February 9 - The Confederate States of America is formed with Jefferson Davis as president.
April 12 - At 4:30 AM Confederates under General Pierre Beauregard open fire with 50 cannons upon Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The Civil War begins.
April 17 - Virginia secedes from the Union, followed within 5 weeks by Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina, thus forming an eleven state Confederacy.
April 19 - President Lincoln issues a Proclamation of Blockade against Southern ports. For the duration of the war the blockade limits the ability of the rural South to stay well supplied in its war against the industrialized North.
July 4 - Lincoln, in a speech to Congress, states the war is..."a People's contest... a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men..." The Congress authorizes a call for 500,000 men.
July 21 - The Union Army under Gen. Irvin McDowell suffers a defeat at Bull Run 25 miles southwest of Washington. Confederate Gen. Thomas J. Jackson earns the nickname "Stonewall," as his brigade resists Union attacks. Union troops fall back to Washington. President Lincoln realizes the war will be long. "It's damned bad," he comments.
July 27 - President Lincoln appoints George B. McClellan as Commander of the Department of the Potomac, replacing McDowell.
September 11 - President Lincoln revokes Gen. John C. Frémont's unauthorized military proclamation of emancipation in Missouri. Later, the president relieves Gen. Frémont of his command and replaces him with Gen. David Hunter.
November 1 - President Lincoln appoints McClellan as general-in-chief of all Union forces after the resignation of the aged Winfield Scott. Lincoln tells McClellan, "...the supreme command of the Army will entail a vast labor upon you." McClellan responds, "I can do it all."
November 8 - The beginning of an international diplomatic crisis for President Lincoln as two Confederate officials sailing toward England are seized by the U.S. Navy. England, the leading world power, demands their release, threatening war. Lincoln eventually gives in and orders their release in December. "One war at a time," Lincoln remarks.
January 31 - President Lincoln issues General War Order No. 1 calling for all United States naval and land forces to begin a general advance by Feb 22, George Washington's birthday.
February 6 - Victory for Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Tennessee, capturing Fort Henry, and ten days later Fort Donelson. Grant earns the nickname "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.
February 20 - President Lincoln is struck with grief as his beloved eleven year old son, Willie, dies from fever, probably caused by polluted drinking water in the White House.
March 8/9 - The Confederate Ironclad 'Merrimac' sinks two wooden Union ships then battles the Union Ironclad 'Monitor' to a draw. Naval warfare is thus changed forever, making wooden ships obsolete. Engraving of the Battle In March - The Peninsular Campaign begins as McClellan's Army of the Potomac advances from Washington down the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay to the peninsular south of the Confederate Capital of Richmond, Virginia then begins an advance toward Richmond. President Lincoln temporarily relieves McClellan as general-in-chief and takes direct command of the Union Armies.
April 6/7 - Confederate surprise attack on Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's unprepared troops at Shiloh on the Tennessee River results in a bitter struggle with 13,000 Union killed and wounded and 10,000 Confederates, more men than in all previous American wars combined. The president is then pressured to relieve Grant but resists. "I can't spare this man; he fights," Lincoln says.
April 24 - 17 Union ships under the command of Flag Officer David Farragut move up the Mississippi River then take New Orleans, the South's greatest seaport. Later in the war, sailing through a Rebel mine field Farragut utters the famous phrase "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"
May 31 - The Battle of Seven Pines as Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's Army attacks McClellan's troops in front of Richmond and nearly defeats them. But Johnston is badly wounded.
June 1 - Gen. Robert E. Lee assumes command, replacing the wounded Johnston. Lee then renames his force the Army of Northern Virginia. McClellan is not impressed, saying Lee is "likely to be timid and irresolute in action."
June 25-July 1 - The Seven Days Battles as Lee attacks McClellan near Richmond, resulting in very heavy losses for both armies. McClellan then begins a withdrawal back toward Washington.
July 11 - After four months as his own general-in-chief, President Lincoln hands over the task to Gen. Henry W. (Old Brains) Halleck.
August 29/30 - 75,000 Federals under Gen. John Pope are defeated by 55,000 Confederates under Gen. Stonewall Jackson and Gen. James Longstreet at the second battle of Bull Run in northern Virginia. Once again the Union Army retreats to Washington. The president then relieves Pope.
September 4-9 - Lee invades the North with 50,000 Confederates and heads for Harpers Ferry, located 50 miles northwest of Washington. The Union Army, 90,000 strong, under the command of McClellan, pursues Lee.
September 17 - The bloodiest day in U.S. military history as Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Armies are stopped at Antietam in Maryland by McClellan and numerically superior Union forces. By nightfall 26,000 men are dead, wounded, or missing. Lee then withdraws to Virginia.
September 22 - Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves issued by President Lincoln.
November 7 - The president replaces McClellan with Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside as the new Commander of the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln had grown impatient with McClellan's slowness to follow up on the success at Antietam, even telling him, "If you don't want to use the army, I should like to borrow it for a while."
December 13 - Army of the Potomac under Gen. Burnside suffers a costly defeat at Fredericksburg in Virginia with a loss of 12,653 men after 14 frontal assaults on well entrenched Rebels on Marye's Heights. "We might as well have tried to take hell," a Union soldier remarks. Confederate losses are 5,309. "It is well that war is so terrible - we should grow too fond of it," states Lee during the fighting.
January 1 - President Lincoln issues the final Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in territories held by Confederates and emphasizes the enlisting of black soldiers in the Union Army. The war to preserve the Union now becomes a revolutionary struggle for the abolition of slavery.
January 25 - The president appoints Gen. Joseph (Fighting Joe) Hooker as Commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing Burnside.
January 29 - Gen. Grant is placed in command of the Army of the West, with orders to capture Vicksburg.
March 3 - The U.S. Congress enacts a draft, affecting male citizens aged 20 to 45, but also exempts those who pay $300 or provide a substitute. "The blood of a poor man is as precious as that of the wealthy," poor Northerners complain.
May 1-4 - The Union Army under Gen. Hooker is decisively defeated by Lee's much smaller forces at the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia as a result of Lee's brilliant and daring tactics. Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson is mortally wounded by his own soldiers. Hooker retreats. Union losses are 17,000 killed, wounded and missing out of 130,000. The Confederates, 13, 000 out of 60,000. "I just lost confidence in Joe Hooker," said Hooker later about his own lack of nerve during the battle.
May 10 - The South suffers a huge blow as Stonewall Jackson dies from his wounds, his last words, "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees." "I have lost my right arm," Lee laments.
June 3 - Gen. Lee with 75,000 Confederates launches his second invasion of the North, heading into Pennsylvania in a campaign that will soon lead to Gettysburg.
June 28 - President Lincoln appoints Gen. George G. Meade as commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing Hooker. Meade is the 5th man to command the Army in less than a year.
July 1-3 - The tide of war turns against the South as the Confederates are defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.
July 4 - Vicksburg, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, surrenders to Gen. Grant and the Army of the West after a six week siege. With the Union now in control of the Mississippi, the Confederacy is effectively split in two, cut off from its western allies.
July 13-16 - Antidraft riots in New York City include arson and the murder of blacks by poor immigrant whites. At least 120 persons, including children, are killed and $2 million in damage caused, until Union soldiers returning from Gettysburg restore order.
July 18 - 'Negro troops' of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment under Col. Robert G. Shaw assault fortified Rebels at Fort Wagner, South Carolina. Col. Shaw and half of the 600 men in the regiment are killed.
August 10 - The president meets with abolitionist Frederick Douglass who pushes for full equality for Union 'Negro troops.'
August 21 - At Lawrence, Kansas, pro-Confederate William C. Quantrill and 450 proslavery followers raid the town and butcher 182 boys and men.
September 19/20 - A decisive Confederate victory by Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee at Chickamauga leaves Gen. William S. Rosecrans' Union Army of the Cumberland trapped in Chattanooga, Tennessee under Confederate siege.
October 16 - The president appoints Gen. Grant to command all operations in the western theater.
November 19 - President Lincoln delivers a two minute Gettysburg Address at a ceremony dedicating the Battlefield as a National Cemetery.
November 23-25 - The Rebel siege of Chattanooga ends as Union forces under Grant defeat the siege army of Gen. Braxton Bragg. During the battle, one of the most dramatic moments of the war occurs. Yelling "Chickamauga! Chickamauga!" Union troops avenge their previous defeat at Chickamauga by storming up the face of Missionary Ridge without orders and sweep the Rebels from what had been though to be an impregnable position. "My God, come and see 'em run!" a Union soldier cries.
March 9 - President Lincoln appoints Gen. Grant to command all of the armies of the United States. Gen. William T. Sherman succeeds Grant as commander in the west.
May 4 - The beginning of a massive, coordinated campaign involving all the Union Armies. In Virginia, Grant with an Army of 120,000 begins advancing toward Richmond to engage Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, now numbering 64,000, beginning a war of attrition that will include major battles at the Wilderness (May 5-6), Spotsylvania (May 8-12), and Cold Harbor (June 1-3). In the west, Sherman, with 100,000 men begins an advance toward Atlanta to engage Joseph E. Johnston's 60,000 strong Army of Tennessee.
June 3 - A costly mistake by Grant results in 7,000 Union casualties in twenty minutes during an offensive against fortified Rebels at Cold Harbor in Virginia.
June 15 - Union forces miss an opportunity to capture Petersburg and cut off the Confederate rail lines. As a result, a nine month siege of Petersburg begins with Grant's forces surrounding Lee.
July 20 - At Atlanta, Sherman's forces battle the Rebels now under the command of Gen. John B. Hood, who replaced Johnston.
August 29 - Democrats nominate George B. McClellan for president to run against Republican incumbent Abraham Lincoln.
September 2 - Atlanta is captured by Sherman's Army. "Atlanta is ours, and fairly won," Sherman telegraphs Lincoln. The victory greatly helps President Lincoln's bid for re-election.
October 19 - A decisive Union victory by Cavalry Gen. Philip H. Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley over Jubal Early's troops.
November 8 - Abraham Lincoln is re-elected president, defeating Democrat George B. McClellan. Lincoln carries all but three states with 55 percent of the popular vote and 212 of 233 electoral votes. "I earnestly believe that the consequences of this day's work will be to the lasting advantage, if not the very salvation, of the country," Lincoln tells supporters.
November 15 - After destroying Atlanta's warehouses and railroad facilities, Sherman, with 62,000 men begins a March to the Sea. President Lincoln on advice from Grant approved the idea. "I can make Georgia howl!" Sherman boasts.
December 15/16 - Hood's Rebel Army of 23,000 is crushed at Nashville by 55,000 Federals including Negro troops under Gen. George H. Thomas. The Confederate Army of Tennessee ceases as an effective fighting force.
December 21 - Sherman reaches Savannah in Georgia leaving behind a 300 mile long path of destruction 60 miles wide all the way from Atlanta. Sherman then telegraphs Lincoln, offering him Savannah as a Christmas present.
January 31 - The U.S. Congress approves the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, to abolish slavery. The amendment is then submitted to the states for ratification.
February 3 - A peace conference occurs as President Lincoln meets with Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens at Hampton Roads in Virginia, but the meeting ends in failure - the war will continue. Only Lee's Army at Petersburg and Johnston's forces in North Carolina remain to fight for the South against Northern forces now numbering 280,000 men.
March 4 - Inauguration ceremonies for President Lincoln in Washington. "With malice toward none; with charity for all...let us strive on to finish the work we are in...to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations," Lincoln says.
March 25 - The last offensive for Lee's Army of Northern Virginia begins with an attack on the center of Grant's forces at Petersburg. Four hours later the attack is broken.
April 2 - Grant's forces begin a general advance and break through Lee's lines at Petersburg. Confederate Gen. Ambrose P. Hill is killed. Lee evacuates Petersburg. The Confederate Capital, Richmond, is evacuated. Fires and looting break out. The next day, Union troops enter and raise the Stars and Stripes.
April 4 - President Lincoln tours Richmond where he enters the Confederate White House. With "a serious, dreamy expression," he sits at the desk of Jefferson Davis for a few moments.
April 9 - Gen. Robert E. Lee surrenders his Confederate Army to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at the village of Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Grant allows Rebel officers to keep their sidearms and permits soldiers to keep horses and mules. "After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources," Lee tells his troops.
April 10 - Celebrations break out in Washington.
April 14 - The Stars and Stripes is ceremoniously raised over Fort Sumter. That night, Lincoln and his wife Mary see the play "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater. At 10:13 p.m., during the third act of the play, John Wilkes Booth shoots the president in the head. Doctors attend to the president in the theater then move him to a house across the street. He never regains consciousness.
April 15 - President Abraham Lincoln dies at 7:22 in the morning. Vice President Andrew Johnson assumes the presidency.
April 18 - Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrenders to Sherman near Durham in North Carolina.
April 26 - John Wilkes Booth is shot and killed in a tobacco barn in Virginia.
May 4 - Abraham Lincoln is laid to rest in Oak Ridge Cemetery, outside Springfield, Illinois.
In May - Remaining Confederate forces surrender. The Nation is reunited as the Civil War ends. Over 620,000 Americans died in the war, with disease killing twice as many as those lost in battle. 50,000 survivors return home as amputees.