1856 Jan 1
, United States

Slavery was the main cause of disunion. Slavery had been a controversial issue during the framing of the Constitution but had been left unsettled. The issue of slavery had confounded the nation since its inception, and increasingly separated the United States into a slaveholding South and a free North. The issue was exacerbated by the rapid territorial expansion of the country, which repeatedly brought to the fore the issue of whether new territory should be slaveholding or free. The issue had dominated politics for decades leading up to the war. Key attempts to solve the issue included the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850, but these only postponed an inevitable showdown over slavery.

The motivations of the average person were not inherently those of their faction; some Northern soldiers were even indifferent on the subject of slavery, but a general pattern can be established. Confederate soldiers fought the war primarily to protect a Southern society of which slavery was an integral part. From the anti-slavery perspective, the issue was primarily whether slavery was an anachronistic evil incompatible with republicanism. The strategy of the anti-slavery forces was containment—to stop the expansion of slavery and thereby put it on a path to ultimate extinction. The slaveholding interests in the South denounced this strategy as infringing upon their constitutional rights. Southern whites believed that the emancipation of slaves would destroy the South's economy, due to the large amount of capital invested in slaves and fears of integrating the ex-slave black population. In particular, many Southerners feared a repeat of the 1804 Haiti massacre (also known as "the horrors of Santo Domingo"), in which former slaves systematically murdered most of what was left of the country's white population—including men, women, children, and even many sympathetic to abolition—after the successful slave revolt in Haiti. Historian Thomas Fleming points to the historical phrase "a disease in the public mind" used by critics of this idea and proposes it contributed to the segregation in the Jim Crow era following emancipation. These fears were exacerbated by the 1859 attempt of John Brown to instigate an armed slave rebellion in the South.

Dred Scott

Dred Scott Decision

1857 Mar 6
, Washington D.C.

Dred Scott v. Sandford was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court in which the Court held that the United States Constitution was not meant to include American citizenship for people of African descent, regardless of whether they were enslaved or free, and so the rights and privileges that the Constitution confers upon American citizens could not apply to them. The Supreme Court's decision has been widely denounced, both for how overtly racist the decision was and for its crucial role in the start of the American Civil War four years later. Legal scholar Bernard Schwartz said that it "stands first in any list of the worst Supreme Court decisions". Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes called it the Court's "greatest self-inflicted wound". Historian Junius P. Rodriguez said that it is "universally condemned as the U.S. Supreme Court's worst decision." Historian David Thomas Konig said that it was "unquestionably, our court's worst decision ever."

Last Moments Of Slavery Abolitionist John Brown

John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry

1859 Oct 16 - Oct 18
, Harpers Ferry

John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was an effort by abolitionist John Brown, from October 16 to 18, 1859, to initiate a slave revolt in Southern states by taking over the United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (since 1863, West Virginia). It has been called the dress rehearsal for, or Tragic Prelude to the Civil War.

Brown's party of 22 was defeated by a company of U.S. Marines, led by First Lieutenant Israel Greene. Ten of the raiders were killed during the raid, seven were tried and executed afterwards, and five escaped. The raid caused more excitement in the United States than had been seen in many years. It was extensively covered in the press nationwide—it was the first such national crisis to be publicized using the new electrical telegraph.

Lincoln's Election

Lincoln's Election

1860 Nov 6
, Washington D.C.

The election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 was the final trigger for secession. Efforts at compromise, including the Corwin Amendment and the Crittenden Compromise, failed. Southern leaders feared that Lincoln would stop the expansion of slavery and put it on a course toward extinction. When Lincoln won the presidential election in 1860, the South lost any hope of compromise. Jefferson Davis claimed that all the cotton states would secede from the Union. The Confederacy formed from seven states of the Deep South: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas in January and February 1861. They wrote the Confederate Constitution, which required slavery forever throughout the Confederacy. Until elections were held, Davis was the provisional president. Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861.

Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy from 1861 to 1865

Confederate States of America

1861 Feb 8 - 1865 May 9
, Richmond

The Confederacy was formed on February 8, 1861 (and exited until May 9, 1865) by seven slave states: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. All seven of the states were located in the Deep South region of the United States, whose economy was heavily dependent upon agriculture—particularly cotton—and a plantation system that relied upon enslaved Africans for labor. Convinced that white supremacy and slavery were threatened by the November 1860 election of Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln to the U.S. presidency, on a platform which opposed the expansion of slavery into the western territories, the Confederacy declared its secession from the United States, with the loyal states becoming known as the Union during the ensuing American Civil War. In the Cornerstone Speech, Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens described its ideology as centrally based "upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.

"The Battle of Mobile Bay" by Louis Prang

Union blockade

1861 Apr 1
, North Atlantic Ocean

By early 1861, General Winfield Scott had devised the Anaconda Plan to win the war with as little bloodshed as possible, which called for blockading the Confederacy and slowly suffocating the South to surrender. Lincoln adopted parts of the plan, but chose to prosecute a more active vision of war.

In April 1861, Lincoln announced the Union blockade of all Southern ports; commercial ships could not get insurance and regular traffic ended. The South blundered in embargoing cotton exports in 1861 before the blockade was effective; by the time they realized the mistake, it was too late. "King Cotton" was dead, as the South could export less than 10 percent of its cotton. The blockade shut down the ten Confederate seaports with railheads that moved almost all the cotton, especially New Orleans, Mobile, and Charleston. By June 1861, warships were stationed off the principal Southern ports, and a year later nearly 300 ships were in service. The blockade required the monitoring of 3,500 miles (5,600 km) of Atlantic and Gulf coastline, including 12 major ports, notably New Orleans and Mobile.

The Confederates began the war short on military supplies and in desperate need of large quantities of arms which the agrarian South could not provide. Arms manufactures in the industrial North were restricted by an arms embargo, keeping shipments of arms from going to the South, and ending all existing and future contracts. The Confederacy subsequently looked to foreign sources for their enormous military needs and sought out financiers and companies like S. Isaac, Campbell & Company and the London Armoury Company in Britain, who acted as purchasing agents for the Confederacy, connecting them with Britain's many arms manufactures, and ultimately becoming the Confederacy's main source of arms.

To get the arms safely to the Confederacy, British investors built small, fast, steam-driven blockade runners that traded arms and supplies brought in from Britain through Bermuda, Cuba, and the Bahamas in return for high-priced cotton. Many of the ships were lightweight and designed for speed and could only carry a relatively small amount of cotton back to England. When the Union Navy seized a blockade runner, the ship and cargo were condemned as a prize of war and sold, with the proceeds given to the Navy sailors; the captured crewmen were mostly British, and they were released.

Those blockade runners fast enough to evade the Union Navy could only carry a small fraction of the supplies needed. They were operated largely by foreign citizens, making use of neutral ports such as Havana, Nassau and Bermuda. The Union commissioned around 500 ships, which destroyed or captured about 1,500 blockade runners over the course of the war.

Bombardment of the Fort by the Confederates

Battle of Fort Sumter

1861 Apr 12 - Apr 13
, Charleston

Following the declaration of secession by South Carolina on December 20, 1860, its authorities demanded that the U.S. Army abandon its facilities in Charleston Harbor. The resupply of Fort Sumter became the first crisis of the administration of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, inaugurated March 4, 1861, following his victory in the election of November 6, 1860. He notified the Governor of South Carolina, Francis W. Pickens, that he was sending supply ships, which resulted in an ultimatum from the Confederate government for the immediate evacuation of Fort Sumter, which Major Anderson refused. Beginning at 4:30 a.m. on April 12, the Confederates bombarded the fort from artillery batteries surrounding the harbor. Although the Union garrison returned fire, they were significantly outgunned and, after 34 hours, Major Anderson agreed to evacuate. 

Following the battle, there was widespread support from both North and South for further military action. Lincoln's immediate call for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion resulted in an additional four Southern states also declaring their secession and joining the Confederacy. The Battle of Fort Sumter is usually recognized as the first battle of the American Civil War.

First Battle of Bull Run, chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison

First Battle of Bull Run

1861 Jul 21
, Fairfax County

Just months after the start of the war at Fort Sumter, the Northern public clamored for a march against the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, which was expected to bring an early end to the Confederacy. Yielding to political pressure, Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell led his unseasoned Union Army across Bull Run against the equally inexperienced Confederate Army of Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard camped near Manassas Junction. McDowell's ambitious plan for a surprise flank attack on the Confederate left was poorly executed; nevertheless, the Confederates, who had been planning to attack the Union left flank, found themselves at an initial disadvantage.

Confederate reinforcements under Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston arrived from the Shenandoah Valley by railroad, and the course of the battle quickly changed. A brigade of Virginians under a relatively unknown brigadier general from the Virginia Military Institute, Thomas J. Jackson, stood its ground, which resulted in Jackson receiving his famous nickname, "Stonewall". The Confederates launched a strong counterattack, and as the Union troops began withdrawing under fire, many panicked and the retreat turned into a rout. McDowell's men frantically ran without order in the direction of Washington, D.C.

Both armies were sobered by the fierce fighting and the many casualties and realized that the war was going to be much longer and bloodier than either had anticipated. The First Battle of Bull Run highlighted many of the problems and deficiencies that were typical of the first year of the war. Units were committed piecemeal, attacks were frontal, infantry failed to protect exposed artillery, tactical intelligence was minimal, and neither commander was able to employ his whole force effectively. McDowell, with 35,000 men, could commit only about 18,000, and the combined Confederate forces, with about 32,000 men, also committed 18,000.

The First Battle of Bull Run (the name used by Union forces), also known as the Battle of First Manassas (the name used by Confederate forces), was the first major battle of the American Civil War.

Trent Affair

Trent Affair

1861 Nov 8
, Bahamas

On November 8, 1861, USS San Jacinto, commanded by Union Captain Charles Wilkes, intercepted the British mail packet RMS Trent and removed, as contraband of war, two Confederate envoys: James Murray Mason and John Slidell. The envoys were bound for Britain and France to press the Confederacy's case for diplomatic recognition and to lobby for possible financial and military support.

Public reaction in the United States was to celebrate the capture and rally against Britain, threatening war. In the Confederate states, the hope was that the incident would lead to a permanent rupture in Anglo-American relations and possibly even war, or at least diplomatic recognition by Britain. Confederates realized their independence potentially depended on intervention by Britain and France. In Britain, there was widespread disapproval of this violation of neutral rights and insult to their national honor. The British government demanded an apology and the release of the prisoners and took steps to strengthen its military forces in British North America and the North Atlantic.

President Abraham Lincoln and his top advisors did not want to risk war with Britain over this issue. After several tense weeks, the crisis was resolved when the Lincoln administration released the envoys and disavowed Captain Wilkes's actions, although without a formal apology. Mason and Slidell resumed their voyage to Europe.

Battle of Mill Springs

Battle of Mill Springs

1862 Jan 19
, Pulaski County

In late 1861, Confederate Brig. Gen. Felix Zollicoffer guarded Cumberland Gap, the eastern end of a defensive line extending from Columbus, Kentucky. In November he advanced west into Kentucky to strengthen control in the area around Somerset and made Mill Springs his winter quarters, taking advantage of a strong defensive position. Union Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas, ordered to break up the army of Maj. Gen. George B. Crittenden (Zollicoffer's superior), sought to drive the Confederates across the Cumberland River. His force arrived at Logan's Crossroads on January 17, 1862, where he waited for Brig. Gen. Albin Schoepf's troops from Somerset to join him. The Confederate force under Crittenden attacked Thomas at Logan's Crossroads at dawn on January 19. Unbeknownst to the Confederates, some of Schoepf's troops had arrived as reinforcements. The Confederates achieved early success, but Union resistance rallied and Zollicoffer was killed. A second Confederate attack was repulsed. Union counterattacks on the Confederate right and left were successful, forcing them from the field in a retreat that ended in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Mill Springs was the first significant Union victory of the war, much celebrated in the popular press, but was soon eclipsed by Ulysses S. Grant's victories at Forts Henry and Donelson.

The Union gunboat attack on Fort Henry, sketched by Alexander Simplot for Harper's Weekly | ©Harper's Weekly

Battle of Fort Henry

1862 Feb 6
, Stewart County

In early 1861 the critical border state of Kentucky had declared neutrality in the American Civil War. This neutrality was first violated on September 3, when Confederate Brig. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow, acting on orders from Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk, occupied Columbus, Kentucky. The riverside town was situated on 180 foot high bluffs that commanded the river at that point, where the Confederates installed 140 large guns, underwater mines and a heavy chain that stretched a mile across the Mississippi River to Belmont, while occupying the town with 17,000 Confederate troops, thus cutting off northern commerce to the south and beyond.

Two days later, Union Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, displaying the personal initiative that would characterize his later career, seized Paducah, Kentucky, a major transportation hub of rail and port facilities at the mouth of the Tennessee River. Henceforth, neither adversary respected Kentucky's proclaimed neutrality, and the Confederate advantage was lost. The buffer zone that Kentucky provided between the North and the South was no longer available to assist in the defense of Tennessee.

On February 4 and 5, Grant landed two divisions just north of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. (The troops serving under Grant were the nucleus of the Union's successful Army of the Tennessee, although that name was not yet in use.) Grant's plan was to advance upon the fort on February 6 while it was being simultaneously attacked by Union gunboats commanded by Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote. A combination of accurate and effective naval gunfire, heavy rain, and the poor siting of the fort, nearly inundated by rising river waters, caused its commander, Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman, to surrender to Foote before the Union Army arrived.

The surrender of Fort Henry opened the Tennessee River to Union traffic south of the Alabama border. In the days following the fort's surrender, from February 6 through February 12, Union raids used ironclad boats to destroy Confederate shipping and railroad bridges along the river. On February 12, Grant's army proceeded overland 12 miles (19 km) to engage with Confederate troops in the Battle of Fort Donelson.

Bombardment and Capture of Island Number Ten on the Mississippi River, April 7, 1862.

Battle of Island Number Ten

1862 Feb 28 - Apr 8
, New Madrid

Island Number Ten, a small island at the base of a tight double turn in the river, was held by the Confederates from the early days of the war. It was an excellent site to impede Union efforts to invade the South by the river, as ships had to approach the island bows on and then slow to make the turns. For the defenders, however, it had an innate weakness in that it depended on a single road for supplies and reinforcements. If an enemy force managed to cut that road, the garrison would be isolated and eventually be forced to surrender.

Union forces began the siege in March 1862, shortly after the Confederate Army abandoned their position at Columbus, Kentucky. The Union Army of the Mississippi under Brigadier General John Pope made the first probes, coming overland through Missouri and occupying the town of Point Pleasant, Missouri, almost directly west of the island and south of New Madrid. Two days after the fall of New Madrid, Union gunboats and mortar rafts sailed downstream to attack Island No. 10. Over the next three weeks, the island's defenders and forces in the nearby supporting batteries were subjected to a steady bombardment by the flotilla, mostly carried out by the mortars.

Pope persuaded Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote to send a gunboat past the batteries, to assist him in crossing the river by keeping off any Southern gunboats and suppressing Confederate artillery fire at the point of attack. The USS Carondelet, under Commander Henry Walke, slipped past the island on the night of April 4, 1862. This was followed by the USS Pittsburg, under Lieutenant Egbert Thompson two nights later. With the support of these two gunboats, Pope was able to move his army across the river and trap the Confederates opposite the island, who by now were trying to retreat. Outnumbered at least three to one, the Confederates realized their situation was hopeless and decided to surrender. At about the same time, the garrison on the island surrendered to Flag Officer Foote and the Union flotilla.

The Union victory marked the first time the Confederate Army lost a position on the Mississippi River in battle. The river was now open to the Union Navy as far as Fort Pillow, a short distance above Memphis. Only three weeks later, New Orleans fell to a Union fleet led by David G. Farragut, and the Confederacy was in danger of being cut in two along the line of the river.

The Peninsula Campaign.

Peninsula campaign

1862 Mar 1 - Jul
, Yorktown

The Peninsula campaign (also known as the Peninsular campaign) of the American Civil War was a major Union operation launched in southeastern Virginia from March through July 1862, the first large-scale offensive in the Eastern Theater. The operation, commanded by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, was an amphibious turning movement against the Confederate States Army in Northern Virginia, intended to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond. McClellan was initially successful against the equally cautious General Joseph E. Johnston, but the emergence of the more aggressive General Robert E. Lee turned the subsequent Seven Days Battles into a humiliating Union defeat.

McClellan landed his army at Fort Monroe and moved northwest, up the Virginia Peninsula. Confederate Brig. Gen. John B. Magruder's defensive position on the Warwick Line caught McClellan by surprise. His hopes for a quick advance foiled, McClellan ordered his army to prepare for a siege of Yorktown. Just before the siege preparations were completed, the Confederates, now under the direct command of Johnston, began a withdrawal toward Richmond. The first heavy fighting of the campaign occurred in the Battle of Williamsburg, in which the Union troops managed some tactical victories, but the Confederates continued their withdrawal. An amphibious flanking movement to Eltham's Landing was ineffective in cutting off the Confederate retreat. In the Battle of Drewry's Bluff, an attempt by the U.S. Navy to reach Richmond by way of the James River was repulsed.

As McClellan's army reached the outskirts of Richmond, a minor battle occurred at Hanover Court House, but it was followed by a surprise attack by Johnston at the Battle of Seven Pines or Fair Oaks. The battle was inconclusive, with heavy casualties, but it had lasting effects on the campaign. Johnston was wounded by a Union artillery shell fragment on May 31 and replaced the next day by the more aggressive Robert E. Lee, who reorganized his army and prepared for offensive action in the final battles of June 25 to July 1, which are popularly known as the Seven Days Battles. The end result was that the Union army was unable to enter Richmond, and both armies remained intact.

Jackson's Valley campaign

Jackson's Valley campaign

1862 Mar 1 - Jun
, Shenandoah Valley

Jackson's Valley campaign, also known as the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862, was Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's spring 1862 campaign through the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia during the American Civil War. Employing audacity and rapid, unpredictable movements on interior lines, Jackson's 17,000 men marched 646 miles (1,040 km) in 48 days and won several minor battles as they successfully engaged three Union armies (52,000 men), preventing them from reinforcing the Union offensive against Richmond.

Jackson followed up his successful campaign by forced marches to join Gen. Robert E. Lee for the Seven Days Battles outside Richmond. His audacious campaign elevated him to the position of the most famous general in the Confederacy (until this reputation was later supplanted by Lee) and has been studied ever since by military organizations around the world.

First Battle of Iron Ships of War

Battle of Hampton Roads

1862 Mar 8 - Mar 9
, Sewell's Point

The Battle of Hampton Roads, also referred to as the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack (rebuilt and renamed as the CSS Virginia) or the Battle of Ironclads, was a naval battle during the American Civil War.

It was fought over two days, March 8–9, 1862, in Hampton Roads, a roadstead in Virginia where the Elizabeth and Nansemond rivers meet the James River just before it enters Chesapeake Bay adjacent to the city of Norfolk. The battle was a part of the effort of the Confederacy to break the Union blockade, which had cut off Virginia's largest cities and major industrial centers, Norfolk and Richmond, from international trade.

This battle has major significance because it was the first meeting in combat of ironclad warships, USS Monitor and CSS Virginia. The Confederate fleet consisted of the ironclad ram Virginia (built from the remnants of the burned steam frigate USS Merrimack, newest warship for the United States Navy / Union Navy) and several supporting vessels. On the first day of battle, they were opposed by several conventional, wooden-hulled ships of the Union Navy.

The battle received worldwide attention, and it had immediate effects on navies around the world. The preeminent naval powers, Great Britain and France, halted further construction of wooden-hulled ships, and others followed suit. Although Britain and France had been engaged in an iron-clad arms race since the 1830s, the Battle of Hampton Roads signaled a new age of naval warfare had arrived for the whole world. A new type of warship, monitor, was produced on the principle of the original. The use of a small number of very heavy guns, mounted so that they could fire in all directions, was first demonstrated by Monitor but soon became standard in warships of all types. Shipbuilders also incorporated rams into the designs of warship hulls for the rest of the century.

First Battle of Kernstown

First Battle of Kernstown

1862 Mar 23
, Frederick County

Attempting to tie down the Union forces in the Valley, under the overall command of Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, Jackson received incorrect intelligence that a small detachment under Col. Nathan Kimball was vulnerable, but it was in fact a full infantry division more than twice the size of Jackson's force. His initial cavalry attack was forced back and he immediately reinforced it with a small infantry brigade. With his other two brigades, Jackson sought to envelop the Union right by way of Sandy Ridge. But Col. Erastus B. Tyler's brigade countered this movement, and, when Kimball's brigade moved to his assistance, the Confederates were driven from the field. There was no effective Union pursuit. Although the battle was a Confederate tactical defeat, it represented a strategic victory for the South by preventing the Union from transferring forces from the Shenandoah Valley to reinforce the Peninsula Campaign against the Confederate capital, Richmond. Following the earlier Battle of Hoke's Run, the First Battle of Kernstown may be considered the second among Jackson's rare defeats.

The Battle of Shiloh by Thulstrup

Battle of Shiloh

1862 Apr 6 - Apr 7
, Hardin County

The Battle of Shiloh was an early battle in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, fought April 6–7, 1862, in southwestern Tennessee. The battle is named after a small church in the vicinity named Shiloh which ironically translates to "place of peace" or "heavenly peace". The Union Army of the Tennessee (Major General Ulysses S. Grant) had moved via the Tennessee River deep into Tennessee and was encamped principally at Pittsburg Landing on the west bank of the Tennessee River, where the Confederate Army of Mississippi (General Albert Sidney Johnston, P. G. T. Beauregard second-in-command) launched a surprise attack on Grant's army from its base in Corinth, Mississippi. Johnston was mortally wounded during the fighting; Beauregard took command of the army and decided against pressing the attack late in the evening. Overnight, Grant was reinforced by one of his divisions stationed farther north and was joined by three divisions from the Army of the Ohio (Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell). The Union forces began an unexpected counterattack the next morning which reversed the Confederate gains of the previous day.

Admiral Farragut's second division passes the forts.

Battle of Forts Jackson and St Philip

1862 Apr 18 - Apr 28
, Plaquemines Parish

The Union's strategy was devised by Winfield Scott, whose "Anaconda Plan" called for the division of the Confederacy by seizing control of the Mississippi River. One of the first steps in such operations was the imposition of the Union blockade. After the blockade was established, a Confederate naval counterattack attempted to drive off the Union navy, resulting in the Battle of the Head of Passes. The Union countermove was to enter the mouth of the Mississippi River, ascend to New Orleans and capture the city, closing off the mouth of the Mississippi to Confederate shipping both from the Gulf and from Mississippi River ports still used by Confederate vessels. In mid-January 1862, Flag Officer David G. Farragut had undertaken this enterprise with his West Gulf Blockading Squadron. The way was soon open except the water passage past the two masonry forts held by Confederate artillery, Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip, which were above the Head of Passes approximately 70 miles (110 km) downriver below New Orleans.

The two Confederate forts on the Mississippi River south of the city were attacked by a Union Navy fleet. As long as the forts could keep the Federal forces from moving on the city, it was safe, but if they fell or were bypassed, there were no fall-back positions to impede the Union advance. New Orleans, the largest city in the Confederacy, was already under threat of attack from its north when David Farragut moved his fleet into the river from the south. Although the Union threat from upriver was geographically more remote than that from the Gulf of Mexico, a series of losses in Kentucky and Tennessee had forced the Confederate War and Navy Departments in Richmond to strip the region of much of its defenses. Men and equipment had been withdrawn from the local defenses, so that by mid-April almost nothing remained south of the city except the two forts and an assortment of gunboats of questionable worth. Without reducing the pressure from the north, (Union) President Abraham Lincoln set in motion a combined Army-Navy operation to attack from the south.

The ensuing battle can be divided into two parts: a mostly-ineffective bombardment of the Confederate-held forts by the raft-mounted mortars, and the successful passage of the forts by much of Farragut's fleet on the night of April 24. During the passage, one Federal warship was lost and three others turned back, while the Confederate gunboats were virtually obliterated. The subsequent capture of the city, achieved with no further significant opposition, was a serious, even fatal, blow from which the Confederacy never recovered. The forts remained after the fleet had passed, but the demoralized enlisted men in Fort Jackson mutinied and forced their surrender.

Farragut's flagship, USS Hartford, forces its way past Fort Jackson.

Capture of New Orleans

1862 Apr 25 - May 1
, New Orleans

The capture of New Orleans during the American Civil War was a turning point in the war, which precipitated the capture of the Mississippi River. Having fought past Forts Jackson and St. Philip, the Union was unopposed in its capture of the city itself, which was spared the destruction suffered by many other Southern cities. Many residents resented the controversial and confrontational administration of the city by its U.S. Army military governor, who caused lasting resentment.

Battle of McDowell | ©Don Troiani

Battle of McDowell

1862 May 8
, Highland County

After suffering a tactical defeat at the First Battle of Kernstown, Jackson withdrew to the southern Shenandoah Valley. Union forces commanded by Brigadier Generals Robert Milroy and Robert C. Schenck were advancing from what is now West Virginia towards the Shenandoah Valley. After being reinforced by troops commanded by Brigadier General Edward Johnson, Jackson advanced towards Milroy and Schenck's encampment at McDowell. Jackson quickly took the prominent heights of Sitlington's Hill, and Union attempts to recapture the hill failed. The Union forces retreated that night, and Jackson pursued, only to return to McDowell on 13 May. After McDowell, Jackson defeated Union forces at several other battles during his Valley campaign.

Battle of Front Royal

Battle of Front Royal

1862 May 23
, Front Royal

After defeating Major General John C. Frémont's force in the Battle of McDowell, Jackson turned against the forces of Major General Nathaniel Banks. Banks had most of his force at Strasburg, Virginia, with smaller detachments at Winchester and Front Royal. Jackson attacked the position at Front Royal on May 23, surprising the Union defenders, who were led by Colonel John Reese Kenly. Kenly's men made a stand on Richardson's Hill and used artillery fire to hold off the Confederates, before their line of escape over the South Fork and North Fork of the Shenandoah River was threatened. The Union troops then withdrew across both forks to Guard Hill, where they made a stand until Confederate troops were able to get across the North Fork. Kenly made one last stand at Cedarville, but an attack by 250 Confederate cavalrymen shattered the Union position. Many of the Union soldiers were captured, but Banks was able to withdraw his main force to Winchester. Two days later, Jackson then drove Banks out of Winchester, and won two further victories in June. Jackson's campaign in the Shenandoah Valley had tied down 60,000 Union troops from joining the Peninsula campaign, and his men were able to join Robert E. Lee's Confederate force in time for the Seven Days battles.

First Battle of Winchester

First Battle of Winchester

1862 May 25
, Winchester

Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks learned on May 24, 1862, that the Confederates had captured his garrison at Front Royal, Virginia, and were closing on Winchester, turning his position. He ordered a hasty retreat down the Valley Pike from Strasburg. Banks deployed at Winchester to slow the Confederate pursuit. Jackson enveloped the right flank of the Union Army under Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks and pursued it as it fled across the Potomac River into Maryland. Jackson's success in achieving force concentration early in the fighting allowed him to secure a more decisive victory which had escaped him in previous battles of the campaign. First Winchester was a major victory in Jackson's Valley Campaign, both tactically and strategically. Union plans for the Peninsula Campaign, an offensive against Richmond, were disrupted by Jackson's audacity, and thousands of Union reinforcements were diverted to the Valley and the defense of Washington, D.C.

New York and Massachusetts men slam into the flank of Law's Brigade at the Battle of Seven Pines, May 31, 1862. | ©William Trego

Battle of Seven Pines

1862 May 31 - Jun 1
, Henrico County

The Battle of Seven Pines, also known as the Battle of Fair Oaks or Fair Oaks Station, took place on May 31 and June 1, 1862, in Henrico County, Virginia, nearby Sandston, as part of the Peninsula Campaign of the American Civil War. It was the culmination of an offensive up the Virginia Peninsula by Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, in which the Army of the Potomac reached the outskirts of Richmond.

On May 31, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston attempted to overwhelm two Federal corps that appeared isolated south of the Chickahominy River. The Confederate assaults, although not well coordinated, succeeded in driving back the IV Corps and inflicting heavy casualties. Reinforcements arrived, and both sides fed more and more troops into the action. Supported by the III Corps and Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick's division of Maj. Gen. Edwin V. Sumner's II Corps (which crossed the rain-swollen river on Grapevine Bridge), the Federal position was finally stabilized. Gen. Johnston was seriously wounded during the action, and command of the Confederate army devolved temporarily to Maj. Gen. G.W. Smith. On June 1, the Confederates renewed their assaults against the Federals, who had brought up more reinforcements, but made little headway. Both sides claimed victory.

Although the battle was tactically inconclusive, it was the largest battle in the Eastern Theater up to that time (and second only to Shiloh in terms of casualties thus far, about 11,000 total). Gen. Johnston's injury also had profound influence on the war: it led to the appointment of Robert E. Lee as Confederate commander. The more aggressive Lee initiated the Seven Days Battles, leading to a Union retreat in late June. Seven Pines therefore marked the closest Union forces came to Richmond in this offensive.

The Total Annihilation of the Rebel Fleet by the Federal Fleet under Commodore Davis.

First Battle of Memphis

1862 Jun 6
, Memphis

The First Battle of Memphis was a naval battle fought on the Mississippi River immediately North of the city of Memphis, Tennessee on June 6, 1862, during the American Civil War. The engagement was witnessed by many of the citizens of Memphis. It resulted in a crushing defeat for the Confederate forces, and marked the virtual eradication of a Confederate naval presence on the river. The river was now open down to that city, which was already besieged by Farragut's ships, but the federal army authorities did not grasp the strategic importance of the fact for nearly another six months. Not until November 1862 would the Union Army under Ulysses S. Grant attempt to complete the opening of the river.

Battle of Cross Keys

Battle of Cross Keys

1862 Jun 8
, Rockingham County

The hamlet of Port Republic, Virginia, lies on a neck of land between the North and South Rivers, which conjoin to form the South Fork Shenandoah River. On June 6–7, 1862, Jackson's army, numbering about 16,000, bivouacked north of Port Republic, Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell's division along the banks of Mill Creek near Goods Mill, and Brig. Gen. Charles S. Winder's division on the north bank of North River near the bridge. The 15th Alabama Infantry regiment was left to block the roads at Union Church. Jackson's headquarters were in Madison Hall at Port Republic. The army trains were parked nearby.

Two Union columns converged on Jackson's position. The army of Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont, about 15,000 strong, moved south on the Valley Pike and reached the vicinity of Harrisonburg on June 6. The division of Brig. Gen. James Shields, about 10,000, advanced south from Front Royal in the Luray (Page) Valley, but was badly strung out because of the muddy Luray Road. At Port Republic, Jackson possessed the last intact bridge on the North River and the fords on the South River by which Frémont and Shields could unite. Jackson determined to check Frémont's advance at Mill Creek, while meeting Shields on the east bank of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. A Confederate signal station on Massanutten monitored Union progress. The Confederate forces (5,800-strong) under John C. Frémont successfully defended their position and repulsed the attack of the Union forces (11,500-strong) under Richard S. Ewell, forcing Frémont to retreat with his forces.

Battle of Port Republic.

Battle of Port Republic

1862 Jun 9
, Rockingham County

Jackson learned at 7 a.m. that the Federals were approaching his column. Without proper reconnaissance or waiting for the bulk of his force to come up, he ordered Winder's Stonewall Brigade to charge through the thinning fog. The brigade was caught between artillery on its flank and rifle volleys to its front and fell back in disarray. They had run into two brigades at the vanguard of Shields's army, 3,000 men under Brig. Gen. Erastus B. Tyler. Attempting to extricate himself from a potential disaster, Jackson realized that the Union artillery fire was coming from a spur of the Blue Ridge. Jackson and Winder sent the 2nd and 4th Virginia Infantry regiments through the thick underbrush up the hill, where they encountered three Union infantry regiments supporting the artillery and were repulsed.

After his assault on the Coaling failed, Jackson ordered the rest of Ewell's division, primarily Trimble's brigade, to cross over the North River bridge and burn it behind them, keeping Frémont's men isolated to the north of the River. While he waited for these troops to arrive, Jackson reinforced his line with the 7th Louisiana Infantry of Taylor's brigade and ordered Taylor to make another attempt against the Union batteries. Winder perceived that the Federals were about to attack, so he ordered a preemptive charge, but in the face of point-blank volleys and running low on ammunition, the Stonewall Brigade was routed. At this point, Ewell arrived on the battlefield and ordered the 44th and 58th Virginia Infantry regiments to strike the left flank of the advancing Union battle line. Tyler's men fell back, but reorganized and drove Ewell's men into the forest south of the Coaling.

Taylor attacked the infantry and artillery on the Coaling three times before prevailing, but having achieved their objective, were faced by a new charge from three Ohio regiments. It was only the surprise appearance by Ewell's troops that convinced Tyler to withdraw his men. The Confederates began bombarding the Union troops on the flat lands, with Ewell himself gleefully manning one of the cannons. More Confederate reinforcements began to arrive, including the brigade of Brig. Gen. William B. Taliaferro, and the Union army reluctantly began to withdraw. Jackson remarked to Ewell, "General, he who does not see the hand of God in this is blind, sir, blind."

The impetuosity of Jackson had betrayed him into attacking before his troops were sufficiently massed, which was made difficult by the insufficient means of crossing the river. The Battle of Port Republic had been poorly managed by Jackson and was the most damaging to the Confederates in terms of casualties—816 against a force one half his size (about 6,000 to 3,500). Union casualties were 1,002, with a high percentage representing prisoners. After the dual defeats at Cross Keys and Port Republic, the Union armies retreated, leaving Jackson in control of the upper and middle Shenandoah Valley and freeing his army to reinforce Robert E. Lee before Richmond in the Seven Days Battles.

Seven Days Battles

Seven Days Battles

1862 Jun 24 - Jul 1
, Hanover County General District Court

The Seven Days Battles were a series of seven battles over seven days from June 25 to July 1, 1862, near Richmond, Virginia, during the American Civil War. Confederate General Robert E. Lee drove the invading Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, away from Richmond and into a retreat down the Virginia Peninsula. The series of battles is sometimes known erroneously as the Seven Days Campaign, but it was actually the culmination of the Peninsula Campaign, not a separate campaign in its own right.

The Seven Days began on Wednesday, June 25, 1862, with a Union attack in the minor Battle of Oak Grove, but McClellan quickly lost the initiative as Lee began a series of attacks at Beaver Dam Creek (Mechanicsville) on June 26, Gaines's Mill on June 27, the minor actions at Garnett's and Golding's Farm on June 27 and 28, and the attack on the Union rear guard at Savage's Station on June 29. McClellan's Army of the Potomac continued its retreat toward the safety of Harrison's Landing on the James River. Lee's final opportunity to intercept the Union Army was at the Battle of Glendale on June 30, but poorly executed orders and the delay of Stonewall Jackson's troops allowed his enemy to escape to a strong defensive position on Malvern Hill. At the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, Lee launched futile frontal assaults and suffered heavy casualties in the face of strong infantry and artillery defenses.

The Seven Days ended with McClellan's army in relative safety next to the James River, having suffered almost 16,000 casualties during the retreat. Lee's army, which had been on the offensive during the Seven Days, lost over 20,000. As Lee became convinced that McClellan would not resume his threat against Richmond, he moved north for the northern Virginia campaign and the Maryland campaign.

Battle of Oak Grove

Battle of Oak Grove

1862 Jun 25
, Henrico County

Following the stalemate at the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31 and June 1, 1862, McClellan's Army of the Potomac sat passively in their positions around the eastern outskirts of Richmond. The new commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, General Robert E. Lee, used the following three and a half weeks to reorganize his army, extend his defensive lines, and plan offensive operations against McClellan's larger army. McClellan received intelligence that Lee was prepared to move and that the arrival of Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's force from the Shenandoah Valley was imminent.

McClellan decided to resume the offensive before Lee could. Anticipating Jackson's reinforcements marching from the north, he increased cavalry patrols on likely avenues of approach. He wanted to advance his siege artillery about a mile and a half closer to the city by taking the high ground on Nine Mile Road around Old Tavern. In preparation for that, he planned an attack on Oak Grove, south of Old Tavern and the Richmond and York River Railroad, which would position his men to attack Old Tavern from two directions. Known locally for a stand of tall oak trees, Oak Grove was the site of Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill's assault at Seven Pines on May 31 and had seen numerous clashes between pickets since that time.

The attack was planned to advance to the west, along the axis of the Williamsburg Road, in the direction of Richmond. Between the two armies was a small, dense forest, 1,200 yards (1,100 m) wide, bisected by the headwaters of White Oak Swamp. Two divisions of the III Corps were selected for the assault, commanded by Brig. Gens. Joseph Hooker and Philip Kearny. Facing them was the division of Confederate Maj. Gen. Benjamin Huger.

The Battle of Oak Grove took place on June 25, 1862, in Henrico County, Virginia, the first of the Seven Days Battles (Peninsula Campaign) of the American Civil War. Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan advanced his lines with the objective of bringing Richmond within range of his siege guns. Two Union divisions of the III Corps attacked across the headwaters of White Oak Swamp, but were repulsed by Maj. Gen. Benjamin Huger's Confederate division. McClellan, who was 3 miles (4.8 km) in the rear, initially telegraphed to call off the attack, but ordered another attack over the same ground when he arrived at the front. Darkness halted the fighting. Union troops gained only 600 yards (550 m), at a cost of over a thousand casualties on both sides.

Battle of Mechanicsville

Battle of Mechanicsville

1862 Jun 26
, Hanover County

The Union Army straddled the rain-swollen Chickahominy River. Four of the Army's five corps were arrayed in a semicircular line south of the river. The V Corps under Brig. Gen. Porter was north of the river near Mechanicsville in an L-shaped line running north–south behind Beaver Dam Creek and southeast along the Chickahominy. Lee moved most of his army north of the Chickahominy to attack the Union north flank. This concentrated about 65,000 troops against 30,000, leaving only 25,000 to protect Richmond against the other 60,000 men of the Union army. It was a risky plan that required careful execution, but Lee knew that he could not win in a battle of attrition or siege against the Union army. The Confederate cavalry under Brig. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart had reconnoitered Porter's right flank as part of a daring circumnavigation of the entire Union army from June 12 to June 15 and found it vulnerable. Stuart's forces burned a couple of Union supply ships and was able to report much of McClellan's army's strength and position to Gen. Lee. McClellan was aware of Jackson's arrival and presence at Ashland Station, but did nothing to reinforce Porter's vulnerable corps north of the river.

Lee's plan called for Jackson to begin the attack on Porter's north flank early on June 26. Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill's Light Division was to advance from Meadow Bridge when he heard Jackson's guns, clear the Union pickets from Mechanicsville, and then move to Beaver Dam Creek. The divisions of Maj. Gens. D.H. Hill and James Longstreet were to pass through Mechanicsville, D.H. Hill to support Jackson and Longstreet to support A.P. Hill. Lee expected Jackson's flanking movement to force Porter to abandon his line behind the creek, and so A. P. Hill and Longstreet would not have to attack Union entrenchments. South of the Chickahominy, Magruder and Huger were to demonstrate, deceiving the four Union corps on their front.

The Battle of Beaver Dam Creek, also known as the Battle of Mechanicsville, took place on June 26, 1862, in Hanover County, Virginia, was the first major engagement of the Seven Days Battles during the Peninsula Campaign of the American Civil War. It was the start of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's counter-offensive against the Union Army of the Potomac, under Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, which threatened the Confederate capital of Richmond. Lee attempted to turn the Union right flank, north of the Chickahominy River, with troops under Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, but Jackson failed to arrive on time. Instead, Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill threw his division, reinforced by one of Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill's brigades, into a series of futile assaults against Brig. Gen. Fitz John Porter's V Corps, which occupied defensive works behind Beaver Dam Creek. Confederate attacks were driven back with heavy casualties. Porter withdrew his corps safely to Gaines Mill, with the exception of Company F (a.k.a. The Hopewell Rifles) of the 8th Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment who did not receive the orders to retreat.

Battle of Garnett's & Golding's Farm

Battle of Garnett's & Golding's Farm

1862 Jun 27 - Jun 28
, Henrico County

While the battle at Gaines's Mill raged north of the Chickahominy River, the forces of Confederate general John B. Magruder conducted a reconnaissance in force that developed into a minor attack against the Union line south of the river at Garnett's Farm. The Confederates attacked again near Golding's Farm on the morning of June 28 but in both cases were easily repulsed. The action at the Garnett and Golding farms accomplished little beyond convincing McClellan that he was being attacked from both sides of the Chickahominy.

Battle of Gaines' Mill

Battle of Gaines' Mill

1862 Jun 27
, Hanover County

Following the inconclusive Battle of Beaver Dam Creek (Mechanicsville) the previous day, Confederate General Robert E. Lee renewed his attacks against the right flank of the Union Army, relatively isolated on the northern side of the Chickahominy River. There, Brig. Gen. Fitz John Porter's V Corps had established a strong defensive line behind Boatswain's Swamp. Lee's force was destined to launch the largest Confederate attack of the war, about 57,000 men in six divisions. Porter's reinforced V Corps held fast for the afternoon as the Confederates attacked in a disjointed manner, first with the division of Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill, then Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, suffering heavy casualties. The arrival of Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson's command was delayed, preventing the full concentration of Confederate force before Porter received some reinforcements from the VI Corps.

At dusk, the Confederates finally mounted a coordinated assault that broke Porter's line and drove his men back toward the Chickahominy River. The Federals retreated across the river during the night. The Confederates were too disorganized to pursue the main Union force. Gaines' Mill saved Richmond for the Confederacy in 1862; the tactical defeat there convinced Army of the Potomac commander Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan to abandon his advance on Richmond and begin a retreat to the James River. The battle occurred in almost the same location as the Battle of Cold Harbor nearly two years later.

Battle of Savage's Station

Battle of Savage's Station

1862 Jun 29
, Henrico County

The Army of the Potomac continued its retreat toward the James River. The bulk of McClellan's army concentrated around Savage's Station on the Richmond and York River Railroad, preparing for a difficult crossing through and around White Oak Swamp. It did so without centralized direction because McClellan had personally moved south of Malvern Hill after Gaines' Mill without leaving directions for corps movements during the retreat nor naming a second in command. Clouds of black smoke filled the air as the Union troops were ordered to burn anything they could not carry. Union morale plummeted, particularly so for those wounded, who realized that they were not being evacuated from Savage's Station with the rest of the Army.

Lee devised a complex plan to pursue and destroy McClellan's army. While the divisions of Maj. Gens. James Longstreet and A.P. Hill looped back toward Richmond and then southeast to the crossroads at Glendale, and Maj. Gen. Theophilus H. Holmes's division headed farther south, to the vicinity of Malvern Hill, Brig. Gen. John B. Magruder's division was ordered to move due east along the Williamsburg Road and the York River Railroad to attack the Federal rear guard. Stonewall Jackson, commanding his own division, as well as the divisions of Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill and Brig. Gen. William H. C. Whiting, was to rebuild a bridge over the Chickahominy and head due south to Savage's Station, where he would link up with Magruder and deliver a strong blow that might cause the Union Army to turn around and fight during its retreat. Confederate Brig. Gen. John B. Magruder pursued along the railroad and the Williamsburg Road and struck Maj. Gen. Edwin Vose Sumner's II Corps (the Union rearguard) with three brigades near Savage's Station, while Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's divisions were stalled north of the Chickahominy River. Union forces continued to withdraw across White Oak Swamp, abandoning supplies and more than 2,500 wounded soldiers in a field hospital.

Confederate troops charging Randol's battery, illustration by Allen C. Redwood

Battle of Glendale

1862 Jun 30
, Henrico County

General Robert E. Lee ordered his Confederate divisions of the Army of Northern Virginia, under the field command of Major Generals Benjamin Huger, James Longstreet, and A.P. Hill, to converge upon Union Major General George B. McClellan's retreating Army of the Potomac in transit in the vicinity of Glendale (or Frayser's Farm), attempting to catch it in the flank and destroy it in detail. The Army of the Potomac was moving out of the White Oak Swamp on a retreat from the Chickahominy River to the James River following the perceived defeat at the Battle of Gaines' Mill; as the Union Army approached the Glendale crossroad, it was forced to turn southward with its right flank exposed to the west. Lee's goal was to thrust a multi-pronged attack of his divisions into the Army of the Potomac near the Glendale crossroad, where a vanguard of Union defenders was caught largely unaware.

The coordinated assault envisioned by Lee failed to materialize due to difficulties encountered by Huger and un-spirited efforts made by Major General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, but successful attacks made by Longstreet and Hill near the Glendale crossroad penetrated the Union defenses near Willis Church and temporarily breached the line. Union counterattacks sealed the breach and turned the Confederates back, repulsing their attack upon the line of retreat along the Willis Church/Quaker Road through brutal close-quarters hand-to-hand fighting. North of Glendale, Huger's advance was stopped on the Charles City Road. Near the White Oak Swamp Bridge, the divisions led by Jackson were simultaneously delayed by Union Brigadier General William B. Franklin's corps at White Oak Swamp. South of Glendale near Malvern Hill, Confederate Major General Theophilus H. Holmes made a feeble attempt to attack the Union left flank at Turkey Bridge but was driven back.

The battle was Lee's best chance to cut off the Union Army from the safety of the James River, and his efforts to bisect the Federal line failed. The Army of the Potomac successfully retreated to the James, and that night, the Union army established a strong position on Malvern Hill.

A watercolor of the Battle of Malvern Hill. | ©Robert Sneden

Battle of Malvern Hill

1862 Jul 1
, Henrico County

The Union's V Corps, commanded by Brig. Gen. Fitz John Porter, took up positions on the hill on June 30. McClellan was not present for the initial exchanges of the battle, having boarded the ironclad USS Galena and sailed down the James River to inspect Harrison's Landing, where he intended to locate the base for his army. Confederate preparations were hindered by several mishaps. Bad maps and faulty guides caused Confederate Maj. Gen. John Magruder to be late for the battle, an excess of caution delayed Maj. Gen. Benjamin Huger, and Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson had problems collecting the Confederate artillery.

The battle occurred in stages: an initial exchange of artillery fire, a minor charge by Confederate Brig. Gen. Lewis Armistead, and three successive waves of Confederate infantry charges triggered by unclear orders from Lee and the actions of Maj. Gens. Magruder and D. H. Hill, respectively. In each phase, the effectiveness of the Federal artillery was the deciding factor, repulsing attack after attack, resulting in a tactical Union victory. In the course of four hours, a series of blunders in planning and communication had caused Lee's forces to launch three failed frontal infantry assaults across hundreds of yards of open ground, unsupported by Confederate artillery, charging toward firmly entrenched Union infantry and artillery defenses. These errors provided Union forces with an opportunity to inflict heavy casualties.

Despite the Union army's victory, the battle did little to alter the outcome of the Peninsula Campaign: after the battle, McClellan and his forces withdrew from Malvern Hill to Harrison's Landing, where he remained until August 16. His plan to capture Richmond had been thwarted. The Confederate press heralded Lee as the savior of Richmond. In stark contrast, McClellan was accused of being absent from the battlefield, a harsh criticism that haunted him when he ran for president in 1864.

Black Union troops of Company E during the American Civil War.

Militia Act of 1862

1862 Jul 17
, Washington D.C.

The Militia Act of 1862 (12 Stat. 597, enacted July 17, 1862) was an Act of the 37th United States Congress, during the American Civil War, that authorized a militia draft within a state when the state could not meet its quota with volunteers. The Act, for the first time, also allowed African-Americans to serve in the militias as soldiers and war laborers. The act was controversial. It was praised by many abolitionists as a first step toward equality, because it stipulated that black recruits could be soldiers or manual laborers. However, the Act enacted discrimination in pay and other areas. It provided that most black soldiers were to receive $10 a month, with a $3 reduction for clothing, which was almost half as was received by white soldiers who received $13.

Battle of Cedar Mountain - Jackson Is With You! | ©Don Troiani

Battle of Cedar Mountain

1862 Aug 9
, Culpeper County

Union forces under Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks attacked Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson near Cedar Mountain as the Confederates marched on Culpeper Court House to forestall a Union advance into central Virginia. After nearly being driven from the field in the early part of the battle, a Confederate counterattack broke the Union lines resulting in a Confederate victory. The battle was the first combat of the Northern Virginia campaign.

Kentucky Campaign

Kentucky Campaign

1862 Aug 14 - Oct 10
, Kentucky

The Confederate Heartland Offensive (August 14 – October 10, 1862), also known as the Kentucky Campaign, was an American Civil War campaign conducted by the Confederate States Army in Tennessee and Kentucky where Generals Braxton Bragg and Edmund Kirby Smith tried to draw neutral Kentucky into the Confederacy by outflanking Union troops under Major General Don Carlos Buell. Though they scored some successes, notably a tactical win at Perryville, they soon retreated, leaving Kentucky primarily under Union control for the rest of the war.

From August 28-30, 1862, the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) took place in Prince William County, Virginia.The battle between General Stonewall Jackson’s Confederate troops and General Pope’s | ©Don Troiani

Second Battle of Bull Run

1862 Aug 28 - Aug 30
, Prince William County

The Second Battle of Bull Run or Battle of Second Manassas was fought August 28–30, 1862, in Prince William County, Virginia, as part of the American Civil War. It was the culmination of the Northern Virginia Campaign waged by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia against Union Maj. Gen. John Pope's Army of Virginia, and a battle of much larger scale and numbers than the First Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas) fought on July 21, 1861 on the same ground.

Following a wide-ranging flanking march, Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson captured the Union supply depot at Manassas Junction, threatening Pope's line of communications with Washington, D.C. Withdrawing a few miles to the northwest, Jackson took up strong concealed defensive positions on Stony Ridge and awaited the arrival of the wing of Lee's army commanded by Maj. Gen. James Longstreet. On August 28, 1862, Jackson attacked a Union column just east of Gainesville, at Brawner's Farm, resulting in a stalemate but successfully getting Pope's attention. On that same day, Longstreet broke through light Union resistance in the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap and approached the battlefield.

Pope became convinced that he had trapped Jackson and concentrated the bulk of his army against him. On August 29, Pope launched a series of assaults against Jackson's position along an unfinished railroad grade. The attacks were repulsed with heavy casualties on both sides. At noon, Longstreet arrived on the field from Thoroughfare Gap and took position on Jackson's right flank. On August 30, Pope renewed his attacks, seemingly unaware that Longstreet was on the field. When massed Confederate artillery devastated a Union assault by Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter's V Corps, Longstreet's wing of 25,000 men in five divisions counterattacked in the largest simultaneous mass assault of the war. The Union left flank was crushed and the army was driven back to Bull Run. Only an effective Union rear guard action prevented a replay of the First Manassas defeat. Pope's retreat to Centreville was nonetheless precipitous.

Success in this battle emboldened Lee to initiate the ensuing Maryland Campaign, the South's invasion of the North.

Battle of Richmond

Battle of Richmond

1862 Aug 29 - Aug 30
, Richmond

The Battle of Richmond, Kentucky, fought August 29–30, 1862, was one of the most complete Confederate victories in the war by Major General Edmund Kirby Smith against Union major general William "Bull" Nelson's forces, which were defending the town. It was the first major battle in the Kentucky Campaign. The battle took place on and around what is now the grounds of the Blue Grass Army Depot, outside Richmond, Kentucky.

Antietam campaign

South invades the North

1862 Sep 4 - Sep 20
, Maryland

The Maryland campaign (or Antietam campaign) occurred September 4–20, 1862, during the American Civil War. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North was repulsed by the Army of the Potomac under Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, who moved to intercept Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia and eventually attacked it near Sharpsburg, Maryland. The resulting Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history.

Following his victory in the northern Virginia campaign, Lee moved north with 55,000 men through the Shenandoah Valley starting on September 4, 1862. His objective was to resupply his army outside of the war-torn Virginia theater and to damage Northern morale in anticipation of the November elections. He undertook the risky maneuver of splitting his army so that he could continue north into Maryland while simultaneously capturing the Federal garrison and arsenal at Harpers Ferry. McClellan accidentally found a copy of Lee's orders to his subordinate commanders and planned to isolate and defeat the separated portions of Lee's army.

While Confederate Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson surrounded, bombarded, and captured Harpers Ferry (September 12–15), McClellan's army of 102,000 men attempted to move quickly through the South Mountain passes that separated him from Lee. The Battle of South Mountain on September 14 delayed McClellan's advance and allowed Lee sufficient time to concentrate most of his army at Sharpsburg. The Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg) on September 17 was the bloodiest day in American military history with over 22,000 casualties. Lee, outnumbered two to one, moved his defensive forces to parry each offensive blow, but McClellan never deployed all of the reserves of his army to capitalize on localized successes and destroy the Confederates. On September 18, Lee ordered a withdrawal across the Potomac and on September 19–20, fights by Lee's rear guard at Shepherdstown ended the campaign.

Although Antietam was a tactical draw, it meant the strategy behind Lee's Maryland campaign had failed. President Abraham Lincoln used this Union victory as the justification for announcing his Emancipation Proclamation, which effectively ended any threat of European support for the Confederacy.

The Battle of Antietam, by Kurz & Allison (1878), depicting the scene of action at Burnside's Bridge

Battle of Antietam

1862 Sep 17
, Sharpsburg

The Battle of Antietam, or Battle of Sharpsburg particularly in the Southern United States, was a battle of the American Civil War fought on September 17, 1862, between Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and Union Gen. George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac near Sharpsburg, Maryland and Antietam Creek. Part of the Maryland Campaign, it was the first field army–level engagement in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War to take place on Union soil. It remains the bloodiest day in American history, with a combined tally of 22,717 dead, wounded, or missing. Although the Union army suffered heavier casualties than the Confederates, the battle was a major turning point in the Union's favor.

After pursuing Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee into Maryland, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan of the Union Army launched attacks against Lee's army who were in defensive positions behind Antietam Creek. At dawn on September 17, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker's corps mounted a powerful assault on Lee's left flank. Attacks and counterattacks swept across Miller's Cornfield, and fighting swirled around the Dunker Church. Union assaults against the Sunken Road eventually pierced the Confederate center, but the Federal advantage was not followed up. In the afternoon, Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside's corps entered the action, capturing a stone bridge over Antietam Creek and advancing against the Confederate right. At a crucial moment, Confederate Maj. Gen. A. P. Hill's division arrived from Harpers Ferry and launched a surprise counterattack, driving back Burnside and ending the battle. Although outnumbered two-to-one, Lee committed his entire force, while McClellan sent in less than three-quarters of his army, enabling Lee to fight the Federals to a standstill. During the night, both armies consolidated their lines. In spite of crippling casualties, Lee continued to skirmish with McClellan throughout September 18, while removing his battered army south of the Potomac River.

McClellan successfully turned Lee's invasion back, making the battle a Union victory, but President Abraham Lincoln, unhappy with McClellan's general pattern of overcaution and his failure to pursue the retreating Lee, relieved McClellan of command in November. From a tactical standpoint, the battle was somewhat inconclusive; the Union army successfully repelled the Confederate invasion but suffered heavier casualties and failed to defeat Lee's army outright. However, it was a significant turning point in the war in favor of the Union due in large part to its political ramifications: the battle's result gave Lincoln the political confidence to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all those held as slaves within enemy territory free. This effectively discouraged the British and French governments from recognizing the Confederacy, as neither power wished to give the appearance of supporting slavery.

Battle of Perryville | ©Harper's Weekly

Battle of Perryville

1862 Oct 8
, Perryville

The Battle of Perryville, also known as the Battle of Chaplin Hills, was fought on October 8, 1862, in the Chaplin Hills west of Perryville, Kentucky, as the culmination of the Confederate Heartland Offensive (Kentucky Campaign) during the American Civil War. Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Mississippi initially won a tactical victory against primarily a single corps of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell's Union Army of the Ohio. The battle is considered a strategic Union victory, sometimes called the Battle for Kentucky, since Bragg withdrew to Tennessee soon thereafter. The Union retained control of the critical border state of Kentucky for the remainder of the war. On October 7, Buell's army, in pursuit of Bragg, converged on the small crossroads town of Perryville in three columns. Union forces first skirmished with Confederate cavalry on the Springfield Pike before the fighting became more general, on Peters Hill, when the Confederate infantry arrived. Both sides were desperate to get access to fresh water.

Battle of Fredericksburg by Kurz and Allison

Battle of Fredericksburg

1862 Dec 11 - Dec 15
, Fredericksburg

In November 1862, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln needed to demonstrate the success of the Union war effort before the Northern public lost confidence in his administration. Confederate armies had been on the move earlier in the fall, invading Kentucky and Maryland. Although each had been turned back, those armies remained intact and capable of further action. Lincoln urged Major General Ulysses S. Grant to advance against the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi. He replaced Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell with Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, hoping for a more aggressive posture against the Confederates in Tennessee, and on November 5, seeing that his replacement of Buell had not stimulated Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan into action, he issued orders to replace McClellan with Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside in command of the Army of the Potomac in Virginia. However, Burnside felt himself unqualified for army-level command and objected when offered the position. He accepted only when it was made clear to him that McClellan would be replaced in any event and that an alternative choice for command was Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, whom Burnside disliked and distrusted. Burnside assumed command on November 7.

Burnside's plan was to cross the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg in mid-November and race to the Confederate capital of Richmond before Lee's army could stop him. Bureaucratic delays prevented Burnside from receiving the necessary pontoon bridges in time and Lee moved his army to block the crossings. When the Union army was finally able to build its bridges and cross under fire, direct combat within the city resulted on December 11–12. Union troops prepared to assault Confederate defensive positions south of the city and on a strongly fortified ridge just west of the city known as Marye's Heights.

On December 13, the Left Grand Division of Maj. Gen. William B. Franklin was able to pierce the first defensive line of Confederate Lt. Gen. Stonewall Jackson to the south, but was finally repulsed. Burnside ordered the Right and Center Grand Divisions of major generals Edwin V. Sumner and Joseph Hooker to launch multiple frontal assaults against Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's position on Marye's Heights – all were repulsed with heavy losses. On December 15, Burnside withdrew his army, ending another failed Union campaign in the Eastern Theater.

The South erupted in jubilation over its great victory. The Richmond Examiner described it as a "stunning defeat to the invader, a splendid victory to the defender of the sacred soil." Reactions were opposite in the North, and both the Army and President Lincoln came under strong attacks from politicians and the press. Senator Zachariah Chandler, a Radical Republican, wrote, "The President is a weak man, too weak for the occasion, and those fool or traitor generals are wasting time and yet more precious blood in indecisive battles and delays."

The Battle of Stone River. | ©Kurz & Allison

Battle of Stones River

1862 Dec 31 - 1863 Jan 2
, Murfreesboro

Union Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland marched from Nashville, Tennessee, on December 26, 1862, to challenge General Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro. On December 31, each army commander planned to attack his opponent's right flank, but Bragg had a shorter distance to go and thus struck first. A massive assault by the corps of Maj. Gen. William J. Hardee, followed by that of Leonidas Polk, overran the wing commanded by Maj. Gen. Alexander M. McCook. A stout defense by the division of Brig. Gen. Philip Sheridan in the right center of the line prevented a total collapse, and the Union assumed a tight defensive position backing up to the Nashville Turnpike. Repeated Confederate attacks were repulsed from this concentrated line, most notably in the cedar "Round Forest" salient against the brigade of Col. William B. Hazen. Bragg attempted to continue the assault with the division of Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, but the troops were slow in arriving and their multiple piecemeal attacks failed.

Fighting resumed on January 2, 1863, when Bragg ordered Breckinridge to assault a lightly defended Union position on a hill to the east of the Stones River. Chasing the retreating Union forces, they were led into a deadly trap. Faced with overwhelming artillery, the Confederates were repulsed with heavy losses. Probably fooled by false information planted by McCook and campfires where no troops were posted, set up by Rosecrans, and thus believing that Rosecrans was receiving reinforcements, Bragg chose to withdraw his army on January 3 to Tullahoma, Tennessee. This caused Bragg to lose the confidence of the Army of Tennessee.

The battle ended in Union victory after the Confederate army's withdrawal on January 3, largely due to a series of tactical miscalculations by Confederate General Braxton Bragg, but the victory was costly for the Union army. Nevertheless, it was an important victory for the Union because it provided a much-needed boost in morale after the Union's recent defeat at Fredericksburg and also reinforced President Abraham Lincoln's foundation for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, which ultimately discouraged European powers from intervening on the Confederacy's behalf.

Eastman Johnson (American, 1824–1906) – A Ride for Liberty – The Fugitive Slaves (recto), ca. 1862

Emancipation Proclamation

1863 Jan 1
, United States

The Emancipation Proclamation, officially Proclamation 95, was a presidential proclamation and executive order issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, during the Civil War. The Proclamation changed the legal status of more than 3.5 million enslaved African Americans in the secessionist Confederate states from enslaved to free. As soon as slaves escaped the control of their enslavers, either by fleeing to Union lines or through the advance of federal troops, they were permanently free. In addition, the Proclamation allowed for former slaves to "be received into the armed service of the United States."

Since the Emancipation Proclamation made the eradication of slavery an explicit Union war goal, it linked support for the South to support for slavery. Public opinion in Britain would not tolerate support for slavery. As Henry Adams noted, "The Emancipation Proclamation has done more for us than all our former victories and all our diplomacy." In Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi hailed Lincoln as "the heir of the aspirations of John Brown". On August 6, 1863, Garibaldi wrote to Lincoln: "Posterity will call you the great emancipator, a more enviable title than any crown could be, and greater than any merely mundane treasure".

Battle of Chancellorsville, by Kurz and Allison

Battle of Chancellorsville

1863 Apr 30 - May 6
, Spotsylvania County

In January 1863, the Army of the Potomac, following the Battle of Fredericksburg and the humiliating Mud March, suffered from rising desertions and plunging morale. Lincoln tried a fifth time with a new general on January 25, 1863—Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, a man with a pugnacious reputation who had performed well in previous subordinate commands. Hooker embarked on a much-needed reorganization of the army, doing away with Burnside's grand division system, which had proved unwieldy; he also no longer had sufficient senior officers on hand that he could trust to command multi-corps operations. He organized the cavalry into a separate corps under the command of Brig. Gen. George Stoneman. But while he concentrated the cavalry into a single organization, he dispersed his artillery battalions to the control of the infantry division commanders, removing the coordinating influence of the army's artillery chief, Brig. Gen. Henry J. Hunt. Among his changes were fixes to the daily diet of the troops, camp sanitary changes, improvements and accountability of the quartermaster system, addition of and monitoring of company cooks, several hospital reforms, an improved furlough system, orders to stem rising desertion, improved drills, and stronger officer training.

The two armies faced off against each other at Fredericksburg during the winter of 1862–1863. The Chancellorsville campaign began when Hooker secretly moved the bulk of his army up the left bank of the Rappahannock River, then crossed it on the morning of April 27, 1863. Union cavalry under Maj. Gen. George Stoneman began a long-distance raid against Lee's supply lines at about the same time. Crossing the Rapidan River via Germanna and Ely's Fords, the Federal infantry concentrated near Chancellorsville on April 30. Combined with the Union force facing Fredericksburg, Hooker planned a double envelopment, attacking Lee from both his front and rear.

On May 1, Hooker advanced from Chancellorsville toward Lee, but the Confederate general split his army in the face of superior numbers, leaving a small force at Fredericksburg to deter Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick from advancing, while he attacked Hooker's advance with about four-fifths of his army. Despite the objections of his subordinates, Hooker withdrew his men to the defensive lines around Chancellorsville, ceding the initiative to Lee. On May 2, Lee divided his army again, sending Stonewall Jackson's entire corps on a flanking march that routed the Union XI Corps.

The fiercest fighting of the battle—and the second bloodiest day of the Civil War—occurred on May 3 as Lee launched multiple attacks against the Union position at Chancellorsville, resulting in heavy losses on both sides and the pulling back of Hooker's main army. That same day, Sedgwick advanced across the Rappahannock River, defeated the small Confederate force at Marye's Heights in the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, and then moved to the west. The Confederates fought a successful delaying action at the Battle of Salem Church. On the 4th Lee turned his back on Hooker and attacked Sedgwick, and drove him back to Banks' Ford, surrounding them on three sides. Sedgwick withdrew across the ford early on May 5. Lee turned back to confront Hooker who withdrew the remainder of his army across U.S. Ford the night of May 5–6.

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. The victory, a product of Lee's audacity and Hooker's timid decision-making, was tempered by heavy casualties, including Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. Jackson was hit by friendly fire, requiring his left arm to be amputated. He died of pneumonia eight days later, a loss that Lee likened to losing his right arm.

Siege of Vicksburg

Siege of Vicksburg

1863 May 18 - Jul 4
, Warren County

The siege of Vicksburg (May 18 – July 4, 1863) was the final major military action in the Vicksburg campaign of the American Civil War. In a series of maneuvers, Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee crossed the Mississippi River and drove the Confederate Army of Mississippi, led by Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, into the defensive lines surrounding the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Vicksburg was the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River; therefore, capturing it completed the second part of the Northern strategy, the Anaconda Plan. When two major assaults against the Confederate fortifications, on May 19 and 22, were repulsed with heavy casualties, Grant decided to besiege the city beginning on May 25. After holding out for more than forty days, with their supplies nearly gone, the garrison surrendered on July 4. The successful ending of the Vicksburg campaign significantly degraded the ability of the Confederacy to maintain its war effort. This action, combined with the surrender of the down-river Port Hudson to Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks on July 9, yielded command of the Mississippi River to the Union forces, who would hold it for the rest of the conflict.

Battle of Brandy Station

Battle of Brandy Station

1863 Jun 9
, Culpeper County

The Battle of Brandy Station, also called the Battle of Fleetwood Hill, was the largest predominantly cavalry engagement of the American Civil War, as well as the largest ever to take place on American soil. It was fought on June 9, 1863, around Brandy Station, Virginia, at the beginning of the Gettysburg Campaign by the Union cavalry under Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton against Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's Confederate cavalry. Union commander Pleasonton launched a surprise dawn attack on Stuart's cavalry at Brandy Station. After an all-day fight in which fortunes changed repeatedly, the Federals retired without discovering Gen. Robert E. Lee's infantry camped near Culpeper. This battle marked the end of the Confederate cavalry's dominance in the East. From this point in the war, the Federal cavalry gained strength and confidence.

Second Battle of Winchester

Second Battle of Winchester

1863 Jun 13 - Jun 15
, Frederick County

After the Battle of Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered Ewell's 19,000-man Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, to clear the lower Shenandoah Valley of Union opposition so that Lee's army could proceed on its invasion of Pennsylvania, shielded by the Blue Ridge Mountains from Union interference. As Ewell moved north through the Shenandoah Valley in the direction of Pennsylvania, his corps defeated the Union Army garrison commanded by Major General Robert H. Milroy, capturing Winchester and numerous Union prisoners. The victory at Second Winchester cleared the Valley of Federal troops and opened the door for Lee's second invasion of the North. The capturing of ample supplies justified Lee's conceptual plan to provision his army on the march. The Federal defeat stunned the North, and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton called for additional militia to be federalized. Shortly afterwards, President Lincoln requested 100,000 volunteers to repel the threatened invasion.

Tullahoma Campaign

Tullahoma Campaign

1863 Jun 24 - Jul 4
, Tennessee

The Tullahoma campaign (or Middle Tennessee campaign) was a military operation conducted from June 24 to July 3, 1863, by the Union Army of the Cumberland under Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans, and is regarded as one of the most brilliant maneuvers of the American Civil War. Its effect was to drive the Confederates out of Middle Tennessee and to threaten the strategic city of Chattanooga. The Confederate Army of Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg occupied a strong defensive position in the mountains. But through a series of well-rehearsed feints, Rosecrans captured the key passes, helped by the use of the new seven-shot Spencer repeating rifle. The Confederates were handicapped by dissension between generals, as well as a lack of supplies, and soon had to abandon their headquarters at Tullahoma. The campaign ended in the same week as the two historic Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and Rosecrans complained that his achievement was overshadowed. However, Confederate casualties had been few, and Bragg's army soon received reinforcements that enabled it to defeat Rosecrans at the Battle of Chickamauga two months later.

Battle of Gettysburg

Battle of Gettysburg

1863 Jul 1 - Jul 3
, Gettysburg

After his success at Chancellorsville in Virginia in May 1863, Lee led his army through the Shenandoah Valley to begin his second invasion of the North—the Gettysburg Campaign. With his army in high spirits, Lee intended to shift the focus of the summer campaign from war-ravaged northern Virginia and hoped to influence Northern politicians to give up their prosecution of the war by penetrating as far as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, or even Philadelphia. Prodded by President Abraham Lincoln, Major General Joseph Hooker moved his army in pursuit, but was relieved of command just three days before the battle and replaced by Meade.

Elements of the two armies initially collided at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, as Lee urgently concentrated his forces there, his objective being to engage the Union army and destroy it. Low ridges to the northwest of town were defended initially by a Union cavalry division under Brigadier General John Buford, and soon reinforced with two corps of Union infantry. However, two large Confederate corps assaulted them from the northwest and north, collapsing the hastily developed Union lines, sending the defenders retreating through the streets of the town to the hills just to the south. On the second day of battle, most of both armies had assembled. The Union line was laid out in a defensive formation resembling a fishhook. In the late afternoon of July 2, Lee launched a heavy assault on the Union left flank, and fierce fighting raged at Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, Devil's Den, and the Peach Orchard. On the Union right, Confederate demonstrations escalated into full-scale assaults on Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill. All across the battlefield, despite significant losses, the Union defenders held their lines.

On the third day of battle, fighting resumed on Culp's Hill, and cavalry battles raged to the east and south, but the main event was a dramatic infantry assault by 12,500 Confederates against the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, known as Pickett's Charge. The charge was repelled by Union rifle and artillery fire, at great loss to the Confederate army. Lee led his army on a torturous retreat back to Virginia. Between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers from both armies were casualties in the three-day battle, the most costly in US history. On November 19, President Lincoln used the dedication ceremony for the Gettysburg National Cemetery to honor the fallen Union soldiers and redefine the purpose of the war in his historic Gettysburg Address.

Vicksburg surrenders.

Vicksburg surrenders

1863 Jul 4
, Warren County

Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton officially surrendered his army at Vicksburg on July 4. Although the Vicksburg campaign continued with some minor actions, the fortress city had fallen and, with the surrender of Port Hudson on July 9, the Mississippi River was firmly in Union hands and the Confederacy split in two. President Lincoln famously announced, "The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea."

Battle of Chickamauga

Battle of Chickamauga

1863 Sep 19 - Sep 20
, Walker County

After his successful Tullahoma Campaign, Rosecrans renewed the offensive, aiming to force the Confederates out of Chattanooga. In early September, Rosecrans consolidated his forces scattered in Tennessee and Georgia and forced Bragg's army out of Chattanooga, heading south. The Union troops followed it and brushed with it at Davis's Cross Roads. Bragg was determined to reoccupy Chattanooga and decided to meet a part of Rosecrans's army, defeat it, and then move back into the city. On September 17 he headed north, intending to attack the isolated XXI Corps. As Bragg marched north on September 18, his cavalry and infantry fought with Union cavalry and mounted infantry, which were armed with Spencer repeating rifles. The two armies fought at Alexander's Bridge and Reed's Bridge, as the Confederates tried to cross the West Chickamauga Creek.

Fighting began in earnest on the morning of September 19. Bragg's men strongly assaulted but could not break the Union line. The next day, Bragg resumed his assault. In late morning, Rosecrans was misinformed that he had a gap in his line. In moving units to shore up the supposed gap, Rosecrans accidentally created an actual gap directly in the path of an eight-brigade assault on a narrow front by Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, whose corps had been detached from the Army of Northern Virginia. In the resulting rout, Longstreet's attack drove one-third of the Union army, including Rosecrans himself, from the field.

Union units spontaneously rallied to create a defensive line on Horseshoe Ridge ("Snodgrass Hill"), forming a new right wing for the line of Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, who assumed overall command of remaining forces. Although the Confederates launched costly and determined assaults, Thomas and his men held until twilight. Union forces then retired to Chattanooga while the Confederates occupied the surrounding heights, besieging the city.

The Battle of Chickamauga, fought on September 19–20, 1863, between Union and Confederate forces in the American Civil War, marked the end of a Union offensive, the Chickamauga Campaign, in southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia. It was the first major battle of the war fought in Georgia, the most significant Union defeat in the Western Theater, and involved the second-highest number of casualties after the Battle of Gettysburg.

Chattanooga viewed from the north bank of the Tennessee River, 1863.

Chattanooga campaign

1863 Sep 21 - Nov 25
, Chattanooga

The Chattanooga campaign was a series of maneuvers and battles in October and November 1863, during the American Civil War. Following the defeat of Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans's Union Army of the Cumberland at the Battle of Chickamauga in September, the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Gen. Braxton Bragg besieged Rosecrans and his men by occupying key high terrain around Chattanooga, Tennessee. Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was given command of Union forces in the West, now consolidated under the Division of the Mississippi. Significant reinforcements also began to arrive with him in Chattanooga from Mississippi and the Eastern Theater. On October 18, Grant removed Rosecrans from command of the Army of the Cumberland and replaced him with Major General George Henry Thomas.

During the opening of a supply line (the "Cracker Line") to feed the starving men and animals in Chattanooga, a force under Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker fought off a Confederate counterattack at the Battle of Wauhatchie on October 28–29, 1863. On November 23, the Army of the Cumberland advanced from the fortifications around Chattanooga to seize the strategic high ground at Orchard Knob while elements of the Union Army of the Tennessee under Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman maneuvered to launch a surprise attack against Bragg's right flank on Missionary Ridge. On November 24, Sherman's men crossed the Tennessee River in the morning and then advanced to occupy high ground at the northern end of Missionary Ridge in the afternoon. The same day, a mixed force of almost three divisions under Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker defeated the Confederates in the Battle of Lookout Mountain. The next day they began a movement toward Bragg's left flank at Rossville.

On November 25, Sherman's attack on Bragg's right flank made little progress. Hoping to distract Bragg's attention, Grant ordered Thomas's army to advance in the center and take the Confederate positions at the base of Missionary Ridge. The untenability of these newly captured entrenchments caused Thomas's men to surge to the top of Missionary Ridge and, with the help of Hooker's force advancing north from Rossville, routed the Army of Tennessee. The Confederates retreated to Dalton, Georgia, successfully fighting off the Union pursuit at the Battle of Ringgold Gap. Bragg's defeat eliminated the last significant Confederate control of Tennessee and opened the door to an invasion of the Deep South, leading to Sherman's Atlanta campaign of 1864.

The Battle of Lookout Mountain by James Walker, 1874.

Battle of Lookout Mountain

1863 Nov 24
, Chattanooga

The Battle of Lookout Mountain also known as the Battle Above The Clouds was fought November 24, 1863, as part of the Chattanooga Campaign of the American Civil War. Union forces under Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker assaulted Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and defeated Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Carter L. Stevenson. Lookout Mountain was one engagement in the Chattanooga battles between Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Military Division of the Mississippi and the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by Gen. Braxton Bragg. It drove in the Confederate left flank and allowed Hooker's men to assist in the Battle of Missionary Ridge the following day, which routed Bragg's army, lifting the siege of Union forces in Chattanooga, and opening the gateway into the Deep South.

The Seond Minnesota Regiment at Missionary Ridge by Douglas Volk.

Battle of Missionary Ridge

1863 Nov 25
, Chattanooga

After their disastrous defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga, the 40,000 men of the Union Army of the Cumberland under Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans retreated to Chattanooga. Confederate General Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee besieged the city, threatening to starve the Union forces into surrender. Bragg's troops established themselves on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, both of which had excellent views of the city, the Tennessee River flowing north of the city, and the Union supply lines. The Union Army sent reinforcements: Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker with 15,000 men in two corps from the Army of the Potomac in Virginia and Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman with 20,000 men from Vicksburg, Mississippi. On October 17, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant received command of three Western armies, designated the Military Division of the Mississippi; he moved to reinforce Chattanooga and replaced Rosecrans with Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas.

In the morning, Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, commanding the Union Army of the Tennessee, made piecemeal attacks to capture the northern end of Missionary Ridge, Tunnel Hill, but were stopped by fierce resistance from the Confederate divisions of Maj. Gen. Patrick Cleburne, William H.T. Walker, and Carter L. Stevenson. In the afternoon, Grant was concerned that Bragg was reinforcing his right flank at Sherman's expense. He ordered the Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas, to move forward and seize the Confederate line of rifle pits on the valley floor and stop there, as a demonstration to assist Sherman's efforts. The Union soldiers moved forward and quickly pushed the Confederates from the first line of rifle pits, but were then subjected to a punishing fire from the Confederate lines up the ridge.

After a short pause to regain their breath, the Union soldiers continued the attack against the remaining lines further up the ridge, finding that the rifle-pits were untenable and in pursuit of the fleeing Confederates. This second advance was taken up by the commanders on the spot and also by some of the soldiers. Seeing what was happening, Thomas and his subordinates sent orders confirming orders for the ascent. The Union advance was somewhat disorganized but effective, finally overwhelming and scattering what ought to have been, as General Grant himself believed, an impregnable Confederate line. The top line of Confederate rifle pits was sited on the actual crest rather than the military crest of the ridge, leaving blind spots for infantry and artillery. In combination with an advance from the southern end of the ridge by divisions under Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, the Union Army routed Bragg's army, which retreated to Dalton, Georgia, ending the siege of Union forces in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Battle of Ringgold Gap

Battle of Ringgold Gap

1863 Nov 27
, Catoosa County

The Battle of Ringgold Gap was fought November 27, 1863, outside the town of Ringgold, Georgia, by the Confederate and Union armies during the American Civil War. Part of the Chattanooga Campaign, it followed a heavy Confederate loss at the Battle of Missionary Ridge from which General Braxton Bragg's artillery and wagon trains were forced to retreat south. The five hour Battle of Ringgold Gap resulted in the Confederate victory of Major General Patrick R. Cleburne and gave the Army of Tennessee safe passage to retreat through the Ringgold Gap mountain pass.

Meridian campaign.

Meridian campaign

1864 Feb 14 - Feb 20
, Lauderdale County

After the Chattanooga campaign Union forces under Sherman returned to Vicksburg and headed eastward toward Meridian. Meridian was an important railroad center and was home to a Confederate arsenal, military hospital, and prisoner-of-war stockade, as well as the headquarters for a number of state offices. Sherman planned to take Meridian and, if the situation was favorable, push on to Selma, Alabama. He also wished to threaten Mobile enough to force the Confederates to reinforce their defenses. While Sherman set out on February 3, 1864, with the main force of 20,000 men from Vicksburg, he ordered Brig. Gen. William Sooy Smith to lead a cavalry force of 7,000 men from Memphis, Tennessee, south through Okolona, Mississippi, along the Mobile and Ohio Railroad to meet the rest of the Union force at Meridian. The campaign is viewed by historians as a prelude to Sherman's March to the Sea (Savannah campaign) in that a large swath of damage and destruction was inflicted on Central Mississippi as Sherman marched across the state and back.

Red River campaign

Red River campaign

1864 Mar 10 - 1861 May 22
, Red River of the South

The Red River Campaign was a major Union offensive campaign in the Trans-Mississippi theater of the American Civil War, which took place from March 10 to May 22, 1864. It was launched through the densely forested gulf coastal plain region between the Red River Valley and central Arkansas towards the end of the war. Union strategists in Washington thought that the occupation of east Texas and control of the Red River would separate Texas from the rest of the Confederacy. Texas was the source of much needed guns, food, and supplies for Confederate troops. The Union had four goals at the start of the campaign:

  1. Capture of Shreveport, the state capitol and headquarters of the Trans-Mississippi Department.
  2. Destroy Confederate forces in the District of West Louisiana commanded by General Richard Taylor.
  3. Confiscate as much as a hundred thousand bales of cotton from the plantations along Red River.
  4. Organize 'pro-Union' state governments throughout the region under Lincoln's "ten percent" plan.

The expedition was a Union military operation, fought between approximately 30,000 federal troops under the command of Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks, and Confederate forces under General E. Kirby Smith, whose strength varied from 6,000 to 15,000. The Battle of Mansfield was a major part of the Union offensive campaign, which ended in defeat for General Banks.

The expedition was primarily the plan of Major-General Henry W. Halleck, former General-in-Chief of the Armies of the United States, and a diversion from Lieutenant-General Ulysses S. Grant's plan to surround the main Confederate armies by using Banks's Army of the Gulf to capture Mobile. It was a total failure, characterized by poor planning and mismanagement, in which not a single objective was fully accomplished. Major-General Richard Taylor successfully defended the Red River Valley with a smaller force. However, the decision of his immediate superior, Kirby Smith, to send half of his force north to Arkansas rather than south in pursuit of Banks after the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, led to bitter enmity between Taylor and Smith.

Sheridan's final charge at Winchester

Valley campaigns of 1864

1864 May 1 - Oct
, Shenandoah Valley

The first Valley campaign started with Grant's planned invasion of the Shenandoah Valley. Grant ordered Major General Franz Sigel to move "up the Valley" (i.e., southwest to the higher elevations) with 10,000 men to destroy the Confederate railroad, hospital and supply center at Lynchburg, Virginia. Sigel was intercepted and defeated by 4,000 troops and cadets from the Virginia Military Institute under Confederate Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge. His forces retreated to Strasburg, Virginia. Maj. Gen. David Hunter replaced Sigel and resumed the Union offensive and defeated William E. "Grumble" Jones at the Battle of the Piedmont. Jones died in the battle, and Hunter occupied Staunton, Virginia. Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early and his troops arrived in Lynchburg on June 17 at 1 p.m. Although Hunter had planned to destroy railroads and hospitals in Lynchburg, and the James River Canal, when Early's initial units arrived, Hunter thought his forces outnumbered. Hunter, short on supplies, retreated back through West Virginia.

General Robert E. Lee was concerned about Hunter's advances in the Valley, which threatened critical railroad lines and provisions for the Virginia-based Confederate forces. He sent Jubal Early's corps to sweep Union forces from the Valley and, if possible, to menace Washington, D.C., hoping to compel Grant to dilute his forces against Lee around Petersburg, Virginia. Early got off to a good start. He drove downriver through the Valley without opposition, bypassed Harpers Ferry, crossed the Potomac River, and advanced into Maryland. Grant dispatched a corps under Horatio G. Wright and other troops under George Crook to reinforce Washington and pursue Early.

Grant finally lost patience with Hunter, particularly his allowing Early to burn Chambersburg, and knew that Washington remained vulnerable if Early was still on the loose. He found a new commander aggressive enough to defeat Early: Philip Sheridan, the cavalry commander of the Army of the Potomac, who was given command of all forces in the area, calling them the Army of the Shenandoah. Sheridan initially started slowly, primarily because the impending presidential election of 1864 demanded a cautious approach, avoiding any disaster that might lead to the defeat of Abraham Lincoln.

After his missions of neutralizing Early and suppressing the Valley's military-related economy, Sheridan returned to assist Grant at Petersburg. Most of the men of Early's corps rejoined Lee at Petersburg in December, while Early remained in the Valley to command a skeleton force. He was defeated at the Battle of Waynesboro on March 2, 1865, after which Lee removed him from his command, because the Confederate government and people had lost confidence in him.

Overland Campaign

Overland Campaign

1864 May 4 - Jun 24
, Virginia

In March 1864, Grant was summoned from the Western Theater, promoted to lieutenant general, and given command of all Union armies. Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman succeeded Grant in command of most of the western armies. Grant and President Abraham Lincoln devised a coordinated strategy that would strike at the heart of the Confederacy from multiple directions: Grant, Meade, and Benjamin Butler against Lee near Richmond, Virginia; Franz Sigel in the Shenandoah Valley; Sherman to invade Georgia, defeat Joseph E. Johnston, and capture Atlanta; George Crook and William W. Averell to operate against railroad supply lines in West Virginia; and Nathaniel Banks to capture Mobile, Alabama. This was the first time the Union armies would have a coordinated offensive strategy across a number of theaters.

Although previous Union campaigns in Virginia targeted the Confederate capital of Richmond as their primary objective, this time the goal was to capture Richmond by aiming for the destruction of Lee's army. Lincoln had long advocated this strategy for his generals, recognizing that the city would certainly fall after the loss of its principal defensive army. Grant ordered Meade, "Wherever Lee goes, there you will go also." Although he hoped for a quick, decisive battle, Grant was prepared to fight a war of attrition. He meant to "hammer continuously against the armed force of the enemy and his resources until by mere attrition, if in no other way, there should be nothing left to him but an equal submission with the loyal section of our common country to the constitution and laws of the land." Both Union and Confederate casualties could be high, but the Union had greater resources to replace lost soldiers and equipment.

Crossing the Rapidan River on May 4, 1864, Grant sought to defeat Lee's army by quickly placing his forces between Lee and Richmond and inviting an open battle. Lee surprised Grant by attacking the larger Union army in the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5–7), resulting in many casualties on both sides. Unlike his predecessors in the Eastern Theater, Grant did not withdraw his army following this setback but instead maneuvered to the southeast, resuming his attempt to interpose his forces between Lee and Richmond but Lee's army was able to get into position to block this maneuver. At the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House (May 8–21), Grant repeatedly attacked segments of the Confederate defensive line, hoping for a breakthrough but the only results were again many losses for both sides.

Grant maneuvered again, meeting Lee at the North Anna River (Battle of North Anna, May 23–26). Here, Lee held clever defensive positions that provided an opportunity to defeat portions of Grant's army but illness prevented Lee from attacking in time to trap Grant. The final major battle of the campaign was waged at Cold Harbor (May 31 – June 12), in which Grant gambled that Lee's army was exhausted and ordered a massive assault against strong defensive positions, resulting in disproportionately heavy Union casualties. Resorting to maneuver a final time, Grant surprised Lee by stealthily crossing the James River, threatening to capture the city of Petersburg, the loss of which would doom the Confederate capital. The resulting siege of Petersburg (June 1864 – March 1865) led to the eventual surrender of Lee's army in April 1865 and the end of the Civil War.

The campaign included two long-range raids by Union cavalry under Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan. In a raid toward Richmond, Confederate cavalry commander Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart was mortally wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern (May 11). In a raid attempting to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad to the west, Sheridan was thwarted by Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton at the Battle of Trevilian Station (June 11–12), the largest cavalry battle of the war. Although Grant suffered severe losses during the campaign, it was a strategic Union victory. It inflicted proportionately higher losses on Lee's army and maneuvered it into a siege at Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia, in just over eight weeks.

Battle of the Wilderness | ©Kurz & Allison

Battle of the Wilderness

1864 May 5 - May 7
, Spotsylvania County

The Battle of the Wilderness was the first battle of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Virginia Overland Campaign against General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. The fighting occurred in a wooded area near Locust Grove, Virginia, about 20 miles (32 km) west of Fredericksburg. Both armies suffered heavy casualties, nearly 29,000 in total, a harbinger of a war of attrition by Grant against Lee's army and, eventually, the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia. The battle was tactically inconclusive, as Grant disengaged and continued his offensive.

Grant attempted to move quickly through the dense underbrush of the Wilderness of Spotsylvania, but Lee launched two of his corps on parallel roads to intercept him. On the morning of May 5, the Union V Corps under Major General Gouverneur K. Warren attacked the Confederate Second Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell, on the Orange Turnpike. That afternoon the Third Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General A. P. Hill, encountered Brigadier General George W. Getty's division (VI Corps) and Major General Winfield S. Hancock's II Corps on the Orange Plank Road. Fighting, which ended for the evening because of darkness, was fierce but inconclusive as both sides attempted to maneuver in the dense woods.

At dawn on May 6, Hancock attacked along the Plank Road, driving Hill's Corps back in confusion, but the First Corps of Lieutenant General James Longstreet arrived in time to prevent the collapse of the Confederate right flank. Longstreet followed up with a surprise flanking attack from an unfinished railroad bed that drove Hancock's men back, but the momentum was lost when Longstreet was wounded by his own men. An evening attack by Brigadier General John B. Gordon against the Union right flank caused consternation at the Union headquarters, but the lines stabilized and fighting ceased. On May 7, Grant disengaged and moved to the southeast, intending to leave the Wilderness to interpose his army between Lee and Richmond, leading to the Battle of Todd's Tavern and Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

The Siege of Atlanta by Thure de Thulstrup (c. 1888)

Atlanta campaign

1864 May 7 - Sep 2
, Atlanta

The Atlanta campaign was a series of battles fought in the Western Theater of the American Civil War throughout northwest Georgia and the area around Atlanta during the summer of 1864. Union Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman invaded Georgia from the vicinity of Chattanooga, Tennessee, beginning in May 1864, opposed by the Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston. Johnston's Army of Tennessee withdrew toward Atlanta in the face of successive flanking maneuvers by Sherman's group of armies. In July, the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, replaced Johnston with the more aggressive General John Bell Hood, who began challenging the Union Army in a series of costly frontal assaults. Hood's army was eventually besieged in Atlanta and the city fell on September 2, setting the stage for Sherman's March to the Sea and hastening the end of the war.

Battle of Spottsylvania | ©Thure de Thulstrup

Battle of Spotsylvania Court House

1864 May 9 - May 21
, Spotsylvania County

The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, sometimes more simply referred to as the Battle of Spotsylvania (or the 19th-century spelling Spottsylvania), was the second major battle in Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. George G. Meade's 1864 Overland Campaign of the American Civil War. Following the bloody but inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness, Grant's army disengaged from Confederate General Robert E. Lee's army and moved to the southeast, attempting to lure Lee into battle under more favorable conditions. Elements of Lee's army beat the Union army to the critical crossroads of the Spotsylvania Court House in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, and began entrenching. Fighting occurred on and off from May 8 through May 21, 1864, as Grant tried various schemes to break the Confederate line. In the end, the battle was tactically inconclusive, but both sides declared victory. The Confederacy declared victory because they were able to hold their defenses.

Jeb Stuart was mortally wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern.

Battle of Yellow Tavern

1864 May 11
, Henrico County

On May 9, the most powerful cavalry force ever seen in the Eastern Theater—over 10,000 troopers with 32 artillery pieces—rode to the southeast to move behind Lee's army. They had three goals: first, and most important, defeat Stuart, which Sheridan did; second, disrupt Lee's supply lines by destroying railroad tracks and supplies; third, threaten the Confederate capital in Richmond, which would distract Lee.

The Union cavalry column, which at times stretched for over 13 miles (21 km), reached the Confederate forward supply base at Beaver Dam Station that evening. The Confederate troops had been able to destroy many of the critical military supplies before the Union arrived, so Sheridan's men destroyed numerous railroad cars and six locomotives of the Virginia Central Railroad, destroyed telegraph wires, and rescued almost 400 Union soldiers who had been captured in the Battle of the Wilderness.

The Union cavalrymen suffered 625 casualties, but they captured 300 Confederate prisoners and recovered almost 400 Union prisoners. Sheridan disengaged his men and headed south toward Richmond. Although tempted to burst through the modest defenses to the north of the city, they continued south across the Chickahominy River to link up with Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler's force on the James River. After resupplying with Butler, Sheridan's men returned to join Grant at Chesterfield Station on May 24. Sheridan's raid achieved a victory against a numerically inferior opponent at Yellow Tavern, but accomplished little overall. Their most significant achievement was killing Jeb Stuart, which deprived Robert E. Lee of his most experienced cavalry commander, but this came at the expense of a two-week period in which the Army of the Potomac had no direct cavalry coverage for screening or reconnaissance.

Battle of Cold Harbor. | ©Kurz and Allison, 1888

Battle of Cold Harbor

1864 May 31 - Jun 13
, Mechanicsville

On May 31, as Grant's army once again swung around the right flank of Lee's army, Union cavalry seized the crossroads of Old Cold Harbor, about 10 miles northeast of the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, holding it against Confederate attacks until the Union infantry arrived. Both Grant and Lee, whose armies had suffered enormous casualties in the Overland Campaign, received reinforcements. On the evening of June 1, the Union VI Corps and XVIII Corps arrived and assaulted the Confederate works to the west of the crossroads with some success.

On June 2, the remainder of both armies arrived and the Confederates built an elaborate series of fortifications 7 miles long. At dawn on June 3, three Union corps attacked the Confederate works on the southern end of the line and were easily repulsed with heavy casualties. Attempts to assault the northern end of the line and to resume the assaults on the southern were unsuccessful.

The battle caused a rise in anti-war sentiment in the Northern states. Grant became known as the "fumbling butcher" for his poor decisions. It also lowered the morale of his remaining troops. But the campaign had served Grant's purpose—as ill-advised as his attack on Cold Harbor was, Lee had lost the initiative and was forced to devote his attention to the defense of Richmond and Petersburg.

Fredericksburg, Virginia; May 1863. Soldiers in the trenches. Trench warfare would appear again more infamously in World War I

Siege of Petersburg

1864 Jun 9 - 1865 Mar 25
, Petersburg

Grant's crossing of the James altered his original strategy of attempting to drive directly on Richmond, and led to the siege of Petersburg. After Lee learned that Grant had crossed the James, his worst fear was about to be realized—that he would be forced into a siege in defense of the Confederate capital. Petersburg, a prosperous city of 18,000, was a supply center for Richmond, given its strategic location just south of the capital, its site on the Appomattox River that provided navigable access to the James River, and its role as a major crossroads and junction for five railroads. Since Petersburg was the main supply base and rail depot for the entire region, including Richmond, the taking of Petersburg by Union forces would make it impossible for Lee to continue defending the Confederate capital. This represented a change of strategy from that of Grant's Overland Campaign, in which confronting and defeating Lee's army in the open was the primary goal. Now, Grant selected a geographic and political target and knew that his superior resources could besiege Lee there, pin him down, and either starve him into submission or lure him out for a decisive battle. Lee at first believed that Grant's main target was Richmond and devoted only minimal troops under Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard to the defense of Petersburg as the siege of Petersburg began.

The Siege of Petersburg consisted of nine months of trench warfare in which Union forces commanded by Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant assaulted Petersburg unsuccessfully and then constructed trench lines that eventually extended over 30 miles (48 km) from the eastern outskirts of Richmond, Virginia, to around the eastern and southern outskirts of Petersburg. Petersburg was crucial to the supply of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's army and the Confederate capital of Richmond. Numerous raids were conducted and battles fought in attempts to cut off the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad. Many of these battles caused the lengthening of the trench lines.

Lee finally gave into the pressure and abandoned both cities in April 1865, leading to his retreat and surrender at Appomattox Court House. The siege of Petersburg foreshadowed the trench warfare that was common in World War I, earning it a prominent position in military history.

Battle of Brice's Cross Roads

Battle of Brice's Cross Roads

1864 Jun 10
, Baldwyn

The Battle of Brice's Cross Roads was fought on Friday, June 10, 1864, near Baldwyn, Mississippi, then part of the Confederate States of America. A Federal expedition from Memphis, Tennessee, of 4,800 infantry and 3,300 cavalry, under the command of Brigadier-General Samuel D. Sturgis, was defeated by a Confederate force of 3,500 cavalry under the command of Major-General Nathan B. Forrest. The battle was a victory for the Confederates. Forrest inflicted heavy casualties on the Federal force and captured more than 1,600 prisoners of war, 18 artillery pieces, and wagons loaded with supplies.

Battle of Monocacy

Battle of Monocacy

1864 Jul 9
, Frederick County

The Battle of Monocacy was fought on July 9, 1864, about 6 miles (9.7 km) from Frederick, Maryland, as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864 during the American Civil War. Confederate forces under Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early defeated Union forces under Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace. The battle was part of Early's raid through the Shenandoah Valley and into Maryland in an attempt to divert Union forces from their siege of Gen. Robert E. Lee's army at Petersburg, Virginia.

With Wallace's retreat to Baltimore, the road lay open to Washington. On July 10 the Confederates began the march toward the Union capital. By midday on Monday, July 11, Early arrived at Fort Stevens, from where he could see the dome of the U.S. Capitol through his glasses. With his troops straggling behind him, exhausted from the heat and the long march, Early decided to delay the attack on the fort until July 12. Although artillery exchanges and skirmishes occurred on July 11, prior to the full-scale attack, Early was too late. VI Corps, the Union troops that Grant had dispatched to Washington, had already arrived and was prepared to defend the city. The Confederate infantry, reduced to 8,000 men, was unable to continue. By July 14 Early had crossed the Potomac at White's Ferry into Virginia. The battle was the northernmost Confederate victory of the war.

Lincoln's second inaugural address at the almost completed Capitol building, March 4, 1865

Abraham Lincoln is re-elected

1864 Nov 8
, Washington D.C.

Lincoln ran for reelection in 1864, while uniting the main Republican factions, along with War Democrats Edwin M. Stanton and Andrew Johnson. Lincoln used conversation and his patronage powers—greatly expanded from peacetime—to build support and fend off the Radicals' efforts to replace him. At its convention, the Republicans selected Johnson as his running mate. To broaden his coalition to include War Democrats as well as Republicans, Lincoln ran under the label of the new Union Party.

The Democratic platform followed the "Peace wing" of the party and called the war a "failure"; but their candidate, McClellan, supported the war and repudiated the platform. Meanwhile, Lincoln emboldened Grant with more troops and Republican party support. Sherman's capture of Atlanta in September and David Farragut's capture of Mobile ended defeatism. The Democratic Party was deeply split, with some leaders and most soldiers openly for Lincoln.

On November 8, Lincoln carried all but three states, including 78 percent of Union soldiers.

Sherman's March to the Sea, Alexander Hay Ritchie

Sherman's March to the Sea

1864 Nov 15 - Dec 21
, Savannah

Sherman's March to the Sea (also known as the Savannah campaign or simply Sherman's March) was a military campaign of the American Civil War conducted through Georgia from November 15 until December 21, 1864, by William Tecumseh Sherman, major general of the Union Army. The campaign began with Sherman's troops leaving the captured city of Atlanta on November 15 and ended with the capture of the port of Savannah on December 21. His forces followed a "scorched earth" policy, destroying military targets as well as industry, infrastructure, and civilian property, disrupting the Confederacy's economy and transportation networks. The operation debilitated the Confederacy and helped lead to its eventual surrender. Sherman's decision to operate deep within enemy territory without supply lines was unusual for its time, and the campaign is taught by some historians as an early example of modern warfare or total war.

Battle of Franklin | ©Don Troiani

Battle of Franklin

1864 Nov 30
, Franklin

The Second Battle of Franklin was fought on November 30, 1864, in Franklin, Tennessee, as part of the Franklin–Nashville Campaign of the American Civil War. It was one of the worst disasters of the war for the Confederate States Army. Confederate Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee conducted numerous frontal assaults against fortified positions occupied by the Union forces under Maj. Gen. John Schofield and was unable to prevent Schofield from executing a planned, orderly withdrawal to Nashville.

The Confederate assault of six infantry divisions containing eighteen brigades with 100 regiments numbering almost 20,000 men, sometimes called the "Pickett's Charge of the West", resulted in devastating losses to the men and the leadership of the Army of Tennessee—fourteen Confederate generals (six killed, seven wounded, and one captured) and 55 regimental commanders were casualties. After its defeat against Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas in the subsequent Battle of Nashville, the Army of Tennessee retreated with barely half the men with which it had begun the short offensive, and was effectively destroyed as a fighting force for the remainder of the war.

Battle of Nashville, Chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison, 1888

Battle of Nashville

1864 Dec 15 - Dec 16
, Nashville

The Battle of Nashville was fought at Nashville, Tennessee, on December 15–16, 1864, between the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Lieutenant General John Bell Hood and the Union Army of the Cumberland (Dept. of the Cumberland) under Major General George H. Thomas. In one of the largest victories achieved by the Union Army during the war, Thomas attacked and routed Hood's army, largely destroying it as an effective fighting force.

Ships bombarding Fort Fisher prior to the ground assault

Second Battle of Fort Fisher

1865 Jan 13 - Jan 15
, Fort Fisher

Wilmington was the last major port open to the Confederacy on the Atlantic seacoast. Sometimes referred to as the "Gibraltar of the South" and the last major coastal stronghold of the Confederacy, Fort Fisher had tremendous strategic value during the war, providing a port for blockade runners supplying the Army of Northern Virginia. Ships leaving Wilmington via the Cape Fear River and setting sail for the Bahamas, Bermuda or Nova Scotia to trade cotton and tobacco for needed supplies from the British were protected by the fort. Based on the design of the Malakoff redoubt in Sevastopol, Russian Empire, Fort Fisher was constructed mostly of earth and sand. This made it better able to absorb the pounding of heavy fire from Union ships than older fortifications constructed of mortar and bricks. Twenty-two guns faced the ocean, while twenty-five faced the land. The sea face guns were mounted on 12-foot-high (3.7 m) batteries with larger, 45-and-60-foot (14 and 18 m) batteries at the southern end of the fort. Underground passageways and bombproof rooms existed below the giant earthen mounds of the fort. The fortifications kept Union ships from attacking the port of Wilmington and the Cape Fear River.

On December 23, 1864, Union ships under Rear Admiral David D. Porter commenced a naval bombardment of the fort, to little effect. On January 1865, the Union Army, Navy and Marine Corps successfully assaulted Fort Fisher. The loss of Fort Fisher compromised the safety and usefulness of Wilmington, the Confederacy's last remaining sea port. The South was now cut off from global trade. Many of the military supplies which the Army of Northern Virginia depended upon came through Wilmington; there were no remaining seaports near Virginia that the Confederates could use practically. Potential European recognition of the Confederacy was likely already impossible, but now became entirely unrealistic; the fall of Fort Fisher was "the final nail in the Confederate coffin." A month later, a Union army under General John M. Schofield would move up the Cape Fear River and capture Wilmington.

Battle of Fort Stedman

Battle of Fort Stedman

1865 Mar 25
, Petersburg

The Union Army fortification in the siege lines around Petersburg, Virginia, was attacked in a pre-dawn Confederate assault by troops led by Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon. The attack was the last serious attempt by Confederate troops to break the Siege of Petersburg. After an initial success, Gordon's men were driven back by Union troops of the IX Corps commanded by Maj. Gen. John G. Parke.

Appomattox campaign | ©Gilbert Gaul

Appomattox campaign

1865 Mar 29 - Apr 9
, Petersburg

The Appomattox campaign was a series of American Civil War battles fought March 29 – April 9, 1865, in Virginia that concluded with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia to forces of the Union Army (Army of the Potomac, Army of the James and Army of the Shenandoah) under the overall command of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, marking the effective end of the war.

As the Richmond–Petersburg campaign (also known as the siege of Petersburg) ended, Lee's army was outnumbered and exhausted from a winter of trench warfare over an approximately 40 mi (64 km) front, numerous battles, disease, hunger and desertion. Grant's well-equipped and well-fed army was growing in strength. On March 29, 1865, the Union Army began an offensive that stretched and broke the Confederate defenses southwest of Petersburg and cut their supply lines to Petersburg and the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Union victories at the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865, and the Third Battle of Petersburg, often called the Breakthrough at Petersburg, on April 2, 1865, opened Petersburg and Richmond to imminent capture. Lee ordered the evacuation of Confederate forces from both Petersburg and Richmond on the night of April 2–3 before Grant's army could cut off any escape. Confederate government leaders also fled west from Richmond that night.

The Confederates marched west, heading toward Lynchburg, Virginia, as an alternative. Lee planned to resupply his army at one of those cities and march southwest into North Carolina where he could unite his army with the Confederate army commanded by General Joseph E. Johnston. Grant's Union Army pursued Lee's fleeing Confederates relentlessly. During the next week, the Union troops fought a series of battles with Confederate units, cut off or destroyed Confederate supplies and blocked their paths to the south and ultimately to the west. On April 6, 1865, the Confederate Army suffered a significant defeat at the Battle of Sailor's Creek, Virginia, where they lost about 7,700 men killed and captured and an unknown number wounded. Nonetheless, Lee continued to move the remainder of his battered army to the west. Soon cornered, short of food and supplies and outnumbered, Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant on April 9, 1865, at the McLean House near the Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

Fall of Petersburg

Third Battle of Petersburg

1865 Apr 2
, Dinwiddie County

The Third Battle of Petersburg, also known as the Breakthrough at Petersburg or the Fall of Petersburg, was fought on April 2, 1865, south and southwest of Petersburg, Virginia, at the end of the 292-day Richmond–Petersburg Campaign (sometimes called the Siege of Petersburg) and in the beginning stage of the Appomattox Campaign near the conclusion of the American Civil War.

The thinly held Confederate lines at Petersburg had been stretched to the breaking point by earlier Union movements that extended those lines beyond the ability of the Confederates to man them adequately and by desertions and casualties from recent battles. As the much larger Union forces assaulted the lines, desperate Confederate defenders held off the Union breakthrough long enough for Confederate government officials and most of the remaining Confederate army, including local defense forces and some Confederate Navy personnel, to flee Petersburg and the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, during the night of April 2–3. Confederate corps commander Lieutenant General A.P. Hill was killed during the fighting.

Battle of Sailor's Creek

Battle of Sailor's Creek

1865 Apr 6
, Amelia County

After abandoning Petersburg, the exhausted and starving Confederates headed west, hoping to re-supply at Danville or Lynchburg, before joining General Joseph E. Johnston in North Carolina. But the stronger Union army kept pace with them, exploiting the rough terrain full of creeks and high bluffs, where the Confederates’ long wagon trains were highly vulnerable. The two small bridges over Sailor's Creek and Little Sailor's Creek caused a bottleneck that further delayed the Confederates’ attempt to escape. After some desperate hand-to-hand fighting, about a quarter of the remaining effective soldiers of the Confederate force were lost, including several generals. Witnessing the surrender from a nearby bluff, Lee made his famous despairing remark to Major General William Mahone, "My God, has the army dissolved?", to which Mahone replied, "No, General, here are troops ready to do their duty."

A print showing Ulysses S. Grant, Commanding General of the Union Army, accepting Confederate General in Chief Robert E. Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865

Lee Surrenders

1865 Apr 9
, Appomattox Court House

The Battle of Appomattox Court House, fought in Appomattox County, Virginia, on the morning of April 9, 1865, was one of the last battles of the American Civil War (1861–1865). It was the final engagement of Confederate General in Chief, Robert E. Lee, and his Army of Northern Virginia before they surrendered to the Union Army of the Potomac under the Commanding General of the United States Army, Ulysses S. Grant.

Lee, having abandoned the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia after the nine-and-a-half-month Siege of Petersburg and Richmond, retreated west, hoping to join his army with the remaining Confederate forces in North Carolina, the Army of Tennessee under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. Union infantry and cavalry forces under General Philip Sheridan pursued and cut off the Confederates' retreat at the central Virginia village of Appomattox Court House. Lee launched a last-ditch attack to break through the Union forces to his front, assuming the Union force consisted entirely of lightly armed cavalry. When he realized that the cavalry was now backed up by two corps of federal infantry, he had no choice but to surrender with his further avenue of retreat and escape now cut off.

The signing of the surrender documents occurred in the parlor of the house owned by Wilmer McLean on the afternoon of April 9. On April 12, a formal ceremony of parade and the stacking of arms led by Confederate Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon to federal Brig. Gen. Joshua Chamberlain marked the disbandment of the Army of Northern Virginia with the parole of its nearly 28,000 remaining officers and men, free to return home without their major weapons but enabling men to take their horses and officers to retain their sidearms (swords and pistols), and effectively ending the war in Virginia.

John Wilkes Booth assassinating Abraham Lincoln in Ford's Theatre.

Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

1865 Apr 14
, Ford's Theatre

On April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, was assassinated by well-known stage actor John Wilkes Booth, while attending the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. Shot in the head as he watched the play, Lincoln died the following day at 7:22 am in the Petersen House opposite the theater. He was the first president to be assassinated, with his funeral and burial marking an extended period of national mourning.

Occurring near the end of the American Civil War, Lincoln's assassination was part of a larger conspiracy intended by Booth to revive the Confederate cause by eliminating the three most important officials of the federal government. Conspirators Lewis Powell and David Herold were assigned to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward, and George Atzerodt was tasked with killing Vice President Andrew Johnson. Beyond Lincoln's death, the plot failed: Seward was only wounded, and Johnson's would-be attacker became drunk instead of killing the vice president. After a dramatic initial escape, Booth was killed at the climax of a twelve-day chase. Powell, Herold, Atzerodt, and Mary Surratt were later hanged for their roles in the conspiracy.

End of the War

End of the War

1865 May 26
, Washington D.C.

Confederate forces across the South surrendered as news of Lee's surrender reached them. On April 26, 1865, the same day Boston Corbett killed Booth at a tobacco barn, General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered nearly 90,000 troops of the Army of Tennessee to Major General William Tecumseh Sherman at Bennett Place near present-day Durham, North Carolina. It proved to be the largest surrender of Confederate forces. On May 4, all remaining Confederate forces in Alabama, Louisiana east of the Mississippi River, and Mississippi under Lieutenant General Richard Taylor surrendered. The Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, was captured at Irwinsville, Georgia on May 10, 1865. On May 13, 1865, the last land battle of the war was fought at the Battle of Palmito Ranch in Texas.

On May 26, 1865, Confederate Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, acting for General Edmund Kirby Smith, signed a military convention surrendering the Confederate trans-Mississippi Department forces. This date is often cited by contemporaries and historians as the end date of the American Civil War.


1866 Dec 1
, United States

The war had utterly devastated the South and posed serious questions of how the South would be re-integrated to the Union. The war destroyed much of the wealth that had existed in the South. All accumulated investment in Confederate bonds was forfeited; most banks and railroads were bankrupt. The income per person in the South dropped to less than 40 percent of that of the North, a condition that lasted until well into the 20th century. Southern influence in the federal government, previously considerable, was greatly diminished until the latter half of the 20th century.

Reconstruction began during the war, with the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, and it continued until 1877. It comprised multiple complex methods to resolve the outstanding issues of the war's aftermath, the most important of which were the three "Reconstruction Amendments" to the Constitution: the 13th outlawing slavery (1865), the 14th guaranteeing citizenship to slaves (1868) and the 15th ensuring voting rights to slaves (1870).

Numerous technological innovations during the Civil War had a great impact on 19th-century science. The Civil War was one of the earliest examples of an "industrial war", in which technological might is used to achieve military supremacy in a war. New inventions, such as the train and telegraph, delivered soldiers, supplies and messages at a time when horses were considered to be the fastest way to travel. It was also in this war that aerial warfare, in the form of reconnaissance balloons, was first used. It saw the first action involving steam-powered ironclad warships in naval warfare history. Repeating firearms such as the Henry rifle, Spencer rifle, Colt revolving rifle, Triplett & Scott carbine and others, first appeared during the Civil War; they were a revolutionary invention that would soon replace muzzle-loading and single-shot firearms in warfare. The war also saw the first appearances of rapid-firing weapons and machine guns such as the Agar gun and the Gatling gun.


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