Civil War Timeline - Major Battles
For four years from 1861-1865, battles were waged around the landscape of the United States, pitting brother against brother in a Civil War that would change the history of the USA forever. Over 720,000 of our citizens would perish in the battle for state's rights and slavery. Major battles were fought from Pennsylvania to Florida, from Virginia to New Mexico, and in the end, there would be one nation, under God, and indivisible, that last trait in jeopardy through the first half of the 1860's. The battles listed below are considered Class A/B (Decisive/Major) battles by the American Battle Protection Program of the National Park Service.
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- Battle Timeline
January 19, 1862 - Battle of Mill Springs - Class B.
Strength: Union 4,400; Confederates 5,900.
Casualties: Union 246 (Killed/Wounded/Missing); Confederates 529.
Confederate offensive into eastern Kentucky was thwarted after two attacks by General Crittenden's southern troops. Two Union counterattacks pushed a retreating Confederate force back to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Mill Springs was the first major Union victory of the war.
February 6, 1862 - Fort Henry - Class B.
Strength: Union 15,000, 7 ships; Confederates 3,000-3,400.
Casualties: Union 40; Confederates 79.
U.S. Grant's approaching troops and Andrew Foote's Union ships gain control of the Tennessee River after bombardment. Confederate commander surrendered the fort after ordering the majority of his men to escape to Fort Donelson.
February 7-8, 1862 - Battle of Roanoke Island - Class B.
Strength: Union 10,000; Confederates 3,000.
Casualties: Union 264; Confederates 2,643, including 2,500 captured.
Opening phase of the Burnside expedition of gunboats and soldiers into North Carolina sees the surrender of four forts that protected Roanoke Island. Roanoke Island would remain in Union control for the remainder of the war.
February 11-16, 1862 - Battle of Fort Donelson - Class A.
Strength: Union 24,531; Confederates 16,171.
Casualties (Killed/Wounded/Missing/Captured): Union 2,691; Confederates 13,846, including 12,392 captured/missing.
Union forces, under the command of obscure General U.S. Grant, captured the fort near the Kentucky/Tennessee border, under the terms "unconditional surrender."
February 20-21, 1862 - Battle of Valverde - Class B.
Strength: Union 3,000; Confederates 2,590.
Casualties: Union 432; Confederates 187.
New Mexico territory battle on Confederate quest to capture Santa Fe, then take California. General Sibley, approaching Fort Craig, battles the Union at Valverde, eventually forcing the Union soldiers back to Fort Craig. Sibley abandons the idea of taking the fort and moves toward Santa Fe.
February 28-April 8, 1862 - Battle of New Madrid - Class A.
Strength: Union 6 gunboats, 7 mortar rafts; Confederates 7,000 soldiers.
Casualties: Union 78; Confederates 7,030, including 7,000 captured.
Missouri battle, also known as the Battle of Island Ten, began with a siege on the town of New Madrid, then Island Ten on the Mississippi River. The Confederate forces surrendered, giving Union control of the river to Fort Pillow.
March 6-8, 1862 - Pea Ridge, Arkansas - Class A.
Strength: Union 10,500; Confederates 16,500.
Casualties: Union 1,384; Confederates 2,000.
Union positioned itself in Arkansas, but Southern forces, which outnumbered the Federals would attempt to reopen the gateway to Missouri in a three day battle. Despite the unusual advantage in manpower for the Confederates, Union forces prevailed and Missouri would not be threatened again by the South during the rest of the War.
March 8-9, 1862 - Monitor vs. Merrimac - Class B.
Strength: Union 1 ironclad, 5 wooden frigates; Confederates 1 ironclad, 2 wooden warships, 1 gunboat, 2 tenders.
Casualties: Union 369; Confederates 95.
The Union ironclad Monitor fights battle against the Confederate ironclad Virginia (Merrimac) off the coast of Hampton Roads, Virginia. Most consider this action a draw.
March 14, 1862 - Battle of New Bern - Class B.
Strength: Union 13 infantry regiments, 14 gunboats; Confederates 6 infantry regiments, 1 cavalry regiment.
Casualties: Union 471; Confederates 578.
Battle of the Burnside expedition against raw Confederate force that saw general retreat when center of the line was penetrated. New Bern remained under Union control for remainder of the war.
March 23, 1862 - First Battle of Kernstown - Class B.
Strength: Union 6,352-9,000; Confederates 2,990-4,000.
Casualties: Union 590; Confederates 718.
First battle of Stonewall Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign meant to tie down Federal forces in the valley and prevent reinforcements to the Peninsula Campaign and Richmond. Mistakes in Jackson's intelligence led to a Union victory, although the battle was effective in tieing up Union resources.
March 26-28, 1862 - Battle of Glorieta Pass - Class A.
Strength: Union 1,300; Confederates 1,000.
Casualties: Union 147; Confederates 222.
The decisive battle of the New Mexico campaign to eradicate claims by the South on Confederate Arizona (southern Arizona and New Mexico). It was, at first, thought to be a Confedeate victory until a final Union raid of the Southern supply wagons left the entire mission in jeopardy. After a retreat back to Santa Fe, the Confederates would move back to Texas two weeks later, thus giving control of New Mexico and supply routes to the Union.
April 6-7, 1862 - Shiloh - Class A.
Strength: Union 63,000; Confederates 40,335.
Casualties: Union 13,047; Confederates 10,699.
Surprise attack by Confederates under Johnston and Beauregard gain ground on U.S. Grant's Union forces, but failure to force the attack during the evening of the first day allowed reinforcements to counterattack the next day and reverse Confederate gains.
April 5 - May 4, 1862 - Battle of Yorktown - Class B.
Strength: Union - 121,500; Confederates - 35,000.
Casualties: Union 182; Confederates 300.
McClellan encounters small Confederate force at Yorktown on way to Peninsula Campaign and engages in a siege. Inconclusive result as the Confederates retreated to Williamsburg, but held up the Union pursuit of Richmond for weeks. Battle held near site of American Revolution 1781 battle.
April 10-11, 1862 - Fort Pulaski - Class B.
Strength: Union - 10,000, 15 warships, 36 transports; Confederates - 385, 3 warships, 2 transports.
Casualties: Union 1 killed, several wounded; Confederates Several killed, 363 captured.
One hundred and twelve day siege of Georgia fort leads to two day battle and thirty hour bombardment. Confederate surrender effectively closed Savannah as a port and rifled guns against Third System masonry fort proved that those forts were now obsolete.
April 18-28, 1862 - Battles of Fort Jackson and St. Philip - Class A.
Strength: Union - West Gulf Blockade Squadron; Confederates - 2 forts and River Defense Fleet.
Casualties: Union 229; Confederates 782.
Union Navy attacked the two Confederate forts that protected New Orleans from the south, then ran past them to attack and occupy New Orleans. During the battle to pass the forts, Union lost one gunboat while the Confederates lost twelve. New Orleans fell to Union forces.
April 29 - May 30, 1862 - Siege of Corinth, 1st Battle of Corinth - Class A.
Strength: Union 120,000; Confederates 65,000.
Casualties: Union 1,000; Confederates 1,000.
Strategic junction of two rail lines became goal of Union Army under Henry Halleck, who thought of the junction as important as Richmond, with an ability to attack Vicksburg or Chattanooga after its capture. Confederate General Beauregard engaged a hoax of continued attack after the month long seige, but retreated instead.
May 5, 1862 - Battle of Williamsburg - Class B.
Strength: Union - 40,768; Confederates - 31,823.
Casualties: Union 2,283; Confederates 1,682.
First pitched battle of the Peninsula campaign saw the division of General Hooker assault Fort Magruder, but was pushed back. Counterattacks by Confederate forces were thwarted, leaving the battle with an inconclusive result. Southern soldiers withdrew during the evening toward Richmond.
May 15, 1862 - Battle of Drewry's Bluff - Class B.
Strength: Union - 3 ironclads, 2 gunboats; Confederates - 1 fort and 1 shore battery.
Casualties: Union 24; Confederates 15.
Union boats tested Richmond defenses up the James River, but were unsuccessful, turning back in the first foray of the amphibious forces during McClellan's Peninsula Campaign.
May 25, 1862 - First Battle of Winchester - Class A.
Strength: Union 6,500; Confederates 16,000.
Casualties: Union 2,019; Confederates 400.
During the Shenandoah Valley campaign, Stonewall Jackson won a victory at Winchester after capture of the garrison at Front Royal, taking the right flank of the Union Army under General Banks, who was retreating from Strasburg, and pushing it across the Potomac.
May 31 - June 1, 1862 - Battle of Fair Oaks - Class B.
Strength: Union - 34,000; Confederates - 39,000.
Casualties: Union 5,031; Confederates 6,134.
Culmination of Union offensive against Richmond in the Peninsula Campaign and second largest battle of the war til this time saw Confederate forces under General Johnston attack along the Chickahominy River, driving the Union back. Union reinforcements halted a second attack and the battle proved inconclusive.
June 6, 1862 - Battle of Memphis - Class B.
Strength: Union - 5 ironclads, 2 rams; Confederates - 8 rams.
Casualties: Union 1; Confederates 180.
Two hour battle resulted in crushing defeat of the Confederates and surrender of the city in a Mississippi naval battle north of Memphis.
June 8, 1862 - Battle of Cross Keys - Class B.
Strength: Union 11,500; Confederates 5,800.
Casualties: Union 664; Confederates 287.
Culmination of Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign when combined with the battle of Port Republic one day later forces Union army to retreat, allowing Stonewall Jackson to reinforce Gneral Lee on the Peninsula.
June 9, 1862 - Battle of Port Republic - Class B.
Strength: Union 3,500; Confederates 6,000.
Casualties: Union 1,002; Confederates 816.
Pitched battle ended in a Confederate victory, pushing a Union retreat toward Harrisonburg and allowing Stonewall Jackson to reinforce Gneral Lee on the Peninsula in the Seven Days Battles.
June 16, 1862 - First Battle of James Island - Class B.
Strength: Union 6,600; Confederates 2,000.
Casualties: Union 685; Confederates 204.
Union Army under General Hunter attempts to capture Charleston by land, debarking south of the city on James Island and attacking Fort Lamar at Secessionville. The fort held.
June 26, 1862 - Battle of Beaver Dam Creek (Seven Days Battles) - Class B.
Strength: Union 6,600; Confederates 2,000.
Casualties: Union 685; Confederates 204.
General Robert E. Lee proceeds with the Seven Days battles with an offensive against McClellan, but the troops of Stonewall Jackson do not arrive on time and his attempt to turn the right flank fails. Although the battle objectives would fail for the Confederates, McClellan began to withdraw south toward Gaines Mill and lose the initiative of the Peninsula Campaign.
June 27, 1862 - Gaines Mill (Seven Days Battles) - Class A.
Strength: Union 34,214; Confederates 57,018.
Casualties: Union 6,837; Confederates 7,993.
Third battle of Lee's offensive against McClellan in the Peninsula campaign continues against the right flank on the north side of the Chickahominy River. At dusk, the Confederates broke the Union line, leading to victory.
June 30, 1862 - Battle of Glendale (Seven Days Battles) - Class B.
Strength: Union 40,000; Confederates 45,000.
Casualties: Union 3,797; Confederates 3,673.
Confederates converge on the retreating Federal force, but Union counterattacks save the line of retreat toward Malvern Hill.
Note: Photo above: Currier and Ives 1862 print of General Grant leading a charge in the 2nd day of the Battle of Shiloh. Image courtesy Library of Congress. Casualty and troop strength numbers from Wikipedia Commons via various sources.