This timeline details the main events that occurred during the American Civil War. More than 625,000 American soldiers died in the Civil War. This is more than the combined total that have died in all other wars to date! So what happened?
To protect their economy based on slave labour, seven southern states leave the United States to create their own Confederate government.
Abolitionists campaign to free all slaves, in the face of opposition from many American states. With Jefferson Davis as president for the Confederate states, war looms on the horizon.
4th March 1861
Abraham Lincoln becomes President of the United States of America.
Lincoln refuses to hand over military property to Confederate states for their new government. Confederate forces attack Fort Sumter in South Carolina. This starts the Civil War.
Four more states leave the United States during this time and join the Confederates, with the United States colloquially known as The Union during the war.
21st July 1861
The Battle of Bull Run (also known as the Battle of Manassas) takes place, which sees The Union defeated in Virginia. As a result, Washington DC is fortified for protection.
9th March 1862
Another battle – Monitor VS Virginia – sees a clash between two ironclad ships which ends in a stalemate. This also marks a new era for naval warfare.
6th April- 7th April 1862
The Battle of Shiloh takes place. The Union win their first battle in southwestern Tennessee.
One of several different female spies during the Civil War, Confederate spy Belle Boyd passes on information that helps Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s army recapture Front Royal in Virginia.
17th September 1862
The bloodiest single day of war ensues as 23,000 soldiers are declared dead, wounded or missing during the Battle of Antietam. After a Union victory, Lincoln introduces the Emancipation Proclamation, an order to free every slave in the Confederate States.
11th December – 15th December 1862
The Union’s earlier win this year is soured by one of the deadliest battles in the American Civil War, The Battle of Fredericksburg. With nearly 200,000 soldiers taking part – the greatest of any Civil War engagement – The Union suffer a disastrous loss. Over 17,000 men declared dead.
30th April – 6th May 1863
The outnumbered Confederate Army achieves a strategic win in the Battle of Chancellorsville. General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is also mortally wounded during the fighting.
May – July 1863
The Union Army is victorious as it surrounds the Mississippi town of Vicksburg.
1st July – 3rd July 1863
A huge battle in Pennsylvania, famously known as the Battle of Gettysburg, sees a turning point in the war. Confederate hopes for invading and conquering the United States is crushed during the bloodiest multi-day conflict in the history of the Civil War.
During the time of the Civil War, big riots take place in New York as the anger of working-class New Yorkers over a federal draft law spills over. Hundreds of people are killed, many more seriously injured.
19th November 1863
President Lincoln gives a famous address at the close of ceremonies at the battlefield cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Honoring a request to offer few remarks, Lincoln memorializes the Union dead and highlights their sacrifice.
More than 100 captive Union officers escape from a Confederate prison after weeks of digging a tunnel. Half are recaptured but the others manage to make it North.
At the Battle of Spotsylvania, neither side claims victory in this brutal fight in Virginia.
General Sherman and his troops seize control of the Georgian city of Atlanta.
Union General William Sherman marches from the captured city of Atlanta to the Port of Savannah, bringing destruction to Confederate States along the way.
9th April 1865
The remaining Confederate Armies give up the fight. Robert E. Lee surrenders the last major Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.
15th April 1865
At a theatre play in Washington, President Lincoln is shot dead by John Wilkes Booth, an actor intent on avenging the Confederates. Lincoln dies the next morning.
12th May – 13th May 1865
Confederate forces take place in their last battle under Colonel. John S. Ford, defeating Union forces at Palmito Ranch in Texas. However, Confederate forces in the area soon surrender to Union officials, making the last battle of the Civil War.
Published November 21st 2022 @ 06:18 pm – Updated –
Harvard Reference for American Civil War Timeline:
Greg Wheeler. (2022). American Civil War Timeline 1861-1865. https://www.thetimelinegeek.com/the-american-civil-war-timeline. Last accessed [date]