Civil War Timeline

Greyscale political cartoon from 1860 showing four men tearing apart a map of the United States.
A political cartoon from 1860 shows the four candidates, from left, Lincoln, Douglas, Breckenridge, and Bell tearing apart the United States.

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November 6, 1860- The American people elect Abraham Lincoln as sixteenth president of the United States. Lincoln is the first Republican president in the nation and represents a party that opposes the spread of slavery into the territories of the United States.

December 17, 1860- The first state Secession Convention meets in Columbia, South Carolina.

December 20, 1860- South Carolina secedes from the United States.

Color illustration of cannons flying in arcs over the ocean to a stone fort.
On April l12, 1861 Confederates in South Carolina fired on Fort Sumter, starting the American Civil War.

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January 1861- Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas secede from the United States.

February 4, 1861- The southern states that had seceded assemble delegates at Montgomery, Alabama to organize the Confederate States of America. The delegates are tasked with drafting a Confederate Constitution and establishing a provisional government.

February 18, 1861- The delegates at the Montgomery Convention appoint Jefferson Davis as provisional President of the Confederate States of America at Montgomery, Alabama, a position he will hold until elections can be arranged.

March 4, 1861- Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as the sixteenth president of the United States in Washington, DC.

March 11, 1861- Confederate delegates in Montgomery approve the Constitution of the Confederate States of America.

April 12, 1861- Confederate forces fire upon Fort Sumter, South Carolina. The Civil War formally begins.

April 15, 1861- President Lincoln issues a public declaration that an insurrection exists and calls for 75,000 militia to stop the rebellion. As a result of this call for volunteers, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee secede from the Union in the following weeks. Lincoln will respond on May 3 with an additional call for 43,000+ volunteers to serve for three years, expanding the size of the Regular Army.

May 24, 1861- United States forces cross the Potomac River and occupy Arlington Heights, the home of future Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It is during the occupation of nearby Alexandria that Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, commander of the 11th New York Infantry and a close friend of the Lincolns, is shot dead by the owner of the Marshall House just after removing a Confederate flag from its roof. Ellsworth is the first US officer killed in the war.

Late May, 1861- Richmond becomes the capitol of the Confederacy. Richmond was the Confederacy's second largest and most industrialized city.

June 3, 1861- A skirmish near Philippi in western Virginia, is the first clash of United States and Confederate forces in the east.

June 10, 1861- Battle of Big Bethel, the first land battle of the war in Virginia.

June 20, 1861- At the culmination of the Wheeling Convention, the northwestern counties of Virginia broke away from that state to form West Virginia. West Virginia will be officially designated and accepted as the 35th state of the Union on June 20, 1863.

July 21, 1861- The Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas), is fought near Manassas, Virginia. The Union Army under General Irwin McDowell initially succeeds in driving back Confederate forces under General Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard, but the arrival of troops under General Joseph E. Johnston initiates a series of reverses that sends McDowell's army in a panicked retreat to the defenses of Washington.

July 1861- To thwart the Confederate threat in northern Virginia, a series of earthworks and forts are engineered to surround the City of Washington, adding to protection already offered by active posts such as Fort Washington on the Potomac River.

August 6, 1861- US Congress passes and President Lincoln signs the Confiscation Act of 1861. This act permits court proceedings for the confiscation of property, including enslaved people, used to support the Confederacy.

August 10, 1861- At the Battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri the United States Army under General Nathaniel Lyon attacks Confederate troops and state militia southwest of Springfield, Missouri. After a disastrous day that included the death of Lyon, Confederate forces repel the Federal attack. The defeat emphasizes to US leaders the strong Confederate presence west of the Mississippi River.

August 28-29, 1861- Fort Hatteras at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, falls to United States naval forces. This begins the first Federal efforts to close Southern ports along the Carolina coast.

September 20, 1861- Lexington, Missouri falls to Confederate forces under Sterling Price.

October 21, 1861- Battle of Ball's Bluff, Virginia. Colonel Edward D. Baker, senator from Oregon and a friend of President Lincoln, led troops across the Potomac River only to be forced back to the river's edge where he was killed. The ensuing Union withdrawal turned into a rout with many soldiers drowning while trying to re-cross the icy waters of the Potomac River.

November 1, 1861- President Lincoln appoints General George B. McClellan as General-in-Chief of all United States armies.

Historical black and white photograph of a group of Black people, including men on horses and a woman on a wagon pulled by oxen crossing a low river while watched by white US soldier.
In the summer of 1862, enslaved people crossed into Federal lines seeking freedom. Over the course of the Civil War, US policy and war aims evolved, ultimately to include the abolition of slavery.

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January 19, 1862- Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky. This Federal victory weakened the Confederate hold on the state.

February 6, 1862- Surrender of Fort Henry, Tennessee. The loss of this southern fort on the Tennessee River opened the door to Federal control of the river.

February 8, 1862- Battle of Roanoke Island, North Carolina. A Confederate defeat, the battle resulted in US occupation of eastern North Carolina and control of Pamlico Sound, to be used as Northern base for further operations against the southern coast.

February 16, 1862- Surrender of Fort Donelson, Tennessee. This critical fort on the Cumberland River left the river in Federal control. It was here that US General Ulysses S. Grant gained his nickname "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.

February 22, 1862- Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as President of the Confederate States of America.

March 7-8, 1862- Battle of Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern), Arkansas. The US victory here loosened the Confederate hold on Missouri and disrupted southern control of a portion of the Mississippi River.

March 8-9, 1862- The Battle of Hampton Roads pits USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (the old USS Merrimack), the first ironclads, against one another off the Virginia coast. On March 8, the CSS Virginia destroys two wooden-hulled Federal ships. On March 9, the USS Monitor arrived and the two ironclads fought for hours, neither inflicting much damage on the other.

April 6-7, 1862- The Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing), the first major battle in Tennessee. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, a veteran of the Texas War of Independence and the War with Mexico considered to be one of the finest officers in the Confederacy, is killed on the first day of fighting. The Federal victory further secures the career of US General Ulysses S. Grant.

April 24-25, 1862- A Federal fleet of gunships under Admiral David Farragut passes Confederate forts guarding the mouth of the Mississippi River. On April 25, the fleet arrived at New Orleans where they demanded the surrender of the city. Within two days the forts fall to Federal forces and the mouth of the great river is under United States control.

May 25, 1862- First Battle of Winchester, Virginia. After two weeks of maneuvering and battles at Cross Keys and Front Royal, Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson attacks US forces at Winchester and successfully drives them from the city. The victory is the culmination of his 1862 Valley Campaign.

May 31-June 1, 1862- The Battle of Seven Pines near Richmond, Virginia. General Joseph Johnston, commander of the Confederate army in Virginia is wounded and replaced by Robert E. Lee who renames his command the "Army of Northern Virginia".

June 6, 1862- Battle of Memphis, Tennessee. A US flotilla under Commodore Charles Davis successfully defeats a Confederate river force on the Mississippi River near the city and Memphis surrenders. The Mississippi River is now in Federal control except for its course west of Mississippi where the city of Vicksburg stands as the last Confederate stronghold on the great river.

June 25-July 1, 1862- The Seven Days' Battles before Richmond. General Lee's army attacks the US Army of the Potomac under General George McClellan in a succession of battles beginning at Mechanicsville on June 26 and ending at Malvern Hill on July 1.

July 17, 1862- President Lincoln approves the Confiscation Act of 1862, or Second Confiscation Act. This act expands the terms of the previous Confiscation Act, allows broader seizure of Confederate property, the emancipation of enslaved people in Federally occupied territory, and prohibits the return of fugitive slaves.

August 30-31, 1862- The Battle of Second Bull Run (or Second Manassas) is fought on the same ground where one year before, the United States army was defeated and sent reeling in retreat to Washington. Likewise, the result of this battle is a US defeat.

September 17, 1862- The Battle of Antietam (or Sharpsburg), Maryland, the bloodiest single day of the Civil War. The result of the battle ends Confederate General Lee's first invasion of the North.

September 22, 1862- Following the US victory at Antietam, President Lincoln introduces the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which announced Lincoln's intention to declare all enslaved people free on January 1, 1863 if those places remained in rebellion at that time.

December 11-15, 1862- The Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, under General Lee, wins a lopsided victory over the US Army of the Potomac, under General Ambrose Burnside, after Federal forces conducted a risky river crossing in an attempt to win a victory on Confederate soil before the release of Emancipation Proclamation.

December 24, 1862- Jefferson Davis writes an order declaring US General Benjamin Butler to be an outlaw for his treatment of the civilians of New Orleans. Included in this proclamation is a statement that Lincoln's upcoming Emancipation Proclamation is designed to "excite servile war" and that any black US soldiers or their white officers are to be sent to the individual states instead of being treated as prisoners of war.

December 31-January 3, 1863- Battle of Stones River, Tennessee. Fought between the US Army of the Cumberland under General William Rosecrans and the Confederate Army of Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg, the costly Federal victory frees middle Tennessee from Confederate control and boosts Northern morale.

Historical black and white photograph of flat, open field with scattered dead bodies.
As casualties mounted, battlefield photography displayed the awful spectacle of battle to an American public that had largely romanticized war at the beginning of the conflict.

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January 1, 1863- The Emancipation Proclamation goes into effect. The Emancipation Proclamation was a war measure that declared enslaved people in rebelling states to be free, authorized the enlistment of black troops, and outraged white Southerners. The proclamation was an important turning point in the war for the United States and in the eventual shift from the goal of restoring the Union as it was, to building a better Union without slavery.

March 3, 1863- Conscription, or the drafting of soldiers into military service, begins in the North. It had begun in the Confederacy the year before.

April 1863- Federal forces in the east begin a new campaign in Virginia to flank Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Fredericksburg. In the west, a Federal army has begun a campaign to surround and take Vicksburg, Mississippi, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River.

April 30-May 6, 1863- Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia. US General Joseph Hooker's plan to flank Lee falls apart and Union forces retreat. Lee's victory at Chancellorsville is marred by high casualties, including the mortal wounding of "Stonewall" Jackson, who dies on May 10. Soon after, Lee asks Jefferson Davis for permission to invade the North and take the war out of Virginia.

May 1, 1863- The Confederate Congress passes a Retaliatory Act in line Jefferson Davis' earlier proclamation and in response to the Emancipation Proclamation. The act establishes that the Confederacy considers the enlistment of black troops to be the equivalent of inciting a servile rebellion, white officers of black troops are to be executed, and black troops taken prisoner are to be sent to the states, where they could be executed or re-enslaved.

May 18, 1863- Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi begins. US forces under General Ulysses S. Grant attack Confederate defenses outside the city on May 19-22. If Vicksburg falls, the Mississippi River will be completely controlled by the United States.

May 22, 1863- The US War Department issues General Order No. 143 establishes the United States Colored Troops.

June 9, 1863- Battle of Brandy Station, Virginia. US cavalry forces cross the Rapidan River to attack General J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry and discover that Lee's men are moving west toward the Shenandoah Valley. The largest cavalry battle of the Civil War, it also marks the beginning of the Gettysburg Campaign. Meanwhile, the Federal assault on Vicksburg, Mississippi has become a siege of the city where soldiers and civilians alike suffer from constant bombardment.

June 14-15, 1863- Battle of Second Winchester, Virginia. Confederate troops under General Richard Ewell defeat Union troops under General Robert Milroy, clearing the Shenandoah Valley of Federal forces.

June 28, 1863- The Gettysburg Campaign continues. Confederates pass through York and reach the bridge over the Susquehanna River at Columbia, but Federal militia set fire to the bridge, denying access to the east shore. Confederate cavalry skirmishes with Federal militia near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

July 1-3- Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The bloodiest battle of the Civil War dashes Robert E. Lee's hopes for a successful invasion of the North.

July 4- Vicksburg, Mississippi, surrenders to the US Army under Grant. The capture of Vicksburg gives the Unites States complete control of the Mississippi River, a vital supply line for the Confederate states in the west. At Gettysburg, Lee begins his retreat to Virginia.

July 10-11, 1863- US naval and land forces attack Confederate defenses near Charleston, South Carolina. Among the United States troops is the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry, the first African American regiment of volunteers to see combat in the Civil War.

July 13, 1863- Draft Riots begin in New York City and elsewhere as disgruntled workers and laborers, seething over the draft system that seemingly favors the rich, attack the draft office and African American churches. The riots continue through July 16.

July 13-14, 1863- Near Falling Waters, Maryland, US troops skirmish with Lee's rearguard. That night the Army of Northern Virginia crosses the Potomac River and the Gettysburg Campaign ends.

July 18, 1863- Second Assault on Battery Wagner, South Carolina. Leading the US infantry charge is the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry commanded by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who is killed and buried with the dead of his regiment.

July 30, 1863- Lincoln issues General Order 252 in response to the Confederate refusal to treat black soldiers the same as white soldiers. General Order 252 declares that for any US prisoner killed in violation of the laws of war, a Confederate prisoner would be killed in exchange. The prisoner exchange system effectually suspended.

August 21, 1863- Sacking of Lawrence, Kansas. In a murderous daylight raid, Confederate and Missouri guerillas under William Clarke Quantrill storm into Lawrence and destroy most of the town. Approximately 150 men and boys are murdered by Quantrill's men.

September 9, 1863- Chattanooga, Tennessee, is occupied by Federal forces under General William Rosecrans whose Army of the Cumberland will soon invade northern Georgia.

September 19-20, 1863- The Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia. The US Army of the Cumberland under General William Rosecrans is defeated and nearly routed by the Confederate Army of Tennessee commanded by General Braxton Bragg. Rosecrans' army retreats to the supply base at Chattanooga, Tennessee.

September-November 1863- The Siege of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Confederate forces under Braxton Bragg surround the occupied city. General Ulysses S. Grant is assigned to command the troops there and begins immediate plans to relieve the besieged US Army.

October 5, 1863- Outside of Charleston Harbor, the Confederate David, a partially submerged, steam powered vessel, attacked the New Ironsides, part of the US fleet blockading the harbor, with a torpedo. Both ships survived the attack, though the commander of the David and one of his crew were captured.

October 9 -22, 1863- Bristoe Station Campaign. In a feint toward Washington, Lee's Army of the Northern Virginia marches into northern Virginia in an attempt to flank the Army of the Potomac, under General Meade. Lee successfully outmaneuvers Meade though fails to bring him to battle or catch him in the open. An engagement at Bristoe Station, Virginia, on October 14 gives the campaign its name.

November 19, 1863- Dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg. President Abraham Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address.

November 23-25, 1863- Battles for Chattanooga. US forces break the Confederate siege of the city in successive attacks. The most notable event is the storming of Lookout Mountain on November 24 and Battle of Missionary Ridge the following day. The decisive Federal victory sends the Confederate Army south into Georgia where General Bragg reorganizes his forces before resigning from command on November 30.

November 26-December 1, 1863- The Mine Run Campaign. US General Meade's Army of the Potomac marches against Confederate General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia south of the Rapidan River, east of Orange Court House. Lee reacts and throws up a line of defenses along the banks of Mine Run Creek. After several days of probing the defenses, Meade withdraws north of the Rapidan and goes into winter quarters.

November 27 to December 3, 1863- Siege of Knoxville, Tennessee. Confederate troops under General James Longstreet lay siege to the city of Knoxville held by Federal forces under General Ambrose Burnside. Longstreet finally attacks on November 30 but is repulsed with heavy losses. The arrival of US reinforcements forces him to withdraw to Greeneville, Tennessee, where his corps will spend the winter.

December 8, 1863- Lincoln Issues his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which would pardon those who participated in the "existing rebellion" if they take an oath to the United States.

Historical black and white photograph of US General Ulysses S. Grant, standing, with his military staff, all seated in front of a tent.
With the pressure of an election looming, in March of 1864, Lincoln appointed General Ulysses S. Grant to be commander of all the US armies. The war was far from decided and the fate of the Union was still uncertain.

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February 9, 1864- Escape from Libby Prison, Richmond. After weeks of digging, 109 United States officers made their escape from the notorious Libby Prison, the largest and most sensational escape of the war. Though 48 of the escapees were later captured and two drowned, 59 were able to make their way into US lines.

February 27, 1864- In Georgia, Camp Sumter Prison Camp opens. Universally referred to as Andersonville Prison Camp, it will become notorious for overcrowded conditions and a high death rate among its inmates.

February 14-20, 1864- Federal capture and occupation of Meridian, Mississippi. Federal forces under William T. Sherman enter the city of Meridian, Mississippi after a successful month of campaigning through the central part of the state. The capture of this important Southern town, well known for its industry and storage capabilities, severely hampers the efforts of Confederate commanders to sustain their armies in the Deep South, Georgia and west of the Mississippi River.

February 17, 1864- First successful submarine attack of the Civil War. The CSS H.L. Hunley, a seven-man submergible craft, attacked the USS Housatonic outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Struck by the submarine's torpedo, the Housatonic broke apart and sank, taking all but five of her crew with her. Likewise, the Hunley was also lost and never heard from again until discovered in 1995 at the spot where it sank after the attack.

March 2, 1864- US General Ulysses S. Grant is appointed lieutenant general, a rank revived at the request of President Lincoln. Grant assumes command of all United States Armies in the field the following day.

March 10, 1864- The Red River Campaign begins. As part of an overall Federal strategy to strike deep into various parts of the Confederacy, a combined force of army and navy commands under General Nathaniel Banks begins a campaign on the Red River in Louisiana.

April 8, 1864- Battle of Sabine Crossroads or Mansfield, Louisiana, the first major battle of the Red River Campaign in Louisiana.

April 9, 1864- Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana. The United States Army under Banks defeats the attempt by Confederate forces under General Richard Taylor to drive them out of Louisiana. The result of the campaign would be less than desired as it drew to a close in the first week of May with Confederates still in control of most of the state.

April 12, 1864- Capture of Fort Pillow, Tennessee. After a rapid raid through central and western Tennessee, Confederate cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest attacked and overwhelmed the Federal garrison at Fort Pillow, located on the Mississippi River. Forrest's troops murdered nearly 300 United States soldiers after they had surrendered, most of whom were African American. Congress investigated the affair and while Confederate authorities denied any wrongdoing, the events at Fort Pillow cast a pall over Forrest's reputation and remained an emotional issue throughout the remainder of the war and after.

April 17, 1864- Grant forbids prisoner exchange talks to progress unless Confederate authorities agree to treat black soldiers the same as white and until Confederates release enough US soldiers to make up for the large number of Confederates paroled at Vicksburg and Port Hudson.

May 5-6, 1864- Battle of the Wilderness, Virginia, the opening battle of the Overland Campaign. US General Ulysses S. Grant, accompanying the Army of the Potomac under General Meade, issued orders for the campaign to begin on May 3. Lee responded by attacking the Federal column in the dense woods and underbrush of an area known as the Wilderness, west of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

May 7, 1864- Beginning of the Atlanta Campaign. With three US Armies under his command, General William T. Sherman marched south from Tennessee into Georgia against the Confederate Army of Tennessee under General Joseph Johnston, the objective being the city of Atlanta.

May 8-21, 1864- Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia. Lee successfully stalls Grant's drive toward Richmond.

May 11, 1864- Battle of Yellow Tavern. Six miles north of Richmond, Confederate cavalry under General J.E.B. Stuart block Federal cavalry under General Philip Sheridan. General Stuart was mortally wounded during the encounter.

May 14-15, 1864- Battle of Resaca, Georgia. General Sherman's armies are blocked at Resaca by General Johnston's Army of Tennessee. After two days of maneuvering and intense fighting, Johnston withdraws. Sherman will advance but take precautions against ordering any further massed assaults where high casualties may occur.

June 1-3, 1864- Battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia. Relentless and bloody US attacks fail to dislodge Lee's army from its strong line of defensive works northeast of Richmond.

June 8, 1864- Abraham Lincoln is nominated for a second term as president.

June 10, 1864- Battle of Brice's Crossroads, Mississippi- In spite of being outnumbered almost two to one, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest attacks and routs the Federal command under General Samuel Sturgis.

June 15-18, 1864- Assault on Petersburg, Virginia. After withdrawing from the lines at Cold Harbor, the Army of the Potomac crossed the James River and with troops from the Army of the James attacked the outer defenses of Petersburg, the primary junction for several southern railroads. After four days of bloody attacks, Grant accepts that only a siege can systematically isolate the city and cut off Confederate supplies to the capital of Richmond.

June 19, 1864- The USS Kearsarge sinks the Confederate raider CSS Alabama near Cherbourg, France.

June 27, 1864- Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia. After weeks of maneuvering and battles, Sherman's Army of the Cumberland and Army of the Tennessee smash headlong into Johnston's carefully planned defenses at Big and Little Kennesaw. Johnston remains on this line until July 2, when he retreats at the threat being flanked by Sherman's mobile force.

July 9, 1864- Battle of Monocacy, Maryland. In an attempt to draw Federal troops away from the ongoing siege of Petersburg and Richmond, a Confederate force under Jubal Early quietly moved north into Maryland. Early had made excellent progress until he reached Frederick, Maryland, where a force of 6,000 Federal troops under General Lew Wallace, was arrayed to delay his advance. Though the battle was a US defeat, it was also touted as "the battle that saved Washington" for it succeeded in holding back Early's march until troops could be sent to the capital's defense.

July 11-12, 1864- Attack on the Defenses of Washington. Jubal Early's troops arrive on the outskirts of Washington, DC, and trade cannon fire with a token Federal force remaining in the forts around the city. President Lincoln observes the skirmishing from Fort Stevens as reinforcements from the Army of the Potomac arrive and quickly fill in the works. Early withdraws that evening.

July 14-15, 1864- Battles near Tupelo, Mississippi. The US defeat of Nathan Bedford Forrest secured the supply lines to Sherman's armies operating against Atlanta, Georgia.

July 17, 1864- General John Bell Hood replaces General Joseph Johnston as commander of the Army of Tennessee. This change in command signals a new Confederate strategy to thwart Sherman's campaign, though the end result will be disastrous for the Confederate cause.

July 20, 1864- Battle of Peachtree Creek, Georgia, the first major battle around the city of Atlanta. General Hood sends his army out of the city's defenses to attack the approaching Federal troops under George Thomas. After several hours of fierce fighting, Hood withdrew back to his own defensive works.

July 21, 1864- The Battle of Atlanta. Hood's second effort to throw back Federal forces under Sherman brings him heavy casualties with no positive results. General James McPherson, commander of the US Army of the Tennessee, is killed during the fighting.

July 30, 1864- The Battle of the Crater at Petersburg, Virginia. After a month of tunneling by soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry, a Federal forces explode a massive mine under a Confederate fort in the Petersburg siege lines. The infantry charge that followed was poorly coordinated and by day's end, Confederate counterattacks had driven out the US troops and the siege lines remained unchanged.

August 5, 1864- Battle of Mobile Bay. A US fleet under Admiral David Farragut steamed into Mobile Bay outside the city of Mobile, Alabama, defended by two strong forts and a small southern flotilla, including the formidable ironclad CSS Tennessee. Farragut's ships defeated the Confederate ships and bypassed the forts, capturing the important Southern port.

August 18-19, 1864- Battles on the Weldon Railroad near Petersburg, Virginia. US attempts to capture this important railroad into Petersburg were stopped by Confederate counterattacks. Despite Confederate efforts, the US remained in firm possession of their gains and the railroad.

August 25, 1864- Battle of Ream's Station, near Petersburg, Virginia. A surprise Confederate counterattack briefly stopped Federal destruction of the Weldon Railroad near Ream's Station, though failed to release the Federal grip on this important supply line into Petersburg.

August 31- September 1, 1864- Battle of Jonesborough, Georgia. The final Confederate counterattack against United States troops outside the city of Atlanta fails.

September 1, 1864- Fall of Atlanta, Georgia. Confederate troops under General Hood evacuate the city of Atlanta. General Sherman's army occupies the city and its defenses the following day.

September 19, 1864- Third Battle of Winchester, Virginia. US forces under General Philip Sheridan attacked the Confederate army under Jubal Early near the city of Winchester and drove them southward, up the Shenandoah Valley.

September 22, 1864- Battle of Fisher's Hill, Virginia. The US Army of the Shenandoah under General Philip Sheridan attacked Jubal Early's Confederates near Fisher's Hill, overpowering the Confederates and again forcing them to flee the battlefield. United States officers and officials in Washington believe this to be the final battle in the Shenandoah Valley.

September 29-30, 1864- Battle of Fort Harrison near Richmond, Virginia. In a sweeping assault, the Confederate stronghold known as Fort Harrison falls to the Army of the James. Confederate efforts to retake the fort fail.

October 19, 1864- The Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia. In an early morning surprise attack, Jubal Early's Confederates successfully attack and drive troops of the Army of the Shenandoah from their camps on the banks of Cedar Creek south of Middletown, Virginia. Hearing the fight from his headquarters at Winchester, General Philip Sheridan rides southward, rallying dispirited troops who return to the battlefield. By day's end, Early's forces are put to flight. Despite several attempts to disrupt the US advance in the coming weeks, the struggle for control of the Shenandoah Valley is over.

November 8, 1864- Abraham Lincoln is reelected president of the United States.

November 16, 1864- General Sherman's Army of Georgia begins the March to the Sea.

November 30, 1864- Battle of Franklin, Tennessee. After a month of raiding Sherman's supply lines and attacking Federal outposts, John Bell Hood's army confronts US troops from General John Schofield's command, who they had encountered the day before near Spring Hill, Tennessee. A massive frontal assault on the well entrenched Federal line meets with disaster. Despite some taking of outside works and defenses, the toll for Hood's forces is too heavy including the loss of six of his generals. US troops retreat in the direction of Nashville.

December 10, 1864- Harassed only by scattered Georgia militia, Sherman's Army of Georgia arrives at Savannah, Georgia, completing the famous March to the Sea. At Savannah, his troops will take Fort McAllister and force Confederate defenders to evacuate the city.

December 15-16, 1864- The Battle of Nashville, Tennessee. The Confederate Army under John Bell Hood is thoroughly defeated and the threat to Tennessee ends.

Colored illustration of orderly lines of United States soldiers, on foot and on horseback passing a crown with American flags lining the walkways.
The Grand Review in May 1865 celebrated the United States victory on the Civil War and the reunification of the nation. The future of the new United States, especially in the wake of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, was anything but clear.

Library of Congress


January 15, 1865- Assault and capture of Fort Fisher, North Carolina. United States occupation of this fort at the mouth of the Cape Fear River closes access to Wilmington, the last Southern seaport on the east coast that was open to blockade runners and commercial shipping.

February 1, 1865- Sherman's Army leaves Savannah to march through the Carolinas.

February 17, 1865- Sherman's Army captures Columbia, South Carolina while Confederate defenders evacuate Charleston, South Carolina.

February 22, 1865- Wilmington, NC, falls to Federal troops, closing the last important Southern port on the east coast. On this same day, Joseph E. Johnston is restored to command the nearly shattered Army of the Tennessee, vice John B. Hood who resigned a month earlier.

March 4, 1865- President Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated for his second term as president in Washington, DC.

March 11, 1865- Sherman's Army occupies Fayetteville, North Carolina.

March 16 and 19-21, 1865- The Battles of Averasborough and Bentonville, North Carolina. Sherman's army is stalled in its drive northward from Fayetteville but succeeds in passing around the Confederate forces toward its object of Raleigh.

March 25, 1865- Attack on Fort Stedman, Petersburg, Virginia. Touted as "Lee's last offensive," Confederate troops under General John B. Gordon attack and briefly capture the Federal fort in the Petersburg siege lines in an attempt to thwart US plans for a late March assault. By day's end, the Confederates will be thrown out and the lines remain unchanged.

April 1, 1865- The Battle of Five Forks, Virginia. The Confederate defeat at Five Forks initiates General Lee's decision to abandon the Petersburg-Richmond siege lines.

April 2, 1865- The Fall of Petersburg and Richmond. General Lee abandons both cities and moves his army west in hopes of joining Confederate forces under General Johnston in North Carolina.

April 3, 1865- US troops occupy Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia.

April 6, 1865- The Battle of Sailor's Creek, Virginia. A portion of Lee's Army, almost one-third of it, is cornered along the banks of Sailor's (or "Saylor's") Creek and annihilated.

April 9, 1865- Battle of Appomattox Court House and Surrender, Appomattox Court House, Virginia. After an early morning attempt to break through Federal forces blocking the route west to Danville, Virginia, Lee seeks an audience with General Grant to discuss terms. That afternoon in the parlor of Wilmer McLean, Lee signs the document of surrender. On April 12, the Army of Northern Virginia formally surrenders and is disbanded.

April 14, 1865- President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated by actor John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater in Washington, DC. On the same day, Fort Sumter, South Carolina is re-occupied by US troops.

April 15, 1865- Vice President Andrew Johnson is sworn in as 17th President of the United States.

April 26, 1865- General Joseph Johnston signs the surrender document for the Confederate Army of the Tennessee and miscellaneous Confederate troops attached to his command at Bennett's Place near Durham, North Carolina.

May 4, 1865- General Richard Taylor surrenders Confederate forces in the Department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana.

May 10, 1865- Confederate President Jefferson Davis is captured near Irwinville, Georgia.

May 12, 1865- The final battle of the Civil War takes place at Palmito Ranch, Texas. It is a Confederate victory.

May 23, 1865- The Grand Review of the Army of the Potomac in Washington, DC.

May 24, 1865- The Grand Review of General Sherman's Army in Washington, DC.

May 26, 1865- General Simon Bolivar Buckner agrees to terms of surrender of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi, which are agreed to on June 2, 1865. With this surrender of the last large Confederate army, the Civil War officially ends. (Confederate Brigadier General Stand Waite did not surrender until June 23, and one Confederate ship, the CSS Shenandoah, docked in Liverpool and surrendered to the Royal Navy on November 6, 1865.)

Last updated: October 6, 2022

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