Civil War Milestones



November 1, 1861

Lincoln forces aging General Winfield Scott to retire, and replaces him with George B. McClellan as general-in-chief.


March 11, 1862

Annoyed at McClellan's inaction, Lincoln removes him as general-in-chief, replacing him with General W. Halleck, but makes him head of the Army of the Potomac.


June 2, 1862

Lee takes command of the Confederate Armies of Northern Virginia


November 5, 1862

Lincoln replaces McClellan with Ambrose Burnside with disastrous results.


January 25, 1863

The hapless General Burnside is replaced as head of the Army of the Potomac by General Joseph Hooker.


June 25, 1863

General George Meade is put in charge of the Army of the Potomac after General Hooker is removed by Lincoln for not being aggressive enough

Grant (West)

October 16, 1863

Grant is given command of Union forces in the West.

Grant (Commander)

March 10, 1864

Grant is named commander of the Union armies, replacing Halleck.


July 17, 1864

Despite his success at preserving his forces against Sherman's assault, Johnston is replaced by General John B. Hood, who attempts to take the offensive against Sherman.


Fort Sumter

April 12, 1861

The war officially begins when South Carolina militia forces led under Beauregard bombard Fort Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina

The First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas

July 21, 1861

Confederates under Generals Johnston and Beauregard rout Union troops. Gen. Jackson earns his nickname, "Stonewall Jackson".

Monitor vs. Virginia

March 9, 1862

The Union ironclad ship Monitor confronts the Confederate Virginia (Merrimack) off Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Battle of Shiloh

April 6, 1862 - April 7, 1862

Confederate forces under Gen. Johnston attack Grant's army. Union forces are nearly defeated, but reinforcements arrive and drive off the Confederate army. Losses are staggering: 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers are killed or wounded in the two days of fighting; the combined losses are more than the total American casualties in the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War combined.

Second Battle of Bull Run/Manassas

August 30, 1862

Confederate Generals Lee, Jackson, and James Longstreet defeat Union forces under General John Pope, forcing Union troops to evacuate all the way back to Washington. In less than a month, Lee has pushed two Union armies twice the size of his own from the gates of Richmond. Pope is sacked and McClellan is reinstated.


September 17, 1862

With Pope's retreat, Lee takes the offensive, but in one of those small moments that alter history, a copy of his roders fall into Union hands, allowing McClellan to anticipate Lee's strategy. In this single bloodiest day of the war, McClellan's Union forces meet Lee's advancing army. The dead and wounded exceed 10,000 for both sides. Lee pulls back, his invasion blunted, but McClellan fails to pursue the retreating Confederates. With Lee's offensive stalled, the likelihood of European recognition of the Confederacy is sharply reduced.


December 13, 1862

Despite an overwhelming numerical advantage, General Burnside's Union troops are routed by Lee with severe casualties, losing 12,000 to the Confederates' 5,000

Battle of Chancellorsville

May 2, 1863 - May 4, 1863

In another devastating battle, losses for both sides exceed 10,000 men. Lee's army defeats Hooker's Army of the Potomac. During the fighting, Stonewall Jackson leads a daring rear-end attack, forcing the Union withdrawal. But as he returns to Confederate lines, he is mistakenly shot by a Confederate soldier and dies of pneumonia on May 10, costing the Confederates one of their most effective field generals.


May 22, 1863 - July 4, 1863

General Grant, in concert with Sherman, performs a long siege of the Confederate citadel at Vicksburg, Mississippi, the key to control of the Mississippi River.


July 1, 1863 - July 3, 1863

Confederate troops in search of shoes meet up with a detachment of Union cavalry. Reinforcements are poured in. Three days of ferocious fighting mark the final turning point of the war. Confederate losses reach 28,000 killed, wounded, or missing, a third of the army's effective strength, to the Union's 23,000. Lee retreats to Virginia.

Grant's Assault on Virginia

May 4, 1864

Grant begins an assault on Virginia with an army of 100,000 aimed at Lee's Virginia army.

Battle of the Wilderness

May 5, 1864 - May 6, 1864

During two days of inconclusive but bloody fighting, many of the wounded on both sides die when caught by brushfires ignited by gunfire in the dense woods of the battleground.

Cold Harbor

June 3, 1864

Ignoring horrible losses, Grant continues to assault Lee's impregnable defenses. At this point he has lost 60,000 men, totaling the entirety of Lee's army.


June 15, 1864 - April 2, 1865

Grant begins the long siege of Petersburg, Virginia, recalling the tactics he used earlier against Vicksburg.

Siege of Atlanta

September 2, 1864

Sherman takes Atlanta after Hood's withdrawal. Much of the city is set on fire.

Sherman's March to the Sea

November 16, 1864 - December 22, 1864

General Sherman begins his march across the South by occupying Sheridan, Mississippi. Later, he marches from Atlanta to the sea at Savannah.

Appomattox Court House Surrender

April 8, 1865

Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Per Lincoln's request, the terms of the surrenders are generous, and Confederate officers and men are free to go home with their horses; officers may retain their sidearms, although all other equipment must be surrendered,


Lincoln Calls for Volunteers

April 15, 1861

Lincoln calls for 75,000 volunteers for three months' service --> no black volunteers allowed!

First Casualties of War, Naval Blockade, & Lee

April 19, 1861

Angry pro-Confederacy crowds stone Union troops in Baltimore. Four soldiers killed. Lincoln orders a naval blockade meant to block the South from European commerce. Gen. Scott advises Lincoln to ask Robert E. Lee to serve as the commander of the Union forces, but he opts to fight for his home state of Virginia instead.

Suspension of Habeas Corpus

July 2, 1861

Lincoln authorizes the suspension of the constitutional right of habeas corpus.

Income Tax Law & Enlistment Lengthened

August 5, 1861

To pay for the war, Congress passes the first income tax law, and enlistment periods are increased from three months to two years.


August 10, 1861 - August 30, 1861

To reverse his military losses at Wilson's Creek, Missouri, General Fremont declares martial law and announces that the slaves of secessionists are free. Lincoln requests that this order be withdrawn, but Fremont refuses, and Lincoln removes him from command.


January 27, 1862

The Union ironclad ship Monitor is launched.

General War Order Number 1

January 27, 1862

Lincoln calls for a Union offensive; McClellan ignores the order.

Mississippi Valley Campaign

February 6, 1862

Grant launches his offensive in the West. He captures Fort Donelson and Fort Henry.

Peninsular Campaign

April 4, 1862 - July 2, 1862

The Union Army of the Potomac begins the Peninsular Campaign aimed at Richmond. This ends at the Seven Days' Battles when Lee attacks McClellan and eventually drives him away from Richmond.

Emancipation Proclamation

January 1, 1863

Following success at Antietam, Lincoln feels that he can issue the Emancipation Proclamation. This only frees the slaves of the Confederacy, not those in the border states or territories retaken by Union forces. Because of it, France and England end a tense diplomatic dance, finally resolving not to recognize the Confederacy, and in the North, the proclamation has the effect of making the war considerably less popular.

Conscription Act

March 3, 1863

Lincoln signs the first Conscription Act. Enrollment is demanded of males between the ages of twenty and forty-five; substitutes can be hired or payments of $300 can be used for an exemption.

West Virginia

June 22, 1863

Pro-Union West Virginia joins the Union as the thirty-fifth state, with a constitution calling for gradual emancipation.

New York's Draft Riots

July 13, 1863 - July 16, 1863

In NEw York City, resentment against the Conscription Act turns into deadly rioting in which blacks are lynched. The crowd's anger has two sources: the idea of fighting to free the slaves, and the unfairness of allowing the wealthy to avoid conscription by paying a substitute: "It's a rich man's war but a poor man's fight."

Gettysburg Address

November 19, 1863

Dedicating a military cemetery on the notorious Pennsylvania battlefield, Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address, one of the immortal speeches in history.

Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction

December 8, 1863

Lincoln offers this proclamation to pardon those Confederates who will take an oath of loyalty.

Lincoln's 2nd Inauguration

March 4, 1865

Lincoln is inaugurated for a second term.

Lincoln's Last Public Address

April 11, 1865

In his last public address, Lincoln urges a spirit of generous conciliation during the reconstruction.

Lincoln Assassination

April 14, 1865

While watching a comedy at Ford's Theater, Lincoln is shot and mortally wounded by the actor John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer.


Virginia Secedes

April 17, 1861

The eighth state to do so. Washington D.C. now lies only 100 miles from Richmond.

Britain's Neutral

May 13, 1861

Queen Victoria announces Britain's neutrality. However, they grant the Confederacy "belligerent status", meaning British merchants can trade with Confederate States.


January 11, 1862

Edwin Stanton replaces Simon Cameron as war secretary. Cameron's War Department had been riddled by corruption and mismanagement.

Conscription Act

April 16, 1862

Jefferson Davis signs the Confederate Conscription Act, the first military draft.