American Civil War





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1861 - 1865

American Civil War

The American Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, was a divisive conflict between the Northern Union and the Southern Confederacy, primarily over the expansion of slavery into western territories. The political tension surrounding slavery culminated with the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, leading seven southern states to secede and form the Confederacy. Following Lincoln's victory, the Confederacy quickly seized U.S. forts and federal assets, prompting four more states to secede. Over the next four years, the two sides engaged in fierce combat, primarily in the Southern states.

The turning point for the Union came with Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which declared freedom for all slaves in rebel states. The Union's strategic victories, including the crucial win at Vicksburg, which split the Confederacy, and the blockade of Confederate ports, crippled the South's efforts. Notable battles included Confederate General Robert E. Lee's northern advance ending at Gettysburg and the Union's capture of Atlanta in 1864. The war's end was signaled by Lee's surrender to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in April 1865.

Despite the official surrender, skirmishes persisted briefly, and the assassination of Lincoln shortly after added to the nation's grief. The war resulted in the devastating loss of between 620,000 and 750,000 soldiers, making it the deadliest conflict in United States history. The aftermath saw the collapse of the Confederacy, the abolition of slavery, and the start of the Reconstruction era, aimed at rebuilding the nation and integrating the former Confederate states. The war's impact, both in terms of its technological advancements and its sheer brutality, set the stage for future global conflicts.

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1808 Jan 1


United States

The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807 provided that no new slaves were permitted to be imported into the United States. It took effect on January 1, 1808, the earliest date permitted by the United States Constitution. The domestic slave trade within the United States was not affected by the 1807 law. Indeed, with the legal supply of imported slaves terminated, the domestic trade increased in importance.

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 necessarily those of their faction;[1] some Northern soldiers were indifferent on the subject of slavery, but a general pattern can be established.[2] As the war dragged on, more and more Unionists came to support the abolition of slavery, whether on moral grounds or as a means to cripple the Confederacy.[3] Confederate soldiers fought the war primarily to protect a Southern society of which slavery was an integral part.[4] Opponents of slavery considered slavery 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.[5] The slaveholding interests in the South denounced this strategy as infringing upon their constitutional rights.[6] Southern whites believed that the emancipation of slaves would destroy the South's economy, because of the large amount of capital invested in slaves and fears of integrating the ex-slave black population.[7] In particular, many Southerners feared a repeat of the 1804 Haiti massacre (referred to at the time as "the horrors of Santo Domingo"),[8] 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.[9] These fears were exacerbated by the 1859 attempt of John Brown to instigate an armed slave rebellion in the South.[10]

Slave or Free States
Tragic Prelude painting ©John Steuart Curry
1850 Jan 1

Slave or Free States


The concept of manifest destiny intensified the divisive issue of slavery in newly acquired American territories. Between 1803 and 1854, as the U.S. expanded its territories through various means, each new region faced the contentious decision of whether to permit slavery. For a time, territories were balanced equally between slave and free states, but tensions heightened over the territories west of the Mississippi. The aftermath of the Mexican–American War, particularly the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, further inflamed these debates. While some hoped to extend slavery into the new territories, others, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, foresaw that these lands would intensify the conflict over the slavery issue.

By 1860, four dominant doctrines had emerged regarding federal control over territories and the issue of slavery. The first, tied to the Constitutional Union Party, sought to make the division established by the Missouri Compromise a constitutional directive. The second, endorsed by Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans, argued that Congress had the discretion to restrict, but not establish, slavery in territories. The third doctrine, territorial or "popular" sovereignty, championed by Senator Stephen A. Douglas, posited that settlers in a territory had the right to decide on slavery. This belief led to the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 and subsequent violent conflicts in "Bleeding Kansas". The final doctrine, propagated by Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis, revolved around state sovereignty or "states' rights", suggesting that states had the right to promote slavery's expansion within the federal union.

The conflict over these doctrines and the expansion of slavery underscored the political rifts leading up to the Civil War. The doctrines each represented different visions for the future of the U.S. and its stance on slavery, highlighting the deep-seated divisions on the issue. As the 1860 presidential election approached, these ideologies represented the core debates surrounding slavery, territories, and the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

Bleeding Kansas
Preston Brooks attacking Charles Sumner in the U.S. Senate in 1856 ©John L. Magee
1854 Jan 1 - 1861 Jan

Bleeding Kansas

Kansas, USA

Bleeding Kansas refers to a violent series of events between 1854 and 1859 in the Kansas Territory and western Missouri. Stemming from a heated political and ideological dispute over the fate of slavery in the soon-to-be state of Kansas, the region saw a surge in electoral fraud, assaults, raids, and killings. Proslavery "border ruffians" and antislavery "free-staters" were the primary participants in this conflict, with estimates indicating up to 200 fatalities,[11] though 56 were documented.[12] This turmoil is often viewed as a precursor to the American Civil War.

Central to the conflict was the determination of whether Kansas would enter the Union as a slave or free state. This decision held immense significance at the national level, as the entrance of Kansas would tip the balance of power in the U.S. Senate, which was already deeply divided over slavery. The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 stipulated that the matter would be settled by popular sovereignty, allowing the territory's settlers to decide. This ignited further tensions, as many proslavery sympathizers from Missouri entered Kansas under false pretenses to sway the vote. The political struggle soon devolved into a full-blown civilian conflict, marked by gang violence and guerrilla warfare. Parallel to this, Kansas experienced its own miniature civil war, complete with dueling capitals, constitutions, and legislatures. Both sides solicited external aid, with U.S. Presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan openly supporting proslavery factions.[13]

After extensive turmoil and a congressional investigation, it became evident that a majority of Kansans desired a free state. However, Southern representatives in Congress stonewalled this decision until many had left during the secession crisis that precipitated the Civil War. On January 29, 1861, Kansas was officially admitted to the Union as a free state. Even so, the border region continued to witness violence throughout the Civil War. The events of Bleeding Kansas showcased the inevitable nature of the conflict over slavery, highlighting the improbability of resolving sectional disagreements without violence and serving as a grim overture to the larger Civil War.[14] Today, numerous memorials and historic sites honor this period.

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1857 Mar 6

Dred Scott Decision

Washington D.C., DC, USA

Dred Scott v. Sandford is recognized as one of the most controversial decisions in U.S. Supreme Court history, determining in 1857 that the Constitution did not recognize people of black African descent as American citizens, thereby denying them the rights and privileges reserved for citizens.[15] This decision, regarded as one of the Court's most regrettable, centered around Dred Scott, an enslaved black individual who had lived in territories where slavery was illegal. Scott argued that his time in these territories entitled him to freedom. Nevertheless, by a 7–2 verdict, the Supreme Court ruled against him. Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote the majority opinion, asserting that African-descended individuals "were not intended to be included" as citizens in the Constitution, referencing historical laws to argue that a distinct separation was intended between white citizens and those they enslaved. The Court's decision also invalidated the Missouri Compromise, dismissing it as an overreach of Congressional authority regarding property rights of slaveholders.[15]

The ruling, instead of quelling the growing dispute over slavery, only intensified the national divide on the issue.[16] While the decision found favor among slaveholding states, it was vehemently opposed in the non-slaveholding states.[17] The verdict stoked the fires of the national debate on slavery, significantly contributing to the tensions that led to the American Civil War. Just years after the decision, the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution were ratified, respectively abolishing slavery and guaranteeing citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States.

The aftermath of Dred Scott v. Sandford saw its ruling overshadowed by larger political movements and events. Historians largely view the decision as exacerbating the divisions that would culminate in the Civil War.[18] During the 1860 U.S. elections, the newly-formed Republican Party, advocating abolition, countered the Supreme Court's verdict, suggesting it was influenced by bias and exceeded its jurisdiction. Their candidate, Abraham Lincoln, contested the court's findings and declared he would limit slavery's expansion. Lincoln's election is commonly seen as the trigger for Southern states' secession, marking the onset of the American Civil War.[19]

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1859 Oct 16 - Oct 18

John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry, WV, USA

From October 16 to 18, 1859, abolitionist John Brown led a raid on the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), intending to spark a widespread slave revolt in the Southern states. This event, considered by some as a precursor to the Civil War, saw Brown and his group of 22 individuals ultimately defeated by U.S. Marines under First Lieutenant Israel Greene's leadership. The aftermath of the raid was significant: ten raiders died in the skirmish, seven faced execution following a trial, and five managed to escape. Notably, prominent figures like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart, and John Wilkes Booth had roles or were witnesses to the unfolding events. Brown had even sought the involvement of renowned abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, but they did not participate due to illness and skepticism about the raid's feasibility, respectively.

The raid was the first national crisis to benefit from the rapid news dissemination capabilities of the newly invented electrical telegraph. Journalists were quick to reach Harpers Ferry, providing real-time updates on the situation. This immediacy of coverage highlighted the evolving landscape of news reporting. Interestingly, contemporary reports used a variety of terms to describe the event, but "raid" was not among them. Descriptors like "insurrection," "rebellion," and "treason" were more common.

John Brown's audacious act at Harpers Ferry elicited mixed reactions across the U.S. The South perceived it as a direct assault on their way of life and the institution of slavery, while some Northerners viewed it as a courageous stand against oppression. Initial public opinion deemed the raid as the misguided effort of a zealot. However, Brown's eloquence during his trial, combined with the advocacy of supporters like Henry David Thoreau, transformed him into a symbolic figure championing the cause of the Union and the abolition of slavery.

Lincoln's Election
1860 Nov 6

Lincoln's Election

Washington D.C., DC, USA

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.

Secession and Outbreak
Confederate States of America
Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy from 1861 to 1865 ©Mathew Brady
1861 Feb 8 - 1865 May 9

Confederate States of America

Richmond, VA, USA

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.

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1861 Apr 12 - Apr 13

Battle of Fort Sumter

Charleston, SC, USA

The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces opened fire on the Union-held Fort Sumter. Fort Sumter is located in the middle of the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.[26] Its status had been contentious for months. Outgoing President Buchanan had dithered in reinforcing the Union garrison in the harbor, which was under command of Major Robert Anderson. Anderson took matters into his own hands and on December 26, 1860, under the cover of darkness, sailed the garrison from the poorly placed Fort Moultrie to the stalwart island Fort Sumter.[27] Anderson's actions catapulted him to hero status in the North. An attempt to resupply the fort on January 9, 1861, failed and nearly started the war then and there. But an informal truce held.[28] On March 5, the newly sworn in Lincoln was informed that the Fort was running low on supplies.[29]

Fort Sumter proved to be one of the main challenges of the new Lincoln administration.[29] Back-channel dealing by Secretary of State Seward with the Confederates undermined Lincoln's decision-making; Seward wanted to pull out of the fort.[30] But a firm hand by Lincoln tamed Seward, and Seward became one of Lincoln's staunchest allies. Lincoln ultimately decided that holding the fort, which would require reinforcing it, was the only workable option. Thus, on April 6, Lincoln informed the Governor of South Carolina that a ship with food but no ammunition would attempt to supply the Fort. Historian McPherson describes this win-win approach as "the first sign of the mastery that would mark Lincoln's presidency"; the Union would win if it could resupply and hold onto the Fort, and the South would be the aggressor if it opened fire on an unarmed ship supplying starving men.[31] An April 9 Confederate cabinet meeting resulted in President Davis's ordering General P. G. T. Beauregard to take the Fort before supplies could reach it.[32]

At 4:30 am on April 12, Confederate forces fired the first of 4,000 shells at the Fort; it fell the next day. The loss of Fort Sumter lit a patriotic fire under the North.[33] On April 15, Lincoln called on the states to field 75,000 volunteer troops for 90 days; impassioned Union states met the quotas quickly.[34] On May 3, 1861, Lincoln called for an additional 42,000 volunteers for a period of three years.[35] Shortly after this, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and North Carolina seceded and joined the Confederacy. To reward Virginia, the Confederate capital was moved to Richmond.[36]

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1861 Apr 19

Union Blockade

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.[20] Lincoln adopted parts of the plan, but chose to prosecute a more active vision of war.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25]

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.

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1861 Jul 21

First Battle of Bull Run

Fairfax County, Virginia, USA

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.[37]

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.

Battle of Hatteras Inlet Batteries
Fort Hatteras surrenders ©Forbes Waud Taylor
1861 Aug 28 - Aug 29

Battle of Hatteras Inlet Batteries

Cape Hatteras, NC, USA

The Battle of Hatteras Inlet Batteries (August 28–29, 1861) was the first combined operation of the Union Army and Navy in the American Civil War, resulting in Union domination of the strategically important North Carolina Sounds. Two forts on the Outer Banks, Fort Clark and Fort Hatteras, had been built by the Confederates to protect their commerce-raiding activity. These were lightly defended, however, and their artillery could not engage the bombarding fleet under Flag Officer Silas H. Stringham, commandant of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron, which had been ordered to keep moving, to avoid presenting a static target. Although held up by bad weather, the fleet was able to land troops under General Benjamin Butler, who took the surrender of Flag Officer Samuel Barron.

This battle represented the first application of the naval blockading strategy. The Union retained both forts, providing valuable access to the sounds, and commerce raiding was much reduced. The victory was welcomed by a demoralized Northern public after the humiliating First Battle of Bull Run. The engagement is sometimes known as the Battle of Forts Hatteras and Clark.

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1861 Nov 8

Trent Affair


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.

Eastern and Western Theaters
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1862 Jan 19

Battle of Mill Springs

Pulaski County, KY, USA

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.

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1862 Feb 6

Battle of Fort Henry

Stewart County, TN, USA

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.

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1862 Feb 11 - Feb 16

Battle of Fort Donelson

Fort Donelson National Battlef

Following his capture of Fort Henry on February 6, Grant moved his army (later to become the Union's Army of the Tennessee) 12 miles (19 km) overland to Fort Donelson, from February 11 to 13, and conducted several small probing attacks. On February 14, Union gunboats under Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote attempted to reduce the fort with gunfire, but were forced to withdraw after sustaining heavy damage from the fort's water batteries.

On February 15, with the fort surrounded, the Confederates, commanded by Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd, launched a surprise attack, led by his second-in-command, Brig. Gen. Gideon Johnson Pillow, against the right flank of Grant's army. The intention was to open an escape route for retreat to Nashville, Tennessee. Grant was away from the battlefield at the start of the attack, but arrived to rally his men and counterattack. Pillow's attack succeeded in opening the route, but Floyd lost his nerve and ordered his men back to the fort. The following morning, Floyd and Pillow escaped with a small detachment of troops, relinquishing command to Brig. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, who accepted Grant's demand of unconditional surrender later that evening. The battle resulted in virtually all of Kentucky as well as much of Tennessee, including Nashville, falling under Union control. The capture opened the Cumberland River, an important avenue for the invasion of the South. It elevated Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant from an obscure and largely unproven leader to the rank of major general, and earned him the nickname of "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.

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1862 Feb 28 - Apr 8

Battle of Island Number Ten

New Madrid, MO, USA

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.

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1862 Mar 1 - Jul

Peninsula Campaign

Yorktown, VA, USA

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.

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1862 Mar 1 - Jun

Jackson's Valley Campaign

Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, U

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.

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1862 Mar 7 - Mar 8

Battle of Pea Ridge

Leetown, WV, USA

The Battle of Pea Ridge (March 7–8, 1862), also known as the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern, took place during the American Civil War near Leetown, northeast of Fayetteville, Arkansas. Federal forces, led by Brig. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis, moved south from central Missouri, driving Confederate forces into northwestern Arkansas. Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn had launched a Confederate counteroffensive, hoping to recapture northern Arkansas and Missouri. Confederate forces met at Bentonville and became the most substantial Rebel force, by way of guns and men, to assemble in the Trans-Mississippi. Against odds Curtis held off the Confederate attack on the first day and drove Van Dorn's force off the battlefield on the second. By defeating the Confederates, the Union forces established Federal control of most of Missouri and northern Arkansas.

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1862 Mar 8 - Mar 9

Battle of Hampton Roads

Sewell's Point, Norfolk, VA, U

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.[38 ]At least one historian has argued that the Confederacy, rather than trying to break the blockade, was simply trying to take complete control of Hampton Roads in order to protect Norfolk and Richmond.[39]

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.[40] 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.[41]

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1862 Mar 23

First Battle of Kernstown

Frederick County, VA, USA

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.

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1862 Apr 6 - Apr 7

Battle of Shiloh

Hardin County, Tennessee, USA

The Battle of Shiloh, also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, was a major battle in the American Civil War fought on April 6–7, 1862. The fighting took place in southwestern Tennessee, which was part of the war's Western Theater. The battlefield is located between a small, undistinguished church named Shiloh and Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. Two Union armies combined to defeat the Confederate Army of Mississippi. Major General Ulysses S. Grant was the Union commander, while General Albert Sidney Johnston was the Confederate commander until his battlefield death, when he was replaced by his second-in-command, General P. G. T. Beauregard.

The Confederate army hoped to defeat Grant's Army of the Tennessee before it could be reinforced and resupplied. Although it made considerable gains with a surprise attack during the first day of the battle, Johnston was mortally wounded and Grant's army was not eliminated. Overnight, Grant's Army of the Tennessee was reinforced by one of its divisions stationed farther north, and was also joined by portions of the Army of the Ohio, under the command of Major General Don Carlos Buell. The Union forces conducted an unexpected counterattack in the morning, which reversed the Confederate gains of the previous day. The exhausted Confederate army withdrew further south, and a modest Union pursuit started and ended on the next day.

Though victorious, the Union army had more casualties than the Confederates, and Grant was heavily criticized. Decisions made on the battlefield by leadership on both sides were questioned, often by those who were not present for the fighting. The battle was the costliest engagement of the Civil War up to that point, and its nearly 24,000 casualties made it one of the bloodiest battles in the entire war.

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1862 Apr 18 - Apr 28

Battle of Forts Jackson & St Philip

Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana,

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.[42] 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 Union Army offered 18,000 soldiers, led by the political general Benjamin F. Butler. The Navy contributed a large fraction of its West Gulf Blockading Squadron, which was commanded by Flag Officer David G. Farragut. The squadron was augmented by a semi-autonomous flotilla of mortar schooners and their support vessels under Commander David Dixon Porter.[43]

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.[44] The forts remained after the fleet had passed, but the demoralized enlisted men in Fort Jackson mutinied and forced their surrender.[45]

Capture of New Orleans
Farragut's flagship, USS Hartford, forces its way past Fort Jackson. ©Julian Oliver Davidson
1862 Apr 25 - May 1

Capture of New Orleans

New Orleans, LA, USA

The Capture of New Orleans was a significant naval and military campaign during the American Civil War that took place in late April 1862. It was a major Union victory, led by Flag Officer David G. Farragut, which enabled the Union forces to gain control of the Mississippi River's mouth and effectively seal off the key Southern port.

The operation began when Farragut led an assault past the Confederate defenses of Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip. Despite facing heavy fire and obstacles like chains and floating torpedoes (mines), Farragut's fleet managed to bypass the forts, moving upriver and reaching the city of New Orleans. There, the city's defenses proved inadequate, and its leaders realized they could not resist the Union fleet's firepower, leading to a relatively quick surrender.

The capture of New Orleans had substantial strategic implications. It not only closed off a vital Confederate trade route but also set the stage for the Union's control of the entire Mississippi River, a crucial blow to the Confederate war effort. The event was also significant for boosting Northern morale and demonstrated the vulnerability of the Confederate coastline.

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1862 May 8

Battle of McDowell

Highland County, Virginia, USA

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.

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1862 May 23

Battle of Front Royal

Front Royal, Virginia, USA

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.

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1862 May 25

First Battle of Winchester

Winchester, Virginia, USA

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.

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1862 May 31 - Jun 1

Battle of Seven Pines

Henrico County, Virginia, USA

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.[46] Seven Pines therefore marked the closest Union forces came to Richmond in this offensive.

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1862 Jun 6

First Battle of Memphis

Memphis, Tennessee, USA

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.

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1862 Jun 8

Battle of Cross Keys

Rockingham County, Virginia, U

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.

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1862 Jun 9

Battle of Port Republic

Rockingham County, Virginia, U

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.

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1862 Jun 24 - Jul 1

Seven Days Battles

Hanover County General Distric

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.

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1862 Jun 25

Battle of Oak Grove

Henrico County, Virginia, USA

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.

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1862 Jun 26

Battle of Mechanicsville

Hanover County, Virginia, USA

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.

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1862 Jun 27 - Jun 28

Battle of Garnett's & Golding's Farm

Henrico County, Virginia, USA

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.

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1862 Jun 27

Battle of Gaines' Mill

Hanover County, Virginia, USA

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.

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1862 Jun 29

Battle of Savage's Station

Henrico County, Virginia, USA

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.

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1862 Jun 30

Battle of Glendale

Henrico County, Virginia, USA

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.

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1862 Jul 1

Battle of Malvern Hill

Henrico County, Virginia, USA

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.

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1862 Jul 17

Militia Act of 1862

Washington D.C., DC, USA

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.

The state-administered system set up by the Act failed in practice and in 1863 Congress passed the Enrollment Act, the first genuine national conscription law. The 1863 law required the enrollment of every male citizen and those immigrants who had filed for citizenship between ages 20 and 45 and making them liable for conscription.

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1862 Aug 9

Battle of Cedar Mountain

Culpeper County, Virginia, USA

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 ©Mort Küntsler
1862 Aug 14 - Oct 10

Kentucky Campaign

Kentucky, USA

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.

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1862 Aug 28 - Aug 30

Second Battle of Bull Run

Prince William County, Virgini

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
©Dale Gallon
1862 Aug 29 - Aug 30

Battle of Richmond

Richmond, Kentucky, USA

The Battle of Richmond, which took place on August 29–30, 1862, near Richmond, Kentucky, stands as one of the most comprehensive Confederate victories during the American Civil War. Commanded by Major General Edmund Kirby Smith, the Confederate forces squared off against Union troops led by Major General William "Bull" Nelson. This engagement marked the inaugural significant battle in the Kentucky Campaign, with the battleground now residing on the grounds of the Blue Grass Army Depot.

In the lead-up to the battle, Confederate forces, eyeing a strategic advance into Kentucky, aimed to reinstall the shadow Confederate government of the state and bolster their ranks through recruitment. The Confederate Army of Kentucky, spearheaded by Smith, began its move in mid-August, with General Braxton Bragg's Army of Mississippi paralleling their efforts to the west. The actual conflict ignited when Confederate cavalry, under Brigadier General Patrick Cleburne, clashed with Union forces. Despite initial skirmishes, the Confederate troops, with timely reinforcements and strategic positioning, managed to outmaneuver and overpower Union regiments, culminating in a robust Confederate assault that sent Union forces into a retreat.

The aftermath of the battle was devastating for the Union. Not only did Nelson and a portion of his troops flee, but the Confederates also captured over 4,300 Union soldiers. The casualties were heavily skewed, with the Union incurring 5,353 losses compared to the Confederate's 451. The victory paved the way for Confederate advances northwards towards Lexington and Frankfort. Esteemed Civil War historian Shelby Foote notably commended Smith's tactical prowess in the battle, equating it to the historical Battle of Cannae in terms of its decisive nature.

South invades the North
Antietam campaign ©Thure De Thulstrup
1862 Sep 4 - Sep 20

South invades the North

Sharpsburg, MD, USA

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.

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1862 Sep 17

Battle of Antietam

Sharpsburg, MD, USA

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 22,727 dead, wounded, or missing.[47] 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.

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1862 Oct 8

Battle of Perryville

Perryville, Kentucky, USA

The Battle of Perryville 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. The next day, at dawn, fighting began again around Peters Hill as a Union division advanced up the pike, halting just before the Confederate line. After noon, a Confederate division struck the Union left flank—the I Corps of Maj. Gen. Alexander M. McCook—and forced it to fall back. When more Confederate divisions joined the fray, the Union line made a stubborn stand, counterattacked, but finally fell back with some units routed.

Buell, several miles behind the action, was unaware that a major battle was taking place and did not send any reserves to the front until late in the afternoon. The Union troops on the left flank, reinforced by two brigades, stabilized their line, and the Confederate attack sputtered to a halt. Later, three Confederate regiments assaulted the Union division on the Springfield Pike but were repulsed and fell back into Perryville. Union troops pursued, and skirmishing occurred in the streets until dark. By that time, Union reinforcements were threatening the Confederate left flank. Bragg, short of men and supplies, withdrew during the night, and continued the Confederate retreat by way of Cumberland Gap into East Tennessee.

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1862 Dec 11 - Dec 15

Battle of Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg, VA, USA

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."

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1862 Dec 31 - 1863 Jan 2

Battle of Stones River

Murfreesboro, Tennessee, USA

The Battle of Stones River was a battle fought from December 31, 1862, to January 2, 1863, in Middle Tennessee, as the culmination of the Stones River Campaign in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. 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 Gen. Braxton Bragg, but the victory was costly for the Union army.[48] 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[48] and also reinforced President Abraham Lincoln's foundation for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation,[48] which ultimately discouraged European powers from intervening on the Confederacy's behalf.

Union Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland marched from Nashville, Tennessee, on December 26, 1862, to challenge 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.

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1863 Jan 1

Emancipation Proclamation

United States

The Emancipation Proclamation, officially Proclamation 9549 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." The Emancipation Proclamation was a significant part of the end of slavery in the United States.

The proclamation provided that the executive branch, including the Army and Navy, "will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons".[50] Even though it excluded states not in rebellion, as well as parts of Louisiana and Virginia under Union control,[51] it still applied to more than 3.5 million of the 4 million enslaved people in the country. Around 25,000 to 75,000 were immediately emancipated in those regions of the Confederacy where the US Army was already in place. It could not be enforced in the areas still in rebellion,[51] but, as the Union army took control of Confederate regions, the Proclamation provided the legal framework for the liberation of more than three and a half million enslaved people in those regions by the end of the war. The Emancipation Proclamation outraged white Southerners and their sympathizers, who saw it as the beginning of a race war. It energized abolitionists, and undermined those Europeans who wanted to intervene to help the Confederacy.[52] The Proclamation lifted the spirits of African Americans, both free and enslaved. It encouraged many to escape from slavery and flee toward Union lines, where many joined the Union Army.[53] The Emancipation Proclamation became a historic document because it "would redefine the Civil War, turning it [for the North] from a struggle [solely] to preserve the Union to one [also] focused on ending slavery, and set a decisive course for how the nation would be reshaped after that historic conflict."[54]

The Emancipation Proclamation was never challenged in court. To ensure the abolition of slavery in all of the U.S., Lincoln also insisted that Reconstruction plans for Southern states require them to enact laws abolishing slavery (which occurred during the war in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana); Lincoln encouraged border states to adopt abolition (which occurred during the war in Maryland, Missouri, and West Virginia) and pushed for passage of the 13th Amendment. The Senate passed the 13th Amendment by the necessary two-thirds vote on April 8, 1864; the House of Representatives did so on January 31, 1865; and the required three-fourths of the states ratified it on December 6, 1865. The amendment made slavery and involuntary servitude unconstitutional, "except as a punishment for crime".[55]

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".

Enrollment Act
Rioters and Federal troops clash as a result of the 1863 Enrollment Act. ©The Illustrated London news
1863 Mar 3

Enrollment Act

New York, NY, USA

The Enrollment Act of 1863 (12 Stat. 731, enacted March 3, 1863) also known as the Civil War Military Draft Act, was an Act passed by the United States Congress during the American Civil War to provide fresh manpower for the Union Army. The Act was the first genuine national conscription law. The law required the enrollment of every male citizen and those immigrants (aliens) who had filed for citizenship, between 20 and 45 years of age, unless exempted by the Act. The Act replaced the Militia Act of 1862. It set up under the Union Army an elaborate machine for enrolling and drafting men for conscription. Quotas were assigned in each state, and each congressional district, with deficiencies in volunteers being met by conscription. In some cities, particularly New York City, enforcement of the act sparked civil unrest as the war dragged on, leading to the New York City draft riots on July 13–16, 1863.

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1863 Apr 30 - May 6

Battle of Chancellorsville

Spotsylvania County, Virginia,

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. [56]

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.[57] 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"[58] 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.

Battle of Champion Hill
Battle of Champion Hill. ©Anonymous
1863 May 16

Battle of Champion Hill

Hinds County, Mississippi, USA

The Battle of Champion Hill, occurring on May 16, 1863, was a crucial engagement during the Vicksburg Campaign in the American Civil War. Union Army's Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant led the Army of the Tennessee against the Confederate forces under Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton. Situated twenty miles east of Vicksburg, Mississippi, the battle culminated in a significant Union victory, which subsequently laid the groundwork for the Siege of Vicksburg and the city's eventual surrender. This battle is also referred to as Baker's Creek.

In the prelude to the conflict, following the Union occupation of Jackson, Mississippi, Confederate forces, directed by General Joseph E. Johnston, began their retreat. Despite this, Johnston ordered Pemberton to attack the Union troops at Clinton. Pemberton's disagreement with the plan led him to target Union supply trains instead. As the Confederate troops maneuvered based on conflicting orders, they eventually found themselves positioned with their rear facing the crest of Champion Hill. When the battle commenced on May 16, Pemberton's forces set up a defensive line overlooking Jackson Creek. However, their left flank was exposed, which the Union forces sought to exploit. By mid-day, Union troops had reached the Confederate's primary defense line. As the day wore on, the Confederate defenses crumbled, especially after Grant's counterattack, forcing them to retreat to the Big Black River, setting the stage for the ensuing Battle of Big Black River Bridge.

Champion Hill was a devastating blow to the Confederates, resulting in a clear Union victory. Grant recounted the gruesome aftermath of the battle in his memoirs, highlighting the harrowing scenes of casualties. While Union forces suffered approximately 2,500 casualties, Confederate losses amounted to around 3,800. Grant was notably critical of Union leader McClernand, citing a lack of aggression which prevented the complete annihilation of Pemberton's forces. The Confederates faced not only significant casualties but also lost most of Loring's division, which decided to regroup with Joseph E. Johnston in Jackson.

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1863 May 18 - Jul 4

Siege of Vicksburg

Warren County, Mississippi, US

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.

The Confederate surrender on July 4, 1863, is sometimes considered, combined with General Robert E. Lee's defeat at Gettysburg by Major General George Meade the previous day, the war's turning point. It cut off the Trans-Mississippi Department (containing the states of Arkansas, Texas and part of Louisiana) from the rest of the Confederate States, effectively splitting the Confederacy in two for the rest of the war. Lincoln called Vicksburg "the key to the war".[59]

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1863 May 22 - Jul 9

Siege of Port Hudson

East Baton Rouge Parish, LA, U

The siege of Port Hudson (May 22 – July 9, 1863) was the final engagement in the Union campaign to recapture the Mississippi River in the American Civil War. While Union General Ulysses Grant was besieging Vicksburg upriver, General Nathaniel Banks was ordered to capture the lower Mississippi Confederate stronghold of Port Hudson, Louisiana, to go to Grant's aid. When his assault failed, Banks settled into a 48-day siege, the longest in US military history up to that point. A second attack also failed, and it was only after the fall of Vicksburg that the Confederate commander, General Franklin Gardner, surrendered the port. The Union gained control of the river and navigation from the Gulf of Mexico through the Deep South and to the river's upper reaches.

Battle of Brandy Station
Battle of Brandy Station ©Anonymous
1863 Jun 9

Battle of Brandy Station

Culpeper County, Virginia, USA

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 ©Keith Rocco
1863 Jun 13 - Jun 15

Second Battle of Winchester

Frederick County, VA, USA

In the lead-up to the Battle of Gettysburg in June 1863, the Second Winchester Battle played a pivotal role in determining troop movements and strategy. Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered the Second Corps, led by Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, to clear the lower Shenandoah Valley of Union forces. Ewell's troops executed a brilliantly coordinated series of maneuvers, ultimately surrounding and decisively defeating the Union garrison under Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy at Winchester, Virginia. The Union forces were caught off guard and, believing their positions to be stronger than they were, ended up being routed with significant losses.

The battle's outcome had broad implications. The victory at Second Winchester cleared the Shenandoah Valley of significant Union resistance, paving the way for Lee's second invasion of the North. Ewell's capture of Winchester yielded an immense haul of Union supplies, helping to provision the Confederate Army. The defeat sent shockwaves through the North, leading to calls for additional militia and fostering fears of a deep Confederate incursion into Union territory.

Aside from the tactical and strategic implications, the leadership displayed by the Confederate generals, particularly Jubal Early, was noteworthy. Their ability to coordinate and execute complex maneuvers showcased their prowess and solidified their reputations as formidable military leaders. This victory bolstered Confederate morale and set the stage for the subsequent Battle of Gettysburg, one of the most significant confrontations of the American Civil War.

Tullahoma Campaign
Tullahoma Campaign ©Dan Nance
1863 Jun 24 - Jul 4

Tullahoma Campaign

Tennessee, USA

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.

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1863 Jul 1 - Jul 3

Battle of Gettysburg

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, USA

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.

Turning Points
Vicksburg surrenders
Vicksburg surrenders. ©Mort Künstler
1863 Jul 4

Vicksburg surrenders

Warren County, Mississippi, US

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."

Vicksburg's strategic location on the Mississippi River made it a prized asset for the Confederacy. Holding Vicksburg allowed the Confederacy to control the Mississippi, thereby enabling the movement of troops and supplies and effectively splitting the Union in two. Conversely, the Union sought to gain control of the river to cut off the Confederacy's western states and further tighten the Anaconda Plan, a strategic blockade designed to suffocate the Confederate economy and troop movements.

The capture of Vicksburg, combined with the Union victory at Gettysburg around the same time, marked a significant turning point in the Civil War. With Vicksburg in Union hands, the Confederacy was split, and the Mississippi River was under Union control for the rest of the war. This victory bolstered the reputation of Grant, leading to his eventual command of all Union armies, and signaled a shift in momentum towards the Union, setting the stage for further campaigns deep into Confederate territory.

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1863 Sep 19 - Sep 20

Battle of Chickamauga

Walker County, Georgia, USA

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 campaign
Chattanooga viewed from the north bank of the Tennessee River, 1863. ©Anonymous
1863 Sep 21 - Nov 25

Chattanooga campaign

Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA

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.

Battle of Lookout Mountain
The Battle of Lookout Mountain. ©James Walker
1863 Nov 24

Battle of Lookout Mountain

Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA

The Battle of Lookout Mountain, also referred to as the "Battle Above the Clouds," was a critical engagement during the Chattanooga Campaign of the American Civil War. On November 24, 1863, Union forces led by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker attacked Confederate defenders on Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tennessee. The fog-covered mountain provided a dramatic backdrop to the clash, with Union forces ascending the mountain's slopes and defeating the Confederates, led by Maj. Gen. Carter L. Stevenson. This victory paved the way for the Union's subsequent triumph at the Battle of Missionary Ridge.

The strategic significance of Lookout Mountain lay in its oversight of Chattanooga and the surrounding area, vital for both supply and transportation routes. Following their defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga, Union forces had been under siege in Chattanooga. To break this stranglehold, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant orchestrated a multi-pronged campaign. On the day of the battle, the combination of dense fog and the rugged mountainous terrain made for challenging combat conditions. Despite these obstacles, Union troops managed to push the Confederates off the mountain.

The Battle of Lookout Mountain was not the largest or bloodiest engagement of the war, but its impact was significant. With the Confederate forces ousted from their advantageous position, the Union army gained a morale boost and set the stage for further victories in the region. The action at Lookout Mountain, combined with subsequent battles, eventually forced the Confederate Army of Tennessee into a full retreat. Today, the battle site is preserved as part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

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1863 Nov 25

Battle of Missionary Ridge

Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA

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 ©David Geister
1863 Nov 27

Battle of Ringgold Gap

Catoosa County, Georgia, USA

The Battle of Ringgold Gap occurred on November 27, 1863, near Ringgold, Georgia, between the Confederate and Union armies. This engagement was a part of the Chattanooga Campaign and followed closely after the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Missionary Ridge. The Confederate forces, led by Major General Patrick R. Cleburne, were tasked with defending Ringgold Gap, a crucial mountain pass, to ensure the safe retreat of the Confederate artillery and wagon trains following their loss. Despite being heavily outnumbered and initially doubtful of their defensive capabilities, Cleburne's troops successfully held the pass against the Union army led by General Joseph Hooker.

As the Confederates fortified positions within the Ringgold Gap and surrounding areas, the Union forces advanced. The fog of war, combined with the challenging terrain, made the battle particularly chaotic. Union divisions, under commanders like General Peter Osterhaus and General John Geary, made several assaults into the gap and surrounding areas but were consistently repelled by the Confederate defenses. Throughout the battle, the Confederate forces utilized strategic placements, including hidden artillery, to fend off the Union advancements. Even with their numerical advantage, the Union army faced heavy resistance and found it difficult to gain any substantial ground.

After several hours of intense fighting, Cleburne received word that the remaining Confederate army had safely passed through the gap. With this, he began a strategic retreat, leaving behind skirmishers to cover their withdrawal. The battle concluded with the Confederates achieving their objective of safeguarding the retreat of their main force. They reported 221 casualties while the Union forces suffered 509 casualties. Despite criticisms of General Hooker's handling of the battle, he retained his position in the Union army. The Battle of Ringgold Gap showcased the tactical prowess of the Confederate forces, even when faced with overwhelming odds.

Union Dominance and Total War
Meridian Campaign
Meridian campaign. ©Anonymous
1864 Feb 14 - Feb 20

Meridian Campaign

Lauderdale County, Mississippi

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.

Two supporting columns were under the command of Brigadier General William Sooy Smith and Colonel James Henry Coates. Smith's expedition was tasked to destroy a rebel cavalry commanded by Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, maintain communications with Middle Tennessee and take men from the defense on the Mississippi River to the Atlanta campaign. To maintain communications, it was to protect the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. Coates' expedition moved up the Yazoo River and for a while occupied Yazoo City, Mississippi.[60]

Sinking of USS Housatonic
Submarine Torpedo Boat H.L. Hunley, Dec. 6, 1863. ©Conrad Wise Chapman
1864 Feb 17

Sinking of USS Housatonic

Charleston Harbor, Charleston,

The Sinking of USS Housatonic on 17 February 1864 during the American Civil War was an important turning point in naval warfare. The Confederate States Navy submarine, H.L. Hunley made her first and only attack on a Union Navy warship when she staged a clandestine night attack on USS Housatonic in Charleston harbor. H.L. Hunley approached just under the surface, avoiding detection until the last moments, then embedded and remotely detonated a spar torpedo that rapidly sank the 1,240 long tons (1,260 t) sloop-of-war with the loss of five Union sailors. H.L. Hunley became renowned as the first submarine to successfully sink an enemy vessel in combat, and was the direct progenitor of what would eventually become international submarine warfare, although the victory was Pyrrhic and short-lived, since the submarine did not survive the attack and was lost with all eight Confederate crewmen.

Red River campaign
Red River Campaign ©Andy Thomas
1864 Mar 10 - May 22

Red River campaign

Red River of the South, United

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.

Battle of Sabine Crossroads
Battle Of Wilson's Plantation, between Gen. Lee and the Rebel Gen. Green ©Anonymous
1864 Apr 8

Battle of Sabine Crossroads

DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, USA

The Battle of Sabine Crossroads took place on April 8, 1864, in Louisiana during the American Civil War. This confrontation was a component of the Red River Campaign, where Union forces aimed to capture Shreveport, Louisiana's capital. Confederate Major-General Dick Taylor decided to make a stand at Mansfield against the Union army led by General Nathaniel Banks. Although both sides awaited reinforcements throughout the day, the Confederates, primarily composed of units from Louisiana and Texas and possibly supported by paroled soldiers, decisively routed the Union forces.

In the lead-up to the battle, Union forces, consisting mainly of Brigadier General Albert L. Lee's cavalry division and parts of the XIII Corps, found themselves stretched across a clearing near Mansfield. As they waited for more reinforcements, Confederate forces, having a momentary numerical advantage, launched an aggressive assault around 4:00 pm. While Confederate forces on the east side of the road faced heavy resistance, resulting in Mouton's death, those on the west successfully encircled the Union position, causing significant disarray among Union ranks. The Confederates relentlessly pursued the retreating Union troops until they clashed with another Union defensive line formed by Emory's division, leading to a halt in Confederate advances.

The aftermath of the Battle of Mansfield was significant for the Union, which endured a loss of 113 killed, 581 wounded, and 1,541 captured. Additionally, they lost substantial equipment and resources. Confederate losses were roughly estimated at about 1,000 killed and wounded. Following this Confederate victory, the two forces would meet again in combat the very next day at the Battle of Pleasant Hill.

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1864 May 1 - Oct

Valley Campaigns of 1864

Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, U

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.

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1864 May 4 - Jun 24

Overland Campaign

Virginia, USA

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.

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1864 May 5 - May 7

Battle of the Wilderness

Spotsylvania County, VA, USA

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.

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1864 May 7 - Sep 2

Atlanta Campaign

Atlanta, GA, USA

The Atlanta Campaign, spanning the summer of 1864, was a series of battles in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. Led by Union Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, the Union forces moved to invade Georgia, initiating from Chattanooga, Tennessee. They faced resistance from the Confederate Army, commanded by General Joseph E. Johnston. As Sherman's troops advanced, Johnston executed a series of withdrawals toward Atlanta, employing defensive tactics. However, in July, Confederate President Jefferson Davis replaced Johnston with the more aggressive General John Bell Hood, leading to several direct confrontations.

After the Union's capture of Chattanooga in 1863, which was termed the "Gateway to the South," Sherman took command of the Western armies. His strategy focused on simultaneous offensives against the Confederacy, with the primary objective being the defeat of Johnston's army and the capture of Atlanta. The campaign was marked by Sherman's flanking maneuvers against Johnston, compelling the latter to fall back repeatedly. By the time Hood took command, the Confederate Army was pressed into making riskier frontal assaults against the Union forces.

The battles raged on with significant confrontations at places like Rocky Face Ridge, Resaca, and Kennesaw Mountain. Despite facing stiff resistance, Sherman's tactics of encirclement and his numerical advantage gradually pushed back the Confederate forces. Hood's decision to defend Atlanta led to intense battles, including the major clashes at Peachtree Creek and Ezra Church. However, Hood's aggressive approach couldn't stop the advancing Union forces and resulted in substantial Confederate casualties.

In late August, Sherman decided to cut Hood's railroad supply lines, believing it would force an evacuation of Atlanta. Through a series of engagements, including battles at Jonesborough and Lovejoy's Station, Sherman was able to exert significant pressure on the Confederate supply routes. On September 1, with his supply lines threatened and the city under imminent danger, Hood ordered the evacuation of Atlanta, which subsequently fell to Sherman's forces the next day.

Sherman's capture of Atlanta was a significant victory for the Union, not only from a strategic standpoint but also for the morale boost it provided. It played a pivotal role in President Abraham Lincoln's re-election later that year. Although Hood's aggressive tactics did manage to inflict substantial damage, the Confederate losses were proportionally much higher. Following the capture, Sherman decided to move further into the heartland of the Confederacy, marking the beginning of his infamous March to the Sea.

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1864 May 9 - May 21

Battle of Spotsylvania Court House

Spotsylvania County, Virginia,

The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House 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. The United States declared victory because the Federal offensive continued and Lee's army suffered losses that could not be replaced. With almost 32,000 casualties on both sides, Spotsylvania was the costliest battle of the campaign.

On May 8, Union Maj. Gens. Gouverneur K. Warren and John Sedgwick unsuccessfully attempted to dislodge the Confederates under Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson from Laurel Hill, a position that was blocking them from Spotsylvania Court House. On May 10, Grant ordered attacks across the Confederate line of earthworks, which by now extended over 4 miles (6.4 km), including a prominent salient known as the Mule Shoe. Although the Union troops failed again at Laurel Hill, an innovative assault attempt by Col. Emory Upton against the Mule Shoe showed promise.

Grant used Upton's assault technique on a much larger scale on May 12 when he ordered the 15,000 men of Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock's corps to assault the Mule Shoe. Hancock was initially successful, but the Confederate leadership rallied and repulsed his incursion. Attacks by Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright on the western edge of the Mule Shoe, which became known as the "Bloody Angle", involved almost 24 hours of desperate hand-to-hand fighting, some of the most intense of the Civil War. Supporting attacks by Warren and by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside were unsuccessful.

Grant repositioned his lines in another attempt to engage Lee under more favorable conditions and launched a final attack by Hancock on May 18, which made no progress. A reconnaissance in force by Confederate Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell at Harris farm on May 19 was a costly and pointless failure. On May 21, Grant disengaged from the Confederate Army and started southeast on another maneuver to turn Lee's right flank, as the Overland Campaign continued and led to the Battle of North Anna.

Battle of Yellow Tavern
Jeb Stuart was mortally wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern. ©Don Troiani
1864 May 11

Battle of Yellow Tavern

Henrico County, Virginia, USA

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.

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1864 May 31 - Jun 13

Battle of Cold Harbor

Mechanicsville, Virginia, USA

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.

Grant said of the battle in his Personal Memoirs, "I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made. ... No advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained." The armies confronted each other on these lines until the night of June 12, when Grant again advanced by his left flank, marching to the James River. In the final stage, Lee entrenched his army within besieged Petersburg before finally retreating westward across Virginia.

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1864 Jun 9 - 1865 Mar 25

Siege of Petersburg

Petersburg, Virginia, USA

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. It also featured the war's largest concentration of African-American troops, who suffered heavy casualties at such engagements as the Battle of the Crater and Chaffin's Farm.

Battle of Brice's Cross Roads
Battle of Brice's Cross Roads ©John Paul Strain
1864 Jun 10

Battle of Brice's Cross Roads

Baldwyn, Mississippi, USA

The Battle of Brice's Cross Roads, fought near Baldwyn, Mississippi on June 10, 1864, was a significant Confederate victory during the American Civil War. The confrontation ensued when a Union force of roughly 8,100 soldiers, under Brigadier-General Samuel D. Sturgis, was dispatched to engage and potentially destroy Major-General Nathan B. Forrest's Confederate cavalry, which numbered around 3,500. The battle culminated in a decisive Confederate win with Forrest inflicting heavy casualties on the Union side, capturing over 1,600 prisoners, 18 artillery pieces, and numerous supply wagons. Following this defeat, Sturgis requested to be relieved from his command.

This battle was a component of the wider strategic theater that was unfolding in 1864. Union leaders, Lieutenant-General Ulysses Grant and Major-General William Tecumseh Sherman, had coordinated a strategy targeting the Confederate heartlands, particularly aiming to seize Atlanta. As Sherman's forces advanced, there were concerns that Forrest's Confederate cavalry would disrupt the Union supply lines stretching back to Nashville. In response, Sturgis was ordered out of Memphis into North Mississippi to engage Forrest, aiming to keep him occupied and if feasible, neutralize his force. This move coincided with Forrest's plans to strike Middle Tennessee, but upon learning of Sturgis's advance, he reversed to defend Mississippi.

The actual battle at Brice's Cross Roads began with an initial skirmish between both sides' cavalry units. As the battle intensified, Union infantry arrived to reinforce their lines, momentarily gaining an advantage. However, Forrest's aggressive tactics, coupled with strategic use of artillery, pushed the Union forces into a retreat, which soon turned into a chaotic rout. Factors contributing to the Union's defeat included their extended supply lines, exhaustion, the wet conditions, and the Confederate advantage in local intelligence. Contrary to some rumors, reports confirmed that Sturgis was not intoxicated during the battle.

Battle of Monocacy
Battle of Monocacy ©Keith Rocco
1864 Jul 9

Battle of Monocacy

Frederick County, Maryland, US

The Battle of Monocacy, also known as Monocacy Junction, occurred on July 9, 1864, near Frederick, Maryland, and was part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864 during the American Civil War. 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.[61] Confederate forces led by Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early defeated Union forces under Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace. This event marked the northernmost Confederate victory of the war. However, the engagement inadvertently provided a crucial delay in Early's march towards Washington, D.C., allowing Union reinforcements to bolster the capital's defenses. While the Confederates advanced to Washington and engaged in the Battle of Fort Stevens on July 12, they could not succeed and eventually retreated to Virginia.

During the Valley Campaigns, Union General-in-Chief Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant sought to counter the Confederates in Virginia. Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Early's forces had opened a route to the U.S. capital. Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace, in charge of the Union's Middle Department in Baltimore, aimed to protect a vital railroad bridge at Monocacy Junction, Maryland. On the day of the battle, Wallace’s objectives were to secure the road to Washington for as long as possible and to maintain a safe retreat line. Despite being outnumbered and eventually overwhelmed, Wallace's forces held off the Confederates long enough to achieve this strategic delay.

The aftermath of the battle saw the Union forces retreating to Baltimore and the Confederates proceeding towards Washington. However, the delay at Monocacy meant that by the time Early's troops reached the capital, Union reinforcements were in place to defend it. This rendered the Confederate efforts to capture Washington futile. Despite the tactical loss at Monocacy, the strategic delay was recognized as being of significant value to the Union cause. Reflecting on the events, Grant praised Wallace's efforts, emphasizing the larger benefit rendered by the delay despite the battle's defeat. While Wallace later proposed a monument in memory of the Union soldiers who died, his specific design was never built, though other memorials were erected in their honor.

Battle of Fort Stevens
Civil War photograph of Ft. Stevens, Washington, D.C. ©William Morris Smith
1864 Jul 11 - Jul 12

Battle of Fort Stevens

Washington D.C., DC, USA

The Battle of Fort Stevens was an American Civil War battle fought July 11–12, 1864, in Washington County, D.C. (now part of Northwest Washington, D.C.), during the Valley Campaigns of 1864 between forces under Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early and Union Major General Alexander McDowell McCook. Early's attack, less than 4 miles (6.4 km) from the White House, caused consternation in the U.S. government, but reinforcements under Maj. Gen. Horatio G. Wright and the strong defenses of Fort Stevens minimized the threat. President Abraham Lincoln personally observed the battle's fighting. Early withdrew after two days of skirmishing after attempting no serious assaults. Early's force withdrew that evening, headed back into Montgomery County, Maryland, and crossed the Potomac River on July 13 at White's Ferry into Leesburg, Virginia. The Confederates successfully brought the supplies they seized during the previous weeks with them into Virginia. Early remarked to one of his officers after the battle, "Major, we didn't take Washington but we scared Abe Lincoln like hell."[62]

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1864 Jul 30

Battle of the Crater

Petersburg, Virginia, USA

The Battle of the Crater was a battle of the American Civil War, part of the siege of Petersburg. It took place on Saturday, July 30, 1864, between the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee, and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Major General George G. Meade (under the direct supervision of the general-in-chief, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant).

After weeks of preparation, on July 30 Union forces exploded a mine in Major General Ambrose E. Burnside's IX Corps sector, blowing a gap in the Confederate defenses of Petersburg, Virginia. Instead of being a decisive advantage to the Union, this precipitated a rapid deterioration in the Union position. Unit after unit charged into and around the crater, where most of the soldiers milled in confusion in the bottom of the crater.

The Confederates quickly recovered, and launched several counterattacks led by Brigadier General William Mahone. The breach was sealed off, and the Union forces were repulsed with severe casualties, while Brigadier General Edward Ferrero's division of black soldiers was badly mauled. It may have been Grant's best chance to end the siege of Petersburg; instead, the soldiers settled in for another eight months of trench warfare.

Burnside was relieved of command for the final time for his role in the fiasco, and he was never again returned to command.Furthermore, Ferrero and General James H. Ledlie were observed behind the lines in a bunker, drinking liquor throughout the battle. Ledlie was criticized by a court of inquiry into his conduct that September, and in December he was effectively dismissed from the Army by Meade on orders from Grant, formally resigning his commission on January 23, 1865.

Battle of Mobile Bay
At left foreground is the CSS Tennessee; at the right the USS Tecumseh is sinking. ©Louis Prang
1864 Aug 2 - Aug 23

Battle of Mobile Bay

Mobile Bay, Alabama, USA

The Battle of Mobile Bay of August 5, 1864, was a naval and land engagement of the American Civil War in which a Union fleet commanded by Rear Admiral David G. Farragut, assisted by a contingent of soldiers, attacked a smaller Confederate fleet led by Admiral Franklin Buchanan and three forts that guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay: Morgan, Gaines and Powell. Farragut's order of "Damn the torpedoes! Four bells. Captain Drayton, go ahead! Jouett, full speed!" became famous in paraphrase, as "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

The battle was marked by Farragut's seemingly-rash but successful run through a minefield that had just claimed one of his ironclad monitors, enabling his fleet to get beyond the range of the shore-based guns. This was followed by a reduction of the Confederate fleet to a single vessel, ironclad CSS Tennessee.

Tennessee did not then retire, but engaged the entire Northern fleet. Tennessee's armor enabled her to inflict more injury than she received, but she could not overcome the imbalance in numbers. She was eventually reduced to a motionless hulk and surrendered, ending the battle. With no Navy to support them, the three forts also surrendered within days. Complete control of lower Mobile Bay thus passed to the Union forces.

Mobile had been the last important port on the Gulf of Mexico east of the Mississippi River remaining in Confederate possession, so its closure was the final step in completing the blockade in that region. This Union victory, together with the capture of Atlanta, was extensively covered by Union newspapers and was a significant boost for Abraham Lincoln's bid for re-election three months after the battle. This battle concluded as being the last naval engagement in the state of Alabama in the war. It would also be Admiral Farragut's last known engagement.

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1864 Aug 31 - Sep 1

Battle of Jonesborough

Clayton County, Georgia, USA

The Battle of Jonesborough (August 31–September 1, 1864) was fought between Union Army forces led by William Tecumseh Sherman and Confederate forces under William J. Hardee during the Atlanta Campaign in the American Civil War. On the first day, on orders from Army of Tennessee commander John Bell Hood, Hardee's troops attacked the Federals and were repulsed with heavy losses. That evening, Hood ordered Hardee to send half his troops back to Atlanta. On the second day, five Union corps converged on Jonesborough (modern name: Jonesboro). For the only time during the Atlanta Campaign, a major Federal frontal assault succeeded in breaching the Confederate defenses. The attack took 900 prisoners, but the defenders were able to halt the breakthrough and improvise new defenses. Despite facing overwhelming odds, Hardee's corps escaped undetected to the south that evening.

Thwarted in his earlier attempts to force Hood to abandon Atlanta, Sherman resolved to make a sweep to the south with six of his seven infantry corps. His objective was to block the Macon and Western Railroad which was the last uncut railroad leading into Atlanta. Three corps from Sherman's army got within artillery range of the railroad at Jonesborough and Hood reacted by sending two of his three infantry corps to drive them away. While the fighting at Jonesborough was going on, two more Union corps blocked the railroad on August 31. When Hood found that Atlanta's railroad lifeline was severed, he evacuated the city on the evening of September 1. Atlanta was occupied by Union troops the next day and the Atlanta campaign was concluded. Although Hood's army was not destroyed, the fall of Atlanta had far-reaching political as well as military effects on the course of the war.

Third Battle of Winchester
Lithograph of the Battle of Opequan. ©Kurz & Allison
1864 Sep 19

Third Battle of Winchester

Frederick County, Virginia, US

The Third Battle of Winchester, also known as the Battle of Opequon or Battle of Opequon Creek, was an American Civil War battle fought near Winchester, Virginia, on September 19, 1864. Union Army Major General Philip Sheridan defeated Confederate Army Lieutenant General Jubal Early in one of the largest, bloodiest, and most important battles in the Shenandoah Valley. Among the 5,000 Union casualties were one general killed and three wounded. The casualty rate for the Confederates was high: about 4,000 of 15,500. Two Confederate generals were killed and four were wounded. Participants in the battle included two future presidents of the United States, two future governors of Virginia, a former vice president of the United States, and a colonel whose grandson, George S. Patton became a famous general in World War II.

After learning that a large Confederate force loaned to Early left the area, Sheridan attacked Confederate positions along Opequon Creek near Winchester, Virginia. Sheridan used one cavalry division and two infantry corps to attack from the east, and two divisions of cavalry to attack from the north. A third infantry corps, led by Brigadier General George Crook, was held in reserve. After difficult fighting where Early made good use of the region's terrain on the east side of Winchester, Crook attacked Early's left flank with his infantry. This, in combination with the success of Union cavalry north of town, drove the Confederates back toward Winchester. A final attack by Union infantry and cavalry from the north and east caused the Confederates to retreat south through the streets of Winchester.

Sustaining significant casualties and substantially outnumbered, Early retreated south on the Valley Pike to a more defendable position at Fisher's Hill. Sheridan considered Fisher's Hill to be a continuation of the September 19 battle, and followed Early up the pike where he defeated Early again. Both battles are part of Sheridan's Shenandoah Valley campaign that occurred in 1864 from August through October. After Sheridan's successes at Winchester and Fisher's Hill, Early's Army of the Valley suffered more defeats and was eliminated from the war in the Battle of Waynesboro, Virginia, on March 2, 1865.

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1864 Oct 19

Battle of Cedar Creek

Frederick County, VA, USA

The Battle of Cedar Creek, or Battle of Belle Grove, was fought on October 19, 1864, during the American Civil War. The fighting took place in the Shenandoah Valley of Northern Virginia, near Cedar Creek, Middletown, and the Valley Pike. During the morning, Lieutenant General Jubal Early appeared to have a victory for his Confederate army, as he captured over 1,000 prisoners and over 20 artillery pieces while forcing 7 enemy infantry divisions to fall back. The Union army, led by Major General Philip Sheridan, rallied in late afternoon and drove away Early's men. In addition to recapturing all of their own artillery seized in the morning, Sheridan's forces captured most of Early's artillery and wagons.

In heavy fog, Early attacked before dawn and completely surprised many of the sleeping Union soldiers. His smaller army attacked segments of the Union army from multiple sides, giving him temporary numerical advantages in addition to the element of surprise. At about 10:00 am, Early paused his attack to reorganize his forces. Sheridan, who was returning from a meeting in Washington, D.C. when the battle started, hurried to the battlefield and arrived around 10:30 am. His arrival calmed and revitalized his retreating army. At 4:00 pm his army counterattacked, making use of its superior cavalry force. Early's army was routed and fled south.

The battle ruined the Confederate army in the Shenandoah Valley, and it was never again able to maneuver down the valley to threaten the Union capital city of Washington, D.C. or northern states. Additionally, the Shenandoah Valley had been a key producer of supplies for the Confederate army, and Early could no longer protect it. The Union victory aided the reelection of Abraham Lincoln, and along with earlier victories at Winchester and Fisher's Hill, won Sheridan lasting fame.

Battle of Westport
Battle of Westport ©N.C. Wyeth
1864 Oct 23

Battle of Westport

Kansas City, MO, USA

The Battle of Westport, sometimes referred to as the "Gettysburg of the West", was fought on October 23, 1864, in modern Kansas City, Missouri, during the American Civil War. Union forces under Major General Samuel R. Curtis decisively defeated an outnumbered Confederate force under Major General Sterling Price. This engagement was the turning point of Price's Missouri Expedition, forcing his army to retreat. The battle ended the last major Confederate offensive west of the Mississippi River, and for the remainder of the war the United States Army maintained solid control over most of Missouri. This battle was one of the largest to be fought west of the Mississippi River, with over 30,000 men engaged.

Abraham Lincoln re-elected
Lincoln's second inaugural address at the almost completed Capitol building, March 4, 1865 ©Alexander Gardner
1864 Nov 8

Abraham Lincoln re-elected

Washington D.C., DC, USA

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.

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1864 Nov 15 - Dec 21

Sherman's March to the Sea

Savannah, GA, USA

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 on November 15 with Sherman's troops leaving Atlanta, recently taken by Union forces, 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.[63] Sherman's decision to operate deep within enemy territory without supply lines was unusual for its time, and the campaign is regarded by some historians as an early example of modern warfare or total war.

Following the March to the Sea, Sherman's army headed north for the Carolinas Campaign. The portion of this march through South Carolina was even more destructive than the Savannah campaign, since Sherman and his men harbored much ill-will for that state's part in bringing on the start of the Civil War; the following portion, through North Carolina, was less so.[64]

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1864 Nov 30

Battle of Franklin

Franklin, Tennessee, USA

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
Battle of Nashville. ©Kurz & Allison
1864 Dec 15 - Dec 16

Battle of Nashville

Nashville, Tennessee, United S

The Battle of Nashville, fought on December 15–16, 1864, was a significant engagement during the American Civil War, marking the climax of the Franklin-Nashville Campaign. Taking place in Nashville, Tennessee, the battle saw the Union Army of the Cumberland, led by Major General George H. Thomas, clash with the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Lieutenant General John Bell Hood. The Union Army achieved a decisive victory by attacking and routing Hood's forces, causing extensive damage and rendering the Confederate Army largely ineffective.

Thomas devised a strategy to launch a diversionary attack on the Confederate right, while his primary force would execute a wheeling maneuver against the Confederate left. The diversion failed to distract the Confederates significantly, but the primary attack effectively collapsed the Confederate left flank. Over the two days of battle, Confederate defensive positions were overwhelmed in stages, with Union forces pushing them back continuously. By the end of the second day, the Confederates were in full retreat, with Union forces closely pursuing them.

The Battle of Nashville marked the effective end of the Army of Tennessee. Historian David Eicher remarked, "If Hood mortally wounded his army at Franklin, he would kill it two weeks later at Nashville."[65] Although Hood blamed the entire debacle on his subordinates and the soldiers themselves, his career was over. He retreated with his army to Tupelo, Mississippi, resigned his command on January 13, 1865, and was not given another field command.[66]

Second Battle of Fort Fisher
Ships bombarding Fort Fisher prior to the ground assault ©J.O. Davidson
1865 Jan 13 - Jan 15

Second Battle of Fort Fisher

Fort Fisher, Kure Beach, North

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 Bentonville
The print shows the Union Army charging the Confederate line and the rebels retreating. ©State Archives of North Carolina
1865 Mar 19 - Mar 21

Battle of Bentonville

Bentonville, North Carolina, U

The Battle of Bentonville (March 19–21, 1865) was fought in Johnston County, North Carolina, near the village of Bentonville, as part of the Western Theater of the American Civil War. It was the last battle between the armies of Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman and Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston.

As the right wing of Sherman's army under command of Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard marched toward Goldsboro, the left wing under command of Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum encountered the entrenched men of Johnston's army. On the first day of the battle, the Confederates attacked the XIV Corps and routed two divisions, but the rest of Sherman's army defended its positions successfully. The next day, as Sherman sent reinforcements to the battlefield and expected Johnston to withdraw, only minor sporadic fighting occurred. On the third day, as skirmishing continued, the division of Maj. Gen. Joseph A. Mower followed a path into the Confederate rear and attacked. The Confederates were able to repulse the attack as Sherman ordered Mower back to connect with his own corps. Johnston elected to withdraw from the battlefield that night.

As a result of the overwhelming Union strength and the heavy casualties his army suffered in the battle, Johnston surrendered to Sherman little more than a month later at Bennett Place, near Durham Station. Coupled with Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender on April 9, Johnston's surrender represented the effective end of the war.

Battle of Fort Stedman
©Mike Adams
1865 Mar 25

Battle of Fort Stedman

Petersburg, Virginia, USA

The Battle of Fort Stedman, also known as the Battle of Hare's Hill, took place on March 25, 1865, during the closing stages of the American Civil War. In an effort to break the Siege of Petersburg, Confederate forces led by Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon launched a surprise pre-dawn assault on a Union fortification near Petersburg, Virginia. Initially, Gordon's troops experienced success, capturing parts of the fort and creating a breach nearly 1,000 feet wide in the Union defenses. However, Union troops under the command of Maj. Gen. John G. Parke quickly responded, sealing the breach and repelling the Confederate attack.

As the battle progressed, the initial Confederate advantage waned. Brevet Brig. Gen. Napoleon B. McLaughlen, responsible for the Union's Fort Stedman sector, took swift action to counter the Confederate advance. Despite being captured himself, his actions and the strategic response of Maj. Gen. John G. Parke's IX Corps, effectively contained and then rolled back the Confederate gains. By 7:45 a.m., Union forces, strategically positioned, launched a successful counterattack which led to the recapture of the lost fortifications and inflicted heavy casualties on the Confederate side.

The aftermath of the Battle of Fort Stedman was telling. The Union forces suffered casualties numbering 1,044, while the Confederate forces faced a much steeper loss of 4,000. More significantly, the Confederate positions were weakened, and they lost a substantial number of irreplaceable soldiers. The battle marked the last major offensive by the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee's army was now in a precarious position, and this paved the way for the Union's breakthrough attack a week later. This momentum would lead to the final surrender of Lee's army at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, essentially sealing the fate of the Confederacy.

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1865 Mar 29 - Apr 9

Appomattox Campaign

Petersburg, VA, USA

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.

Battle of Five Forks
Battle of Five Forks: showing a charge led by Union general Philip Sheridan. ©Kurz & Allison
1865 Apr 1

Battle of Five Forks

Five Forks, Dinwiddie County,

The Battle of Five Forks was fought on April 1, 1865, southwest of Petersburg, Virginia, around the road junction of Five Forks, Dinwiddie County, at the end of the Siege of Petersburg, near the conclusion of the American Civil War. The Union Army commanded by Major General Philip Sheridan defeated a Confederate force from the Army of Northern Virginia commanded by Major General George Pickett. The Union force inflicted over 1,000 casualties on the Confederates and took up to 4,000 prisoners while seizing Five Forks, the key to control of the South Side Railroad, a vital supply line and evacuation route.

After the Battle of Dinwiddie Court House (March 31) at about 10:00 pm, V Corps infantry began to arrive near the battlefield to reinforce Sheridan's cavalry. Pickett's orders from his commander General Robert E. Lee were to defend Five Forks "at all hazards" because of its strategic importance.

At about 1:00 pm, Sheridan pinned down the front and right flank of the Confederate line with small arms fire, while the massed V Corps of infantry, commanded by Major General Gouverneur K. Warren, attacked the left flank soon afterwards. Owing to an acoustic shadow in the woods, Pickett and cavalry commander Major General Fitzhugh Lee did not hear the opening stage of the battle, and their subordinates could not find them. Although Union infantry could not exploit the enemy's confusion, owing to lack of reconnaissance, they were able to roll up the Confederate line by chance, helped by Sheridan's personal encouragement. After the battle, Sheridan controversially relieved Warren of command of V Corps, largely due to private enmity. Meanwhile, the Union held Five Forks and the road to the South Side Railroad, causing General Lee to abandon Petersburg and Richmond, and begin his final retreat.

Battle of Fort Blakeley
Storming of Fort Blakeley, U.S. battle April 2-9, 1865. "Probably the last charge of this war, it was as gallant as any on record." ©Harpers Weekly
1865 Apr 2 - Apr 9

Battle of Fort Blakeley

Baldwin County, Alabama, USA

The Battle of Fort Blakeley took place from April 2 to April 9, 1865, in Baldwin County, Alabama, about 6 miles (9.7 km) north of Spanish Fort, Alabama, as part of the Mobile Campaign of the American Civil War. The Battle of Blakeley was the final major battle of the Civil War, with surrender just hours after Grant had accepted the surrender of Lee at Appomattox on the morning of April 9, 1865. Mobile, Alabama, was the last major Confederate port to be captured by Union forces, on April 12, 1865.

Third Battle of Petersburg
Fall of Petersburg ©Kurz & Allison
1865 Apr 2

Third Battle of Petersburg

Dinwiddie County, VA, USA

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.

Union soldiers occupied Richmond and Petersburg on April 3, 1865, but most of the Union Army pursued the Army of Northern Virginia until they surrounded it, forcing Robert E. Lee to surrender that army on April 9, 1865, after the Battle of Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

Battle of Sailor's Creek
Battle of Sailor's Creek ©Keith Rocco
1865 Apr 6

Battle of Sailor's Creek

Amelia County, Virginia, USA

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."

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1865 Apr 9

Lee surrenders

Appomattox Court House, Morton

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.

Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
John Wilkes Booth assassinating Abraham Lincoln in Ford's Theatre. ©Anonymous
1865 Apr 14

Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

Ford's Theatre, 10th Street No

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
Last Salute. ©Don Troiani
1865 May 26

End of the War

Washington D.C., DC, USA

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.



Union Strategy during the American Civil War

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Economic Causes of the American Civil War

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Infantry Tactics During the American Civil War

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American Civil War Cavalry

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American Civil War Artillery

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Railroads in the American Civil War

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American Civil War Army Organization

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American Civil War Logistics

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American Civil War Part I

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American Civil War Part II

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Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis

President of the Confederate States

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

Commanding General of the Union Army

George Pickett

George Pickett

Confederate General

Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee

Commanding General of the Confederate Army

George B. McClellan

George B. McClellan

Union General

Clara Barton

Clara Barton

Founder of the American Red Cross

Joseph E. Johnston

Joseph E. Johnston

Confederate General

Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson

Confederate General

David Farragut

David Farragut

Union Navy Admiral

Philip Sheridan

Philip Sheridan

Union general

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Author of Uncle Tom's Cabin

Joseph Hooker

Joseph Hooker

Union General

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

American abolitionist

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman


George Henry Thomas

George Henry Thomas

Union General

Philip Sheridan

Philip Sheridan

Union General

Ambrose Burnside

Ambrose Burnside

Union General

John Buford

John Buford

Union Brigadier General

Winfield Scott

Winfield Scott

Commanding General of the U.S. Army

George Meade

George Meade

Union General

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

President of the United States

J. E. B. Stuart

J. E. B. Stuart

Confederate General

Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson

President of the United States

James Longstreet

James Longstreet

Confederate General

David Dixon Porter

David Dixon Porter

Union Navy Admiral


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