Rutgers Logo Rutgers University
Eagleton Institute of Politics - 60th Anniversary
Eagleton Institute of Politics


E-Gov: Archive of American Politics

Election of 1860 and Civil War

1860 Election of Abraham Lincoln as President

Civil War 1861-62

Civil War 1863-65


Civil War 1861-1862

Fort Sumter
Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Currier & Ives

Image Source: Walton Rawls, A Great Book of Currier & Ives America, 1979, The History Project, University of Califonia at Davis

January 1861 -- The South Secedes

Following the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860, the South Carolina legislature calls a state convention that convenes on December 17, and on December 20 approves a proclamation to remove the state of South Carolina from the union. The secession of South Carolina is followed by the secession of six more states -- Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. Four additional states--Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina--delay acting on secession, but eventually join the others to make up the eleven states forming the Confederate States of America.


We, therefore, the People of South Carolina, by our delegates in Convention assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, have solemnly declared that the Union heretofore existing between this State and the other States of North America, is dissolved, and that the State of South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the world, as a separate and independent State; with full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do.

Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union Source: The Avalon Project, Yale Law School


February 1861 -- Creation of the Confederacy and seizure of federal property

On February 4, at a convention in Montgomery, Alabama, the seven seceding states adopt the Confederate Constitution, a document patterned after the United States Constitution, but stressing the autonomy of each state. Jefferson Davis is named provisional president of the Confederacy until elections could be held, and on February 18 delivers an Inaugural Address at the Alabama Capitol. On the same day as the start of the Montgomery Convention, a Peace Convention convenes in Washington at the initiation of Virginia, which had deferred acting on secession and was seeking a compromise that would avoid war. On February 11, Lincoln departs by rail from Springfield, Illinois, on his way to his March inaguaration in Washington, making stops in various states on the way in which he attempts to reaffirm his desire to avoid war. Lincoln arrives secretly in Washington on February 23, after a plot to assassinate him in Baltimore is discovered. When President Buchanan refused to surrender southern federal forts to the seceding states, southern state troops seized them. At Fort Sumter, South Carolina troops repulsed a supply ship trying to reach federal forces based in the fort. The ship was forced to return to New York, its supplies undelivered. After almost three weeks of deliberation, on February 27 the Peace Convention adopted and sent to Congress six proposed constitutional amendments, including a proposed extension of the Missouri Compromise line west to the Pacific Ocean. It was initially rejected, but, on reconsideration, barely passed. Virginia, which had initiated the peace initiative, votes against the provision in the Congress.

I shall endeavor to take the ground I deem most just to the North, the East, the West, the South, and the whole country. I take it, I hope, in good temper--certainly no malice toward any section. I shall do all that may be in my power to promote a peaceful settlement of all our difficulties. The man does not live who is more devoted to peace than I am. None who would do more to preserve it. But it may be necessary to put the foot down firmly. And if I do my duty, and do right, you will sustain me, will you not? Received, as I am, by the members of a Legislature the majority of whom do not agree with me in political sentiments, I trust that I may have their assistance in piloting the ship of State through this voyage, surrounded by perils as it is; for, if it should suffer attack now, there will be no pilot ever needed for another voyage.

Abraham Lincoln, Address to the New Jersey General Assembly, February 21, 1861 Source: The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler, Abraham Lincoln Online


March 1861 -- Lincoln's Inauguration

Lincoln is inaugurated on March 4, and again attempts to reassure the South in his Inaugural Address.


Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so....

Excerpts from Inaugural Address, March 4, 1860 Source:

Lincoln inaugural address Lincoln inauguration
Lincoln draft of Inaugural Address and photograph of Inauguration March 4, 1861 Image Source: Library of Congress


April 1861 -- Attack on Fort Sumter

President Lincoln advises South Carolina that he plans to to send supplies to Fort Sumter in hopes of avoiding a confrontation, but South Carolina demands that the commander of the fort, Robert Anderson, surrender immediately. After Anderson's offer to surrender after he had exhausted his supplies is rejected, on April 12, the Civil War begins with shots fired on the fort. Fort Sumter surrenders on April 15. On the same day, Lincoln issues a proclamation calling for Congress to reconvene on July 4 and requesting 75,000 troops to be used in recapturing seized federal property. Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas secede, and Richmond is named as the Confederate capital. On April 19, Lincoln proclaims a blockade of ports in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Stephen Douglas, Lincoln's adversary in campaigns for the Senate and the Presidency, delivers a "Preserve the Flag" address to the Illinois legislature on April 25 calling for support of the Union and urging volunteers to enlist in the Union army.On April 27, Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus along the line of troop movements between Philadelphia and Washington and extends the blockade to the ports of North Carolina and Virginia.


June 1861 -- Death of Douglas
Stephen Douglas dies in Chicago at the age of forty-eight on June 3, and Lincoln orders thirty days of mourning. Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri decline to join the Confederacy despite their acceptance of slavery.


July 1861 -- First Battle of Bull Run

Congress reconvenes on July 4, and the President's war message is forwarded as a formal government document. Union's General-in-Chief Winfield Scott orders General Irvin McDowell to advance on Confederate forces stationed at Manassas Junction, Virginia. McDowell's attack on July 21 results in a Southern victory, with federal troops breaking ranks and retreating in panic toward Washington in the battle later referred to by Southerners as Manassas and by Northerners as the First Battle of Bull Run. General Winfield Scott resigns on July 27. Lincoln names General George B. McClellan as commander of all troops in the Washington vicinity.


November 1861 -- McClellan promoted

Lincoln expands the scope of McClellan's command to the entire Union army.


January 1862 -- Lincoln orders action

On January 27, the President issues a war order directing that February 22 will be "...the day for a general movement of the Land and Naval forces of the United States against the insurgent forces." General McClellan ignores the order.


February1862 -- First Union victories

General Ulysses S. Grant captures Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland, giving the Union armies their first important victories.


March 1862 -- McClellan replaced, battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack

Frustrated with General McClellan's inaction, Lincoln issues an order on March 8 reorganizing the Army of Virginia and relieving McClellan of supreme command. McClellan is given command of the Army of the Potomac, and ordered to attack Richmond, beginning a series of battles known as the Peninsular Campaign. On March 8, the ironclad ram CSS Virginia (the captured and refitted USS Merrimack), destroys two Union warships, the USS Congress and USS Cumberland, threatening Federal control of Hampton Roads. The threat is ended the next day, however, after the Union ironclad, USS Monitor, successfully blocks the Virginia's advance on March 9 in the famed sea battle.

Monitor and Merrimack
  Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack Image
   Source: US Naval Historical Center


April 1862 -- The Battle of Shiloh

On April 6, Confederate forces attack Union forces under General Grant at Shiloh, Tennessee. By the end of the day, the federal troops were almost defeated. Yet, during the night, reinforcements arrived, and by the next morning the Union commanded the field. When Confederate forces retreated, the exhausted federal forces did not follow. The Battle of Shiloh results in the heaviest casualties of the War to that point with the killing of 13,000 of 63,000 Union soldiers and 11,000 of 40,000 Confederate troops.


April 1862 -- Farragut captures New Orleans

Flag Officer David Farragut leads a surprise flotilla assault up the Mississippi River, passing Confederate forts under darkness, and captures New Orleans on April 25. The Confederate Congress approves the Conscription Act imposing a draft of white men between eighteen and thirty-five years old for three years' service.


May-August 1862--The Peninsular Campaign

General McClellan's troops occupy Yorktown, Virginia on May 4, but then halt their advance to await reinforcements before engaging the main Confederate army. McClellan later moves to a position only five miles from Richmond, but then retreats before attacking the city.
May 1862 -- "Stonewall" Jackson Defeats Union Forces


Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson attacks Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley in late March, forcing them to retreat across the Potomac. Additional Union troops are ordered to protect Washington, D.C. against a possible attack. On May 31, the Confederate army attacks federal forces in the Battle of Seven Pines, but the Union escapes a serious defeat when last-minute reinforcements arrive.


June 1862 -- The Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks)

General Robert E. Lee succeeds General Joseph E. Johnston, who was wounded in the Battle of Seven Pines, as commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

July 1862 -- Lincoln orders new troops, signs first income tax

Lincoln calls into military service 300,000 volunteers and approves an act providing for a tax of three per cent on incomes in excess of $600, the first federal direct tax on income.On July 11, Major-General Henry Halleck is named general-in-chief of the Union army.


August 1862 -- Pope's Campaign

Union General John Pope is defeated in the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 29-30.


September 1862 -- Harper's Ferry and Antietam
Union General McClellan defeats General Lee at South Mountain and Crampton's Gap in September, but acts too slowly to save Harper's Ferry and the federal arsenal, which is taken by Stonewall Jackson on September 15.On September 17, Confederate forces under General Lee fight Union troops commanded by General McClellan near Sharpsburg, Maryland. The Battle of Antietam proved to be the single bloodiest day of the war: 2,108 Union soldiers were killed and 9,549 wounded and 2,700 Confederates were killed and 9,029 wounded. General Lee retreats to Virginia, but McClellan fails to pursue. The battle gives Lincoln the opportunity that he had been waiting for to announce his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, which would free all slaves in areas rebelling against the United States effective January 1, 1863.

Antietem  Antietem
Confederate dead awaiting burial at Antietam.
Images Source: Library of Congress


November 1862 -- McClellan dismissed
McClellan's reluctance to pursue the attack on Lee's army following Antietam provokes Lincoln on November 7 to dismiss McClellan, replacing him with Major-General Ambrose E. Burnside.


December 1862 -- Battle of Fredricksburg

Burnside's forces are repulsed on December 13 in repeated attacks on entrenched Confederate troops in the Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia, with the Union armies losing 13,000 men to 5,000 for the Confederates. The victory restores Confederate morale, and leads to Lincoln's replacement of Burnside with General Joseph Hooker.



Time Line of Civil War >> Library of Congress

The American Civil War Homepage >> Dr. George Hoemann, University of Tennessee

United States Civil War Center >> Louisiana State University

The Civil War Home Page >> Michael Frosch

Selected Civil War Photographs >> Library of Congress

Educational Tools

Lesson Plan: The Civil War >>Small Planet Communications

Attitudes toward Emancipation >> EDSITEment

Eve of the Civil War: People and Places in the North and South >> EDSITEment

Lincoln Goes to War >> EDSITEment

Teaching/Learning Package, Appomatox Courthouse >> National Park Service