The Civil War Timeline
How It All Went Down
Lincoln Wins Close Race
Abraham Lincoln wins a four-way race for President of the United States. Although he does not win a popular majority and is not even on the ballot in nine southern states, he earns enough electoral votes to beat all other opponents.
South Carolina First to Secede
South Carolina officially secedes from the Union, becoming the first state to do so.
Mississippi secedes from the Union.
Florida secedes from the Union.
Alabama secedes from the Union.
Georgia secedes from the Union.
Louisiana secedes from the Union.
Texas secedes from the Union.
Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as the sixteenth President of the United States. In his Inaugural Address he gives a stark warning to the South: he will not tolerate secession.
Confederate Constitution Signed
The Constitution of the Confederate States of America is signed in Montgomery, Alabama.
Civil War Begins
Confederate forces under General P.G.T. Beauregard bombard Major Robert Anderson and his Union soldiers at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The Civil War officially begins.
Union Surrender at Ft. Sumter
RANGEEND_SUMTER Major Robert Anderson surrenders Fort Sumter to Confederate forces after two days of bombardment.
Virginia secedes from the Union.
Arkansas secedes from the Union.
Tennessee secedes from the Union.
North Carolina Secession
North Carolina secedes from the Union, the eleventh and last state to do so.
Lincoln Requests Army
Lincoln addresses Congress and requests the enlistment of a Union Army. Congress authorizes a call for 500,000 men. It is clear now that the war will not be short.
First Battle of Bull Run
The First Battle of Bull Run pits Union General Irvin McDowell against the new Confederate army. McDowell is defeated causing a panicked retreat back to Washington, which is about forty miles away. The withdrawal is hampered by the large numbers of spectators who are there to see the battle.
Moniter vs. Merrimack
The Confederate ironclad USS Merrimack battles the Union ironclad USS Monitor in Chesapeake Bay. The battle is a draw but it makes wooden ships obsolete and ushers in the era of steel warships, changing naval warfare forever.
Battle of Shiloh
Union General Ulysses S. Grant's forces are surprised at the town of Shiloh in Tennessee. The ensuing battle results in 13,000 Union and 10,000 Confederate casualties, more than in all previous American wars combined.
Robert E. Lee Assumes Command
General Robert E. Lee assumes command of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
The Seven Days
Over the course of seven days of fighting, General Robert E. Lee attacks George McClellan's Union Army of the Potomac near Richmond, Virginia. Huge casualties cause McClellan to withdraw north towards Washington.
Second Battle of Bull Run
The Second Battle of Bull Run is a resounding victory for Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Union General John Pope is blamed for the loss and is relieved of his duties after the battle.
The Battle of Antietam is the bloodiest day in United States history. Over 26,000 men are killed, wounded or missing in action on both sides. Though officially a draw, the battle stops General Robert E. Lee's invasion of Maryland and he retreats back to Virginia.
Lincoln issues a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which declares his intention to free all slaves in any new territory captured by the Union Army.
The Union Army under General Ambrose E. Burnside suffers a horrible defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia. Fourteen individual assaults on an entrenched Confederate position cost the Union 13,000 casualties.
Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation. It frees all slaves in territory captured by the Union Army, and orders the enlistment of black soldiers. From this point forward, the Civil War is a war over slavery.
Congress enacts the first draft in American history, requiring every man to serve in the army unless he can furnish a substitute or pay the government $300. These escape provisions are wildly unpopular with workers and recent immigrants, and lead to draft riots in New York and other northern cities.
Over the course of three days, General Robert E. Lee divides his army in the face of a larger enemy, and manages to defeat the Union Army led by "Fighting" Joe Hooker. The North suffers 17,000 casualties, the South 13,000.
Stonewall Jackson Dies
Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson dies from wounds sustained when he was mistakenly shot by his own troops at Chancellorsville.
From July 1 to July 4, the Union Army under General Meade defeats Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. One of the bloodiest battles of the war, Gettysburg is a turning point, and marks the farthest advance of the Confederate Army into northern territory.
On the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee orders General George Pickett to assault entrenched Union positions. In what would become known as "Pickett's Charge," More than half of the 12,000 Confederate soldiers who participate in the charge are slaughtered as they walk slowly across a 3/4-mile field into a hail of gunfire.
Far to the West on the Mississippi River, General Ulysses S. Grant takes Vicksburg after a long siege. At this point, the Union controls the entire river, cutting the Confederacy in two.
When the government attempts to begin conscription, riots break out in New York and other northern cities. In New York, 120 men, women and children—mostly black—are killed before Union troops returning from Gettysburg restore order.
Battle of Chickamauga
Union General William Rosecrans is defeated by Confederate General Braxton Bragg at the Battle of Chickamauga, in Tennessee.
President Lincoln delivers the two-minute Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the National Cemetery at the battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Grant Takes Command
Lincoln appoints Ulysses S. Grant commander of all Union armies, ending his long search for a decent general to command northern forces. General William T. Sherman takes over as commander in the West.
Beginning a drive aimed at ending the war, Ulysses S. Grant and 120,000 troops march south towards Richmond, the Confederate capital. Over the course of the next six weeks, a brutal war of attrition results in the deaths of nearly 50,000 Union soldiers.
Siege of Petersburg
RANGEEND_VIRGINIACAMPAIGN With the beginning of the Siege of Petersburg, south of Richmond, the mobile war of the past month ends, replaced by a nine-month siege.
Battle of the Wilderness
During the horrific Battle of the Wilderness, thousands of men burn to death as the woods in which they were fighting catch fire.
Battle of Spotsylvania
Continuing his advance, Union General Ulysses S. Grant attacks Robert E. Lee's Confederate forces at Spotsylvania. Grant loses more soldiers than Lee. Still, General Lee is forced to retreat south.
Battle of Cold Harbor
The bloody battle of Cold Harbor is a disaster for the Union. General Ulysses S. Grant makes a series of tactical mistakes that result in the deaths of 7,000 Union in twenty minutes.
Siege of Petersburg Ends
RANGEEND_PETERSBURG The Siege of Petersburg ends as Ulysses S. Grant's army breaks through Confederate lines and marches towards Richmond.
Fall of Richmond
The Union Army captures Richmond, Virginia, which is nearly leveled by shelling and fire.
Sherman Burns Atlanta
Union General Sherman captures Atlanta and burns it to the ground.
Sherman’s March to the Sea
Union General Sherman begins his famous March to the Sea, cutting a swath of destruction 300 miles long and 60 miles wide through Georgia. "All war is hell," he comments.
Battle of Nashville
The Confederate Army of the Tennessee is crushed by the Union Army of the Cumberland in Nashville. The war in the West is nearly over.
RANGEEND_MARCH_SEA Savannah is captured, ending the March to the Sea. Union General Sherman offers the city to Lincoln as a Christmas present.
Thirteenth Amendment Ends Slavery
The United States Congress approves the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which will abolish slavery.
Second Lincoln Inaugural
Lincoln is sworn in for his second term as President of the United States.
General Robert E. Lee surrenders to General Ulysses S. Grant in a farmhouse in the town of Appomattox Court House, Virginia. The war is over.
Abraham Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C.
Lincoln Dies by Assassination
Lincoln does not regain consciousness after being shot at Ford's Theater. He dies from his wound.
General Joe Johnston, leading the largest Confederate Army still in existence, surrenders in North Carolina.
The Thirteenth Amendment is ratified by the States. Slavery is abolished.