Civil War Timeline & Leading Events

Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia by Kurz and Allison

Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia by Kurz and Allison

May 1-4, 1863 – The Union Army under General Hooker is decisively defeated by General Robert E. Lee’s much smaller forces at the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia as a result of Lee’s brilliant and daring tactics. Confederate General 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.

May 10, 1863 – 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.

May 22, 1863 – Union General Ulysses S. Grant won several victories around Vicksburg, Mississippi, the fortified city considered essential to the Union’s plans to regain control of the Mississippi River. On May 22, Grant began a siege of the city. After six weeks, Confederate General John Pemberton surrendered, giving up the city and 30,000 men. The capture of Port Hudson, Louisiana, shortly thereafter placed the entire Mississippi River in Union hands. The Confederacy was split in two.

June 3, 1863 – General 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 9, 1863 – Confederate cavalry under Jeb Stuart clash with the Union mounts of Alfred Pleasonton in an all-day battle at Brandy Station, Virginia. Some 18,000 troopers — approximately nine thousand on either side — take part, making this the largest cavalry battle on American soil. In the end, Stuart will hold the field. Yet this battle signals the rise and future domination of Union cavalry in the Eastern Theater.

June 20, 1863 – West Virginia became the 35th state and officially joins the Union.

June 28, 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln appoints General 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.


Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

July 1-3, 1863 – The Battle of Gettysburg is fought in Pennsylvania. General George G. Meade compromises his victory by allowing Lee to retreat South across the Potomac.


July 4, 1863 – Vicksburg, Mississippi, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, surrenders to General Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the West after a six-week siege. With the Union now in control of the Mississippi River, the Confederacy is effectively split in two, cut off from its western allies.

July 13-16, 1863 – Anti-draft 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, 1863 – “Negro troops” of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment under Colonel Robert G. Shaw assault fortified Rebels at Fort Wagner, South Carolina. Colonel Shaw and half of the 600 men in the regiment are killed.

Did You Know?

  • Sickness accounted for a full one-third of all casualties in the Civil War.
  • The 12th Connecticut Regiment entered the war with a complement of 1,000 men. Before it entered its first engagement, sickness had reduced its strength to 600 able-bodied soldiers.
  • General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate forces, traveled with a pet hen that laid one egg under his cot every morning.
  • Approximately 130,000 freed slaves became Union soldiers during the war.
  • Of the 364,000 on the Union side who lost their lives, a third were killed or died of wounds and two-thirds died of disease.
Frederick Douglass appealing to President Lincoln and his cabinet to enlist African-American

Frederick Douglass appealing to President Lincoln and his cabinet to enlist African-American

August 10, 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln meets with abolitionist Frederick Douglass who pushes for full equality for Union ‘Negro troops.’

August 21, 1863 – At LawrenceKansas, pro-Confederate William C. Quantrill and 450 pro-slavery followers raid the town and butcher 182 boys and men.

September 19-20, 1863 – A decisive Confederate victory by General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at Chickamauga leaves General William S. Rosecrans’ Union Army of the Cumberland trapped in Chattanooga, Tennessee under Confederate siege.

Confederates under General Braxton Bragg win a decisive victory at Chickamauga, Georgia. Union General George H. Thomas wins the nickname “Rock of Chickamauga” for his stubborn defense of his position.

October 16, 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln appoints General Ulysses S. Grant to command all operations in the Western Theater.

November 19, 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln delivers his two minute Gettysburg Address at a ceremony dedicating the Battlefield as a National Cemetery.

Battle of Chattanooga, L. Prang and Co, 1880

Battle of Chattanooga, L. Prang and Co, 1880

November 23-25, 1863 – The Rebel siege of Chattanooga, Tennessee ends as Union forces under General Ulysses S. Grant defeat the siege army of General 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, 1864 – President Abraham Lincoln appoints General Ulysses S. Grant to command all of the armies of the United States. General William T. Sherman succeeds Grant as commander in the west.

May 4, 1864 – The beginning of a massive, coordinated campaign involving all the Union Armies. In Virginia, General Ulysses S. 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, General William Sherman, with 100,000 men begins an advance toward Atlanta to engage Joseph E. Johnston’s 60,000 strong Army of Tennessee.

May 5–6, 1864 – The Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia is the first of a bloody series of month-long engagements between General Ulysses S. Grant and Lee.

May 10–12, 1864 – Battles at Spotsylvania Court House and Yellow Tavern impede General Ulysses S. Grant’s drive for Richmond. Confederate cavalry commander Jeb Stuart is killed at Yellow Tavern, May 11.