Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln. Courtesy National Archives.

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

  • Fort Sumter


    April 12-14, 1861 - Fort Sumter - Class A.
    Troops: Union 85; Confederate 300-6,000.
    Casualties (Killed/Wounded/Missing): Union 0; Confederate 0.
    Confederate forces bombard the island fort in Charleston harbor, forcing the Union commander Robert Anderson to abandon the fort (image above) and beginning the Civil War that would last four years. The Confederate States of America had been formed two months earlier and desired to push all federal troops from Southern states, eleven of which would secede by May.

    July 11, 1861 - Battle of Rich Mountain - Class B.
    Troops: Union 7,000; Confederate 1,300.
    Casualties: Union 46; Confederate 300.
    Western Virginia battle (then in Virginia) sees General George McClellan's Western Virginia force engage in a two hour fight, which splits the Confederate Army in half; one half retreating, the other half captured. Union victory elevates McClellan to commander of the entire Army of the Potomac.

    July 21, 1861 - 1st Battle of Bull Run, Manassas - Class A.
    Troops: Union 51,000; Confederate 33,000.
    Casualties: Union 2,708; Confederate 1,978.
    First major battle just outside Washington, D.C. reveals strength of Confederate Army when onlookers thinking a Federal victory would occur with ease, saw defeat in a battle led by Stonewall Jackson with both soldiers and citizens streaming back into the Federal capitol.

    August 10, 1861 - Wilson's Creek - Class A.
    Troops: Union 5,430; Confederate 12,120.
    Casualties: Union 1,317; Confederate 1,232.
    First major battle west of the Mississippi ensues in Missouri with Confederate victory that proves, as 1st Manassas did in the Virginia theater, that more conflict would come in all theatres of the war and make Missouri the third most contested state in the Union.

    September 10, 1861 - Battle of Carnifex Ferry - Class B.
    Troops: Union 5,000; Confederate 2,000.
    Casualties: Union 158; Confederate 30 plus.
    Confederates under General John B. Floyd, with entrenchments on the Patteson Farm were attacked by three brigades under General Rosecrans. Confederates repulsed attack, but Union artillery caused Floyd to retreat. Western Virginia theater.

    September 12-15, 1861 - Battle of Cheat Mountain - Class B.
    Troops: Union 3,000; Confederate 5,000.
    Casualties: Union 88; Confederate 90-120.
    Western Virginia campaign battle (then in Virginia) that saw General Robert E. Lee leading Confederate troops for the first time. Limited visibility in dense forest and fog caused an uncoordinated attack on the fort by Confederate forces with Lee calling off pressing the attack.

    October 21, 1861 - Battle of Ball's Bluff - Class B.
    Troops: Union 1,700; Confederate 1,700.
    Casualties: Union 921-1,002; Confederate 155.
    Confederate rout along banks of the Potomac River in Leesburg, Virginia forces Union troops over a steep bluff and into the water, turning what was intended as a reconnaisance into a large defeat.

    November 7, 1861 - Battle of Belmont - Class C.
    Troops: Union 3,114; Confederate, under 5,000.
    Casualties: Union 921-1,002; Confederate 155.
    Surprise engagement by Union forces under first battle commander U.S. Grant surprises Confederate forces at Belmont, Missouri, but Confederate reinforcements and guns from Columbus, Kentucky cause near disaster as Union forces retreat. Considered inconclusive due to effect of stopping Confederate forces from crossing into Missouri.

    December 26, 1861 - Battle of Chustenahlah - Class B.
    Troops: Union 1,700; Confederate 1,380.
    Casualties: Union 607; Confederate 641.
    Oklahoma Indian Territory battle that saw Confederates planning to subdue Seminole and Creek warriors who sided with the Union. Bird Creek camp was attacked by Confederate troops from Fort Gibson, forcing Union sympathizers to flee to Fort Row, Kansas.

    Note: Photo above: Lithograph by Currier and Ives of Fort Sumter, circa 1860-1870. Image courtesy Library of Congress. Casualty and troop strength numbers from Wikipedia Commons via various sources. Casualties include killed, wounded, and missing.

    Civil War 1862

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