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Election of 1860 and Civil War

1860 Election of Abraham Lincoln as President

Civil War 1861-62

Civil War 1863-65


The Civil War 1863-1865

January 1863 -- Emancipation Proclamation

Emancipation Proclamation
Lincoln depicted with Cabinet at first reading of Emancipation Proclamation. Image Source: Library of Congress

Lincoln formally issues The Emancipation Proclamation on January 1. The Proclamation declares "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free." It applies, however, only to states that had seceded from the Union, not affecting those in the border states allowing slavery that had decided against secession. It also expressly excludes those parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control.


March 1863 -- Union draft and New York City draft riots

Because of the difficulty or recruiting volunteers as the casualties of the War mounted, the Congress enacts the Conscription Act making all Union men between the ages of 20 and 45 subject to a draft for military service. The Act allows draftees to avoid serving by paying a fee of $300 or by finding a substitute. In New York City, riots erupt for five days in working-class sections with high numbers of recent immigrants resulting in 105 deaths, including several free blacks caught by the mob. The riots end only after federal troops are dispatched to the City to restore order.


May 1863 -- Battle of Chancellorsville and Vicksburg Campaign

General Lee defeats Union General Hooker in the Battle of Chancellorsville, forcing Hooker to retreat across the Rappahannock River. Although Hooker suffers over 17,000 casualties, the losses account for only 13% of his total strength. Lee's casualties of 13,000 represent 22% of his smaller army.
In the West, General Grant wins several victories around Vicksburg, Mississippi, and on May 22 begins a siege of the city.


June 1863 -- The Gettysburg Campaign

General Lee decides to invade the North, hoping to draw Union forces away from their positions near Richmond and in the defense of Washington. Lee also hopes to pressure Lincoln to enter peace negotiations or undermine his political support in the 1864 election. On June 13, Lee defeats Union forces at Winchester, Virginia, clearing the Shenandoah Valley of Union troops, and continues north to Pennsylvania. General Hooker, who had been planning to attack Richmond, is ordered to pursue Lee, but resigns his command on June 27 after a dispute with General Halleck. Lincoln quickly replaces Hooker with General George Meade as commander of the Army of the Potomac, and Meade leads the Army in the pursuit of Lee.


July 1863 --Battle of Gettysburg and Surrender of Vicksburg

Lee's troops reach Gettysburg on June 30, with the first Union forces arriving the next day. By the morning of July 2, additional troops arrive and heavy fighting breaks out. The battle is decided on July 3 after the Confederate attack known as "Pickett's Charge" is thrown back with the loss of nearly 3,000 men, over half of the Division's forces. During the battle, over 51,000 soldiers are killed, wounded or captured, the single largest casualty total in American military history. Lee retreats south to Virginia.

Gettysburg  Gettysburg
Dead soldiers at Gettysburg. Image Source: Library of Congress.

After a six-week bombardment and the depletion of food and ammunition, Confederate General John Pemberton surrenders the city of Vicksburg and 30,000 men to General Grant. The capture of Port Hudson, Louisiana, shortly thereafter places the entire Mississippi River in Union control, splitting the Confederacy in two. The victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg mark the decisive swing in the War against the Confederates


September 1863 -- Battle of Chickamauga

On September 19, Union and Confederate forces meet near Chickamauga Creek on the Tennessee-Georgia border. The Battle of Chickamauga costs the Union over 18,000 killed and wounded, with the Confederates losing over 16,000. The Union forces retreat to Chattanooga.


November 1863 -- Battle of Chattanooga

On November 23-25, Union troops captured Orchard Knob and Lookout Mountain, and the highly fortified Confederate position on Missionary Ridge in the Battle of Chattanooga. The victory allowed the Union to hold the strategic crossroads at Chattanooga, the “Gateway to the Lower South,” which became the supply and logistics base for General Sherman’s 1864 Atlanta Campaign.


December 1863 -- Lincoln Reconstruction Plan

Lincoln announces reconstruction plan, viewed by Radical Republicans as too lenient on punishing the Confederate states. Lincoln's Treasury Secretary, Salmon P. Chase, begins effort to gain support for potential challenge to Lincoln's nomination for re-election.


March 1864 -- Chase drops potential challenge to Lincoln re-nomination

Treasury Secretary Chase announces that he will not be candidate for the Republican nomination.


May 1864 -- Wilderness Campaign; Radical Democracy party organizes

General Grant begins attempts to destroy Lee's forces in Virginia. Despite inflicting heavy Union casualties in what becomes known as the Wilderness Campaign, Lee is unable to gain supplies or reinforcements. In the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House over a two-week period, Union losses reach 18,000 and Lee's armies suffer 12,000 casualties.

Republican critics of Lincoln convene on May 31 in Cleveland, one week before the Republican convention in Baltimore. Adopting the name Radical Democracy, the delegates nominate for president Union General John C. Frémont, the Republican presidential candidate in 1856, and for vice president John Cochrane of New York, a former Democratic Congressman. The party's platform calls for continuation of the war without compromise and a Constitutional amendment prohibiting slavery and authorizing federal protection of equal rights.


June 1864 -- Battle of Cold Harbor; Lincoln nominated for second term

Grant loses over 7,000 men in twenty minutes of fighting at Cold Harbor, but Lee's fewer casualties further deplete his forces. Grant commences ten-month offensive attempting to capture Richmond by taking the railroad hub of Petersburg to its south.

Lincoln is nominated for re-election at Republican Convention. Tennessee's Andrew Johnson, a Democrat and the only U.S. senator from a seceding state to remain loyal to the Union, is chosen as the candidate for vice-president in an effort to broaden the ticket's appeal to Democratic moderates. The Republicans also change their name to the "National Union" party to emphasize their policy of reconciliation. The Democrats decide to postpone their convention until August to see how the military situation progresses. Lincoln accepts the resignation of Treasury Secretary Chase, remarking that they had come to "a point of mutual embarrassment" in their official relations.


July 1864 -- Confederates threaten Washington

Confederates attempt to divert Union troops away from Lee's army in Virginia by invading Maryland with forces under command of General Jubal Early. Confederate lines advance to within five miles of Washington, D.C., but on July 1 are forced back to Virginia.

President Lincoln vetoes the Wade-Davis Bill requiring the majority of the electorate in each Confederate state to swear past and future loyalty to the Union before the state could officially be readmitted to the Union, provoking criticism from Radical Republicans as he begins campaign for re-election.


August 1864 -- Sherman's Atlanta Campaign; McClellan nominated by Democrats

Union General William T. Sherman leaves Chattanooga in attempt to split the South and capture Atlanta. After inflicting heavy destruction on private property in a controversial campaign, Sherman succeeds in capturing and occupying Atlanta in September.

The Democratic Party holds its delayed convention, nominating for president former General George McClellan for president on a peace platform that includes a plank declaring the war a failure and calling for an armistice and a peace convention of the states. McClellan accepts the nomination, but repudiates the platform's position on an immediate peace, and indicates that he would support continuance of slavery in the South after the War's end.


October 1864 -- Chief Justice Taney dies

Chief Justice Roger Taney, author of the Supreme Court's majority opinion in the case of Dred Scott v. Sanford, dies. Salmon P. Chase, Lincoln's former Treasury Secretary, speaks in behalf of Lincoln's re-election, possibly to improve his prospects to be appointed to fill the vacancy on the Court.


November 1864 -- Lincoln Re-Elected

Lincoln and Johnson are elected with 55 percent of the popular vote. The Republican ticket wins easily in the electoral college with 212 electoral votes to 21 for the Democrats. McClellan carries only New Jersey, Delaware, and Kentucky of the loyal Union states.


December 1864-- Sherman reaches the sea

Sherman completes his month-long march tthrough Georgia by capturing Fort McAllister and the city of Savannah.


December 1864 -- Battle of Nashville

Union General George H. Thomas defeat Confederate General John B. Hood at the Battle of Nashville on December 14-15, and then pursues and effectively destroys the remainder of Hood's army.


January 1865 -- Fall of the Confederacy

President Jefferson Davis approves the arming of slaves as a means of strengthening the Confederate forces, but the measure is never implemented.


February 1865 -- Sherman advances through Carolinas; Lincoln rejects Confederate peace initiative

General Sherman moves north from Georgia through South and North Carolina, again destroying both military facilities and private property.

President Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward meet with representatives of Confederate President Jefferson Davis on the Federal steamship River Queen, which they board at Fort Monroe, Virginia. The meeting breaks up without agreement when the Confederates demand that any peace must recognize the independence of the South.


April 1865 -- Fall of Richmond and surrender at Appomattox Courthouse

Lee and Grant
Lee and Grant at Appomatox
Image Source: National Park Service

General Lee is repulsed in attacks on Grant's forces near Petersburg. On April 2, Lee evacuates Richmond, and attempts to retreat west to join with other forces. Lee's retreat is blocked by Grant, and his remaining soldiers are surrounded and cut off from supplies. Grant calls upon Lee to surrender, and on April 9 Lee meets Grant at Appomattox Courthouse to sign the terms of surrender. Lee's troops are sent home on parole, allowed to keep their horses and side arms.


April 1865 -- Assassination of President Lincoln

John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth
Image Source: National Park Service

On the evening of April 14, Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth while watching a performance of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater in Washington. Lincoln dies the next morning at a rooming house across the street. Booth, a well-known actor, escapes to Virginia, but eleven days later is fatally shot by a Union soldier after being cornered in a barn in which he was hiding. Of nine other people implicated in the assassination, four are hanged, four imprisoned, and one acquitted.


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

April 1865: The Month that Saved America >> History Channel