Notes- civil war: April 1861- april 1865

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NOTES- CIVIL WAR: April 1861- April 1865
Confederate States of America

South Carolina Texas

Mississippi Virginia**

Florida Arkansas

Alabama North Carolina

Georgia Tennessee


  • **A portion of Virginia broke away from the secessionists to stay loyal to the union- would become the state of West Virginia during the war.

  • CSA established their capital at Montgomery, Alabama in 1860 and then moved it to Richmond, Virginia in 1861 after the attack on Fort Sumter.

Border-states: (slave states that remained in the Union)

Delaware Maryland

Missouri Kentucky
Union President- Abraham Lincoln Confederate President: Jefferson Davis
Union Goal:

  • Restore the Union and force the seceding states to be loyal to the US again.

  • Abolition of slavery was NOT a Union war goal until 1863 (Emancipation Proclamation).

CSA Goal:

Complete independence from the US.

Union Battle Strategy: Anaconda Plan

  1. Blockade of southern ports

  2. Capture the Mississippi River to split the CSA

  3. Capture the Confederate capital of Richmond

Confederate Battle Strategy: Offensive Defensive

Attack when possible; otherwise, prevent conquest

  • Similar to Washington’s “don’t lose” strategy of the American Revolution

**Both sides believed this would be a quick conflict. Lincoln called for volunteers to fight for a total of 90 days**

  • 1st Conflict of War- Fort Sumter, South Carolina

  • 1st True Battle- 1st Battle of Bull Run (Manassas)

    • Showed that the Union troops, which were forced to retreat, were poorly trained to fight.

Union Advantages:

  1. Larger population

  2. Better industry to supply the war effort

  3. Better communication/transportation systems

  4. More efficient/ experienced government/ leadership (i.e. Congress/ Lincoln)

Confederate Advantages:

  1. Fighting a defensive war

  2. Better trained generals

Problems for Union and CSA:

  1. Cost of the war/ high inflation

  2. Lack of men to fight (both sides would enact a draft)

  3. High death tolls (battle, infections, prisoners)

  4. Political Struggles (suspension of habeas corpus/ draft riots/ uncooperative politicians)

The Civil War and Europe:

CSA hoped to convince Britain or France (or both) to give them direct aid for the war effort. The following factors influenced their decision NOT to recognize the CSA or directly aid them.

  1. Trent Affair:

  • Union warship stopped the British Trent and captured CSA diplomats James Mason and John Slidell, who were traveling to England in an effort to gain British recognition of the CSA. Britain demanded their release and threatened war. Lincoln gave in to British demands to avoid having them join the war on the Confederate side.

  1. Alabama and Confederate Raiders:

  • CSA gained some recognition as a belligerent to purchase warships from British shipyards to use in attacks on US merchant ships. The Alabama captured more than 60 vessels before being sunk off the coast of France by a Union warship. Britain canceled the sale of Laird rams to the CSA and would later pay the US $15.5 million in damages.

  1. Lee’s lack of victory at Antietam

  2. Emancipation Proclamation

Political Issues in the Union

  1. Division in the Republican Party

    1. Even though Republicans held a majority in Congress because of secession, they split

    • Radical Republicans (favored immediate abolition of slavery)

    • Moderate Republicans (Free-Soilers who were mostly concerned about economics of whites).

  1. Democrats

    1. Most supported the war but criticized how Lincoln was handling it

  2. Peace Democrats/Copperheads

    1. Opposed continuing the war; wanted to negotiate peace and allow the South to remain independent

  • Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham (Ohio)

  1. Suspension of Habeas Corpus

    1. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in Maryland and other states with a strong pro-CSA population.

    1. Ex Parte Milligran (1866)- Supreme Court ruled the government could only try civilians in a military trial when regular civilian courts were not available.

  1. Draft

      1. March 1863- First Conscription Act

  • All men aged 20-45 liable for service

  • Could be exempted IF they hired a substitute OR paid a $300 fee

      1. NYC Draft Riot – July 1863

  • A mostly Irish American mob attacked African Americans and wealthy whites

  • 117 people killed before a temporary suspension of the draft restored order

*** Lincoln still managed to win the reelection in 1864, even with the divisive politics***

Civil War and Slavery

  • Slavery was not an original war goal of the Union because Lincoln was concerned about the following:

  1. Keeping the support of the border-states

  2. The constitutional protections of slavery

  3. The racial prejudices of many Northerners

  4. The fear that premature action could be overturned in the next election

  • The path to abolition included the following:

  1. Conscription Acts (August 1861 and July1862:

    1. Allowed the Union Army to confiscate slaves as “contraband of war”, freed enslaved persons of anyone actively engaged in rebellion against the US, and permitted the participation of freed slaves in the Union Army.

  2. Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863):

    1. Issued after the Battle of Antietam, the proclamation announced that enslaved people in all states in rebellion were freed HOWEVER it only applied to Confederate states, where it could not be enforced.

    2. BUT… it did make the abolition of slavery a war goal of the Union.

  3. 13th Amendment (December 1865):

    1. Abolished slavery in all lands belonging to the US.

Commanding General- CSA:

General Robert E. Lee

Other Important Confederate Generals:

General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson General George Pickett

General P.G.T. Beauregard General John S. Mosby

General J.E.B. Stuart General John Bell Hood

General James Longstreet General John C. Breckenridge

Lt. General Bedford Forrest General Braxton Bragg

General Joseph E. Johnston General AP (Ambrose Powell) Hill

Commanding Generals- Union:

  • April 1861- Oct 1861 (retired): General Winfield Scott

    • Developed the Anaconda Plan

  • Nov 1861- Mar 1862: General George B. McClellan

    • (also served as Commander in the East, Army of the Potomac (July 1861-Nov 1862)

  • July 1862- Mar 1864: General Henry W. Halleck

    • Also served as the Commander of the Missouri in the West (Nov 1861-July 1862)

  • Mar 1864- May 1865: General Ulysses S. Grant

    • Also served as the Commander in the West

Other Important Union Generals:


  • Irvin McDowell: Commander in the east (May 1861-July 1861); removed from command by Lincoln after his defeat at the 1st Battle of Bull Run.

  • John Pope: Appointed commander of the new Union Army of Virginia (July 1862- Aug 1862) while McClellan remained inactive in the south. After his defeat at 2nd Bull Run, his army was added to the Army of the Potomac and he was stripped of command.

  • Ambrose Burnside: Commander of the Army of the Potomac (Nov 1862-Jan 1863). Replaced after the defeat of Fredericksburg.

  • Joseph Hooker: (Jan 1863-June 1863): Replaced as the commander of the Army of the Potomac after defeat at Chancellorsville.

  • George G. Meade: (June 1863-April 1865). Although he failed to pursue Lee after the Union victory at Gettysburg, he could continue to command the Army of the Potomac until the end of the war.


  • John C. Fremont (May 1861-Nov 1861). Appointed commander of the western department but was relieved of command after various incidents of incompetency.

    • March 1862- June 1862: Appointed to command of the new Mountain Department. When his army was to be included into the new Army of Virginia, he declined to serve since he would have to be under the command of John Pope.

  • Don Carlos Buell (May 1861-Oct 1862). Appointed commander of the new Department of the Ohio (later called the Army of the Ohio and eventually the Army of the Cumberland). He had trouble coordinating with General Halleck and was eventually relieved of command because of failing to pursue southern general Bragg after the Battle of Perryville.

  • William S. Rosecrans (Oct 1862-Oct 1863): Appointed commander of the Army of the Ohio (later Army of the Cumberland). Lincoln disliked his constant complaining and after his defeat at Chickamauga, Grant replaced him.

  • George Thomas (Oct 1863). Appointed commander of the Army of the Cumberland, replacing Rosecrans. He defeated the Confederate General Hood decisively.

  • William Sherman (Nov 1863-April 1865): Appointed commander of the Army of the Tennessee, working closing with Grant. He would lead a “march to the sea” capturing the city of Savannah, and then return to Grant’s army in the East to aid in defeating the forces under CSA General Lee.


  • 10,500 battles, engagements, and other military actions

    • 50 major battles

    • 100 others that had major significance.

  • fought in 23 different states

  • designated theaters

    • Easter Theater

    • Western Theater

    • Trans-Mississippi Theater

    • Gulf Coast

    • Sioux Uprising


Eastern Theater

April 12: Battle of Fort Sumter (Charleston Harbor, South Carolina)

The bombardment/siege and surrender of Fort Sumter by Brig. General P.G.T. Beauregard was the official start of the Civil War.


July 21: First Battle of Bull Run/ AKA First Manassas (Manassas, Virginia)

1st major engagement of the Civil War was a shocking rout of Union soldiers by confederates at Manassas Junction, VA

November 7–8: Battle of Port Royal Sound (Port Royal Sound, South Carolina)

One of the earliest amphibious operations of the American Civil War.

 Western Theater

August 10: Battle of Wilson’s Creek (Wilson’s Creek/Oak Hills, Missouri)

First major battle of the Western Theater and is often called the "Bull Run of the West."

 November 7: Battle of Belmont (Belmont, Missouri)

General Ulysses S. Grant took command and began his Civil War career.


Eastern Theater

March 8–9: Battle Of Hampton Roads (Hampton Roads, Virginia)

First battle between the ironclad warships; often called the Monitor & the Merrimack (renamed Virginia by the CSA.)


 June 25-July 1: The Seven Days Battle (Henrico County, Virginia)

Series of battles in the Peninsula Campaign consisting of a Confederate counter-offensive which drove the Union Army away from the Confederate capitol of Richmond down the Virginia Peninsula.
August 28–30: Second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas, Virginia)

Resulted in a second defeat for Union troops in the area of 1st Bull Run, though it was not a complete rout like the first battle was. The CSA victory set the stage for Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North, which would result in the Battle of Antietam.

 September 17: Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg, Maryland)

The bloodiest single day in American history, it turned back Robert E. Lee’s first Northern invasion. Though a draw, it was enough of a win for President Lincoln to announce his Emancipation Proclamation. When Maj Gen. George B. McClellan failed to pursue Lee after the battle, Lincoln removed him from command. Lee’s failure helped convince Europe not to help the CSA.

December 11–15: Battle of Fredericksburg (Fredericksburg, Virginia)

More troops were present at this battle than at any other of the Civil War, including Gettysburg. Poor coordination of attacks by Union commanders, combined with strong CSA defensive positions, resulted in a lopsided slaughter of Federal troops.

Western Theater

February 6: Battle of Fort Henry (Fort Henry, Tennessee)

The first major victory for the Union in the Western Theater, led by Brig. General Ulysses S. Grant.

February 11–16: Battle of Fort Donelson (Fort Donelson, Tennessee)

General Ulysses S. Grant captured the fort, gaining him recognition as well as the nickname "Unconditional Surrender."

April 6–7: Battle of Shiloh (Shiloh, Tennessee)

The casualty totals were shocking, with the two-day total exceeding that of all previous American wars combined. The battle turned back a Confederate attempt to re-capture Middle Tennessee and contributed to Union Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s reputation as a leader who would keep fighting even in adverse circumstances.

June 28: Battle of Vicksburg (Vicksburg, Mississippi)

"The Confederate Gibraltar," Vicksburg, Mississippi, had to be captured before Union ships could safely traverse the entire length of the Mississippi. The Vicksburg Campaign lasted many months, leading to the Battle of Vicksburg in May 1863. After Federal assaults repulsed on May 19 and 22, the Union commander, Ulysses S. Grant, settled into siege warfare.

 Sioux Uprising

  • August 20–22: Fort Ridgely, Minnesota

  • September 23: Wood Lake, Minnesota


Eastern Theater

April 30–May 6: Battle of Chancellorsville (Chancellorsville, Virginia)

Widely regarded as General Robert E. Lee’s greatest victory. It turned back the Union Army of the Potomac under Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker, but it was a costly victory. Lee’s brilliant and aggressive corps commander Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was mortally wounded by his own men, who mistook him and his staff for Union cavalry.


July 1–3: Battle of Gettysburg (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania)

The largest battle ever fought on the North American continent, Gettysburg marked the end of Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North and was a turning point in the Civil War. Over 43,000 were killed in the three day battle.

July 18–Sept 7: Siege of Fort Wagner, South Carolina

A large part of the fighting forces for the North was the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, an all-African American unit.


May 18–July 4: Siege of Vicksburg (Vicksburg, Mississippi)

The Siege of Vicksburg represented the last phase of the Vicksburg Campaign where General Grant surrounded the city of Vicksburg, which finally surrendered on July 4.

September 18: Battle Of Chickamauga (Chickamauga, Georgia)

The largest battle fought in the Western Theater of the Civil War, Chickamauga was one of the few Confederate victories in that theater. Braxton Bragg’s CSA Army of Tennessee, reinforced by a corps from the Army of Northern Virginia, routed the forces of Maj Gen William S. Rosecrans. Bragg failed to follow up aggressively though.


November 23-25: Battle Of Chattanooga (Chattanooga, Tennessee)

The Union victory opened the road to Atlanta for Federal armies. Following the Battle of Chickamauga in September, CSA troops besieged those of the Union in Chattanooga. After Ulysses S. Grant took command, the siege was broken, and the thinly stretched Confederates were driven from the ridges above the town by an impromptu charge by the Army of the Cumberland.


Eastern Theater

May 5–7: Battle Of The Wilderness (Spotsylvania County, Virginia)

The first clash between Lee and Grant. Three days of close-quarters fighting in woods and tangled underbrush resulted in nearly 20,000 total casualties. Although the CSA could claim a tactical victory, the battle showed that the North’s largest army would no longer retreat after a reverse, and Lee’s army was slowly pushed back to trenches around Richmond and Petersburg


May 8–21: Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse (Spotsylvania County, Virginia)

Part of Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign in Virginia in the summer of 1864, the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse was a costly tactical victory for Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, which could not hope to win a war of attrition.


May 31-June 12: Battle of Cold Harbor (Cold Harbor, Virginia)

Marked the end of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign known for the 7,000 Union Casualties suffered in under an hour in a frontal assault on Confederate lines.

June 15–18: Battle of Petersburg (Petersburg, Virginia)

The siege of Petersburg, June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865, marked a change in tactics in the Eastern Theater of the war. Instead of the campaigns of maneuver that had characterized the war up to that point, Union and CSA armies fought a series of trench-warfare battles more like those of World War I than of the Civil War.


Western Theater

April 12: Battle of Fort Pillow (Fort Pillow, Tennessee)

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s command captured a Mississippi River fort in Tennessee, leading to a massacre of many of the Union African American troops defending the fort.


 July 22: Battle of Atlanta (Atlanta, Georgia)

Union victory in the Battle of Atlanta, July 22, 1864, is often credited as the turning point that allowed to be re-elected president instead of George B. McClellan, who would have sought peace terms with the Confederacy. After the battle, Confederate troops set fire to the city before evacuating, to deny its resources to William T. Sherman’s Federal troops.


December 15–16: Battle of Nashville (Atlanta, Georgia)

The battle of Nashville was the last major battle in the Western Theater and a major victory for the Union.


August 5: Battle of Mobile Bay (Mobile Bay, Alabama)

A Union fleet under Rear Admiral David G. Farragut, attacked and defeated a smaller, less well-equipped CSA naval force. The battle is most remembered for a line Farragut may or may not have actually spoken: Warned there were torpedoes (mines) floating in the harbor, he reportedly said, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!"

Off Cherbourg, France: June 25

USS Kearsarge fights CSS Alabama

Eastern Theater

April 6: Battle of Sailor’s Creek (Amelia County, Virginia)

The Battle of Sailor’s Creek was part of the Appomattox Campaign during the final days of the civil war and was Robert E. Lee’s last battle before surrendering at Appomattox Court House

April 8: Battle of Appomattox Courthouse (Appomattox Station, Virginia)

The last battle fought by Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. After his attempt to break out of a closing trap failed, Lee met with Ulysses S. Grant to surrender his army. Although the Civil War did not end with the surrender at Appomattox, the loss of the South’s largest army was the death knell of the Confederacy.


May 12-13: Battle of Palmetto Ranch (Palmetto Ranch, Texas)

The Battle of Palmetto Ranch was the final battle of the Civil War.

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