Students NOTE: You do not have to memorize dates, but keep in mind the general progress of the war

1860 1861 1862 1863 1864 1865

STEPS on the Road to War:

  • Slavery in the Constitution;
  • The Atlantic Slave Trade;
  • The Missouri Compromise 1820;
  • The Abolitionist Movement;
  • The Nullification Crisis, 1832;
  • The Mexican War and the Wilmot Proviso;
  • The Free Soil Movement;
  • The Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act;
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin;
  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act;
  • Creation of the Republican Party;
  • “Bleeding Kansas”;
  • Dred Scott v. Sanford;
  • The Lincoln-Douglas debates;
  • John Brown at Harper’s Ferry;
  • The Election of 1860;
  • The Secession Crisis and creation of the Confederate States of America.



November. Lincoln elected President in 4-way race over Stephen Douglas, Breckinridge, Bell; Lincoln gets no electoral votes in the South, 42% of popular vote overall.
December. South Carolina passes Ordinance of Secession by unanimous vote; Six more lower South states and later four upper South states follow.
1861 Feb 9 Jefferson Davis elected President of Confederate States of America
Mar 4 Abraham Lincoln inaugurated as President of the United States.
Apr 12 In accordance with instructions from the Confederate government, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard fires on Fort Sumter; the Civil War has begun. Major Anderson surrenders the fort the next day.

Apr 15 Lincoln calls for 75,000 3-month volunteers to end the “Insurrection”

Union Strategy: Winfield Scott’s “Anaconda Plan”: Blockade Southern coastline; Close Missis-sippi River and control Tennessee to divide Confederacy. Press reaction scronful: “ON TO RICHMOND!”
Lincoln’s goals: (1) Keep other nations out of conflict; (2) Keep border states in the Union.

Confederate strategy: Get foreign assistance (Great Britain); defend homeland against invasion with aggressive tactics. Take Washington; advance into Maryland and Pennsylvania to cut Northeast off from rest of nation.

Apr 19 Lincoln proclaims a blockade of the Southern coastline, making the Confederacy a “belligerent power.”
Jul 21 First battle of Bull Run/Manassas ends in rout of Union troops. Southern victory (Beauregard, Jackson) lifts morale. Union army (McDowell) returns to Washington in chaos, but battle is a “reality check” for the Federals. No “home by Christmas.” Southerners confident, feel they can whip the Yankees.

Jul 24 Gen. George B. McClellan given command of the Union Armies.

Oct 21 Union defeat at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff above Washington leads to creation of the Committee on the Conduct of the War in Congress.

Nov 7 Federal Naval forces and troops capture Port Royal, S.C. Union blockade underway. Grant wins hit-and-run attack on Belmont in Western Missouri.
Nov 8 Captain of U.S.S. San Jacinto stops the H.M.S. Trent, removes Confederate agents Mason and Slidell on way to England. “The Trent Affair” embarrasses Lincoln; he releases agents, apologizes to Great Britain

Note: Charles Francis Adams, U.S. Ambassador to Britain, performs skillfully in executing the diplomacy of Secretary of State Seward. Adams helps keep Great Britain out of the war—vital to Union victory.


Jan 15 Edwin M. Stanton becomes Secretary of War; begins cleaning up mess left by Simon Cameron.
Jan 19-20 General George H. Thomas defeats Confederates at Mill Springs, Kentucky, teams up with Grant to begin move into Tennessee. Grant emerges as an effective commander.

Feb 6-16 Generals U.S. Grant, Don Carlos Buell and Flag Officer Andrew Foote take Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee. Grant calls for “Unconditional Surrender” at Donelson. General A.S. Johnston evacuates Kentucky, moves into northern Mississippi near Corinth, plans to drive Grant out of Tennessee; Nashville falls to Union troops February 25.

Mar 7-8 Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Confederate Van Dorn defeated by Major General Samuel R. Curtis.
Mar 8-9 Battles of Hampton Roads: C.S.S. Virginia (former U.S.S. Merrimack) destroys several Union warships. Monitor arrives that night, and Monitor and Virginia fight. Monitor neutralizes threat to Union blockading fleet.
Mar 16-Apr 7 Union General John Pope captures Island #10 in Mississippi. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston concentrates forces for Battle of Shiloh.
March 17 After months of preparation, McClellan begins Peninsula Campaign, moves the Army of the Potomac by ship to peninsula east of Richmond.
March 23 Jackson’s Valley Campaign begins—goes on until June 9; keeps 40,000 Union troops under Banks and Fremont occupied, Lincoln nervous.
Apr 6-7 Battle of Shiloh. Johnston among 5,000 (both sides) killed. (18,000 total casualties.) Beauregard succeeds to command. Grant hard pressed first day but arrival of Buell saves Union victory on second day.
Apr 15 Battle of Peralta, N.M., stops Confederate attempt to invade California.
April 26 Admiral Farragut moves on New Orleans; General Benjamin Butler occupies city April 29.
May 4-5 McClellan occupies Yorktown, moves past Williamsburg.
May 10 Union troops recapture Norfolk; C.S.S. Virginia destroyed by South
May 31-Jun 1 Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks) near Richmond. Gen. Joe Johnston attacks, is repulsed. Losses shock McClellan. Johnston badly wounded, replaced by R.E. Lee.
June 26-July 2 Seven Days’ battles: Mechanicsville, Gaines Mill, Malvern Hill. Lee’s plans complicated; Jack-son is slow; Stuart’s cavalry raid misfires. Union gunboats assist McClellan’s withdrawal.
Aug 29-30 Second Battle of Bull Run. Lee, General James Longstreet trap and defeat General John Pope, who is not aided by McClellan. Following victory Lee decides to invade Maryland.
Sep 14 Battle of South Mountain in Maryland delays Union while Lee concentrates at Sharpsburg. Bat-tle of Harper’s Ferry on September 14-15; Confederates capture city.
Sep 17 Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg); 23,000 casualties on both sides—bloodiest day of fighting in American history. McClellan, Hooker, Burnside versus Lee, A.P. Hill, Jackson, Longstreet.
Sep 22 Lincoln issues preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, to be effective January 1, 1863.
Sep 19-Oct 4 Battles of Iuka and Corinth, Mississippi; Grant, Rosecrans turn back Price and Van Dorn.
Oct 8 Battle of Perryville; Buell and Sheridan turn back Generals Bragg and Kirby Smith’s attempt to invade Kentucky and deliver state to Confederacy.
Nov 7 Lincoln, frustrated with McClellan’s inactivity, replaces him with Burnside, who takes command of the Army of the Potomac, begins planning campaign to get to Richmond.
Dec 7 Union victory at Prairie Grove keeps northern Arkansas in Union control.
Dec 13 Lee defeats Burnside in Battle of Fredericksburg; extremely heavy Union losses at Marye’s Heights. Lincoln in despair.

Dec 31-Jan 3 Rosecrans defeats Bragg at Stone’s River (Murfreesboro), TN. Bragg withdraws toward Chattanooga. Victory eases Union frustration.

Summary of 1862: Union forces in East have large losses, yet are no nearer Richmond. “Winter of Northern discontent.” Grant fighting well in West, South not keeping Union forces out of Southern territory. Union controls important waterways—Cumberland, Tennessee, etc., but Union moves against Vicksburg are unsuccessful in 1862.



Jan 1 Emancipation Proclamation declares slaves in rebellious states “forever free” as “contraband of war.”

Dec 31 - Jan 3 Battle of Murfreesboro; Rosecrans snatches victory from defeat. Bragg withdraws toward Chattanooga.

Mar 3 First U.S. Conscription Act. Men 20-45 eligible for draft; substitute or $300 allows conscripted men to avoid service; leads to discontent in North.

May 2-4 Battle of Chancellorsville is Lee’s “greatest victory,” but Jackson (Lee’s “right arm”) killed. Lee decides to again invade Maryland in hope of bringing war to conclusion.

Jun 9 Battle of Brandy Station, largest cavalry battle of the war. Jeb Stuart is surprised by Union General Pleasonton. Turning point in the cavalry battles.

Jul 1-3 Battle of Gettysburg. Meade, Hancock vs. Lee, Longstreet, Hill, Ewell. 50,000 casualties on both sides. “High water mark” of the Confederacy. Lee’s army badly mauled.

Jul 4 Gen. John Pemberton surrenders Vicksburg and 30,000 confederate troops to Grant. The Mississippi flows “unvexed to the sea.”—Lincoln. Major phase of Anaconda strategy completed. The trans-Mississippi region is now for all practical purposes out of the war.

Jul 13-16 Draft riots in New York City show discontent with the war, emancipation; troops brought from Gettysburg to assist.

Sep 19-20 Battle of Chickamauga. Longstreet reinforces Bragg. Thomas, “Rock of Chickamauga,” prevents total Union disaster. Union forces retire to Chattanooga.

Nov 23-25 Battle of Chattanooga. Important Union victory. Grant in overall command. Hooker, Sherman, Thomas drive Bragg off Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge.

SUMMARY of 1863: Tide shifts dramatically from three great Union Victories, but no end in sight; The South still strong, will fight on for more than another year. Union control of the Mississippi an important turning point.
1864 Mar 9 Grant made Lieutenant General, given command of all Union armies; Union generals plan joint campaign to stretch Southern resources.
Top May 5-12 Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House. Grant begins war of attrition against Lee.
May 7 Sherman sets out from Chattanooga to invade Georgia
Jun 1-3 Battle of Cold Harbor. Grant has suffered 60,000 casualties in 1 month.
Jun 15-18 Grant fails to take Petersburg in 4 days; 9-month siege begins.
Sep 1 Atlanta falls. Sherman occupies the city September 2.
Nov 8 Lincoln reelected (with Democrat Andrew Johnson V.P.) on National Union Party ticket over Democrat George B. McClellan
Nov 14 Sherman sets out from Atlanta on his “March to the Sea”: “Total War” begins.
Dec 15-16 Battle of Nashville; Thomas defeats Hood in last Southern offensive action of war.
Dec 22 Sherman reaches Savannah—a “Christmas Present” to the Union
SUMMARY of 1864: Devastation in the South: Only a miracle will win Southern independ-ence. South plans to arm slaves, even end slavery in return for help, but the time has passed.
Jan 16 Sherman invades the Carolinas, disrupts Southern supply lines. Destruction worse than in Georgia.
Mar 4 Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address urges reconciliation: “With malice toward none, with charity for all ...”
Apr 3 Lee evacuates Richmond; city occupied by Union troops. Lincoln visits city, greeted by liberated slaves.
Apr 9 Lee’s escape route blocked by Sheridan’s cavalry, Chamberlain’s V Corps; Lee surrenders at Appomattox Court House; fighting winds down elsewhere.
Apr 14 President Lincoln assassinated; dies next day, Good Friday.

April-May Remaining Confederate units surrender; Jefferson Davis captured in Georgia. The most terrible war in American history is over: 1 Million casualties on both sides. The long painful process of Reconstruction begins.

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