The Civil War

Major Battles, Time Line of Events, The States


The beginning of a war was inevitable when:

In December, 1860 and January, 1861 six Southern states, led by South Carolina, seceded from the Union. On March 2, 1861 Texas joined them. The argument was over states rights. Specifically, whether the Federal Government had powers to interfere with the right to own and trade property. Slave states considered slaves as property, therefore, at issue was the right to enforce warrants and recapture runaway slaves.

Great compromises had been reached in the drafting of the Constitution. Article I, Section 2, recognized that slavery existed and provided for a fractional head count being used as the basis for determining representation in congress. Article I, Section 9, gave congress the power to enact laws restricting or forbidding importation of slaves after 1808 but the Constitution did not give congress specific power to interfere with ownership of slaves in those states which allowed ownership when the Constitution was adopted.

The Constitution did, however, give congress powers to make laws in territories of the United States, notwithstanding the Supreme Court's decision in Dred Scott, and to admit new states to the Union. Congress, especially the Republicans, had become proactive in abolishing slavery in territories and failing to admit states which were not "free states." The South viewed the territories as economic opportunities for the sale of slaves and saw the Federal activity as an encroachment into their rights.

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, was inaugurated. Lincoln had not given any indication that he was opposed to slavery within those states where it was legal under the Constitution. He had, however, given several signals that he regarded secession as illegal: not permitted by the Constitution. He had further indicated that he would not recognize secessionist decrees and would continue enforcement of Federal law everywhere within the United States. The South bitterly opposed to his election.

Lincoln, to assert his concept of federal authority, sent ships into Charleston harbor, South Carolina, to supply the U.S. Army post of Fort Sumter and to assure that the United States Flag flew over the fort.

On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces under General Pierre G. T. Beauregard attacked Fort Sumter. The Union troops surrendered on April 13 and evacuated the fort the next day.

Just after April 15 four more states seceded.

Lincoln considered this was an act of war, not just secession, and he acted. Popular thinking was that the Union Army could put down the "rebellion" in as little as three months.

The coming conflict would evolve into three sectors (theaters) of operation. The Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River divided the country into:

The Eastern theater -- the area east of the mountains to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Western theater -- between the mountains and the Mississippi River.

The West -- west of the Mississippi. This area saw very little action and except for Texas, was generally under the control of the North.

Many Civil War battles have two names because the Confederates named battles after the nearest settlement, and the North used the nearest body of water. In the following tables the Northern name is given first, followed by the Confederate name. When only one name appears it is the name both sides used.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Bull Run (1st) /
Manassas, Va.
July 21, 1861 McDowell Beauregard 3,0002,000


First Battle of Bull Run (or First Battle of Manassas). Part of the Union army, a force of about 18,000 men under General Robert Patterson had moved to secure the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. Another Union force of about 31,000 under General Irvin McDowell had moved into eastern Virginia along a creek called Bull Run near Manassas, about 25 miles west of Washington, D.C.

A Confederate army under Beauregard faced McDowell at Manassas while General Joseph E. Johnston commanded Confederate troops in the Shenandoah Valley. Those forces, along with other scattered troops, added up to about 35,000 Confederates.

In July 1861, McDowell approached Manassas. McDowell thought his troops could destroy Beauregard's forces while the Union troops in the Shenandoah Valley kept Johnston occupied. But just before the battle Johnston slipped away and traveled by rail to join Beauregard.

The opposing forces, both composed mainly of poorly trained volunteers, clashed on July 21. The North launched several assaults. During one attack, the Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson stood his ground so firmly that he received the nickname "Stonewall." After halting several assaults, Beauregard counterattacked and the tired Union forces fled toward Washington in wild retreat. After the battle, some Southerners regretted not moving on to capture Washington but such an attempt would probably have failed.

The North now realized that it faced a long fight and that the war would not be over in three months. Confederate confidence in final victory soared and remained high for the next two years.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Fort Henry / Tenn. Feb. 6, 1862 Grant Tilghman 5020


Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River formed the center of the Confederate line in the West. Gun boats on orders from General Ulysses S. Grant, commanding officer under Halleck in western Kentucky, took Fort Henry.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Fort Donelson / Tenn. Feb. 13-16, 1862 Grant Buckner 2,80015,800


Fort Donelson was about 20 miles from Fort Henry. This was a major victory for the North and it started Grant's rise to the top. After three days of fighting the Confederate commander, Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, asked for surrender terms. Grant replied that no terms except unconditional surrender were acceptable. On February 16 about 13,000 Confederates surrendered. Grant became a Northern hero and was tagged with the nickname of "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Shiloh /
Pittsburg Landing, Tenn.
April 6-7, 1862 Grant A. Johnston
Beauregard
13,00010,700
The Battle of Shiloh was named after a church on the battlefield.

General Halleck had become commander of most Union forces from Ohio to Kansas. He ordered Grant with some 40,000 men to move down the Tennessee River and to wait for Buell to join him. Grant moved to Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., a village about 20 miles north of Corinth. The Confederate co-commanders, Johnston and Beauregard, decided to strike Grant with their army of some 44,000 troops before Buell arrived. The Confederate troops surprised and almost smashed Grant but Grant held his lines and Johnston was killed.

The next day, Grant received about 25,000 reinforcements, including some 18,000 troops led by Buell. The Confederate army received only about 700 reinforcements. Grant now used his much larger army to force a Southern retreat to Corinth. By June the Union had control of the Mississippi River all the way to Memphis.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Fair Oaks /
Seven Pines, Va.
May 31-June 1, 1862 McClellan J. Johnston 5,0006,000


In Virginia, McClellan landed on the peninsula between the York and James rivers with more than 100,000 men. As McClellan neared Richmond, Johnston launched an attack with early succes but failed to follow through. Johnston was wounded and Lee was given command of Johnston's army which he named the Army of Northern Virginia.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Seven Days / Va. June 25-July 1, 1862 McClellan Lee 15,80020,100


Reinforced by Jackson's men to about 95,000 men, Lee fell on McClellan in a series of attacks lasting seven days. The advantage shifted from side to side during the battles, but McClellan believed that his forces were hopelessly outnumbered. He finally retreated to the James River, and Richmond was saved from capture.

Also see "Taps" -- by Union Gen. Daniel Adams Butterfield

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Bull Run -- Second/
Manassas, Va.
Aug. 27-30, 1862 Pope Lee 16,1009,200


Second Battle of Bull Run (or Second Battle of Manassas). Lee moved rapidly northward to attack Pope before McClellan's men could join him. Jackson went in first to attack Pope from the rear but Pope, using McClellan's troops as fast as they arrived, attacked Jackson. When Lee and General James Longstreet joined Jackson, Pope attacked them, but a Confederate counterattack beat Pope's forces back and the Northern troops retreated toward Washington. This was a major victory as the South regained almost all of Virginia.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Antietam /
Sharpsburg, Md.
Sept. 17, 1862 McClellan Lee 12,50013,700


The South believed they could gain European recognition by winning a victory in Union territory. In September 1862 Lee invaded Maryland. He divided his force into two divisions sending "Stonewall" Jackson to capture Harper's Ferry while he took the other division to Sharpsburg, a small town on Antietam Creek. Jackson was successful and then turned to join Lee. McClellan launched a series of attacks that almost cracked the Southern lines but then, the last of Lee's absent troops, headed by General A. P. Hill, arrived and saved the day.

Lee's force of about 40,000 men suffered heavy losses and had to retreat to Virginia. The North considered Antietam a major victory and Lincoln used the occassion to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Perryville / Ky. Oct. 8, 1862 Buell Bragg 4,2003,400


Soon after Shiloh, Corinth fell to Union forces and Halleck went to Washington to act as Lincoln's military adviser. He assigned Grant to guard communications along the Mississippi and ordered Buell to capture Chattanooga. Before Buell could advance, General Braxton Bragg, the Confederate commander in Tennessee, suddenly invaded Kentucky. Buell raced to meet him, and the two armies clashed on October 8 at Perryville. Neither side could claim victory, but the South could not afford casualties on the same level as the North. Bragg retreated to Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Fredericksburg / Va. Dec. 13, 1862 Burnside Lee 12,7005,300


After Antietam McClellan had more fresh troops under him than Lee had left in his entire army yet he allowed Lee to retreat with little interference. Lincoln, seeing this lack of aggression, replaced him with General Ambrose E. Burnside who attacked Lee at Fredericksburg. Lee, with about 73,000 troops, took up a defensive posture along hills called Marye's Heights. Burnside attacked and suffered nearly 13,000 casualties--soldiers killed, wounded, missing, or captured. He retreated and was relieved of command at his own request.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Stones River /
Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Dec. 31, 1862-
Jan. 2, 1863
Rosecrans Bragg 12,90011,700


Lincoln felt that Buell was too cautious and replaced him with General William S. Rosecrans. Rosecrans advanced south from Nashville toward Bragg's army at Murfreesboro on Stones River. The hard-fought battle dragged on from Dec. 31, 1862, to Jan. 2, 1863, when Bragg retreated. The battle had the highest casualty rate of the war, with each side losing about a third of its men.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Chancellorsville / Va. May 1-4, 1863 Hooker Lee 16,80012,800


General Joseph Hooker replaced Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac which numbered about 138,000 men. Lee, with about 60,000, still held the line of defense at Fredericksburg. Hooker planned a frontal diversion while sending other forces to attack Lee's flank. The attack started successfully but then Hooker blinked. On May 1, he withdrew his flanking troops to a defensive position at Chancellorsville just west of Fredericksburg. The next day Lee sent Stonewall Jackson to counter attack which cut the Northern army almost in two. Hooker retreated three days later.

During the battle, Jackson was shot accidentally by his own men and his left arm had to be amputated. Lee told Jackson's chaplain: "He has lost his left arm; but I have lost my right arm." Jackson died on May 10.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Vicksburg, Siege of /
Vicksburg, Miss.
May 19-July 4, 1863 Grant Pemberton 10,00010,000


Vicksburg was the key city guarding the Mississippi between Memphis and New Orleans. In this brilliant offensive by Grant, followed four days later by the fall of Port Hudson, La., the North cut the Confederacy in two. The North now had control of the Mississippi River and with Kentucky, Western Tennessee, Western Mississippi, and a Navy to blockade sea ports, the North had an encirclement which led to the eventual strangulation of the Confederacy. Further, it effectively settled the war in the West. The South did not have the troops to fight a war in several directions at once.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Gettysburg / Pa. July 1-3, 1863 Meade Lee 23,00025,000-
28,000 


While Grant was capturing Vicksburg, Lee swung his army up the Shenandoah Valley into Pennsylvania. The Army of the Potomac followed and both armies moved toward the little town of Gettysburg, Pa. Lincoln had put General George G. Meade, a Pennsylvanian, in command of the Union troops.

For the first three days of July, a Northern army of about 85,000 men fought a Southern army of about 65,000 in the greatest battle ever fought in the Western Hemisphere. The Northern victory marked a turning point in the war. Lee would never again have the troop strength to launch a major offensive.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Chickamauga / Ga. Sept. 19-20, 1863 Rosecrans Bragg 18,50016,200


This major Southern victory trapped Rosecrans at Chattanooga but once again the South failed to take advantage.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Chattanooga / Tenn. Nov. 23-25, 1863 Grant Bragg 5,8007,700


Grant did not lack for supplies and soldiers and turned a precarious situation into a Union win -- putting most of Tennessee into Northern hands. Less than four months later, March 9, 1864, Lincoln named Grant general-in-chief of the Union Armies.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Wilderness / Va. May 5-6, 1864 Grant Lee 17,70011,000


Under other circumstances this would have been a victory for the South but Grant had superior forces, supply lines, replacement troops, and a boldness to match Lee's. Heavy losses failed to halt his progress southward.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Spotsylvania, Va.
Court House
May 8-19, 1864 Grant Lee 17,50010,000


Lee, continuing to fight from defensive positions, inflicted heavy losses on Northern forces but Grant kept storming ahead.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Cold Harbor / Va. June 1-3, 1864 Grant Lee 12,0001,500


Finally, Grant marched into a buzzsaw. Here about 50,000 attackers faced 30,000 defenders in trenches across a 3-mile line. Northern troops charged in a frontal assault and gunfire cut down 7,000 of them in the first few minutes of the charge. "I regret this assault more than any one I have ever ordered," Grant said. These heavy losses forced a change of tactics.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Petersburg, Va.
Siege of
June 20, 1864-
April 2, 1865
Grant Lee 42,00028,000


Grant now realized that the end of the war was just a matter of time. He launched the siege of Petersburg and pinned down Lee's Virginia army with months of trench warfare while his commanders elswhere finished off other resistance.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Kennesaw
Mountain
/ Ga.
June 27, 1864 Sherman J. Johnston 2,100400


Sherman had started his "march to the sea" but Davis knew he could not sustain victories in direct conflicts with Sherman's army. In spite of this success he replaced Johnston with Hood with instructions to draw Sherman out of Georgia. To achieve that end Hood invaded Tennessee.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Mobile Bay / Ala. Aug. 5, 1864 Farragut Buchanan 320300
The North closed this major Southern port.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Franklin / Tenn. Nov. 30, 1864 Schofield Hood 2,3006,300


This fierce battle of Hood's Tennessee campaign failed to draw Sherman from Georgia.

Common Name/Dates North
Commander
South
Commander
Casualties
Place  NorthSouth
Nashville / Tenn. Dec. 15-16, 1864 Thomas Hood 3,1006,000


Hood had regrouped after Franklin and managed to motivate his troops for another assault but this Northern victory smashed Hood's army and essentially ended Southern resistance in the West.

On September 2, Sherman had conquered Atlanta and by Christmas he occupied Savannah. In September and October Sheridan had ransacked the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The next three months were marked by mass desertions of Southern troops who just wanted to go home. By April 1865, it was over when the 2nd Confederate troops gave up Petersburg and Richmond and on April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.



Time Line of Major Events of the Civil War

1861

April 12...........Confederate troops attacked Fort Sumter.
April 15........... Lincoln issued a call for troops.
April 19........... Lincoln proclaimed a blockade of the South.
May 21........... Richmond, Va., was chosen as the Confederate capital.
July 21............ Northern troops retreated in disorder after the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas).
1862
Feb. 6............. Fort Henry fell to Union forces.
Feb. 16............ Grant's troops captured Fort Donelson.
March 9............ The ironclad ships Monitor and Merrimack (Virginia) battled to a draw.
April 6-7.......... Both sides suffered heavy losses in the Battle of Shiloh, won by the Union.
April 16........... The Confederacy began to draft soldiers.
April 18-25........ Farragut attacked and captured New Orleans.
May 4.............. McClellan's Union troops occupied Yorktown, Va., and advanced on Richmond.
May 30............. Northern forces occupied Corinth, Miss.
June 6............. Memphis fell to Union armies.
June 25-July 1..... Confederate forces under Lee saved Richmond in the Battles of the Seven Days.
Aug. 27-30......... Lee and Jackson led Southern troops to victory in the Second Battle of Bull Run.
Sept. 17........... Confederate forces retreated in defeat after the bloody Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg).
Sept. 22........... Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
Oct. 8............. Buell's forces ended Bragg's invasion of Kentucky in the Battle of Perryville.
Dec. 13............ Burnside's Union forces received a crushing blow in the Battle of Fredericksburg.
Dec. 31-Jan. 2, 1863 Union troops under Rosecrans forced the Confederates to retreat after the Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro).
1863
Jan. 1............. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
March 3............ The North passed a draft law.
May 1-4............ Northern troops under Hooker were defeated in the Battle of Chancellorsville.
May 1-19........... Grant's army defeated the Confederates in Mississippi and began to besiege Vicksburg.
July 1-3........... The Battle of Gettysburg ended in a Southern defeat and marked a turning point in the war.
July 4............. Vicksburg fell to Northern troops.
July 8............. Northern forces occupied Port Hudson, La.
Sept. 19-20........ Southern troops under Bragg won the Battle of Chickamauga.
Nov. 19............ Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.
Nov. 23-25......... Grant and Thomas led Union armies to victory in the Battle of Chattanooga.
1864
February 17........ Confederate submarine, H.L.Hunley, sank the Federal corvette Housatonic in Charleston Harbor.
March 9............ Grant became general-in-chief of the North.
May 5-6............ Union and Confederate troops clashed in the Battle of the Wilderness.
May 8-19........... Grant and Lee held their positions in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.
June 3............. The Union suffered heavy losses on the final day of the Battle of Cold Harbor.
June 20............ Grant's troops laid siege to Petersburg, Va.
July 11-12......... Early's Confederate forces almost reached Washington but retreated after brief fighting.
Aug. 5............. Farragut won the Battle of Mobile Bay.
Sept. 2............ Northern troops under Sherman captured Atlanta.
Sept. 19-Oct. 19... Sheridan led his troops on a rampage of destruction in the Shenandoah Valley.
Nov. 8............. Lincoln was re-elected President.
Nov. 15............ Sherman continued his march through Georgia.
Nov. 23............ Hood invaded Tennessee.
Nov. 30............ Schofield's Union forces inflicted heavy losses on Hood in the Battle of Franklin.
Dec. 15-16......... The Battle of Nashville smashed Hood's army.
Dec. 21............ Sherman's troops occupied Savannah, Ga.
1865
Feb. 6............. Lee became general-in-chief of the South.
April 2............ Confederate troops gave up Petersburg and Richmond.
April 9............ Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox.
April 14........... Lincoln assassinated.
April 26........... Johnston surrendered to Sherman.
May 4.............. Confederate forces in Alabama and Mississippi surrendered.
May 11............. Jefferson Davis captured.
May 26............. The last Confederate troops surrendered.


Other Significant Facts About the Civil War

In December 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede.

Five other states: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana followed in January 1861.

Organization of a government for the Confederacy began on Feb. 4, 1861, when delegates from the six states that had seceded met at Montgomery, Alabama, and set up a temporary government. Jefferson Davis of Mississippi was elected president of the Confederacy, and Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia was chosen vice president. Both were to serve for one year. After the adoption of a permanent constitution, they were elected to six-year terms. Six prominent Southerners became members of the first Cabinet, and Montgomery was named the temporary capital.

John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States (1841-1845), accepted appointment to the Congress of the Confederate States of America but died at his home in Virginia before the first meeting was held.

Cabinet of the Confederate States:

Secretary of State...........  Robert Toombs (1861)
                               Robert M. T. Hunter (1861)
                               Judah P. Benjamin (1862)
Secretary of the Treasury....  Christopher Memminger (1861)
                               George A. Trenholm (1864)
Secretary of War.............  Leroy P. Walker (1861)
                               Judah P. Benjamin (1861)
                               George W. Randolph (1862)
                               Gustavus Smith (Acting) (1862)
                               James A. Seddon (1862)
                               John C. Breckinridge (1865)
Secretary of the Navy........  Stephen R. Mallory (1861)
Postmaster General...........  John H. Reagan (1861)
Attorney General.............  Judah P. Benjamin (1861)
                               Thomas Bragg (1861)
                               Thomas Watts (1862)
                               George Davis (1864)

In March, 1861 Texas joined the Confederacy.

Lincoln was inaugurated two days later; March 4, 1861.

Soon after April 15, 1861: Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee joined the Confederacy.

After Virginia seceded, the Confederate Congress voted on May 21, 1861, to move its capital to Richmond. The move was accomplished on May 29.

The Constitution of the Confederacy, adopted in March 1861, was modeled after the United States Constitution but it contained six important differences:

1. The president's and vice president's terms were six years. The president could not serve successive terms.

2. Cabinet members received seats in Congress and had the privilege of debate but they could not vote.

3. Foreign slave trade was ended, but not slavery.

4. Congress was forbidden to make appropriations for internal improvements, to levy a protective tariff, or to give bounties.

5. A two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress was necessary to admit a new state into the Confederacy or to make appropriations not requested by the heads of departments through the president.

6. The president could veto single items in appropriation bills (line item veto).

The Confederate States hoped for a peaceful withdrawal from the Union. A number of people in the Confederacy and in the Union worked hard to avoid war but their efforts failed, and war began with the attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861.

How the states lined up



Eleven states fought for the Confederacy. They were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Twenty-three states fought for the North. They were California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

The territories of Colorado, Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington also fought for the Union.

Each side included slave states that lay on either side of the border between the North and the Deep South. When the war began, both the Union and the Confederacy made strong efforts to gain their support. North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, and Tennessee joined the Confederacy. Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri stayed in the Union. The western counties of Virginia seceded from the South later in the war, and in 1863 formed the state of West Virginia.

Secessionist groups set up separate state governments in both Kentucky and Missouri, even though those states stayed in the Union. Those groups also sent delegates to the Confederate Congress which accounts for the 13 stars in the Confederate flag even though only 11 states actually joined the Confederacy.

Some people in border states supported the North, but others believed in the Southern cause. The heaviest fighting of the war occurred in the border states.

Border states on the Southern side were Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

Border states that supported the North were Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri.

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