Opening battles

Fort Sumter

The Civil war began on April 12, 1861, when the Confederate forces under P.G.T Beauregard attacked Fort Sumter, a US Army post in the harbor of Charleston, SC. The Union troops evacuated the fort on April 14, and the Confederates occupied it until almost the end of the war. Following the fall of Fort Sumter, a Union Army of about 18,000 men under General Robert Patterson held the northern end of the fertile Shenandoah River Valley, which lay in Virginia west of the rival capitals of Washington and Richmond.

Another Union force of about 31,000 under General Irwin McDowell moved into eastern Virginia to attack Southern forces. A Confederate army under Beauregard faced McDowell at Manassas, Virginia, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Washington. General Joseph E. Johnston commanded Confederate troops in the Shenandoah Valley. Those forces, along with other scattered troops, added up to about 35,000 Confederates ready for action.

First Battle of Bull Run

In July 1861, General McDowell approached Manassas, which by on a creek called Bull Run. McDowell though his troops could destroy Beauregard’s forces while the Union troops in the Shenandoah Valley kept Johnston occupied. But Johnston slipped away and traveled by rail to join Beauregard just before the battle. The opposing forces both composed mainly of poorly trained volunteers clashed on July 21. The North launched several assaults. During one attack, the Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson stood his ground so firmly that he received the nickname “Stonewall”. After halting several assaults, Beauregard counter attacked. The tired Union forces fled to Washington DC, in wild retreat. After the battle, some southerners regretted not moving on to capture Washington. But such an attempt would probably have failed. The North realized that it faced a long fight. The war wouldn’t be over in three months, as many Northerners had predicted Confederate confidence in final victory soured and remained high for the next two years.

The drive to take Richmond

After Bull Run, Lincoln made General George B. McClellan Commander of the Army of the Potomac in the Eats. During the Winter of 1861-1862, McClellan assembled a force with which he planned to capture Richmond from the Southeast. He wanted to land his men on the peninsula between the York and James rivers and advance along one of the risers toward the Southern capital. But before McClellan could move, a naval action changed his plans.

First battle between ironclads

In 1861, the Confederates had raised a sunken federal ship, the Merrimack, off Norfolk, VA, and covered the wooden vessel with iron plates. The South used the ironclad ship, renamed the Virginia, to stage the South’s greatest naval challenge to the North. On March 8, 1862, the Virginia attacked Northern ships at Hampton Roads, a channel that empties into Chesapeake Bay. It destroyed two Northern Vessels and grounded three others. When the ship returned the next day to finish the job it faced the monitor, an ironclad ship designed especially for the Northern Navy. History’s first battle between ironclad warships followed. Although neither ship won, the Monitor proved to be the superior vessel. Later, the Navy built a large ironclad fleet modeled after it.

Peninsular Campaign

Afer the battle of the ironclads, CClellan landed on the peninsula between the Yank anf James River with more than 100,000 men. He occupied Yortown and advanced along the York River. He couldn’t follow the James River because the Virginia was on the river. By late May 1862, McClellan was within 6 miles (10 kilometers) of Richmond. Johnston led an attack against McClellan on May 31. But the Confederates failed to follow up their success and were driven back toward Richmond. In the two day fight, called the Battle of Fair Oaks or Battle of Seven Pines, Johnston was wounded. General Robert E. Lee was given command of Johnston’s army, which Lee called the Army of Northern Virginia.

Jackson’s Valley Campaign

The Confederacy feared that McClellan would receive reinforcement from the numerous troops that had staye behind to protect Washinton. Stonewall Jackson therefore launched a campagin in the Shenadoah Valley. He planned to make Northers think he was going to attack Washington. Ina series of brilliant moves from May 4-June 9 1862, Jackson advanced about 350 miles (560 kilometers) up the Shenandoah Valey and beyond, toward the Ptomac River. His 17,000 men received the name foot battles against the Union armies. He reached the Potomac but soon had to retreat. However, he had forced the Union to withhold the powerful reinforcements that McCkellan lad courted on.

Stuart’s raid

While General Lee planned his strategy as the new commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, Confederate General JEB Stuart led a remarkable cavalry raid. In June 1862, Stuart and about 1,200 men galloped completely around McClellan’s army of 100,000 in three days, losing only one man. Stuart’s raid gained information about Union troop movements and boosted Southern morale.

Battles of the Seven Days

Were a series of six major battles over the seven days from June 25 to July 1, 1862, near Richmond, Virginia, during the American Civil War. Confederate General Robert E. Lee drove the invading Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, away from Richmond and into a retreat down the Virginia Peninsula. The series of battles is sometimes known erroneously as the Seven Days Campaign, but it was actually the culmination of the Peninsula Campaign, not a separate campaign in its own right.

General Robert E. Lee planned a during move to destroy McClellan’s army, which lay straddled over the Chickahominy River, with his forces reinforced by Jackson’s men to about 95,000 men, Lee fell on McClellan in a series of attacks, called the Battles of the Seven Days, from June 25-July 1 1862. The advantage shifted from side to side during the battles, but McClellan shifted from side to side during the battles, but McClellan believed that his forces were hopelessly out numbered. He finally retreated to the James River, and Richmond was saved from capture. McClellan’s army was ordered to Northern Virginia to be united with a force under John Pope. McClellan was to command the combined army.

The South Strikes Back

Second Battle of Bull Run

General Lee moved rapidly northward to attack Pope, stationed at Manassas, before McClellan’s men could join him.

Lee sent General Jackson ahead to move behind Pop’s army and force a battle. On August 29 1862, Pope attacked Jackson, sending in McClellan’s troops as fast as they arrived.

Meanwhile, Lee and General James Longstreet had joined Jackson. Pop attacked Lee’s army on August 30th, but a Confederate counterattack swept the Union forces from the field. The beaten Northern troops plodded back to Washington.

John Pope (1822-1892)

Was a career United States Army officer and Union general in the American Civil War. He had a brief stint in the Western Theater, but he is best known for his defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run (Second Manassas) in the East.

Pope was a graduate of the United States Military Academy in 1842. He served in the Mexican-American War and had numerous assignments as a topographical engineer and surveyor in Florida, New Mexico, and Minnesota. He spent much of the last decade before the Civil War surveying possible southern routes for the proposed First Transcontinental Railroad.

He was an early appointee as a Union brigadier general of volunteers and served initially under Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont.

He achieved initial success against Brig. Gen. Sterling Price in Missouri, then led a successful campaign that captured Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River. This inspired the Lincoln administration to bring him to the Eastern Theater to lead the newly formed Army of Virginia.

He initially alienated many of his officers and men by publicly denigrating their record in comparison to his Western command. He launched an offensive against the Confederate army of General Robert E. Lee, in which he fell prey to a strategic turning movement into his rear areas by Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson. At Second Bull Run, he concentrated his attention on attacking Jackson while the other Confederate corps attacked his flank and routed his army. Following Manassas, Pope was banished far from the Eastern Theater to the Department of the Northwest in Minnesota, where he commanded U.S. Forces in the Dakota War of 1862. He was appointed to command the Department of the Missouri in 1865 and was a prominent and activist commander during Reconstruction in Atlanta. For the rest of his military career, he fought in the Indian Wars, particularly against the Apache and Sioux.

Battle of Antietam

The South hoped to gain European recognition by winning a victory in Union territory. Lee invaded Maryland in September 1862, he divided his army, sending about Jackson to capture Harpers Ferry, Virginia, which Union troops occupied. McClellan moved to meet Lee with about 90,000 men.

On September 13, a Union soldier found a copy of Lee’s orders to his commanders wrapped around three cigars at an abandoned Confederate campsite. Lee learned of the loss and took up a position at Sharpsburg, a town on Antietam Creek in Maryland. But McClellan didn’t immediately attack, giving the Confederate forces time to reunite after Jackson’s success at Harpers Ferry.

On September 17, McClellan launched a series of attacks that almost cracked the Southern lines. But then, the last of Lee’s absent troops, headed by General A.P. Hill, arrived and saved the day. Lee’s force of about 40,000 men suffered heavy losses and had to retreat to Virginia.

Antietam was the bloodiest day of the Civil War. About 2,000 Northerners and 2,700 Southerners were killed. Approximately 19,000 men from both sides were wounded of which about 3,000 later died. Because Lee retreated the North called Antietam in Union victory. On September 22, Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

Battle of Fredericksburg

As bloody as Antietam was, McClellan had more fresh troops under him after the battle as Lee had left in his entire army.

Yet McClellan permitted the Army of Northern Virginia to retreat with almost no interference. President Lincoln, who had long felt that McClellan was not aggressive enough, replaced him with General Ambrose E. Burnside as Commander of the Army of the Potomac.

Ambrose E. Burnside (1824-1881)

Was an American soldier, railroad executive, inventor, industrialist, and politician from Rhode Island, serving as governor and a United States Senator. As a Union Army general in the American Civil War, he conducted successful campaigns in North Carolina and East Tennessee, as well as countering the raids of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, but suffered disastrous defeats at the Battle of Fredericksburg and Battle of the Crater. His distinctive style of facial hair became known as sideburns, derived from his last name. He was also the first president of the National Rifle Association.

General Burnside decided to attack Lee at Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Confederates, about 73,000 strong, established a line of defense along fortified hills called Marye’s Heights. On December 13, 1862, Burnside’s men tried to storm the hills in a brave but hopeless attack. The Union suffered 13,000 casualties soldiers killed, wounded, missing or captured and retreated. Burnside was relieved of command at his own request.

Battle of Chancellorsville

General Joseph Hooker replaced Burnside. In Spring of 1863, the Army of the Potomac numbered about 138,000 men. Lee’s forces totaled about 60,000 and still held the line of defense at Fredericksburg. Hooker planned to keep Lee’s attention on Fredericksburg while he sent another force around the town to attack the Confederate flank (side).

Joseph Hooker (1814-1879)

was a career United States Army officer, achieving the rank of major general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Although he served throughout the war, usually with distinction, Hooker is best remembered for his stunning defeat by Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863.

After graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1837, Hooker served in the Seminole Wars and the Mexican-American War, receiving three brevet promotions. Resigning from the Army in 1853, he pursued farming, land development, and (unsuccessfully) politics in California. After the start of the Civil War he returned to the Army as a brigadier general.

He distinguished himself as an aggressive combat commander leading a division in the Battle of Williamsburg, May 5, 1862, resulting in his promotion to major general.

As a corps commander, he led the initial Union attacks at the Battle of Antietam, in which he was wounded. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, he commanded a “Grand Division” of two corps, and was ordered to conduct numerous futile frontal assaults that caused his men to suffer serious losses. Throughout this period, he conspired against and openly criticized his army commanders. Following the defeat at Fredericksburg, he was given command of the Army of the Potomac.

Hooker planned an audacious campaign against Robert E. Lee, but he was defeated by the Confederate Army at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Hooker suddenly lacked the nerve to marshal the strength of his larger army against Lee, who boldly divided his army and routed a Union corps with a flank attack by Stonewall Jackson. Hooker began to pursue Lee at the start of the Gettysburg Campaign, but his poor performance at Chancellorsville prompted Abraham Lincoln to relieve him from command just prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. He returned to combat in November, leading two corps from the Army of the Potomac to help relieve the besieged Union Army at Chattanooga, Tennessee, and achieving an important victory at the Battle of Lookout Mountain during the Chattanooga Campaign. He continued in the Western Theater under Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, but departed in protest before the end of the Atlanta Campaign when he was passed up for promotion to command the Army of the Tennessee.

Hooker became known as “Fighting Joe” following a journalist’s clerical error reporting from the Battle of Williamsburg; however, the nickname stuck. His personal reputation was as a hard-drinking ladies’ man, and his headquarters were known for parties and gambling, although the historical evidence discounts any heavy drinking by the general himself.

The flanking movement began on April 27, 1863, and seemed about to succeed. But then, Hooker hesitated. On May 1, he withdrew his flanking troops to a defensive position at Chancellorsville, a settlement just west of Fredericksburg. The next day, Lee left a small force at Fredericksburg and boldly moved to attack Hooker’s right flank, while he struck in front. The attack, on May 2, cut the Northern army almost in two, but Union troops managed to set up a defense line. Hooker retreated three days later. During the battle, Jackson was shot accidentally by his own men. His left arm had to be amputated, until he died on May 10 1863.

Battle of Gettysburg

In June 1863, Lee’s army swung up the Shenandoah Valley into Pennsylvania. The Army of the Potomac followed it northward. Both armies moved toward the little town of Gettysburg. When it appeared that the battle was about to begin, President Lincoln put General George Meade, a Pennsylvanian, in command of the Union troops. The shooting started when a Confederate brigade, searching for badly needed shoes, ran into Union cavalry near Gettysburg on July 1. For the first three days of July, a Northern army of about 85,00 men fought a Southern army of about 65,000 in the greatest battle ever fought in the Western Hemisphere.

On the first day, two armies maneuvered for position. By the end of the day, Northern troops had been pushed from West and North of Gettysburg to South or the town. They settled into a strong defensive location that resembled a fish hook. Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill, at the right, formed the bard of the hook. The front ran about 3 miles (5 kilometers) along Cemetery Ridge and ended at two hills called Little Round Top and Big Round Top.

The Confederate forces occupied Gettysburg and then Seminary Ridge, to the west. The first day battle proceeded in three phases as combatants continued to arrive at the battlefield. Morning, two brigades of Confederate Major General Henry Heth’s division were delayed by dismounted Union cavalrymen under Major General John Buford. As Infantry reinforcements arrived under Major General John Reynolds of the Union I Corps, the Confederate assaults down the Chambersburg Pike were repulsed, although Reynolds was killed.

Henry Heth (1825-1899)

was a career United States Army officer who became a Confederate general in the American Civil War.

He came to the notice of Robert E. Lee while serving briefly as his quartermaster, and was given a brigade in the Third Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia commanded by A.P. Hill, whose division he commanded when the latter was wounded at Chancellorsville. He is generally blamed for accidentally starting the Battle of Gettysburg by sending half his division into the town before the rest of the army was fully prepared.

Later in the day, Confederate troops succeeded in routing a Union corps, but at a heavy cost in casualties. Heth continued to command his division during the remainder of the war and briefly took command of the Third Corps in April 1865 after the death of General Hill. Heth surrendered with the rest of Lee’s army on April 9.

John Reynolds (1820-1863)

Was a career United States Army officer and a general in the American Civil War. One of the Union Army’s most respected senior commanders, he played a key role in committing the Army of the Potomac to the Battle of Gettysburg and was killed at the start of the battle.

John Buford (1826-1863)

Was a United States Army cavalry officer. He fought for the Union as a brigadier general during the American Civil War. Buford is best known for having played a major role in the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863 while in command of a division.

Buford graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1848. Buford remained loyal to the United States at the beginning of the Civil War, despite having been born in the divided border state of Kentucky. He fought during the war against the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia as part of the Army of the Potomac. His first command was a cavalry brigade under Major General John Pope, and he distinguished himself at Second Bull Run in August 1862, where he was wounded, and also saw action at Antietam in September and Stoneman’s Raid in spring 1863.

Buford’s cavalry division played a crucial role in the Gettysburg Campaign that summer. Arriving at the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on June 30 before the Confederate troops reached the place, Buford set up defensive positions. On the morning of July 1, Buford’s division was attacked by a Confederate division under the command of Major General Henry Heth. His men held just long enough for Union reinforcements to arrive. After a massive three day battle, the Union troops emerged victorious. Later, Buford rendered valuable service to the Army, both in the pursuit of Robert E. Lee after the Battle of Gettysburg, and in the Bristoe Campaign that autumn, but his health started to fail, possibly from typhoid. On his deathbed, he received a personal message from President Abraham Lincoln, promoting him to major general of volunteers in recognition of his tactical skill and leadership displayed on the first day of Gettysburg. He died at age 37.

Early afternoon, Union X Corps, commanded by Major General Liver Otis Howard, had arrived, and the Union position was in a semicircle from West to North of the town. The Confederate Second corps under Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell began a massive assault from the North, with Man’s General Robert E. Rode’s division attacking from Oak Hills and Major General Jubal A. Early’s division attacking across the open fields North of town. Union lines generally held under extremely heavy pressure, although the salient at Barlow’s knoll was overrun. Third phase of the battle came as Rodes renewed his assault from the North and Heth returned with his entire division from the West accompanied by the division of Major General W. Dorsey Pender. Heavy fighting in Hurst’s Woods and on Oak Ridge finally caused the Union line to collapse. Some of the Federals conducted a fighting withdrawal through the town, suffering heavy casualties and losing many prisoners, others simply retreated.

On the second day on July 2, Lee tried to crack the Union flanks and roll up Cemetery Ridge. He aimed his main assault at the left flank. Lee managed to crush a Northern corps. Other Union troops, however, held on to Cemetery Ridge and to Little Round Top, perhaps the most important point in the entire Union line. The Confederate attack on the right flank at Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill came too late to succeed.

Little Round Top

The Confederate assaults on Little Round Top were some of the most famous of the three day battle and the Civil War. Arriving just as the Confederates approached, Colonel Strong Vincent’s brigade of the V Corps mounted a spirited defense of this position, the extreme left of the Union line, against furious assaults up the rocky slope. The stand of the 20th Maine under Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain against the 15th Alabama lead by Colonel William C. Oates.

Joshua L. Chamberlain (1828-1914)

was an American college professor from the State of Maine, who volunteered during the American Civil War to join the Union Army. He became a highly respected and decorated Union officer, reaching the rank of brigadier general (and brevet major general). He is most well-known for his gallantry at the Battle of Gettysburg, which earned him the Medal of Honor.

Chamberlain was commissioned a lieutenant colonel in the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1862 and fought at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

He became commander of the regiment in June 1863. On July 2, during the Battle of Gettysburg, Chamberlain’s regiment occupied the extreme left of the Union lines at Little Round Top. Chamberlain’s men withheld repeated Confederate assaults and finally drove them away with a bayonet charge. He was severely wounded while commanding a brigade during the Second Battle of Petersburg in June 1864, and was given what was intended to be a death bed promotion to brigadier general. In April 1865, he fought at the Battle of Five Forks and was given the honor of commanding the Union troops at the surrender ceremony for the infantry of Robert E. Lee’s Army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

After the war, he entered politics as a Republican and served four one-year terms of office as the 32nd Governor of Maine. He served on the faculty, and as president, of his alma mater, Bowdoin College. He died in 1914 at age 85 due to complications from the wound that he received at Petersburg.

On July 3, Lee decided to attack the Union center. After a fierce artillery duel, he ordered General George E. Pickett to prepare about 13,000 men to charge the Union lines. The men, marching in perfect parade formation, swept across an open field and up the slopes of Cemetery Ridge, ignoring enemy fire. Only few troops reached the top of the ridge, where they were quickly shot or captured. Barely half the soldiers involved in the assault returned to Lee, who took complete responsibility for the attack’s failure.

Pickett’s Charge shoved the hopelessness of fatal (head-on) assaults over open ground against a strong enemy. Lee’s attempt to piece the Union rear with Stuart’s cavalry, which had arrived the night before, also failed. Lee withdrew his battered army to Virginia after the battle. Much to Lincoln’s disgust, Meade made little effort to follow him, even though Meade had about 20,000 fresh reserves and had received farther reinforcements. Lee’s army thus escaped.

George Pickett (1825-1875)

was a career United States Army officer who became a major general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He is best remembered for his participation in the futile and bloody Confederate offensive on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg that bears his name, Pickett’s Charge.

Pickett graduated last out of 59 cadets in the United States Military Academy class of 1846. He served as a second lieutenant in the United States Army during the Mexican–American War, and is noted for his service in the Battle of Chapultepec in September 1847. After this, he served in the Washington Territory, and eventually reached the rank of captain. Pickett participated in the Pig War of 1859. Near the beginning of the American Civil War, he enlisted in the Confederate States Army, and he attained the rank of brigadier general in January 1862. He commanded a brigade that saw heavy action during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862. Pickett was wounded at the Battle of Gaines’s Mill on June 27.

He did not return to command until September, following the Battle of Antietam, when he was given command of a division in the Right Wing of the Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by Major General James Longstreet, which became the I Corps that December. His division was lightly engaged at the Battle of Fredericksburg, and, along with most of Longstreet’s Corps, missed the Battle of Chancellorsville while participating in the Suffolk Campaign in 1863. During the Gettysburg Campaign, his division was, much to Pickett’s frustration, the last to arrive on the field. However, it was one of three divisions under the command of General Longstreet to participate in a disastrous assault on Union positions on July 3, the final day of the battle. The attack has been given the name “Pickett’s Charge”. In February 1864, Pickett commanded the Confederate forces at the Battle of New Bern, and ordered the execution of 22 Confederate deserters found to be fighting amongst the U.S. troops. On April 1, 1865, he was defeated while in overall command of Confederate troops at the Battle of Five Forks.

Following the war, Pickett feared prosecution for his execution of deserters and temporarily fled to Canada. He returned to Virginia in 1866, where he died at age 50 in 1875. Legend says that after the war he remained bitter and dwelt extensively upon the loss of his men at Gettysburg.

Gettysburg became a turning point in the war. Casualties among Lee’s men numbered nearly 23,000. Never again would he have the troops strength to launch a major offensive.

Casualties: Two armies suffered between 46,000 and 5,000 casualties, the Union casualties were 23,055 (3,155 killed, 14, 531 wounded, 5369 captured or missing), while the Confederate are more difficult to estimate.

On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln went to Gettysburg, delivered the Gettysburg Address, at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery.

Abraham Lincoln’s carefully crafted address, secondary to other presentations that day, was one of the greatest and most influential statements of national purpose. In just over two minutes, Lincoln reiterated the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence[6] and proclaimed the Civil War as a struggle for the preservation of the Union sundered by the secession crisis,[7] with “a new birth of freedom”[8] that would bring true equality to all of its citizens.[9] Lincoln also redefined the Civil War as a struggle not just for the Union, but also for the principle of human equality.[6]

Beginning with the now-iconic phrase “Four score and seven years ago”—referring to the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776—Lincoln examined the founding principles of the United States as stated in the Declaration of Independence. In the context of the Civil War, Lincoln also memorialized the sacrifices of those who gave their lives at Gettysburg and extolled virtues for the listeners (and the nation) to ensure the survival of America’s representative democracy: that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Despite the speech’s prominent place in the history and popular culture of the United States, the exact wording and location of the speech are disputed. The five known manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address in Lincoln’s hand differ in a number of details, and also differ from contemporary newspaper reprints of the speech. Modern scholarship locates the speakers’ platform 40 yards (or more) away from the Traditional Site within Soldiers’ National Cemetery at the Soldiers’ National Monument and entirely within private, adjacent Evergreen Cemetery.

War in the West (1862-1864)

In the Western theater, the North attacked early and hard to seize the Mississippi River. Northern forces in the West totaled about 100,000 men, and Southern forces about 70,000. General Henry W. Halleck led Union forces in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, western Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. General Don Carlos Buell led the Northern forces in Indiana, eastern Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio. General Albert Sidney Johnston led Southern forces in Arkansas, western Mississippi and Tennessee. His command included General Earl Van Dorn’s troops in Arkansas.