Study Guide

The Civil War Timeline

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Nov 6, 1860

Lincoln Wins Close Race

Abraham Lincoln wins a four-way race for President of the United States. Although he doesn't win a popular majority and isn't even on the ballot in nine Southern states, he earns enough electoral votes to beat all other opponents.

Dec 20, 1860

South Carolina First to Secede

South Carolina officially secedes from the Union, becoming the first state to do so.

Jan 9, 1861

Mississippi Secession

Mississippi secedes from the Union.

Jan 10, 1861

Florida Secession

Florida secedes from the Union.

Jan 11, 1861

Alabama Secession

Alabama secedes from the Union.

Jan 19, 1861

Georgia Secession

Georgia secedes from the Union.

Jan 26, 1861

Louisiana Secession

Louisiana secedes from the Union.

Feb 1, 1861

Texas Secession

Texas secedes from the Union.

Mar 4, 1861

Lincoln Inauguration

Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as the 16th President of the United States. In his Inaugural Address he gives a stark warning to the South: he will not tolerate secession.

Mar 11, 1861

Confederate Constitution Signed

The Constitution of the Confederate States of America is signed in Montgomery, Alabama.

Apr 12, 1861

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.

Apr 14, 1861

Union Surrender at Ft. Sumter

Major Robert Anderson surrenders Fort Sumter to Confederate forces after two days of bombardment.

Apr 17, 1861

Virginia Secession

Virginia secedes from the Union.

May 6, 1861

Arkansas Secession

Arkansas secedes from the Union.

May 7, 1861

Tennessee Secession

Tennessee secedes from the Union.

May 20, 1861

North Carolina Secession

North Carolina secedes from the Union, the 11th and last state to do so.

Jul 4, 1861

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.

Jul 21, 1861

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.

Mar 9, 1862

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.

Apr 8, 1862 - Apr 9, 1862

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.

Jun 1, 1862

Robert E. Lee Assumes Command

General Robert E. Lee assumes command of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

Jun 25, 1862

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.

Aug 30, 1862

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.

Sep 17, 1862


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.

Sep 22, 1862

Preliminary Emancipation

Lincoln issues a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which declares his intention to free all slaves in any new territory captured by the Union Army.

Dec 13, 1862


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.

Jan 1, 1863

Emancipation Proclamation

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.

Mar 3, 1863

Military Draft

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.

May 1, 1863 - May 4, 1863


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.

May 10, 1863

Stonewall Jackson Dies

Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson dies from wounds sustained when he was mistakenly shot by his own troops at Chancellorsville.

Jul 1, 1863


From July 1st to July 4th, 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.

Jul 1, 1863 - Jul 4, 1863

Pickett’s Charge

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.

Jul 4, 1863


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.

Jul 13, 1863 - Jul 16, 1863

Draft Riots

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.

Sep 19, 1863

Battle of Chickamauga

Union General William Rosecrans is defeated by Confederate General Braxton Bragg at the Battle of Chickamauga, in Tennessee.

Gettysburg Address

President Lincoln delivers the two-minute Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the National Cemetery at the battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Mar 9, 1864

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.

May 4, 1864

Virginia Campaign

Beginning a drive aimed at ending the war, Ulysses S. Grant and 120,000 troops march south toward 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.

Jun 15, 1864

Siege of Petersburg

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.

May 4, 1864 - May 5, 1864

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.

May 8, 1864 - May 12, 1864

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.

Jun 1, 1864 - Jun 3, 1864

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 20 minutes.

Apr 2, 1865

Siege of Petersburg Ends

The Siege of Petersburg ends as Ulysses S. Grant's army breaks through Confederate lines and marches toward Richmond.

Apr 2, 1865

Fall of Richmond

The Union Army captures Richmond, Virginia, which is nearly leveled by shelling and fire.

Sep 2, 1864

Sherman Burns Atlanta

Union General Sherman captures Atlanta and burns it to the ground.

Nov 15, 1864

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.

Dec 15, 1864

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.

Dec 21, 1864

Savannah Captured

Savannah is captured, ending the March to the Sea. Union General Sherman offers the city to Lincoln as a Christmas present.

Jan 31, 1865

13th Amendment Ends Slavery

The United States Congress approves the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which will abolish slavery.

Mar 4, 1865

Second Lincoln Inaugural

Lincoln is sworn in for his second term as President of the United States.

Apr 9, 1865

Lee Surrenders

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.

Lincoln Shot

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.

Apr 18, 1865

Johnston Surrenders

General Joe Johnston, leading the largest Confederate Army still in existence, surrenders in North Carolina.

Dec 6, 1865

Slavery Abolished

The 13th Amendment is ratified by the States. Slavery is abolished.

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