American Civil War Timeline:

1787 Northwest Ordinance bans slavery in the Northwest Territory; makes Ohio River the boundary between free and slave territory between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. Mason and Dixon line remains the dividing line in east.
1790 Slave population in Federal Census: 698,000
1798 The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions are secretly written by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and are passed by the two states. It claims that the states can negate federal laws; the theme reappears in the nullification debates after 1828.
1801 Gabriel Plot frightens whites in Virginia who believe there was a plot for a slave uprising
1804 New Jersey enacts gradual abolition of slavery; all northern states have now put slavery on the path to extinction
1808 Congress outlaws the international slave trade. It becomes illegal to import a slave into the United States from abroad, or to export one. However, thousands of slaves are smuggled into the southern US.
1816 American Colonization Society formed to send freed slaves to Liberia. About 12,000 are sent. Society led by James Monroe, Henry Clay and other prominent slave owners
1820 Slave population in Census: 1,538,000
1820 Missouri Compromise admits Maine as a free state, and Missouri as slave state, but restricts any more slavery north of 36° 30' line. Abrogated by Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.
1822 Vesey Plot frightens whites in South Carolina, who believe there was a plot for a slave uprising
1828 Calhoun's South Carolina Exposition and Protest outlines nullification doctrine. Calhoun threatens secession over tariffs. Calhoun also objected to the use of taxes and tariffs collected in one state being used for internal improvements to another state.
1829 David Walker publishes Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World calling on slaves to revolt.
1830 Daniel Webster delivers a memorable Reply to Hayne, denouncing the notion that Americans must choose between liberty and union. "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!" he cries.
  • William Lloyd Garrison begins publishing The Liberator; abolitionism takes a radical and religious turn and demands immediate emancipation
  • Nat Turner leads a slave revolt in Southampton County, Virginia.
  • Responding to new Christian sensibilities, the rising importance of slave labor in the Southern cotton economy, the Nat Turner uprising, and the rise of abolitionism, Southern defenders of slavery start seeing it not as a "necessary evil," but a "positive good."
1832 President Andrew Jackson threatens force to end threats of secession in South Carolina caused by the Nullification Crisis.
  • The Compromise Tariff of 1833 ends the Nullification crisis.
  • The abolitionist American Anti-Slavery Society is founded.
  • Anti-Slavery "debates" are held at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio.
1836 In response to petition campaigns, the U.S. House of Representatives adopts a gag rule, by which all antislavery petitions presented to the House would be immediately tabled, without discussion. John Quincy Adams leads an eight year battle against the gag rule, arguing that the Slave Power, as a political interest, threatens constitutional rights.
1837 Mob kills abolitionist and anti-Catholic editor Elijah P. Lovejoy in Alton, Illinois;
1839 Slaves revolt on the Amistad; after a highly publicized court case, the slaves are given their freedom and most return to Africa.
1840 Slave population in Census: 2,487,000
1844 The Methodist Episcopal Church, South breaks away from Methodist Episcopal Church on issue of slavery.
1845 The Southern Baptist Convention breaks off from the Northern Baptists; does not formally endorse slavery.
1845 Frederick Douglass publishes his first autobiography.
1845 Texas Annexation denounced by anti-slavery forces as evil expansion of slave territory. Whigs defeat annexation treaty but annexation is accomplished with by a majority vote.
1846 James D.B. DeBow establishes DeBow's Review, the leading Southern magazine; warns against depending on the North economically. DeBow's Review emerges as the leading voice for secession. DeBow emphasizes the South's economic underdevelopment, relating it to the concentration of manufacturing, shipping, banking, and international trade in the North.
1846 Oregon Treaty ends Oregon boundary dispute, defines final western segment of Canada – United States border and ends war scare with Great Britain. Northern Democrats complain Polk Administration backed down on Fifty-four forty or fight and sacrificed Northern expansion.
1846 Mexican War starts when Polk Administration deploys Army to disputed Texas territory resulting in Mexican attack. Whigs denounce war; antislavery critics charge war is a pretext for gaining more slave territory. U.S. Army quickly captures New Mexico. Northern representatives pass Wilmot Proviso to ban slavery in territory to be captured, but South blocks it in Senate. Proposal to extend Missouri Compromise line and other compromises fail.
  • Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo confirms U.S. possession of California and New Mexico. Attempts to attach Wilmot Proviso to treaty fail.
  • Radical New York Democrats and anti-slavery Whigs form the Free-Soil party. It names Martin Van Buren for president and demands Wilmot Proviso. Emphasizes fear that rich planters will buy up the good farmlands and squeeze out white yeomen farmers.
1849 General Zachary Taylor elected President after keeping views on slavery in Southwest secret during campaign, then reveals plan to admit California and New Mexico as free states covering entire Southwest and excluding creation of territories subject to slavery controversy. Taylor warns South that rebellion will be met with force.
1849 California Gold Rush suddenly populates Northern California with Northern and immigrant settlers outnumbering Southerners; state constitutional convention unanimously rejects slavery.
1850 Texas, supported by South, demands land in New Mexico. Controversy over slavery on Southwest ended by five-point Compromise of 1850, proposed by Henry Clay and brokered by Stephen A. Douglas. Southern California becomes part of a free state, and eastern New Mexico and other northern Texas claims become not part of a slave state. South is compensated with Texas debt relief, stiffened Fugitive Slave Law, and popular sovereignty theoretically allowing slavery in New Mexico Territory and Utah Territory. Slavery is retained in District of Columbia but slave trade banned. Southern Unionists prevail this time as secessionists lose momentum, but South declares no further concessions to North will be tolerated. Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 turns out to offend Northerners; then Southerners angered by Northern resistance to enforcement.
1851 Southern Unionists in several states defeat secession measures; Mississippi's convention denies the existence of the right to secession.
  • George Fitzhugh's The Pro-Slavery Argument is published.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom's Cabin. A forceful indictment of slavery, the novel sells 500,000 copies and stiffens northern resistance to fugitive slave law. Whig party is decisively defeated in the election and fades away, abandoned by leaders and voters.
  • Democrat Stephen A. Douglas proposes the Kansas-Nebraska Bill to open good farmland to settlement (and help railroads).
  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act is passed, providing that popular sovereignty in the territories should decide "all questions pertaining to slavery." It destroys what remains of the Missouri Compromise and fuels Northern fears of a Slave Power encroaching on the North.
  • In uproar against Kansas-Nebraska Act, new Republican party is formed with anti-slavery base across North. Includes many former Whigs and Free Soilers, and some Democrats. Sweeps fall elections in northern states. Abraham Lincoln emerges as Republican leader in West
  • Know-Nothing party sweeps state and local elections in parts of North; demands ethnic purification, opposes Catholics (because of Pope), opposes corruption in local politics. The party has no real leaders and soon fades away.
  • Discussion paper (Ostend Manifesto) proposes purchase or seizure from Spain of Cuba (which had slavery). Manifesto is denounced by the free-soil press as a conspiracy to extend slavery.
1855-1856 Violence breaks out in "Bleeding Kansas"
1856 Preston Brooks canes Charles Sumner on floor of Senate; North takes the lesson that compromise is harder and violence is near surface. In presidential election Republican John C. Frémont crusades against slavery; the slogan is "Free speech, free press, free soil, free men, Frémont and victory!" Democrats counter-crusade, warning of civil war, and win.
  • Short economic depression in major cities; See Panic of 1857
  • Walker Tariff of 1846 is lowered still more and is supported by both North and South; it reduces protection to northern industry.
  • Southern opposition kills the Pacific Railway Bill of 1860 and homestead laws.
  • Buchanan breaks with Douglas over Kansas; bitter feud inside Democratic party.
  • George Fitzhugh publishes Cannibals All defending slavery.
  • Hinton Rowan Helper publishes The Impending Crisis of the South angering the South.
  • Supreme Court hands down Dred Scott decision, ruling that Congress lacks the power to exclude slavery from the territories.
  • The pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution is signed in Kansas.
  • Proslavery Lecompton constitution defeated by popular referendum in Kansas in August.
  • Lincoln and Douglas debate; Lincoln emerges as nationally known moderate spokesman for Republicans
  • William Yancey advocates a Southern confederacy.
  • James Hammond exclaims, "Cotton is King!", meaning Europe will intervene to protect source of vital raw material
  • John Brown attempts to ignite slave rebellion in Virginia by attack on federal armory at Harper's Ferry; no rebellion; captured, tried for treason to state of Virginia, and hung; becomes martyr to North; alarms South as exemplar of fanatical Yankee abolitionist trying to start bloody race war; Republican Party disavows Brown, who had financial support from Boston abolitionists.
1860 Slave population in Census: 3,954,000
  • Knights of the Golden Circle reach maximum popularity and try to invade Mexico to expand slave territory.
  • Southern "fire-eaters" oppose front runner Stephen A. Douglas' bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Democrats begin splitting North and South.
  • Radicals William H. Seward of New York, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, and Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania are leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, along with Lincoln. Illinois out-maneuvers other states and on May 16, Lincoln wins the Republican nomination at Chicago convention.
  • The Morrill Tariff passes the House of Representatives on a strict sectional vote, supported by the north and opposed by the south; it does not pass Senate.
  • The Democratic party splits. Main group supports Douglas. Southern Democrats support John C. Breckinridge.
  • Former Whigs from the border states form the Constitutional Union Party, nominating John C. Bell for president on a one-issue platform of national unity.
  • Four candidates as parties wage campaigns. Douglas and Lincoln compete for Northern votes. Bell, Douglas and Breckinridge compete for Southern votes.
  • Abraham Lincoln wins the 1860 election.
  • Secession: South Carolina convention declared on December 20 "that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states under the name of the 'United States of America' is hereby dissolved"
  • Process of secession begins.
  • The six other states of the Deep South declare their secessions, and together with South Carolina form the Confederate States of America. They are not recognized by U.S. government, or any government. Border states refuse to join Confederacy.
  • Last major N-S links broken as Presbyterian and Episcopal Churches split North and South
  • Numerous compromise proposals are rejected; they all involve protection of slavery (none involve tariffs or economic deals); Confederacy demands complete independence and will not negotiate a return to the Union.
  • Confederates capture US arsenals and forts in CSA states; General David E. Twiggs surrenders one-fourth of US Army in Texas, then joins Confederacy.
  • President Buchanan decides not to order Major Anderson out of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor
  • CSA army fired on Fort Sumter; it surrenders.
  • Northern uprising—mass meetings everywhere to demand Lincoln overthrow the rebellion.
  • Lincoln calls every governor for troops (75,000) to recapture Fort Sumter & other federal properties.
  • Robert E. Lee offered command of Union army April 18. Expecting Virginia to secede, he declines, resigns from U.S. Army April 20, and accepts command of the Virginia state forces on April 23.
  • Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts send troops to Washington.
  • Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas reject Lincoln's order to provide troops; they declare secession and join CSA.
  • Kentucky refuses to send troops, and declares its neutrality. Lincoln seizes control of Missouri and Maryland; thousands of pro-CSA men under military arrest.

American Civil War Timeline 1862

Date Event Casulities Summary
February 6 (Fort Henry)

February 16 (Fort Donelson)

Fighting on the Mississippi 17,398 After capturing Fort Henry along the Tennessee River the Union army with 15,000 men led by Ulysses S. Grant attacked Fort Donelson, a Confederate fort on the Cumberland River. At Fort Donelson Grant sent the message, "No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works." The North had six gunboats. The fighting lasted three days. Grant took 12,000 Confederate prisoners and 40 cannons from Fort Donelson. This cut off the Confederate supply line from the western territories.
March 9 Ironclad Ships Battle
For the first time in history two ironclad ships battled. The battle lasted for hours. Neither side won the battle. The Confederate ironclad was an old wooden ship called the Merrimac which had been rebuilt with iron all around the boat. The Merrimac had sunk several Union ships in the past months. The North decided to build an ironclad ship to fight it. The Northern ship was called the Monitor.
April 6 Shiloh 23,746 After Grant had captured several forts in Tennessee his armies moved south toward Mississippi. The Confederate army met Grant at Shiloh, Tennessee. Grant had not expected the attack. At first he seemed to be losing. Then more Northern troops arrived and Grant defeated the Southerners.
April 16 Confederate Army Calls for Men
All men between the ages of 18 and 35 must serve in the army.
April 18 New Orleans 0 Farragut attacked and captured New Orleans.
May 4 Yorktown
McClellan's Union troops occupied Yorktown, Virginia and advanced on Richmond.
May 30 Corinth Unknown Northern army occupy Corinth, Mississippi
June 6 Memphis 181 Memphis fell to the Union armies
June Seven Days' Battle
In a series of battles the Southern army led by Generals Joseph E. Johnston and Robert E. Lee, the South managed to drive back the Union army. Lee breaks McClellan seige of Richmond.
June 25 Second Battle at Bull Run 22,180 The Union led by General John Pope was defeated at Bull Run Creek while trying to reach Richmond. The Union army retreat to Washington.
September 17 Battle of Antietam 23,100 Lee took command telling the Confederate forces that he planned to carry the fight to the enemy. He crossed the Potomac River into Maryland, but was blocked from Washington, D. C. by Union troops in a bloody battle at Sharpsburg near Antietam Creek. Lee realized that his army was in a bad position to receive supplies and withdrew his troops over the Potomac to Virginia.
September 22 Lincoln Frees all the Slaves
President issued a proclamation freeing all the slaves in the South. Lincoln's document called the Emancipation Proclamation because in emancipated the slaves.
October 8 Battle of Perryville 7,407 Buell's forces ended Bragg's invasion of Kentucky in the Battle of Perryville.
December 11 Fredricksburg 17,429 Lincoln replaced General McClellan with Ambrose Burnside. Burnside's men were slaughtered at Fredricksburg.

American Civil War Timeline 1863

Date Event Casulities Summary
January 2 Battle of Stones River 22,576 Union troops under Rosecrans forced the Confederates to retreat after the Battle of Stones River.
April 30 Chancellorsville 20,000 General Lee fought against General Joseph Hooker. Although outnumbered two to one, Lee won the battle. During the battle General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson was killed.
May 18 Vicksburg 35,835 In Vicksburg, Mississippi a strong fort overlooked the river. Grant surrounded the fort and began a siege. On July 4 Vicksburg surrendered. This gave the North control of the Mississippi River.
July 1 Gettysburg 51,000 Robert E. Lee invaded Pennsylvania in June 1863. He was hoping to threaten Washington and Philadelphia, to breed Northern morale, and to gain recognition and independence for the Southern Confederacy. At Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia met the Army of the Potomac. It was under the command of General George G, Meade. This famous battle lasted three days. The Southerners were turned back and again retreated into Virginia.
July 8 Port Hudson 12,208 Northern forces occupied Port Hudson, Louisana.
September 18 Chickamauga 34,624 The Confederate Army led by General Braxton Bragg won against the Union army at Chickamauga Creek in Tennessee. General George Thomas commanded the Union army which was trapped in Chattanooga.
November 19 Gettysburg Adress
Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.
November 23-25 Chattanooga 12,485 Grant and Thomas led Union armies to victory in the Battle of Chattanooga.

American Civil War Timeline 1864

Date Event Casulities Summary
March 9 Grant appointed Commander-in-Chief
President Lincoln appointed Grant became general in chief of the North. Grant then appinted General William T. Sherman to command the Western armies, while General George G. Meade remained the command of the armies of the East.
May Sherman's march to the Sea 12,140 in Atlanta William T. Sherman left Tennessee with 100,000 troops. He marched to Atlanta, Georgia. He ten marched from Atlanta to the Atlantic Ocean. During this 300 mile march Sherman's soldiers burned and destroyed everything in a width of 60 miles.
May 5 - 6 Battle of the Wilderness 18,000 in Union troops This was the first in a series of battles. The first Union attack was made in an area about 50 miles from Richmond. The Union gained little and lost much in casualties.
May 8 - 12 Spotsylvania 14,000 in Union troops Grant ignored the losses in the Battle of the Wilderness and ordered Meade to move on toward Spotsylvania Court House.
May 31 Cold Harbor 15,500 Grant kept moving toward Lee's army after Spotsylvania. They fought the Southern army at Cold Harbor in an advance upon Richmond. After many casualties the Union army called off the attack.
June 20 Seige of Petersburg 104,000 This was the beginning of a nine month seige with Grant's men surrounding Lee's army.
August 5 Mobile Bay 1,822 Farragut won the Battle of Mobile Bay.This closed the last Confederate Gulf port.
September 2 Atlanta 12,140 Northern troops under Sherman captured Atlanta after a forty-day siege of the city. Sherman burned much of the city on November 15 before leaving to begin his march to the sea.
October 19 Shenandoah Valley
Sheridan led his troops on a rampage of destruction in the Shenandoah Valley.
November 8 Election of Lincoln
Lincoln was reelected President for a second term.
November 30 Battle of Franklin 8,587 Schofield's Union forces inflicted heavy losses on Hood in the Battle of Franklin.
December 15-16 Nashville 6,602 The Battle of Nashville smashed Hood's army.
December 21 Savannah
Sherman's troops occupied Savannah, Georgia.

American Civil War Timeline 1865

Date Event Casulities Summary
February 6 Lee becomes general
Lee became general in chief of the South.
April 2 Petersburg and Richmond 7,750 General Grant and General Meade's Army moved to the south of Richmond. During the winter of 1864-65 the Union army attacked many times, but could not break through. After nine months General Lee was forced to retreat toward Lynchburg giving up both Petersburg and Richmond.
April 9 Appomattox Courthouse 700 General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomottox Courthouse, Virginia.
April 14 Lincoln's assasination
On Good Firday, April 14 Lincoln was assassinated. He was attending a performance at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D. C. The assisin was and actor named John Wilkes Booth. After twelve days of running Booth was fatally shot.
April 26 Johnston surrenders
Johnston surrendered to Sherman.
May 4 Confederate's surrender
Confederate forces in Alabama and Mississippi surrendered.
May 11 Davis's capture
Jefferson Davis was captured near Georgia.
May 26 Confederate's surrender
The last Confederate troops surrendered.