Civil War Timeline


1820 *

  • March 6 - The Missouri Compromise prohibits slavery in the former Louisiana Territory north of the parallel 36°30' north except within the boundaries of the proposed state of Missouri.


1831 *

  • August 21 - Fifty-seven white men, women and children were killed during Nat Turner's Rebellion in Virginia.


1854 *

  • May 30 - The Kansas-Nebraska Act established the Nebraska Territory and Kansas Territory. The act repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and allowed the settlers of Kansas Territory to determine by popular sovereignty whether Kansas would be a free state or a slave state.


1856 *

  • May 21 - Pro-slavery activists or "Border Ruffians" entered the Free-State stronghold of Lawrence, where they burned the Free State Hotel, destroyed two printing presses, and ransacked homes and stores.

  • May 22 - Charles Sumner, a Senator from Massachusetts, is beaten by Preston Brooks, a congressman from South Carolina, in the Senate after Sumner denounced the Kansas-Nebraska Act in his "Crime against Kansas" speech.

  • August 30 - Border Ruffians looted and burned the city of Osawatomie.


1857 *

  • March 6 - Chief Justice Roger Taney announced the Supreme Court's decision in the Dred Scott Case that ruled that people of African descent, whether or not they were slaves, could never be citizens of the United States, and that Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories. It was also ruled that slaves could not sue in court, and that slaves were private property, and, being private property, can't be taken away from their owners without due process.


1858 *

  • May 19 - Five men were killed in the Marais des Cygnes Massacre by proslavery raiders from Missouri.


1859 *

  • October 17 - Abolitionist John Brown seizes the U.S. Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia.


1860 *

  • November 6 - Abraham Lincoln is elected the 16th president of the United States with only 40% of the vote.

  • December 20 - South Carolina secedes from the Union

  • December 26 - US troops at Fort Moultrie are moved to Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina


1861 *

  • January 29 - Kansas joins the Union as a free state

  • February 18 - Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as President of the Confederate States of America.

  • April 12 - The Civil War begins when Confederate forces open fire on Fort Sumter

  • June 10

  • - The first land battle in Virginia took place at Big Bethel between forces led by Brig. Gen. Ebenezer Pierce and Col. John B. Magruder and Col. D.H. Hill resulted in a Confederate victory.
  • July 21 - Confederate forces under P. G. T. Beauregard defeat Union forces under Irvin McDowell at the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), VA.

  • August 10 - The Battle of Wilson's Creek in Missouri is the first major battle in the Western Theater.  Confederate troops under General Sterling Price defeat Union troops lead by General Nathaniel Lyon, who becomes the first general killed in the war.

  • November 1 - George McClellan is appointed general-in-chief of the Union forces by Abraham Lincoln.


1862 *

  • February 16 - Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River is captured by Ulysses S. Grant under terms of "Unconditional Surrender."

  • February 28-April 8, 1862 - Brig. Gen. John Pope's Union forces take New Madrid/Island No. 10, MO opening the Mississippi to Fort Pillow, TN.

  • March 7-8 - The Battle of Pea Ridge preserves Missouri for the Union.

  • March 8-9 - At the Battle of Hampton Roads, the CSS Virginia battles the USS Monitor to a draw in the first ironclad naval engagement.

  • March 26-28 - The Union victory at Glorieta Pass, NM was the turning point of the war in the New Mexico Territory.

  • April 6-7 - At least 24,000 casualties in the two-day battle at Shiloh, TN.

  • April 10-11 - Union troops overwhelm the defenses of Fort Pulaski, GA.

  • April 12 - James Andrews leads a band of volunteers from three Ohio regiments in a daring attack on the Western & Atlantic Railroad in what becomes "The Great Train Chase."

  • April 16-28 - Flag-Officer David G. Farragut sent his ships north pass Forts Jackson & St. Phillip, LA and head for New Orleans. Confederate attempts to stop the Union ships were unsuccessful and most of the force reached New Orleans where Farragut accepted the city’s surrender.

  • April 26 - Federal rifled cannons force the surrender of Fort Macon, NC and signal the obsolescence of masonry fortifications.

  • May 25 - Maj. Gen. T. J. Jackson’s Confederate division defeats Union forces led by Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks at Winchester, VA I in a decisive battle in Jackson’s Valley Campaign

  • June 1 - Robert E. Lee assumes command of the Army of Northern Virginia.

  • June 25 - July 1 - In the Seven Days battles (Gaines' Mill, VA - June 27, Beaver Dam Creek, VA - June 26, Glendale, VA - June 30, Malvern Hill, VA - July 1), General Robert E. Lee displays his military brilliance as Confederate forces defeat General George B. McClellan's Union troops and save Richmond.

  • July 17 - Ulysses S. Grant assumes command of the Union army in the West.

  • August 28-30 - Outnumbered Confederate troops defeat Union forces at the Second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), VA.

  • September 12-15 - Gen. Stonewall Jackson's Confederate troops take Harpers Ferry, WV and capture more than 12,500 Union troops.

  • September 17 - The bloodiest day in U.S. military history occurs at Antietam, MD when Gen. Robert E. Lee's advancing Confederates are stopped by Gen. George McClellan's Union forces at a cost of over 25,000 casualties.

  • October 3-4 - Maj. Gen. Sterling Price’s Confederate Army of the West and Maj. Gen. Earl Van- Dorn’s Army of West Tennessee are defeated by Union forces entrenched at Corinth, MS ending the threat to Middle Tennessee.

  • October 8 - The Union victory at Perryville, KY ends the Confederacy's invasion of Kentucky.

  • December 13 - Union forces under General Ambrose Burnside are defeated at Fredericksburg, VA by Lee's Confederate troops.  Lee's forces inflict 10,000 casualties from defensive positions on Marye's Heights but lose 5,000 men.


1863 *

  • January 1 - President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation.

  • January 2- After three days of fighting, the Battle of Stones River, TN ends in a draw.

  • March 3 - The U.S. Congress passes the first military draft and exempts those who can pay $300 or provide a stand-in.

  • May 4 - General Robert E. Lee defeats Union forces under Major General Joseph Hooker at Chancellorsville, VA and forces Hooker to retreat to the north bank of the Rappahannock. The Confederacy's joy turns to sorrow when Stonewall Jackson is mortally wounded.

  • May 16 - Union forces defeat Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton's troops at Champion Hill, MS forcing the Confederates to retreat to Vicksburg, MS.

  • June 9 - The largest cavalry battle takes place at Brandy Station, VA with the Union forces led by Maj. Gen. Pleasonton defeating Maj. Gen. J. E. B. Stuart's Confederates.

  • July 1-3 - The Confederate forces are defeated by George Meade's Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, PA as Lee's army is repulsed in its second invasion of the North.

  • July 4 - The six week siege of Vicksburg, MS ends with the surrender of the Confederate garrison to U. S. Grant.

  • July 9 - With the surrender of Port Hudson, LA, the entire length of the Mississippi is now under Federal control.

  • July 18 - Colonel Robert G. Shaw's 54th Massachusetts Colored Troops leads the assault on Fort Wagner, Morris Is, SC.  More than half of regiment is killed in the battle.

  • August 21 - Quantrill's Raiders killed 200 men and looted and burned the pro-union town of Lawrence, Kansas.

  • September 18-20 - The Battle of Chickamauga, GA ends with the Union troops under siege in Chattanooga, TN.

  • October 16 - President Lincoln names Ulysses S. Grant commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi with authority of all operations in the West.

  • November 19 - Lincoln gives the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg.

  • November 23-25 - The siege of Chattanooga, TN ends in a Union victory.


1864 *

  • March 12 - Ulysses S. Grant becomes commander of all United States armies and William T. Sherman becomes commander in the West.

  • April 8 - Mansfield, LA was the decisive battle of the Red River Campaign, influencing Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Bank’s to retreat back toward Alexandria.

  • April 12 - Confederate Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest capture of Fort Pillow, TN and high casualties led to accusations of massacre of the black troops. The “Fort Pillow Massacre” became a Union rallying cry and cemented resolve to see the war through to its conclusion.

  • May 4 - The Overland Campaign begins.

  • May 5-7 - Although the Battle of the Wilderness, VA was a tactical draw, Ulysses S. Grant continued his pursuit of Lee.

  • May 8-21 - Grant’s and Meade’s advance on Richmond was stalled by Lee at Spotsylvania Court House, VA in a ferocious two-week battle.

  • May 15

  • - A Confederate force of 5,000 including VMI cadets defeats General Franz Sigel's 5,000 Union troops at New Market, VA.
  • June 3-12 -At Cold Harbor, VA the Union army losses 7,000 men in the first hour.

  • June 10 - On his way to destroy Gen. William T. Sherman's supply train in Tennessee, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forest defeats Samuel Sturgis' larger Union force at Brice's Cross Roads, MS.

  • June 15-18 - Meade’s Army of the Potomac drive Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard's troops from their first line of entrenchments at Petersburg, VA II but fail to press the attack and are defeated by reinforced Confederate defenses.

  • June 27-July 1 - Joseph Johnston's 50,000 Confederates defeat William T. Sherman's 100,000 Federal troops in a failed frontal assault at Kennesaw Mountain, GA.

  • July 9 - Union troops lose the Battle of Monocacy, MD but buy time for the Union to reinforce Washington's defenses and ruin Jubal Early's attempt to capture the capital.

  • July 30 - At the Crater, VA Federal troops exploded a mine in beneath Pegram’s Salient, creating a gap in the Confederate defenses of Petersburg. Union troops who charged into the crater  were trapped and were defeated by Confederate  counterattacks led by Maj. Gen. William Mahone.

  • August 2-23 - A combined Union force led by Adm. David G. Farragut and Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger defeated Confederate troops at Fort Morgan, Fort Gaines Garrison, and Fort Powell and closed Mobile Bay, AL to blockade running.

  • August 31–September 1 - Sherman cuts Hood’s supply lines in a battle at Jonesborough, GA which forces the Confederates to abandon Atlanta.

  • September 2 - Atlanta, GA surrenders to General William T. Sherman.

  • September 19 - Maj. Gen.  Philip Sheridan won a decisive battle over Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early at Opequon, VA marked by 8,630 casualties including the deaths of several generals on both sides.

  • October 19 - Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan's victory at Cedar Creek, VA broke the back of the Confederate army in the Shenandoah Valley.

  • October 21-23 - The Union wins the Battle of Westport, MO ending organized Confederate operations in Missouri.

  • November 8 - Republican Abraham Lincoln decisively defeats Democrat George McClellan for the U.S. presidency.

  • November 16 - General William T. Sherman begins the "March to the Sea" with 62,000 troops.

  • November 30 - Gen. John B. Hood's Confederate troops are defeated at Franklin, TN by entrenched Union forces under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield.

  • December 13 - A land assault takes Fort McAllister II, GA in less than half an hour.

  • December 15-16 - John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee is defeated by Union forces under George H. Thomas at Nashville, TN.


1865 *

  • January 13-15 -  Robert E. Lee's last supply route from Europe is closed when Fort Fisher, NC falls to Union forces.

  • January 31 - The U.S. Congress passes the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in the United States.  The Amendment is ratified by the states during the year and takes effect on December 6, 1865.

  • February 6 - Robert E. Lee takes command of all of the Confederate armies.

  • March 2 - The Shenandoah Valley campaign is concluded when Philip Sheridan's Union forces defeat General Jubal Early's cavalry at Waynesboro, VA.

  • March 19-21 - William T. Sherman's forces defeat the entrenched Confederates of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston at Bentonville, NC.

  • March 25  Gen. Robert E. Lee amassed nearly half of his army in a failed  attempt to break through Grant’s Petersburg defenses by overpowering the garrison of Fort Stedman, VA.

  • April 1 - General Philip Sheridan defeats General Pickett's infantry division and Confederate cavalry at Five Forks, VA forcing Lee to abandon Petersburg and Richmond.

  • April 2 - The Confederate line is broken at Petersburg, VA III and General Lee's troops are forced to abandon Petersburg and Richmond.

  • April 2-9  - The siege and capture of Fort Blakely, AL was  the last combined-force battle of the war. African-American forces played a major role in the successful Union assault.

  • April 9 - Robert E. Lee agrees to an unconditional surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, VA.

  • April 14 - John Wilkes Booth shoots President Lincoln at Ford's Theater.  The President dies the next morning.

  • April 18 - Confederate General Joseph Johnston surrenders to General William T. Sherman in at the Bennett House in North Carolina.

  • May 10 - President Andrew Johnson declares that all armed resistance to the U.S. government has ended.

  • May 12-13 - Confederate forces under Col. John S. “Rip” Ford defeat Col. Theodore H. Barrett's combined troops at Palmito Ranch, TX in the last battle of the Civil War.

  • June 23 - Stand Watie, the only Indian who was a general in the Civil War, is the last Confederate general to surrender.

  • November 10 - Captain Henry Wirz, the superintendent of Andersonville Prison is hanged for war crimes.

  • December 18 - The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution officially abolished slavery and was ratified by the legislatures of twenty-seven of the thirty-six states.


1868 *

  • July 9 - The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution secures rights for former slaves. It includes the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses among others. The amendment provides a broad definition of United States citizenship, overturning the Dred Scott case, which excluded African Americans. It requires the states to provide equal protection under the law to all persons (not only to citizens) within their jurisdictions, and was used in the mid-20th century to dismantle legal segregation.


1870 *

  • February 3 - The Fifteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that governments in the United States may not prevent a citizen from voting based on that citizen's race, color, or previous condition of servitude (i.e. slavery).


Other Timelines *

  • Selected Civil War Photographs - Time Line of The Civil War, 1861-1865

  • CivilWar@Smithsonian - Timeline

  • The History Place - The U.S. Civil War 1861-1865

  • Chronology of the American Civil War

  • Events Leading to War - A Civil War Timeline

  • Civil War Timeline - Harper's Weekly Reports on Black America, 1857-1874

  • Chronology of Emancipation during the Civil War

  • Today in the Civil War - Events that occurred on current date

  • Timeline of Events - National Parks Service

  • Civil War Timeline - America at War

* Please click on the description to expand the outline

Revised 06/05/2008