It requires a history degree to comprehend everything that took place during the American Civil War:

Yet, in an attempt to simplify, we’ve put together a Civil War timeline that includes the major dates and their significance.

(Information in the following timeline is sourced from, and

November 6, 1860

On this day, Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States. The important thing here is that he won the election without receiving a single Southern vote.

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December 20, 1860

This is the day when South Carolina seceded from the Union. Within two months after this event, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana also seceded.

February 9, 1861

Formation of the Confederate States of America with Jefferson Davis as the President.

April 12, 1861

The Confederates, under the leadership of General Pierre Beauregard open fire upon Fort Sumter in South Carolina with 50 cannons. This marks the beginning of the Civil War.

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April 17, 1861

Virginia also secedes from the Union, followed by Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee within five weeks after Virginia. This forms an 11 state Confederacy, leaving the Union with 21 states.

April 19, 1861

President Lincoln issues a Proclamation for Blockade against South ports, limiting the South’s ability to remain well supplied during the war against a much more industrialized North.

April 20, 1861

Robert E. Lee accepts command of the military and naval forces of Virginia.

July 21, 1861

The Union Army under the command of General Irvin McDowell is defeated at Bull Run, a place located 25 kilometers southwest of Washington. Union troops are driven back to Washington, and Present Lincoln realizes that this will be a long war.

July 27, 1861

George B. McClellan is appointed as Commander of the Department of the Potomac by Lincoln, replacing McDowell.

November 1, 1861

McClellan is appointed as General-in-Chief of all Union forces by President Lincoln.

November 8, 1861

International diplomatic crisis begins as two Confederate ships sailing towards England are captured by the US Navy. England demands their release and threatens war, causing Lincoln to finally give in and order their release in December.

February 6, 1862

General Ulysses S. Grant wins in Tennessee, capturing Fort Henry and capturing Fort Donelson 10 days after this. He earns the nickname ‘Unconditional Surrender’ Grant.

March 8-9, 1862

The Confederate ship Ironclad ‘Merrimac’ sinks two wooden Union ships. It goes on to battle the Union Ironclad ‘Monitor’, which ends in a draw. This battle is an important Civil War date as it makes wooden ships obsolete.

March 1862

Peninsular Campaign begins as McClellan’s Army of the Potomac moves from Washington to the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay to reach the peninsular South of the Confederate Capital Richmond. Virginia begins to advance towards Richmond.

April 6-7, 1862

Confederate carries out a surprise attack on General Grant’s unprepared troops at Shiloh on the Tennessee River, which leads to a bitter struggle. 13,000 Union soldiers are killed and wounded, and 10,000 Confederates suffer, the highest number than in all previous American wars combined.

June 1, 1862

General Robert E. Lee takes command, replacing Johnston. Lee renames the force the Army of Northern Virginia and starts a withdrawal back towards Washington.

September 17, 1862

Bloodiest Civil War date as General Lee and his army stopped at Antietam in Maryland by McClellan. 26,000 men are killed, wounded, or declared missing. Lee withdraws to Virginia.

September 22, 1862

President Lincoln issues Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves.

December 13, 1862

Army of the Potomac suffers a major defeat under General Burnside at Fredericksburg in Virginia.

January 1, 1863

President Lincoln issues the final Emancipation Proclamation to free all slaves in territories held by Confederates and enlist black soldiers in the Union Army.

May 10, 1863

South suffers a big blow as General Stonewall Jackson dies.

June 3, 1863

General Lee launches a second invasion of the North, heading into Pennsylvania, which soon leads to Gettysburg.

July 1-3, 1863

War turns in favor of the Union on this crucial Civil War date as the Confederates get defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.

November 19, 1863

President Lincoln delivered the famous Gettysburg Address and dedicated the Battlefield as a National Cemetery.

August 29, 1864

Democrats nominate McClellan to run for President against Republican Abraham Lincoln.

November 8, 1864

Lincoln is re-elected as president.

January 31, 1865

US Congress approves the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution to abolish slavery.

April 2, 1865

Lee evacuates Petersburg and Richmond. The next day marks the entry of Union troops and the raising of the Stars and Stripes.

April 9, 1865

General Lee surrenders the Confederate Army to General Grant.

April 14, 1865

President Lincoln is assassinated and dies on the morning of the next day.

May 1865

All remaining Confederate troops surrender, and the US is reunited as the Civil War comes to an end.

If we are missing any key dates in this Civil War timeline please tell us on Facebook. Thank you.

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