agriculture and engineering. These colleges were paid for by states allocating land, and then using those funds to pay for the college. As a result of this act, many new colleges such as Cornell University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology were established.

Second Battle of Bull Run

August 28, 1862

The Second Battle of Bull run was an offensive campaign by Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia against Union John Pope's Army of Virginia. It was a Confederate victory. Pope was relieved of command shortly after this on September 12, 1862, and his army was merged into the Army of the Potomac as it marched into Maryland under McClellan.

Battle of Antietam

September 17, 1862

The Battle of Antietam (a.k.a. Battle of Sharpsburg) was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Union soil. The Union army was led by George McClellan, and the Confederate army was led by Robert E. Lee. It was a Union victory. This battle is important because this was when Great Britain and France decided not to support the Confederacy in the war.

Emancipation Proclamation

January 1, 1863

The Emancipation Proclamation, a speech by Lincoln, was a military order given to the Union army. It proclaimed that all slaves in the Confederate territory would be free. The speech, however, did not abolish slavery, nor did it free slaves in the border states. This speech is important because it made the destruction of slavery an explicit war goal, in addition to the goal of reuniting the Union.

National Bank Acts

1863 - 1864

The National Bank Acts were two federal banking acts that established a system of national banks for banks, and created the United States National Banking System. These acts still have an impact today; they created the base for the national banking system of the U.S.

Battle of Chancellorsville

April 30, 1863 - May 6, 1863

The Battle of Chancellorsville was between Union Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker's Army of the Potomac against an army less than half its size, Gen. Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Chancellorsville is known as Lee's "perfect battle" because his risky decision to divide his army in the presence of a much larger enemy force resulted in a significant Confederate victory. However, the Confederate suffered a loss when Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson died.

Abraham Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Address

March 4, 1865

In his Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln reminded everyone of how wrong both sides were about the war. He also talked about the unmistakable evil of slavery. This is important because the public could have insight on to what Lincoln's thoughts were on the war; he was very modest, knowing that the Union was going to win and slavery would be abolished, and he didn't blame that South for that much.

The Thirteenth Amendment

December 6, 1865

The thirteenth amendment outlaws slavery or involuntary servitude in the United States, except as punishment of crime. This is important because it signified the end of slavery, which is what the North and South had been fighting over.

Ex Parte Milligan


Ex parte Milligan was a United States Supreme Court case that ruled that the application of military courts to citizens when civilian courts are still operating is unconstitutional. It was controversial because it was one of the first cases after the end of the American Civil War.

Standard Gauge


The government started making the transcontinental railroad at two different ends of the country, but since they didn't use the standard gauge, it caused problems for them later on.


Confederate States of America

1861 - 1865

The Southern states seceded to form the Confederate States of America in 1861. A convention in Montgomery was held and a document called the Confederate Constitution was adopted by the Confederacy. This document was similar to the U.S. constitution, but it put greater emphasis on state independence. The creation of the Confederacy is important because this is what will fight the Union in the Civil War.

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson

1861 - 1863

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was a Confederate general during the American Civil War, and one of the best-known Confederate commanders after General Robert E. Lee. His military career includes the Valley Campaign of 1862 and his service as a corps commander in the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee.

Lower Southern Secession

January 1861

After Lincoln was elected, seven of the southern states seceded.These states were South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. The secession was the result of the division that happened between the North and the South. These states would soon be the opposing side to the Union in the Civil War.

Confederate Capitals

1861 - 1865

The first Confederate meeting after secession was held in Montgomery, Alabama, so naturally it became its capital, until May 29, 1861. Richmond, Virginia was chosen as the Confederacy's new capital until April 3, 1865. It is important to know the Confederacy's capitals because during the Civil War, the capital was the opponent's target.

Robert E. Lee

1861 - 1865

Robert E. Lee was a general who commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln's first choice as Union commander, but stayed true to his state (Virginia) when it seceded. The Confederacy also never had to replace him as general. This proves that he was a very smart, accomplished general.

Confederate Foreign Relations with England/France

1861 - 1865

The Confederacy wanted England and France to side with them in the Civil War, because with they're help, they would win. However, both England and France denied the Confederacy's request after the Battle of Antietam, a Northern victory. In fact, England and France went so far as to stop buying cotton from the Confederacy, and buying from Egypt instead. This is important because with the support of these two countries, the Confederacy would most likely have won the war.

Joseph Johnston

1861 - 1865

Joseph Johnston was one of the most senior general officers in the Confederate States Army. He organized the Army of the Shenandoah (Confederate Army) in July 1861.He took part in the First Battle of Bull Run, Battle of Seven Pines, Vicksburg Campaign, and more.

Jefferson Davis

February 18, 1861 - May 10, 1865

Jefferson Davis was the leader of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, serving as President of the Confederate States of America for its entire history, from 1861 to 1865. He was the main image of the Confederacy during this time.

Secession after Fort Sumter

April 1861

Fort Sumter caused four more Southern states to secede. These states were Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Virginia. These states joined the Confederacy, making the total number of Confederate states 11.