Your timeline of the American Civil War:
1820 - Just 30 years after the founding of the nation, the controversy over slavery is so bad that it affects the admission of new states. Congress enacts the Missouri Compromise, which admits Missouri as a slave state but bans admission of new slave states north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The law is repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, but the Supreme Court nevertheless declares it unconstitutional in "Dred Scott v. Sanford" (1857).
1832 - South Carolina asserts it has the right to "nullify" any federal law it disagrees with. The Nullification Crisis almost leads to civil war, but South Carolina backs down.
1850 - The Compromise of 1850 averts another crisis over slavery. Texas is allowed to keep the Panhandle, but surrenders its claims to New Mexico. California is admitted as a free state. Popular vote will determine whether slavery is to be legal in the new Utah Territory and New Mexico Territory. The slave trade (but not slavery) is banned in Washington, D.C.
1854 - The Kansas-Nebraska Act allows for popular vote to determine if the new states of Kansas and Nebraska will be slave or free. Kansas had barred slavery since 19820, but now pro-slavery forces poured into the state. A wave of violence created "bleeding Kansas", and Kansas is admitted as a slave state. Outraged members of the Whig Party form a new political organization, the Republican Party, to oppose slavery.
October 16, 1859 - John Brown, a Kansan, leads 18 men in an attack on the U.S. Army arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (later West Virginia), in the hopes of sparking a slave uprising in Virginia. He is captured on October 18 by Col. Robert E. Lee. The uprising never occurs, and Brown is hanged in December. Slave states react with extreme horror and fear-mongering to Brown's raid.
November 1860 - Abraham Lincoln, a former one-term congressman from Illinois, is elected President of the United States as a member of the Republican Party. The Whig Party, which had existed for 60 years, dissolves. Slave states denounce Lincoln's election, believing he will ban slavery (even though Lincoln has not addressed the issue).
December 20, 1860 - South Carolina secedes from the Union. Mississippi (January 9, 1861), Florida (January 10, 1861), Alabama (January 11, 1861), Georgia (January 19, 1861), Louisiana (January 26, 1861), Texas (February 23, 1861), Virginia (April 17, 1861), Arkansas (May 6, 1861), North Carolina (May 20, 1861), and Tennessee (June 8, 1861) followed. Some politicians led citizens of Missouri and Kentucky to try to seceded, but the governors and state legislatures in both states were dominated by pro-Union forces. Although it is likely that a majority of Marylanders favored secession, the Maryland legislature twice rejected the measure overwhelmingly. (The issue became moot in Maryland when martial law was declared there on May 13, 1861.)
February 4, 1861 - The five rebel states form the Confederate States of America in Montgomery, Alabama. Jefferson Davis, former Senator from Mississippi and former Secretary of War, is appointed president. A permanent constitution is adopted March 12, 1861, and the capital moved to Richmond, Virginia, on May 30, 1861.
March 4, 1861 - Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as President of the United States. Seven states are in rebellion; the Union Army consists of only 16,000 soldiers, and most of its officer corps have joined the rebellion; the U.S Navy is practically nonexistent; northern support for the war is low, as many believe Lincoln only wants to free "nigger" slaves; Washington, D.C., is in danger of capture. Many believe Lincoln should negotiate, rather than wage war.
There's a lot more behind this cut...
Late March 1861 - Winfield Scott, the aged General-in-Chief of the Union Army, proposed the Anaconda Plan. Never officially adopted, it served as the basis for all Union military efforts during the war. The plan is to seize the Mississippi River (a major route for supplying the western Confederacy), and blockade all Confederate ports. Seizure of the major cities would follow, and it was believed the Confederacy would then collapse.
April 12-13, 1861 - South Carolina bombards the Union harbor stronghold of Fort Sumter near Charleston, beginning the Civil War.
May 23, 1861 - 39 counties in northwest Virginia, all of them opposed to slavery, vote to secede from Virginia and form the state of West Virginia. Another 11 counties join them before the war is over.
July 16-22, 1861 - First Bull Run: Union troops are routed near Manassas, Virginia, by Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. The Confederate lines waver, but are held in place by the resolute and fearless Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson -- who receives his famous nickname, "Stonewall". First Bull Run solidifies northern support for war, rather than negotiation. Both sides realize that their troops are untrained, disorganized, and ill-provisioned. It takes seven months before war begins again.
February 6-16, 1862 - Ulysses S. Grant, a colonel in the Volunteer Army of Ohio, seizes the mouth of the Ohio River as it empties into the Mississippi River. He then seizes Fort Henry on the Ohio River, on the border between Kentucky and Tennessee -- cutting off a major transportation route for the Confederates in western Kentucky. In a lightning strike, Grant then pushes west to Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River and forces its surrender. Western Tennessee is cut off from the Confederacy, and Nashville threatened. Grant is admitted to the Regular Army and promoted to Brigadier General.
March 1862 - Peninsula Campaign: Union Gen. George B. McClellan lands the Army of the Potomac on the Virginia Peninsula near modern-day Yorktown. He thinks the York River on his right and the James River on his left will protect his flanks as he moves the 50 miles northwest to Richmond. Instead, the rivers act as a bottleneck, allowing Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to bottle him up. McClellan abandoned the Peninsula Campaign in June. 1862. McClellan is relived and Major Gen. John Pope placed in command.
April 8, 1862 - Island No. 10, a major Confederate fort in the Mississippi River off Tennessee, falls to the U.S Navy.
April 6-8, 1862 - Battle of Shiloh: Grant attempts to move south into Mississippi. Union Gen. Don Carlos Buell spends February moving from Bowling Green, Kentucky, to seize Nashville on Feb. 24. Grant and Buell converge at Shiloh, just north of the Mississippi border. Confederate Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and Pierre G. T. Beauregard launch a surprise attack on Grant, who is almost overwhelmed, but Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman holds his line and saves the day. Johnston is killed, and Beauregard fails to press his advantage. Buell finally arrives during the night to save Grant. Grant counterattacks the next day, driving Beauregard from the field. Shiloh is the bloodiest day in American history to that point: 13,047 Union missing, wounded, and dead, and 10,699 Confederates. Union newspaper demand that Grant be fired. Lincoln refuses, saying, "I can't spare this man; he fights."
May 15-June 17, 1862 - The Valley Campaign: Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson raids the Shenandoah Valley. The valley runs from Roanoke, Va., in the southwest to Hagerstown, Md., in the northeast. It's lush with crops, cattle, and hogs. The Blue Ridge Mountains form the eastern border of the valley and screen Jackson's movements from the Union armies, allowing him to raid at will. The Army of the Potomac is pinned down near the valley's northern outlet, to prevent him from attacking Washington, D.C.
May 30, 1862 - Fall of Corinth: Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck seizes Corinth, Mississippi -- the "Crossroads of the Confederacy", because so many railroads converged here. Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard gave up the town without a fight, and the city's loss seriously impeded the Confederacy's ability to transport men and supplies.
June 6, 1862 - Memphis falls to the U.S. Navy.
August 28-30, 1862 - Second Bull Run: Robert E. Lee begins moving along eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia in an attempt to outflank the Army of the Potomac. Pope believed he had Lee trapped, but the opposite was true. Only a very effective rear-guard action prevented a rout of the Union army. Pope is relieved, and McClellan placed in charge.
September 17, 1862 - Battle of Antietam: Robert E. Lee invades Maryland. Lee split his army, and McClellan found a copy of Lee's battle plan. Confederate delaying tactics gave Lee time to reunite his army. At Antietam Creek nears Sharpsburg, Md., Lee's 38,000 soldiers held on against McClellan's 75,000. The over-cautious McClellan over-estimated the size of Lee's army and never committed his reserves. Lee withdrew to Virginia. Lincoln relieves McClellan and puts Major Gen. Ambrose Burnside in charge.
November 8, 1862 – Lincoln is re-elected President of the United States over Major Gen. George B. McClellan, the Democratic candidate.
December 11-15, 1862 - Battle of Fredericksburg: Burnside decides to invade Virginia. He crossed the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, Va., in an attempt to race to Richmond. But delays in getting pontoon bridges for his 114,000 men allowed Robert E. Lee to concentrate 72,000 men in the city. Urban fighting bogged Burnside down. Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet seized the heights over the city, and bombarded Burnside, who withdrew. Lincoln relieves Burnside, and puts Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker in charge.
December 31, 1862-January 2, 1863 - Battle of Stones River: Abraham Lincoln replaced the passive Union Gen. Don Carlos Buell on October 24, and put Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans in charge of the Army of the Cumberland. Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Mississippi attacked the Army of the Cumberland on December 31 near Murfreesboro (a few miles southeast of Nashville). Rosecrans bent... but held. Bragg expected Rosecrans to flee, but when he didn't Bragg left the field of battle.
January 1, 1863 - Desperate to boost flagging Union morale and prevent European nations from recognizing the Confederacy, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation -- which freed slaves in rebel territory.
April 30-May 6, 1863 - Battle of Chancellorsville: Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker once more tried to race to seize Richmond with the Army of the Potomac. Robert E. Lee's 60,900-strong Army of Northern Virginia met Hooker's 133,900 men at Chancellorsville, just south of Fredericksburg. Lee sent one-fifth of his army, under Stonewall Jackson to stop Union reinforcements from leaving Fredericksburg. Terrified of Lee's reputation, Hooker went on the defensive. Lee sent Jackson again in back of the Union lines, where he wiped out an entire Union corps. But Jackson's own men fired on him, and he died of his wounds. Lee tried to dislodge Hooker, but failed. Hooker retreated back across the Rappahannock anyway. Lincoln relieves Hooker and replaces him with Maj. Gen. George G. Meade.
May 13, 1863 - Fall of Jackson: Grant and Sherman seize Jackson, Mississippi, the capital of the rebel state. They now turned west to Vicksburg, a city on the Mississippi River that was the last Confederate stronghold.
July 1-4,1863: Battle of Gettysburg: Emboldened, Lee once more invades Maryland and crosses into Pennsylvania. Meade becomes aware of Lee's movements, and the two armies struggle to find one another. On June 30, a tiny patrol of Lee's meets a small squad of Meade's near Gettysburg, Pa. Both armies rush to the site. Meade is forced to give way on July 2, but only retreats into the city. Meade gives way again on July 3, one long line extending south of the city and another along the city's southern and southeastern borders. On July 4, Lee sends Gen. George Pickett in a charge against Union lines that wipes out Pickett's men. Exhausted, Lee retreated into Virginia again.
July 4, 1863 - Fall of Vicksburg: Ulysses S. Grant had been facing Vicksburg since December 26, 1862. Vicksburg sat high on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, and which made it very hard to attack from the rear. The bitter winter, and worries that Confederate forces might hit from the rear, leave Grant cautious. To keep the Northern press off his ass, Grant allows his troops to try to divert the Mississippi River, to dig a canal that would allow river traffic to bypass Vicksburg, and to dig canals or find a passage through the swamps that lined the Yazoo River (which ran in a westward direction toward Vicksburg). None of them worked. Grant knew they wouldn't, but the actions kept his troops busy and misled the Northern press into thinking something was going on. In April, the U.S. Navy ran the Vicksburg blockade and got ships south of the city. Grant crossed the Mississippi south of Vicksburg, seized Grand Gulf as a port, attacked Jackson (to prevent an army from attacking his rear), and began bombarding Vicksburg. Starving, the city surrendered on July 4. Lincoln announced, "The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea."
September 19-20, 1863 – Battle of Chickamauga: Union Major Gen. Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland launched an attack on Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee. Rosecrans drove Bragg from Chattanooga, southeast of Nashville. Pressing his advantage, Rosecrans headed for Georgia. Bragg turned, and met him at Chickamauga Creek just across the Georgia border. The first day's fighting was inconclusive, but on the second day Rosecrans was mistakenly told that a gap in his lines had opened up. He moved to fix the problem – and opened up a real gap, which Bragg exploited. Rosecrans was driven back to Chattanooga, and Bragg besieged the city.
November 23-25, 1863 – Battle of Chattanooga: Ulysses S. Grant raced to save Rosecrans. His men built a tiny road ("the Cracker Line") through the mountains in just days, allowing Rosecrans to be resupplied. Three surprise flanking movements by Grant's troops surprised Bragg's forces, which lifted the siege and fled.
March 3, 1864 – President Lincoln promoted Grant to Lieutenant General, and placed him in charge of the Army of the Potomac. William Tecumseh Sherman is promoted to Major General and given command of Grant's Military Division of the Mississippi (which included the Army of the Cumberland, the Army of the Tennessee, and the Army of the Ohio).
May 5-7, 1864 – Battle of the Wilderness: Grant attempts to pass through The Wilderness, a thick forest heavy with underbrush about 10 miles west-southwest of Fredericksburg, to attack Robert E. Lee. Losses are heavy on both sides, and Grant decides to outflank Lee by moving southeast to Spotsylvania Courthouse.
May 7, 1864 – Major Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman begins a series of movements that repeatedly outflanks Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee. Sherman begins driving for Atlanta, the last remaining railroad hub of the Confederacy.
May 8-21, 1864 -- Battle of Spotsylvania Court House: Lee beat Grant to the critical crossroads of Spotsylvania County Courthouse, a few miles southeast from The Wilderness. Lee digs in deeply, and despite repeated attempts Grant cannot dislodge him. Grant decides to outflank Lee again by moving south-southeast to Cold Harbor – a tiny town at the head of the Pamunkey River about 10 miles east of Richmond.
May 21, 1864 – Valley Campaign: Grant put Brig. Gen. David Hunter in charge of the Army of the Shenandoah, and orders him to stop Confederate raids there. Hunter immediately begins a "scorched earth" campaign that prevented the Confederacy from using the Shenandoah Valley's supplies for Robert E. Lee's campaigns.
May 22-June 3, 1864 – Battle of Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee both built up their forces at Cold Harbor. Grant repeatedly attacked Lee's lines, but to little advantage. As Gen. Hunter began reducing Lee's supplies in the Shenandoah Valley, Lee sent Confederate Gen. Jubal Early to stop him, but Early himself was defeated on October 19.
June 9, 1864-March 25, 1865 – Siege of Petersburg: Grant surprised Lee by crossing the James River and moving almost 20 miles south to Petersburg, a major rail junction about 15 miles south of Richmond. Lee reached the city first, as he could pass through Richmond rather than having to cross a river and go around it. Grant began besieging the city.
June 27, 1864 – Battle of Kennesaw Mountain: Sherman makes a major mistake and hits Johnston's forces head-on at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia. Fighting uphill against entrenched Confederates, his attack is repulsed. Sherman resumes his successful flanking movements. Confederate President Jefferson Davis relieves Johnston and puts Gen. John Bell Hood in charge on July 18.
July 22, 1864 – Siege of Atlanta: Sherman lays siege to Atlanta, his men constantly digging zigzag trenches to successfully outflank the Confederate forces.
July 30, 1864 – Battle of the Crater: Grant's mining engineers attempted to undermine the Confederate lines near Petersburg and blow them up. This "shock and awe" explosion would give Union troops time to rush down the quarter-mile long tunnel leading to the Crater, up the Crater walls, and behind Confederate lines. It failed to shock anyone, and the Crater walls were so steep that the Union troops could not climb them. The first Union troops into the Crater were African Americans, and the outraged, racist Confederates slaughtered hundreds of them. To keep the siege going, Grant realized that if he kept extending his lines east and west around Richmond, he would eventually thin out Lee's forces so much that he could seize the city. So that's what he began doing.
August 7, 1864 – Grant replaces Brig. Gen. David Hunter with Brig. Gen. Phil Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley. Sheridan continues the scorched earth campaign, and clears the valley of Confederate forces at last.
September 2, 1864 – Atlanta falls.
November 30, 1864 -- Battle of Franklin: In an attempt to cut off Major Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's supply lines, Confederate Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood led the reformed Army of Tennessee in an assault against Nashville, held by Union Major Gen. John M. Schofield. Hood lost half of his 27,000 men. Six Confederate generals were killed, and seven seriously wounded. Schofield lost 3,500 of his 27,000 men. (Sherman had no supply lines. He was living off the land.)
December 21, 1864 – March to the Sea: Sherman completed his famous scorched-earth March to the Sea by capturing Savannah, Georgia.
February 17, 1865 – Fall of Columbia: Sherman captured Columbia, the capital of the state of South Carolina.
March 29, 1865 – Ulysses S. Grant finally stretched Lee's lines too thin, and Union forces swept through a break in Lee's lines southwest of Petersburg. Lee regrouped at Five Forks on April 1, and lost. Lee regrouped again south of Petersburg on April 2, and lost. Lee's losses totaled more than 10,000 of his 58,500 men. Lee ordered the evacuation of Richmond.
April 3, 1865 – Fall of Richmond As Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee attempted to flee west and escape Ulysses S. Grant, Grant's troops occupied the Confederate capital of Richmond on April 3.
April 3-9, 1865 – The Appomattox Campaign: Robert E. Lee and the dwindling Army of Northern Virginia attempted to flee west along the route of the Appomattox River. His goal was to reach Lynchburg, Va., where he could resupply and use the railroads to get away from Grant. Every afternoon, Lee's exhausted men would stop. A portion of Grant's Army of the Potomac would slam into them, while the rest of Grant's forces slid around to the north or south to outflank them. Realizing their plight, that evening Lee's men would pull out, and move further westward. They'd rest the next afternoon, only to find Grant hard on their heels, hitting them gain and trying to outflank them again.
April 4, 1865 – Lincoln visits Richmond: Abraham Lincoln visited Richmond on April 4, after traveling overnight by train. Admiral David Dixon Porter, in command of the city, worried about snipers. But Lincoln dismissed his concerns. As Lincoln walked through the city's downtown, newly freed slaves rushed to his side, crying out, "Glory hallelujah!" and "Father Abraham!" and "Moses!" One former slavewoman in her 80s fell to her knees at Lincoln's feet. Lincoln paused, took her by the arm, and gently lifted her to her feet. "Don't kneel to me," he said. "You must kneel only to God, and thank him for your freedom. Liberty is your birthright. God gave it to you as he gave it to others, and it is a sin that you have been deprived of it for so many years."
April 9, 1865 – Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse: Grant realized that Lee's army was nearly done. He offered unconditional surrender on April 8, but Lee rejected it. Lee's cavalry counter-attacked on April 9, but once they got to the top of the ridge at Appomattox Courthouse they saw that the Union army had Lee surrounded on three sides. Lee surrendered at 3:00 PM. The terms were generous: No soldiers would be imprisoned or prosecuted for treason; officers could keep their sidearms; men could take their horses and mules home to carry out the spring planting; and Grant gave Lee's army a week's supply of rations. The document of surrender was signed at 4:00 PM. (At the time, William Tecumseh Sherman was less than 100 miles away, striving to reach Grant and defeat Lee.)
April 14, 1865 – John Wilkes Booth shoots Abraham Lincoln in the head at Ford's Theatre. Lincoln dies the next morning at 7:22 AM.