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Civil War- Historical Timeline

Updated on April 9, 2011


The American Civil war was preceded by the election of Abraham Lincoln as the 16th President of the United States of America, in 1860. His election herald the secession of eleven Southern States from the Union due to ideological differences as regards to federal powers, state powers and slavery. Constitutional dissimilarities among the state governments and race inequalities brought about disparities and the seceded Southern States came together to form the Confederate States of America, which was popularly known as the Confederacy. Abraham Lincoln supported a free and united country unto which, all the citizens were free from any form of slavery and oppression. His unwavering support for the abolishment of slavery is what led to a major fallout between the Northern and Southern States. Subsequently, these differences between the states then further degenerated into what came to be known as the American Civil war of 1861.

Chronological Timeline of the American Civil War


November 1860:                    Abraham Lincoln is elected the first Republican President of America. As he took over  the reigns of power, he made known his intentions to abolish slavery as he famously declared, “a government cannot endure half slave, half free” in reference to the then situation where African-Americans were slaves while the rest were free citizens.


December 1860:                     South Carolina becomes the first state to secede from the union of United States of America. The decision to remove South Carolina from the union was ratified by delegates at a special state convention.

January - February 1861:    The secession of South Carolina triggers the secession of six other states including Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Texas, Georgia and Louisiana. Subsequently, four more states declared their secession from the union but this came later after the civil war had already started. These states included North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia and Tennessee.

February 1861:                      The seceded Southern States also known as the Confederate States of America form a Government under the leadership of Jefferson Davis, a former US Army Officer.

March 1861:                          Abraham Lincoln is sworn in as the fourth president of The United States of America albeit without the recognition of the Confederate states. Nonetheless, the preceding administration led by President James Buchanan had declared the secessions illegal and an act of rebellion, thus he refused to hand over the Southern Forts.

April 1861:                             The first military hostilities between the Union States and The Confederate States began in April 1861 after the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter, in South Carolina under the leadership of General Pierre Beauregard. The commander of Fort Sumter, Robert Anderson had requested for provisions from the government and as President Lincoln responded to the request, the Confederate states interpreted his actions as an act of war and reacted by bombarding Fort Sumter capturing it from the Union government. This was the conception of the American Civil War.

June 1861                               A section of Virginia residents did not wish to secede with their counterparts and this led to the formation of West Virginia, which was admitted into the Union.

July 1861                                The Union suffers defeat at Bull Run, South-West Washington. This leads to the dismissal of General Irvine McDowell as he is replaced by General George B. McClellan.


November 1861                     General George B. McClellan is appointed as the Chief of General Staff of all the Union forces after the retirement of Winfield Scott.

Chronological Timeline Cotd...

January 1862 President Lincoln issues a war order authorizing the Union army to launch an aggressive attack against the confederates. However, General McClellan ignored the order and he was moved to head the army of the Potomac.

March 1862 The Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac took place during this period. The Monitor battle virtually ended in a draw but the Merrimac battle resulted to the Union losing two wooden ship to the Confederates.

April 1862 The Battle of Shiloh took place on April 1862. The Confederates battled the Union army at Shiloh, Tennessee and were almost winning but were repelled after reinforcement were called in to help the almost defeated Union Army.

June 1862 After several battles in the previous months, the Confederates attacked the North at Seven Pines in what came to be known as the Battle of the Seven Pines. They almost defeated the Union Army but reinforcements saved the Federal forces.

July 1862 This period saw a series of several battles between the North and South including Mechanicsville, Gaines's Mill, Savage's Station, Frayser's Farm and Malvern Hill. This came to be known as the Sevens Day Battle.

August 1862 The second battle of Bull Run saw the Union General John Pope suffer defeat. However, General Fitz-John Porter was held accountable for the defeat.

December 1862 The Battle of Fredericksburg saw the Union army under General Burnside suffer defeat after a series of attack from the Confederates Calvary.

January 1863 President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation during this period, declaring all slaves within the rebellion held regions as free men before the eyes of the Federal Government.

July 1863 The biggest war in the American Civil war was the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It claimed the highest casualties and was also the Civil war‘s turning point. The ravages lasted for more than four months leading to a memorial address by Lincoln known as the Gettysburg address, in honor of the fallen unionists. The battle lasted three days and it was one of the fiercest ever. The Confederates were under the leadership of General Robert Lee while Gen. George Gordon Meade led the North. The Union defeated the Confederates and this battle marked the decisive victory for the unionists.

1864-1865 Several wars took place during this period but there was no progress among the two sides. President Lincoln was re-elected during the 1864 November elections.

April 1865 General Lee surrenders his army to Gen. Ulysses signifying the end of the war. A few days later, President Lincoln is assassinated as he watches a play with his wife.

May 1865 The Nation is reunited as the civil war ends


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