42 min

1861 - 1865

American Civil War

Words: nono umasy

The American Civil War was a civil war in the United States between the Union (states that remained loyal to the federal union, or "the North") and the Confederacy (states that voted to secede, or "the South"). The central cause of the war was the status of slavery, especially the expansion of slavery into territories acquired as a result of the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican–American War. On the eve of the Civil War in 1860, four million of the 32 million Americans (~13%) were enslaved black people, almost all in the South.

The Civil War effectively ended on April 9, 1865, when Confederate General Lee surrendered to Union General Grant at the Battle of Appomattox Court House, after Lee had abandoned Petersburg and Richmond. Confederate generals throughout the Confederate army followed suit. By the end of the war, much of the South's infrastructure was destroyed, especially its railroads. The Confederacy collapsed, slavery was abolished, and four million enslaved black people were freed. The war-torn nation then entered the Reconstruction era in a partially successful attempt to rebuild the country and grant civil rights to freed slaves.

The American Civil War was among the earliest to use industrial warfare. Railroads, the telegraph, steamships, the ironclad warship, and mass-produced weapons saw wide use. In total the war left between 620,000 and 750,000 soldiers dead, along with an undetermined number of civilian casualties. The Civil War remains the deadliest military conflict in American history. The technology and brutality of the Civil War foreshadowed the coming World Wars.

American Civil War Timeline

1856 Jan 1


United States


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

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

1857 Mar 6

Dred Scott Decision

Washington D.C., DC, USA

Dred Scott Decision
Dred Scott

Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857), was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court in which the Court held that the United States Constitution was not meant to include American citizenship for people of African descent, regardless of whether they were enslaved or free, and so the rights and privileges that the Constitution confers upon American citizens could not apply to them. The Supreme Court's decision has been widely denounced, both for how overtly racist the decision was and for its crucial role in the start of the American Civil War four years later. Legal scholar Bernard Schwartz said that it "stands first in any list of the worst Supreme Court decisions". Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes called it the Court's "greatest self-inflicted wound". Historian Junius P. Rodriguez said that it is "universally condemned as the U.S. Supreme Court's worst decision." Historian David Thomas Konig said that it was "unquestionably, our court's worst decision ever."

1859 Oct 16 - 1859 Oct 18

John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry

Harpers Ferry, WV, USA

John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry
A contemporary newspaper illustration showing the interior of the engine house immediately before the door is broken down by U.S. Marines. Note hostages on the left.

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

:Brown's party of 22 was defeated by a company of U.S. Marines, led by First Lieutenant Israel Greene. Ten of the raiders were killed during the raid, seven were tried and executed afterwards, and five escaped.

The raid caused more excitement in the United States than had been seen in many years. It was extensively covered in the press nationwide—it was the first such national crisis to be publicized using the new electrical telegraph. Reporters were on the first train leaving for Harpers Ferry after news of the raid was received, at 4 p.m. on Monday, October 17.

1860 Nov 6

Lincoln's Election

Washington D.C., DC, USA

Lincoln's Election

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.

According to Lincoln, the American people had shown that they had been successful in establishing and administering a republic, but a third challenge faced the nation: maintaining a republic based on the people's vote, in the face of an attempt to destroy it.

1861 Feb 8 - 1865 May 9

Confederate States of America

Richmond, VA, USA

Confederate States of America
Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy from 1861 to 1865

The Confederate States of America (CSA), commonly referred to as the Confederate States, Dixie, or simply the Confederacy, was an unrecognized breakaway herrenvolk republic in North America that existed from February 8, 1861, to May 9, 1865. The Confederacy comprised U.S. states that declared secession and warred against the United States (the Union) during the American Civil War. Eleven U.S. states declared secession and formed the main part of the CSA. They were South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Kentucky and Missouri also had declarations of secession and full representation in the Confederate Congress during their Union army occupation.

The Confederacy was formed on February 8, 1861, 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.

1861 Apr 1

Union blockade

North Atlantic Ocean

Blockade Runners in the American Civil War | ©MoC1896
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By early 1861, General Winfield Scott had devised the Anaconda Plan to win the war with as little bloodshed as possible, which called for blockading the Confederacy and slowly suffocating the South to surrender. Lincoln adopted parts of the plan, but chose to prosecute a more active vision of war.

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

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

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

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

1861 Apr 12

Battle of Fort Sumter

Charleston, SC, USA

Battle of Fort Sumter | ©American Battlefield Trust
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The Battle of Fort Sumter (April 12–13, 1861) was the bombardment of Fort Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina by the South Carolina militia. It ended with the surrender by the United States Army, beginning the American Civil War.

Following the declaration of secession by South Carolina on December 20, 1860, its authorities demanded that the U.S. Army abandon its facilities in Charleston Harbor.

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

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

1861 Jul 21

First Battle of Bull Run

Fairfax County, Virginia, USA

First Manassas | ©American Battlefield Trust
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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. The battle was fought on July 21, 1861, in Prince William County, Virginia, just north of the city of Manassas and about 30 miles west-southwest of Washington, D.C. The Union's forces were slow in positioning themselves, allowing Confederate reinforcements time to arrive by rail. Each side had about 18,000 poorly trained and poorly led troops. It was a Confederate victory, followed by a disorganized retreat of the Union forces.

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.

1861 Nov 8

Trent Affair


Trent Affair
Sailors of San Jacinto boarded Trent

The Trent Affair was a diplomatic incident in 1861 during the American Civil War that threatened a war between the United States and the United Kingdom. The U.S. Navy captured two Confederate envoys from a British Royal Mail steamer; the British government protested vigorously. The United States ended the incident by releasing the envoys.

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.

1862 Mar 1 - 1862 Jul

Peninsula campaign

Yorktown, VA, USA

The Peninsula Campaign | ©American Battlefield Trust
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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.

1862 Mar 1 - 1862 Jun

Jackson's Valley campaign

Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, U

Jackson's Valley Campaign 1862 | ©Montemayor
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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.

1862 Mar 8 - 1862 Mar 9

Battle of Hampton Roads

Sewell's Point, Norfolk, VA, U

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

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

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

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

1862 Apr 6 - 1862 Apr 7

Battle of Shiloh

Hardin County, Tennessee, USA

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

In a "place of peace," the Battle of Shiloh was the bloodiest engagement of the Civil War up to that point, with nearly twice as many casualties as the previous major battles of the war combined.

1862 Apr 25 - 1862 May 1

Capture of New Orleans

New Orleans, LA, USA

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

1862 May 31 - 1862 Jun 1

Battle of Seven Pines

Henrico County, Virginia, USA

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

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

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

1862 Jun 25 - 1862 Jul 1

Seven Days Battles

Hanover County General Distric

The Seven Days Battles | ©You Will Love History
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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.

1862 Aug 28 - 1862 Aug 30

Second Battle of Bull Run

Prince William County, Virgini

The Second Battle of Bull Run | ©You Will Love History
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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.

1862 Sep 4 - 1862 Sep 20

Maryland campaign: Lee invades the north

Maryland, USA

Maryland campaign: Lee invades the north
Antietam campaign
Maryland campaign: Lee invades the northMaryland campaign: Lee invades the northMaryland campaign: Lee invades the northMaryland campaign: Lee invades the north

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.

1862 Sep 17

Battle of Antietam

Sharpsburg, MD, USA

Battle of Antietam | © American Battlefield Trust
Battle of AntietamBattle of AntietamBattle of AntietamBattle of AntietamBattle of AntietamBattle of AntietamBattle of Antietam

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

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

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

1862 Dec 11 - 1862 Dec 15

Battle of Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg, VA, USA

Battle of Fredericksburg | © American Battlefield Trust
Battle of FredericksburgBattle of FredericksburgBattle of FredericksburgBattle of FredericksburgBattle of FredericksburgBattle of FredericksburgBattle of FredericksburgBattle of FredericksburgBattle of FredericksburgBattle of Fredericksburg

The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought December 11–15, 1862, in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia, in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War. The combat, between the Union Army of the Potomac commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under Gen. Robert E. Lee, included futile frontal attacks by the Union army on December 13 against entrenched Confederate defenders along the Sunken Wall on the heights behind the city. It is remembered as one of the most one-sided battles of the wa of r, with Union casualties more than twice as heavy as those suffered by the Confederates. A visitor to the battlefield described the battle as a "butchery" to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. Burnside's plan was to cross the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg in mid-November and race to the Confederate capital 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.The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought December 11–15, 1862, in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia, in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War. The combat, between the Union Army of the Potomac commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under Gen. Robert E. Lee, included futile frontal attacks by the Union army on December 13 against entrenched Confederate defenders along the Sunken Wall on the heights behind the city. It is remembered as one of the most one-sided battles of the war, with Union casualties more than twice as heavy as those suffered by the Confederates. A visitor to the battlefield described the battle as a "butchery" to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.

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.

1863 Jan 1

Emancipation Proclamation

United States

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

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

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

1863 Apr 30 - 1863 May 6

Battle of Chancellorsville

Spotsylvania County, Virginia,

The Battle of Chancellorsville | © You Will Love History
Battle of ChancellorsvilleBattle of ChancellorsvilleBattle of ChancellorsvilleBattle of ChancellorsvilleBattle of ChancellorsvilleBattle of ChancellorsvilleBattle of ChancellorsvilleBattle of ChancellorsvilleBattle of Chancellorsville

The Battle of Chancellorsville was a major battle of the American Civil War (1861–1865), and the principal engagement of the Chancellorsville campaign.

Chancellorsville is known as Lee's "perfect battle" because his risky decision to divide his army in the presence of a much larger enemy force resulted in a significant Confederate victory. The victory, a product of Lee's audacity and Hooker's timid decision-making, was tempered by heavy casualties, including Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. Jackson was hit by friendly fire, requiring his left arm to be amputated. He died of pneumonia eight days later, a loss that Lee likened to losing his right arm. 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.

1863 May 18 - 1863 Jul 4

Siege of Vicksburg

Warren County, Mississippi, US

Siege of Vicksburg | ©American Battlefield Trust
Siege of VicksburgSiege of VicksburgSiege of VicksburgSiege of VicksburgSiege of VicksburgSiege of VicksburgSiege of VicksburgSiege of Vicksburg

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.

1863 Jul 1 - 1863 Jul 3

Battle of Gettysburg

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, USA

The Battle of Gettysburg | © American Battlefield Trust
Battle of GettysburgBattle of GettysburgBattle of GettysburgBattle of GettysburgBattle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg (locally (listen)) was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, by Union and Confederate forces during the American Civil War. In the battle, Union Major General George Meade's Army of the Potomac defeated attacks by Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, halting Lee's invasion of the North. The battle involved the largest number of casualties of the entire war and is often described as the war's turning point due to the Union's decisive victory and concurrence with the Siege of Vicksburg.

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.

1863 Sep 19 - 1863 Sep 20

Battle of Chickamauga

Walker County, Georgia, USA

The Battle of Chickamauga | © American Battlefield Trust
Battle of ChickamaugaBattle of ChickamaugaBattle of ChickamaugaBattle of ChickamaugaBattle of ChickamaugaBattle of ChickamaugaBattle of ChickamaugaBattle of ChickamaugaBattle of ChickamaugaBattle of Chickamauga

The Battle of Chickamauga, fought on September 19–20, 1863, between U.S. 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.

1863 Nov 25

Battle of Missionary Ridge

Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA

Battle of Missionary Ridge | ©Have History Will Travel
Battle of Missionary RidgeBattle of Missionary RidgeBattle of Missionary RidgeBattle of Missionary RidgeBattle of Missionary Ridge

The Battle of Missionary Ridge was fought on November 25, 1863, as part of the Chattanooga Campaign of the American Civil War. Following the Union victory in the Battle of Lookout Mountain on November 24, Union forces in the Military Division of the Mississippi under Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant assaulted Missionary Ridge and defeated the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by Gen. Braxton Bragg, forcing it to retreat to Georgia. In the morning, elements of the Union Army of the Tennessee commanded by Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman attempted 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.

1864 May 1 - 1864 Oct

Shenandoah Valley campaigns

Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, U

Shenandoah Valley campaigns
Sheridan's final charge at Winchester
Shenandoah Valley campaignsShenandoah Valley campaigns

The Valley campaigns of 1864 began as operations initiated by Union Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant and resulting battles that took place in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia during the American Civil War from May to October 1864. Some military historians divide this period into three separate campaigns. This article considers them together, as these campaigns interacted and built upon each other.

1864 May 4 - 1864 Jun 24

Overland Campaign

Virginia, USA

Overland Campaign: | © American Battlefield Trust
Overland CampaignOverland CampaignOverland CampaignOverland CampaignOverland CampaignOverland CampaignOverland Campaign

The Overland Campaign, also known as Grant's Overland Campaign and the Wilderness Campaign, was a series of battles fought in Virginia during May and June 1864, in the American Civil War. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of all Union armies, directed the actions of the Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, and other forces against Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. 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.

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 aggressively in the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5–7), resulting in heavy casualties on both sides. Unlike his predecessors in the Eastern Theater, however, 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. Lee's army was able to get into position to block this movement. 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 heavy 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 effective end of the Civil War.

1864 May 7 - 1864 Sep 2

Atlanta campaign

Atlanta, GA, USA

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

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

1864 Jun 9 - 1865 Mar 25

Siege of Petersburg

Petersburg, Virginia, USA

The Siege of Petersburg | ©You Will Love History
Siege of PetersburgSiege of PetersburgSiege of PetersburgSiege of PetersburgSiege of PetersburgSiege of PetersburgSiege of PetersburgSiege of PetersburgSiege of PetersburgSiege of PetersburgSiege of PetersburgSiege of PetersburgSiege of PetersburgSiege of Petersburg

The Richmond–Petersburg campaign was a series of battles around Petersburg, Virginia, fought from June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865, during the American Civil War. Although it is more popularly known as the Siege of Petersburg, it was not a classic military siege, in which a city is usually surrounded and all supply lines are cut off, nor was it strictly limited to actions against Petersburg. The campaign 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.

1864 Nov 8

Abraham Lincoln is re-elected

Washington D.C., DC, USA

Abraham Lincoln is re-elected
Lincoln's second inaugural address at the almost completed Capitol building, March 4, 1865

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.

1864 Nov 15 - 1864 Dec 21

Sherman's March to the Sea

Savannah, GA, USA

Sherman's March to the Sea | ©GPB
Sherman's March to the SeaSherman's March to the Sea

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

1864 Dec 15 - 1864 Dec 16

Battle of Nashville

Nashville, Tennessee, United S

Battle of Nashville
Battle of Nashville, Chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison, 1888
Battle of NashvilleBattle of NashvilleBattle of NashvilleBattle of NashvilleBattle of Nashville

The Battle of Nashville was a two-day battle in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign that represented the end of large-scale fighting west of the coastal states in the American Civil War. It was fought at Nashville, Tennessee, on December 15–16, 1864, between the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Lieutenant General John Bell Hood and the Union Army of the Cumberland (Dept. of the Cumberland) under Major General George H. Thomas. In one of the largest victories achieved by the Union Army during the war, Thomas attacked and routed Hood's army, largely destroying it as an effective fighting force.

1865 Mar 29 - 1865 Apr 9

Appomattox campaign

Petersburg, VA, USA

Appomattox campaign
| ©Gilbert Gaul
Appomattox campaignAppomattox campaignAppomattox campaignAppomattox campaign

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.

1865 Apr 2

Third Battle of Petersburg: Richmond is taken

Dinwiddie County, VA, USA

Third Battle of Petersburg: Richmond is taken
Fall of Petersburg
Third Battle of Petersburg: Richmond is takenThird Battle of Petersburg: Richmond is takenThird Battle of Petersburg: Richmond is takenThird Battle of Petersburg: Richmond is taken

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.

1865 Apr 19

Lee Surrenders

Appomattox Court House, Morton

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

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.

This event triggered a series of subsequent surrenders across the South, in North Carolina, Alabama and finally Shreveport, Louisiana, for the Trans-Mississippi Theater in the West by June, signaling the end of the four-year-long war.

1866 Jan 1


United States


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

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

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

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Further Reading

  • Ahlstrom, Sydney E. (1972). A Religious History of the American People. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-01762-5.
  • Anderson, Bern (1989). By Sea and By River: The naval history of the Civil War. New York, New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-80367-3.
  • Asante, Molefi Kete; Mazama, Ama (2004). Encyclopedia of Black Studies. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-0-7619-2762-4.
  • Beringer, Richard E., Archer Jones, and Herman Hattaway (1986). Why the South Lost the Civil War, influential analysis of factors; an abridged version is The Elements of Confederate Defeat: Nationalism, War Aims, and Religion (1988)
  • Bestor, Arthur (1964). "The American Civil War as a Constitutional Crisis". American Historical Review. 69 (2): 327–52. doi:10.2307/1844986. JSTOR 1844986.
  • Canney, Donald L. (1998). Lincoln's Navy: The Ships, Men and Organization, 1861–65. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-55750-519-4.
  • Catton, Bruce (1960). The Civil War. New York: American Heritage Distributed by Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-8281-0305-3.
  • Chambers, John W.; Anderson, Fred (1999). The Oxford Companion to American Military History. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507198-6.
  • Davis, William C. (1983). Stand in the Day of Battle: The Imperiled Union: 1861–1865. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-14895-5.
  • Davis, William C. (2003). Look Away!: A History of the Confederate States of America. New York: Free Press. ISBN 978-0-7432-3499-3.
  • Donald, David Herbert (1995). Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-684-80846-8.
  • Donald, David; Baker, Jean H.; Holt, Michael F. (2001). The Civil War and Reconstruction. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-97427-0.
  • Fehrenbacher, Don E. (1981). Slavery, Law, and Politics: The Dred Scott Case in Historical Perspective. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-502883-6.
  • Fellman, Michael; Gordon, Lesley J.; Sunderland, Daniel E. (2007). This Terrible War: The Civil War and its Aftermath (2nd ed.). New York: Pearson. ISBN 978-0-321-38960-2.
  • Foner, Eric (1981). Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-502926-0. Retrieved April 20, 2012.
  • Foner, Eric (2010). The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. ISBN 978-0-393-34066-2.
  • Foote, Shelby (1974). The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0-394-74623-4.
  • Frank, Joseph Allan; Reaves, George A. (2003). Seeing the Elephant: Raw Recruits at the Battle of Shiloh. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-07126-3.
  • Fuller, Howard J. (2008). Clad in Iron: The American Civil War and the Challenge of British Naval Power. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-297-3.
  • Gallagher, Gary W. (1999). The Confederate War. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-16056-9.
  • Gallagher, Gary W. (2011). The Union War. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-06608-3.
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