The Civil War: Timeline

Important Events of the Civil War

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The Confederate States of America is Formed

02/09/1861

The Confederate States of America is made up of states that support slavery. States include South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.

The Civil War Begins

04/12/1861 - May 1865

At 4:30 a.m. Confederates under Gen. Pierre Beauregard open fire with 50 cannons upon Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The Civil War begins.

Robert E. Lee Declines Offer to Command Union Army

04/15/1861

Robert E. Lee, son of a Revolutionary War hero, and a 25 year distinguished veteran of the United States Army and former Superintendent of West Point, is offered command of the Union Army. Lee declines.

More States Secede from the Union

04/17/1861

Virginia secedes from the Union, followed within five weeks by Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina, thus forming an eleven state Confederacy with a population of 9 million, including nearly 4 million slaves. The Union will soon have 21 states and a population of over 20 million.

Robert E. Lee Resigns from Union and Accepts Offer to Command Confederate Forces

04/20/1861

Robert E. Lee resigns his commission in the United States Army. "I cannot raise my hand against my birthplace, my home, my children." Lee then goes to Richmond, Virginia, is offered command of the military and naval forces of Virginia, and accepts.

President Lincoln Issues General War Order No. 1

01/31/1862

President Lincoln issues General War Order No. 1 calling for all United States naval and land forces to begin a general advance by February 22, George Washington's birthday.

President Lincoln Takes Command of Union Forces

March 1862

The Peninsular Campaign begins as McClellan's Army of the Potomac advances from Washington down the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay to the peninsular south of the Confederate Capital of Richmond, Virginia then begins an advance toward Richmond.

President Lincoln temporarily relieves McClellan as general-in-chief and takes direct command of the Union Armies.

Confederate Ship Sinks Wooden Union Ships. Wooden Ships Made Obsolete

03/08/1862 - 04/09/1862

The Confederate Ironclad 'Merrimac' sinks two wooden Union ships then battles the Union Ironclad 'Monitor' to a draw. Naval warfare is thus changed forever, making wooden ships obsolete.

Battle at Shiloh

04/06/1862 - 04/07/1862

Confederate surprise attack on Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's unprepared troops at Shiloh on the Tennessee River results in a bitter struggle with 13,000 Union killed and wounded and 10,000 Confederates, more men than in all previous American wars combined. The president is then pressured to relieve Grant but resists. "I can't spare this man; he fights," Lincoln says.

General Robert E. Lee Takes Command of Johnston's Army

06/01/1862

Gen. Robert E. Lee assumes command of Joseph E. Johnston's Army, replacing the wounded Johnston. Lee then renames his force the Army of Northern Virginia. McClellan is not impressed, saying Lee is "likely to be timid and irresolute in action."

Seven Days Battle

06/25/1862 - 07/01/1862

The Seven Days Battles as Lee attacks McClellan near Richmond, resulting in very heavy losses for both armies. McClellan then begins a withdrawal back toward Washington.

General Henry W. Halleck Becomes General-in-Chief of Union Army

07/11/1862

After four months as his own general-in-chief, President Lincoln hands over the task to Gen. Henry W. (Old Brains) Halleck.

Battle of Antietam

09/17/1862

The bloodiest day in U.S. military history as Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Armies are stopped at Antietam in Maryland by McClellan and numerically superior Union forces. By nightfall 26,000 men are dead, wounded, or missing. Lee then withdraws to Virginia.

Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation Issued

09/22/1862

Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves issued by President Lincoln.

Final Emancipation Proclamation Issued

01/01/1863

President Lincoln issues the final Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in territories held by Confederates and emphasizes the enlisting of black soldiers in the Union Army. The war to preserve the Union now becomes a revolutionary struggle for the abolition of slavery.

U. S. Congress Enacts Draft

03/03/1863

The U.S. Congress enacts a draft, affecting male citizens aged 20 to 45, but also exempts those who pay $300 or provide a substitute. "The blood of a poor man is as precious as that of the wealthy," poor Northerners complain.

Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson Dies

05/10/1863

The South suffers a huge blow as Stonewall Jackson dies from his wounds, his last words, "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."

"I have lost my right arm," Lee laments.

The Tides of Battle Turn

07/01/1863 - 07/03/1863

The tide of war turns against the South as the Confederates are defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.

Vicksburg, the Last Confederate Stronghold Along the Mississippi, Surrenders

07/04/1863

Vicksburg, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, surrenders to Gen. Grant and the Army of the West after a six week siege. With the Union now in control of the Mississippi, the Confederacy is effectively split in two, cut off from its western allies.

Anti-Draft Riots in New York City

07/13/1863 - 07/16/1863

Anti-draft riots in New York City include arson and the murder of blacks by poor immigrant whites. At least 120 persons, including children, are killed and $2 million in damage caused, until Union soldiers returning from Gettysburg restore order.

William C. Quantrill and 450 Pro-Slavery Followers Raid Town in Lawrence, Kansas

08/21/1863

At Lawrence, Kansas, pro-Confederate William C. Quantrill and 450 pro-slavery followers raid the town and butcher 182 boys and men.

President Lincoln Delivers Gettysburg Address

11/19/1863

President Lincoln delivers a two minute Gettysburg Address at a ceremony dedicating the Battlefield as a National Cemetery.

Battle at Cold Harbor

06/03/1864

A costly mistake by Grant results in 7,000 Union casualties in twenty minutes during an offensive against fortified Rebels at Cold Harbor in Virginia.

Many of the Union soldiers in the failed assault had predicted the outcome, including a dead soldier from Massachusetts whose last entry in his diary was, "June 3, 1864, Cold Harbor, Virginia. I was killed."

Abraham Lincoln Re-elected for President

11/08/1864

Abraham Lincoln is re-elected president, defeating Democrat George B. McClellan. Lincoln carries all but three states with 55 percent of the popular vote and 212 of 233 electoral votes. "I earnestly believe that the consequences of this day's work will be to the lasting advantage, if not the very salvation, of the country," Lincoln tells supporters.

U. S. Congress Approves 13th Amendment to Constitution to Abolish Slavery

01/31/1865

The U.S. Congress approves the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, to abolish slavery. The amendment is then submitted to the states for ratification.

Confederate White House is Captured by Union

04/02/1865

Grant's forces begin a general advance and break through Lee's lines at Petersburg. Confederate Gen. Ambrose P. Hill is killed. Lee evacuates Petersburg. The Confederate Capital, Richmond, is evacuated. Fires and looting break out. The next day, Union troops enter and raise the Stars and Stripes.

Lee Surrenders

04/09/1865

Gen. Robert E. Lee surrenders his Confederate Army to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at the village of Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Grant allows Rebel officers to keep their sidearms and permits soldiers to keep horses and mules.

"After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources," Lee tells his troops.

President Abraham Lincoln Shot

04/14/1865

The Stars and Stripes is ceremoniously raised over Fort Sumter. That night, Lincoln and his wife Mary see the play "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater. At 10:13 p.m., during the third act of the play, John Wilkes Booth shoots the president in the head. Doctors attend to the president in the theater then move him to a house across the street. He never regains consciousness.

President Abraham Lincoln Dies

04/15/1865

President Abraham Lincoln dies at 7:22 in the morning. Vice President Andrew Johnson assumes the presidency.

John Wilkes Booth is Killed

04/26/1865

John Wilkes Booth is shot and killed in a tobacco barn in Virginia.

Remaining Confederate Forces Surrender. Civil War Ends

May 1865

Remaining Confederate forces surrender. The Nation is reunited as the Civil War ends. Over 620,000 Americans died in the war, with disease killing twice as many as those lost in battle. 50,000 survivors return home as amputees.

Abraham Lincoln Laid to Rest

05/04/1865

Abraham Lincoln is laid to rest in Oak Ridge Cemetery, outside Springfield, Illinois.

13th Amendment Finally Ratified. Slavery is Abolished

12/06/1865

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, is finally ratified. Slavery is abolished.