Timeline of the American Civil War


November 6
Abraham Lincoln is elected the 16th president of the United States.

December 20
South Carolina secedes from the Union, soon to be followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.


January 29
Kansas become the 34th state in the Union.                                                

Delegates from the seceded states meet in Montgomery, Alabama to draw up a constitution and form the Confederate States of America. Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as president.

April 12-14
Confederate forces under General P.G.T. Beauregard fire on Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Major Robert
Anderson surrenders the fort without the loss of a single life.

Lincoln calls for 75,000 volunteers, prompting Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee to leave the Union.

Richmond is made the capital of the Confederacy.

July 21
The Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run): Confederates win the first major battle of the war, but illusions of a short war are shattered. 

November 8
Confederate commissioners James Mason and John Slidell are arrested aboard the HMS Trent sparking Confederate hopes that England would declare war on the United States.


  • Queen Victoria's Prince Consort Albert dies.
  • Daily weather forecasts begin in Great Britain.
  • Charles Dickens publishes Great Expectations.
  • George Elliot publishes Silas Marner.
  • T. S. Mort of Sydney, Australia builds the first machine-chilled storage unit.
  • Russian serfs are emancipated.
  • Wagner's opera Tannhauser cases a scandal in Paris.
  • Italy is declared a kingdom after the victory of Garibaldi.


February 6 &16
Forts Henry and Donelson fall to General Ulysses S. Grant, resulting in the Confederacy's first major losses.

March 9
The first battle between ironclad ships ends in a draw when the Monitor and the Virginia meet at Hampton Roads, Virginia.

April 6-7
Union troops gain a victory at Shiloh, Tennessee. With over 23,000 men killed, wounded, or missing, more casualties were suffered at Shiloh than in all previous American wars combined.  

April 29
New Orleans falls to Union troops.

May 5-July 1
General George B. McCellan begins his Peninsula Campaign to capture Richmond. At Seven Pines, Confederate General Joseph Johnston is wounded and Robert E. Lee is given command of the Army of Northern Virginia. After heavy fighting outside of Richmond during the Seven Days Battles, McCellan is forced to withdraw.

August 28-30
Confederates win a Second victory at Manassas.

September 17
Lee's campaign into Maryland ends in the bloodiest day of the war as both armies battle at Sharpsburg (Antietam). Lincoln, with the victory for which he has been waiting, announces plans to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

October 3-4
Union troops win the battle for Corinth, Mississippi.

December 13
The Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia is a Confederate victory.

December 31
Lincoln signs a bill approving the creation of West Virginia


January 1
Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, which frees slaves in states in rebellion to the United States.

May 2-3
The Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia: Although a Confederate victory, the South mourns the loss of Stonewall Jackson, who is mortally wounded.

May 22
Grant lays siege to Vicksburg, Mississippi.

June 30
The first U.S. Colored Troops are mustered into service.

July 1-3
The Battle of Gettysburg becomes the largest battle fought on American soil with over 51,000 casualties. Lee loses a third of his army and is forced to retreat back across the Potomac.

July 4
Vicksburg falls to Grant. With the Union in control of the Mississippi, the Confederacy is split in half.

September 19-20
Confederates win a victory at the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia

November 24-25
Union troops win a victory in the Battle of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.


February 17
The Hunley sinks the USS Housatonic, becoming the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel.

March 9
Grant is confirmed lieutenant general and commander of all U.S. forces.

Bloody battles are fought in the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania, and at Cold Harbor as Lee attempts to keep Grant from taking Richmond.

May 11
JEB Stuart is mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern.

June 18
Grant lays siege to Petersburg, Virginia.

September 2
General William T. Sherman occupies Atlanta, Georgia after General John Bell Hood is forced to evacuate.

November 8
Lincoln is re-elected.

December 16
Hood retreats into Mississippi after his army is decimated in the battles of Franklin and Nashville.

December 22
Sherman occupies Savannah.


February 17
Columbia, South Carolina falls to Sherman's troops and is burned.

March 13
The Confederate Congress authorizes the use of slaves as troops.

April 2
Lee is forced to abandon Petersburg after the Union army breaks though his lines. The Confederate government flees Richmond, which is occupied by Union troops the next day.

April 9
Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

April 14
Lincoln is assassinated at Ford's Theatre.

May 10
Jefferson Davis and his family are captured outside of Irwinville, Georgia.

December 18
The Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery is adopted.