Interactive Timeline

Framers of the Constitution compromise on issues related to slavery

Missouri Compromise admits Missouri as a slave state but prohibits
slavery elsewhere in the Louisiana Purchase territory.
Our Documents - Missouri Compromise (1820)

Citation: Conference committee report on the Missouri Compromise, March 1,
More in the About Our Freedom Reading Room: Politics

Nat Turner's rebellion in Virginia sends shockwaves through the South.

William Lloyd Garrison founds his abolitionist newspaper The Liberator.

Liberty Party fields a presidential candidate.

Texas admitted to the Union.

War between the United States and Mexico.

Wilmot Proviso calls for barring slavery from lands acquired from Mexico.

Free Soil Party fields a presidential candidate.

Compromise of 1850 includes admission of California as a free state
(giving free states a permanent majority in the United States
Senate) and enactment of a tough Fugitive Slave Law.

Whig Party fields its last serious presidential candidate, signaling breakdown of the second-party system.

Publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin

Kansas-Nebraska Act inflames sectional tensions.

Abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts is caned by Preston Brooks of South Carolina on the floor of the Senate after delivering his "Crime Against Kansas" speech.

The Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision opens federal territories to slavery and outrages many people in the North.

John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia, intensifies sectional tensions.

A series of fires in Texas during the summer spreads rumors of slave insurrection across the South.

Nov. 1860  
Abraham Lincoln elected as the first Republican president.

Dec. 20, 1860  
South Carolina seceded from the Union.

Jan. 9-Feb. 1  
The remaining six sttes of the Lower South secede (Mississippi, Jan. 9; Florida, Jan. 10; Alabama, Jan. 11; Georgia, Jan. 19, Louisiana, Jan. 26; Texas, Feb. 1).

Feb. 4-March 11  
A convention of delegates from the seven seceded states, meeting in Montgomery, Alabama, writes a constitution and selects Jefferson Davis and Alexander H. Stephens a provisional President and  Vice President of a new slaveholding republic called the Confederate States of America.

March 4  
Lincoln's First Inaugural Address declares that the "momentous issue of civil war" lay in the hands of secessionists.

April 12-13  
Confederate bombardment results in the surrender of Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.

April 15  
Lincoln calls for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion.

April 17-Jnue 8  
 Four states of the Upper South secede in response to Lincoln's call for volunteers (Virginia, April 17;  Arkansas, May 6; North Carolina, Amy 20; Tennessee, June 8).

April 19  
The Sixth Massachusetts Infantry is attacked by a mob in Baltimore.

Early May
General Winfield Scott briefs President Lincoln and others about a strategy that came to be known as the "Anaconda Plan."

May 20
Confederate Congress votes to move the national government from Montgomery to Richmond.

May 24
Benjamin F. Butler declares fugitive slaves a Fort Monroe, Virginia, "contraband of war" and refuses to return them to their Confederate owners.

June 11
Unionist delegates from 26 countries convene in Wheeling, Virginia, to begin a process that eventually results in the creation of the state of West  Virginia.

July 21   
Battle of First Manassas or Bull Run yields a flashy Confederate victory that builds confidence in the South and convinces many northerners that the war will be longer and harder than first thought.

August 6
U. S. Congress passes the first Confiscation Act, which free fugitive slaves who have been employedd in the Confederate war  effort.

Aug. 10
Battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri, delivers a blow to anti-secessionists in the state.

Aug. 30
John C. Freemont declares free the slaves of Pro-Confederate owners in Missouri;  Lincoln instructs him to modify the order to make it conform with existing congressional legislation.

Sept. 3
Confederate military forces enter Kentucky to occupy the strong position at Columbus, an act that spurs Kentucky to stand firmly with the Union.

Oct. 21  
Union forces suffer a debacle at Ball's Bluff, near Leesburg, Virginia, that helps prompt creation of the Joint Committee on the conduct of the War.

Nov. 1
George B. McClellan replaces Winfield Scott as General-in-Chief of the U. S. Army.

Nov. 8
Confedeate diplomats, James M. Mason and John Slidell are removed from the British vessel Trent, precipitating a diplomatic crisis between the United States and Great Britain.


Feb. 6
U. S. Grant captures Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.

Feb. 16 
U. S. Grant captures Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River.

Feb. 25
Union forces occupy Nashville, Tennessee.

Feb. 25
President Lincoln signs the Legal Tender Act, which creates national treasury notes, soon dubbed "greenbacks."

March 6-7
Union victory at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, helps solidify Missouri's status as a loyal state.

March 9
U.S.S. Monitor and C.S.S. Virginia fight the first naval engagement between ironclad vessels.

March 16
U.S. Congress abolishes slavery in the District of Columbia, offering compensation to loyal owners.

April 5
George B. McClellan begins a month-long siege of Yorktown, Virginia, marking the first important event in his Peninsula campaign.

April 6-7
U.S. Grant wins the Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing), completing a series of Union triumphs that denies the Confederacy control of major sections of Tennessee.

April 16
C.S. Congress passes the first national conscription act in American history; acts passed on Sept. 27, 1862, and Feb. 17, 1864, supplement the original legislation.

April 25
New Orleans falls to Union forces under David G. Farragut, giving the United States control of the lower Mississippi River.

May 8
"Stonewall" Jackson wins the Battle of McDowell, the first of several victories his Shenandoah Valley campaign; triumphs at Front Royal (May 23), First Winchester (May 25), Cross Keys (June 8), and Port Republic (June 9) follow.

May 9 
General David Hunter declares free all slaves in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida; President Lincoln nullifies Hunter's proclamation ten days later.

May 15
U.S. Congress passes the Homestead Bill.

May 30
Confederates abandon the key railroad center of Corinth, Mississippi.

May 31-June 1
The battle of Seven Pines or Fair Oaks is fought near Richmond; Joseph E Johnston is wounded on the first day of action, and command of the Confederate army defending Richmond against George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac passes to Robert E. Lee.

June 6
Memphis, Tennessee, falls to Union military forces.

June 17
U.S. Congress passes the Land Grant College Bill (Morrill Act).

June 19
U.S. Congress prohibits slavery in the territories.

June 25-July 1
The Seven B reverses a tide of the Union military success as Robert E. Lee drives George B. McClellan away from Richmond in at Mechanicsville (June 26), Gaines's Mill (June 27), Savage Station (June 29), Glendale or Frayser's farm (June 30), and Malvern Hill (July 1).

July 12
Lincoln appeals to the border state congressman to support gradual, compensated emancipation, warning that the war may destroy slavery without compensation if they do not act; two days later, they reject his proposal.

July 17
U.S. Congress passes the Second Confiscation Act, which frees all slave of owners who support the Confederacy.

July 22
Lincoln tells his cabinet that he intends to issue an emancipation proclamation.

July 22
The Union and the Confederacy agree to a cartel providing for the exchange of prisoners of war and the parole of excess captives held by either side.

Aug. 28-30
Robert E. Lee wins a victory over John Pope's Army of Virginia at the Battle of Second Manassas or Bull Run.

Sept. 17
Union victory at the Battle of Antieam or Sharpsburg ends Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North.

Sept. 22
Lincoln issues his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

Oct. 8
The Battle of Perryville marks the climax of a Confederate invasion into Kentucky  by armies under Braxton Bragg and E. Kirby Smith; the Confederates withdraw from the state after the battle.

Oct. 11
C.S. Congress exempts from conscription one white male on each plantation that has twenty or more slaves; this alienates many non-slaveholding white southerners.

Nov. 4
Democrats score gains in the northern off-year elections.

Nov. 5
Lincoln replaces George B. McClellan with Ambrose E. Burnside as Commander of the Army of the Potomac.

Dec. 13
Robert E. Lee defeats Burnside at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Dec. 20-30
Destruction of U.S. Grant's supply base at Holly Springs, Mississippi, and William Tecumseh Sherman's repulse in the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou frustrate an initial attempt to capture the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg.

Dec. 31-Jan 2, 1863
Battle of Stone's River, or Murfreesboro, fought in middle Tennessee, results in the retreat of Braxton' s Bragg's Confederate army and the beginning of six month's of inactivity on this front.


Jan. 1
Lincoln issues his Emancipation Proclamation

Feb. 25
U.S. Congress passes the National Banking Act.

March 3
U. S. Congress passes the Enrollment Act, which institutes a national draft; the Union will issue four calls under this legislation, in July 1863 and March, July, and December 1864.

April 2
Women take to the streets in the Richmond "bread riot" to protest food shortages.

April 24
C.S. Congress enacts the tax-in-kind law, a highly unpopular measure requiring agricultural producers to give a portion of the annual production of various crops to the national government.

May 1-4
Robert E. Lee defeats Joseph Hooker (who has replaced Ambrose E. Burnside a commander of the Army of the Potomac in late January 1863) in the Battle of Chancellorsville.

May 1-17
U.S. Grant wins battles a Port Gibson (May 1); Raymond (May 12); Jackson (May 14); Champion Hill (May 16), and the Big Black River (May 17) en route to bottling up John C. Pemberton's army in Vicksburg defenses.

May 26
Anti-war Democrat Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio is banished to Confederate lines near Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

June 20
West Virginia joins the Union as a new state.

June 23-July 3
William S. Rosecrans's Tullahoma campaign compels Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee to withdraw from middle Tennessee.

July 1-3
George G. Meade's victory in the Battle of Gettysburg ends Robert E. Lee's second invasion of the North.

July 4
The Confederate army at Vicksburg surrenders to U.S. Grant.

July 8
The Confederate garrison at Port Hudson, Louisiana surrenders, opening the Mississippi River to full Union control.

July 13
Anti-draft riots begin in New York City and rage for several days.

Sept 2
Union forces under Ambrose E. Burnside occupy Knoxville, Tennessee.

Sept. 5
The British government decides to detain the Laid rams being built for the Confederacy, thus averting a diplomatic crisis with the United States.

Sept. 9
Union forces under William S. Rosecrans occupy Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Sept. 19-20
The Battle of Chickamauga, just south of Chattanooga, gives the Confederacy its greatest victory in the Western Theater and compels William S. Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland to retreat to Chattanooga.

Nov. 23-25
Union victory at the Battle of Chattanooga lifts the Confederate siege and opens the way for a campaign against Atlanta.

Dec. 8
Lincoln issues his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction as a blueprint for restoring the Union.; this first presented the President's "10 percent plan" for reconstruction.


Jan. 2
Confederate General Patrick R. Cleburne circulates a proposal that would free large numbers of slaves and enroll thousands of them in the Confederate Army; his proposal meets with staunch opposition.

March 12
U.S. Grant named General-in-Chief of Union forces; he plans simultaneous offensives designed to pressure Confederate military forces on a broad front.

April 8-9
Battles of Mansfield, or Sabine Crossroads, and Pleasant Hill, fought near Shreveport, Louisiana, mark he climax of Nathaniel P. Banks's unsuccessful Red River campaign.

April 12
Confederates under Nathan Bedford Forrest capture Fort Pillow, Tennessee, killing a number of black and white Union troops who try to surrender.

April 17
U.S. Grant ends the prisoner exchange agreement.

May 5-6
Battle of the Wilderness opens the "Overland campaign" between U.S. Grant and Robert E. Lee; Grant's goal is the destruction of the Army of Northern Virginia.

May 7
William Tecumseh Sherman begins his Atlanta campaign against Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee.

May 8-20
Battles around Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, continue the struggle between Grant and Lee; heaviest fighting occurs on May 12 in the Confederate salient known as "Mule Shoe."

May 15
Battle of New Market blunts Franz Sigel's Union campaign in th Shenandoah Valley; this battle included the famous charge of the cadets from the Virginia Military Academy.

May 16
Battle of Drewry's Bluff stops progress toward Richmond of Benjamin F. Butler's Union Army of the James; Butler retreats to Bermuda Hundred and is effectively bottled up.

June 1-3  
Battles at Cold Harbor between Grant and Lee include massive and unsuccessful Union assaults (the heaviest attacks occurred on June 3).

June 12-18
Grant orchestrates a brilliant crossing of the James River but fails to capture Petersburg; his troops begin what will become a nine-month siege.

June 15
U.S. Congress makes pay for black and white soldiers equal.

June 19
U.S.S. Kearsarge sinks C.S.S. Alabama off Cherbourg, France, ending the career of the most successful Confederate commerce raider.

June 27 
Bloody repulse of Union attacks at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia, after which Sherman resumes his campaign of maneuver against Johnston as he closes in on Atlanta.

July 2
The Wade-Davis Bill passes the U.S. Senate, presenting an alternative to President Lincoln's "10 per-cent Plan" for reconstruction;  Lincoln kills it with a pocket veto on July 4, and supporters of the bill answer with the "Wade-Davis Manifesto," criticizing the President's actions.

July 17
Jefferson Davis replaces Joseph E. Johnston with John Bell Hood as commander of the Confederate army defending Atlanta; Hood launches unsuccessful offensives against Sherman's investing forces in the battles of Peachtree Creek (July 20), Atlanta (July 22), and Ezra Church (July 28), before the two armies settle into a siege.

July 30
The Union loses a good opportunity at the Battle of the Crater to break the stalemate at Petersburg.

Aug. 5
David G. Farragut's Union fleet wins the Battle of Mobile Bay, closing the last major Confederate port on the Gulf of Mexico.

Sept. 2
Sherman's Union forces enter Atlanta, providing a critical Union victory that virtually guarantees President Lincoln's reelection in November.

Sept. 19-Oct. 19
Climactic phase of he 1864 Shenandoah Valley campaign, during which Philip H. Sheridan wins decisive victories over Jubal A. early's Confederate army in the battles of Third Winchester (Sept. 19), Fisher's Hill (sept. 22), and Cedar Creek (Oct. 19).

Nov. 1
A new Maryland state constitution abolishing slavery take effect.

Nov. 7
Jefferson Davis proposes enrolling slaves in the Confederate military and freeing all who served faithfully;  this touched off an acrimonious debate that continues for several months.

Nov. 8
Abraham Lincoln reelected; Republicans gain large majorities in both houses of Congress and do well in northern state races.

Nov. 16-Dec. 21
Sherman's army makes its famous "March to the Sea: from Atlanta to Savannah, leaving a wide path of destruction in its wake.

Nov. 30
John M. Schofield wins a Union victory over John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee at the Battle of Franklin, a short distance south of Nashville.

Dec. 15-16
George H. Thomas routs Hood's Army of Tennessee in the Battle of Nashville, the final significant engagement in Tennessee.


Jan. 11
The Missouri state constitutional convention abolishes slavery.

Jan. 19
William Tecumseh Sherman begins his march from Savannah into the Carolinas.

Jan. 31
U.S. House of Representatives approves a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery.

Feb 17.
Columbia, South Carolina, falls to Sherman's army; fire sweeps through the city.

Feb. 17
Charleston, South Carolina evacuated by Confederate military forces.

March 13
C.S. Congress authorizes President Davis to recruit slaves as soldiers (but not to offer them freedom if they serve.)

March 19-21
Battle of Bentonville near Raleigh, North Carolina, marks the end of significant fighting on Sheramn's front.

April 1
Union victory in the Battle of Five Forks sets the stage for the Union capture of Richmond and Petersburg.

April 2
Confederate government abandons Richmond;  Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia evacuates Richmond-Petersburg lines and begins its retreat Westward. 

April 9
Lee surrenders the Army of Northern Virginia to U.S. Grant at Appomattox Court House.

April 14
President Lincoln is shot in ford's Theater;  he dies the next morning.

April 26 
Joseph E. Johnston surrenders his army to Sherman at Durham Station, North Carolina.

May 4
Richard Taylor surrenders Confederate forces in Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana to E. R. S. Canby at Citronelle, Alabama.

May 10
Jefferson Davis is captured near Irwinville, Georgia.

May 12-13
The final land battle of the war takes place at Palmito Ranch, near Brownsville, Texas.

May 26
Confederate forces in the Trans-Mississippi Theater are surrendered in an agreement signed in New Orleans.

Dec. 18
The Thirteenth Amendment is ratified; it abolishes slavery throughout the United States.


Gallagher, Professor Gary W. Course Guidebook: The American Civil War. Chantilly: Teaching, 2000. Print. Course Guidebook, The American Civil War, Part I DVD Set Timeline, Pgs 47-59

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