Civil War Timeline – US History Fort Sumter Attacked April 12, 1861 – At 4:30 a.m. Confederates under Gen. Pierre Beauregard open fire with 50 cannons upon Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The Civil War begins. April 14, 1861. – Fort Sumter after its capture, showing damage from the Rebel bombardment of over 3000 shells and now flying the Rebel “Stars and Bars” April 17, 1861 – Virginia secedes from the Union, followed within five weeks by Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina, thus forming an eleven state Confederacy with a population of 9 million, including nearly 4 million slaves. The Union will soon have 21 states and a population of over 20 million. First Bull Run July 21, 1861 – The Union Army under Gen. Irvin McDowell suffers a defeat at Bull Run 25 miles southwest of Washington. Confederate Gen. Thomas J. Jackson earns the nickname “Stonewall,” as his brigade resists Union attacks. Union troops fall back to Washington. President Lincoln realizes the war will be long. July 27, 1861 – President Lincoln appoints George B. McClellan as Commander of the Department of the Potomac, replacing McDowell. Shiloh April 6/7, 1862 – Confederate surprise attack on Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s unprepared troops at Shiloh on the Tennessee River results in a bitter struggle with 13,000 Union killed and wounded and 10,000 Confederates, more men than in all previous American wars combined. The president is then pressured to relieve Grant but resists. “I can’t spare this man; he fights,” Lincoln says. April 24, 1862 – 17 Union ships under the command of Flag Officer David Farragut move up the Mississippi River then take New Orleans, the South’s greatest seaport. Later in the war, sailing through a Rebel mine field Farragut utters the famous phrase “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” June 25-July 1 – The Seven Days Battles as Lee attacks McClellan near Richmond, resulting in very heavy losses for both armies. McClellan then begins a withdrawal back toward Washington. Second Battle of Bull Run Aug 29/30, 1862 – 75,000 Federals under Gen. John Pope are defeated by 55,000 Confederates under Gen. Stonewall Jackson and Gen. James Longstreet at the second battle of Bull Run in northern Virginia. Once again the Union Army retreats to Washington. The president then relieves Pope. Sept 4-9, 1862 – Lee invades the North with 50,000 Confederates and heads for Harpers Ferry, located 50 miles northwest of Washington. The Union Army, 90,000 strong, under the command of McClellan, pursues Lee. Antietam Sept 17, 1862 – The bloodiest day in U.S. military history as Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Armies are stopped at Antietam in Maryland by McClellan and numerically superior Union forces. By nightfall 26,000 men are dead, wounded, or missing. Lee then withdraws to Virginia. Confederate dead by the fence bordering Farmer Miller’s 40 acre Cornfield at Antietam where the intense rifle and artillery fire cut every corn stalk to the ground “as closely as could have been done with a knife.” Nov 7, 1862 – The president replaces McClellan with Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside as the new Commander of the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln had grown impatient with McClellan’s slowness to follow up on the success at Antietam, even telling him, “If you don’t want to use the army, I should like to borrow it for a while.” Fredericksburg Dec 13, 1862 – Army of the Potomac under Gen. Burnside suffers a costly defeat at Fredericksburg in Virginia with a loss of 12,653 men after 14 frontal assaults on well entrenched Rebels on Marye’s Heights. “We might as well have tried to take hell,” a Union soldier remarks. Confederate losses are 5,309. Jan 29, 1863 – Gen. Grant is placed in command of the Army of the West, with orders to capture Vicksburg.Chancellorsville May 1-4, 1863 – The Union Army under Gen. Hooker is decisively defeated by Lee’s much smaller forces at the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia as a result of Lee’s brilliant and daring tactics. Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson is mortally wounded by his own soldiers. Hooker retreats. Union losses are 17,000 killed, wounded and missing out of 130,000. The Confederates, 13, 000 out of 60,000. Confederate soldiers at the Sunken Road, killed during the fighting around Chancellorsville.
June 3, 1863 – Gen. Lee with 75,000 Confederates launches his second invasion of the North, heading into Pennsylvania in a campaign that will soon lead to Gettysburg. June 28, 1863 – President Lincoln appoints Gen. George G. Meade as commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing Hooker. Meade is the 5th man to command the Army in less than a year. Gettysburg July 1-3, 1863 – The tide of war turns against the South as the Confederates are defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. July 4, 1863 -Vicksburg, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, surrenders to Gen. Grant and the Army of the West after a six week siege. With the Union now in control of the Mississippi, the Confederacy is effectively split in two, cut off from its western allies. July 18, 1863 – ‘Negro troops’ of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment under Col. Robert G. Shaw assault fortified Rebels at Fort Wagner, South Carolina. Col. Shaw and half of the 600 men in the regiment are killed. Aug 21, 1863 – At Lawrence, Kansas, pro-Confederate William C. Quantrill and 450 proslavery followers raid the town and butcher 182 boys and men. Chickamauga Sept 19/20, 1863 – A decisive Confederate victory by Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at Chickamauga leaves Gen. William S. Rosecrans’ Union Army of the Cumberland trapped in Chattanooga, Tennessee under Confederate siege. Nov 19, 1863 – President Lincoln delivers a two minute Gettysburg Address at a ceremony dedicating the Battlefield as a National Cemetery. Chattanooga Nov 23-25, 1863 – The Rebel siege of Chattanooga ends as Union forces under Grant defeat the siege army of Gen. Braxton Bragg. During the battle, one of the most dramatic moments of the war occurs. Yelling “Chickamauga! Chickamauga!” Union troops avenge their previous defeat at Chickamauga by storming up the face of Missionary Ridge without orders and sweep the Rebels from what had been though to be an impregnable position. “My God, come and see ‘em run!” a Union soldier cries. March 9, 1864 – President Lincoln appoints Gen. Grant to command all of the armies of the United States. Gen. William T. Sherman succeeds Grant as commander in the west. Cold Harbor June 3, 1864 – A costly mistake by Grant results in 7,000 Union casualties in twenty minutes during an offensive against fortified Rebels at Cold Harbor in Virginia. June 15, 1864 – Union forces miss an opportunity to capture Petersburg and cut off the Confederate rail lines. As a result, a nine month siege of Petersburg begins with Grant’s forces surrounding Lee. Sept 2, 1864 – Atlanta is captured by Sherman’s Army. “Atlanta is ours, and fairly won,” Sherman telegraphs Lincoln. The victory greatly helps President Lincoln’s bid for re-election. Nov 8, 1864 – Abraham Lincoln is re-elected president, defeating Democrat George B. McClellan. Lincoln carries all but three states with 55 percent of the popular vote and 212 of 233 electoral votes. “I earnestly believe that the consequences of this day’s work will be to the lasting advantage, if not the very salvation, of the country,” Lincoln tells supporters March to the Sea Nov 15, 1864 – After destroying Atlanta’s warehouses and railroad facilities, Sherman, with 62,000 men begins a March to the Sea. President Lincoln on advice from Grant approved the idea. “I can make Georgia howl!” Sherman boasts. Dec 15/16, 1864 – Hood’s Rebel Army of 23,000 is crushed at Nashville by 55,000 Federals including Negro troops under Gen. George H. Thomas. The Confederate Army of Tennessee ceases as an effective fighting force. Dec 21, 1864 – Sherman reaches Savannah in Georgia leaving behind a 300 mile long path of destruction 60 miles wide all the way from Atlanta. Sherman then telegraphs Lincoln, offering him Savannah as a Christmas present. April 2, 1865 – Grant’s forces begin a general advance and break through Lee’s lines at Petersburg. Confederate Gen. Ambrose P. Hill is killed. Lee evacuates Petersburg. The Confederate Capital, Richmond, is evacuated. Fires and looting break out. The next day, Union troops enter and raise the Stars and Stripes. Lee Surrenders April 9, 1865 – Gen. Robert E. Lee surrenders his Confederate Army to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at the village of Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Grant allows Rebel officers to keep their sidearms and permits soldiers to keep horses and mules. “After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources,” Lee tells his troops. General Lee surrendered in the parlor of this house.