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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 NPS.

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  • Battle of Chickamauga


    January 1, 1863 - Second Battle of Galveston - Class B.
    Strength: Union 6 gunboats, unknown infantry; Confederates 2 gunboats, unknown infantry.
    Casualties: Union 400 captured; Confederates 143 killed/wounded.
    Union commander William B. Renshaw blows up a stranded ship USS Westfield; Union soldiers on shore thought fleet had surrendered and laid down their arms. Galveston remained the only major port in Confederate hands at the end of the war.

    April 30 - May 6, 1863 - Battle of Chancellorsville - Class A.
    Strength: Union 134,000, Confederates 60,000.
    Casualties (Killed/Wounded/Missing/Captured): Union 17,287, Confederates 13,303.
    Perfect battle plan by General Robert E. Lee with risky split force move triumphs over General Joe Hooker's Union troops, but victory comes at high cost, with loss of General Stonewall Jackson to friendly fire.

    May 1, 1863 - Battle of Port Gibson - Class B.
    Strength: Union 2 corps; Confederates 4 brigades.
    Casualties: Union 861; Confederates 787.
    Union victory at Port Gibson south of Vicksburg turned the flanks of the Confederate force, causing their retreat into Bayou Pierre, leaving several hundred prisoners behind.

    May 3, 1863 - Second Battle of Fredericksburg - Class B.
    Strength: Union 27,100; Confederates 12,000.
    Casualties: Union 1,100; Confederates 700.
    Union Generals Sedgwick and Gibbon attack the center of Marye's Heights, but are repulsed by Barksdale's brigade. Second attack against the flank and center pushes the Confederate force off the hill and back to Lee's Hill.

    May 3, 1863 - Battle of Salem Church - Class B.
    Strength: Union 23,000; Confederates 10,000.
    Casualties: Union 4,611; Confederates 4,935.
    Sedgwick, leaving Gibbon behind in Fredericksburg, moves out to join Hooker in Chancellorsville. General Robert E. Lee sends troops to engage, eventually driving the Union back to Fredericksburg, off Marye's Heights, and across the Rappahannock River.

    May 12, 1863 - Battle of Raymond - Class B.
    Strength: Union 12,000; Confederates 4,400.
    Casualties: Union 446; Confederates 820.
    Surprised by reinforcements of the Union, the Confederate defeat led to Federal troops reaching the Southern Railroad and preventing supplies from reaching Vicksburg, tightening the siege.

    May 14, 1863 - Battle of Jackson, Mississippi - Class B.
    Strength: Union 2 corps; Confederates 6,000.
    Casualties: Union 286; Confederates 850.
    Battle meant to defend the troops of Confederate General Johnston as they retreated from Jackson, allowing Union control and ability to cut supply and railroad lines to Vicksburg.

    May 16, 1863 - Battle of Champion Hill - Class A.
    Strength: Union 32,000; Confederates 22,000 soldiers.
    Casualties: Union 2,457; Confederates 3,840.
    Three divisions of General Pemberton's Confederate force engage the Union twenty miles from Vicksburg, resulting in a decisive Union victory leading into the Vicksburg siege.

    May 17, 1863 - Battle of Big Black River Bridge - Class B.
    Strength: Union 3 divisions; Confederates 5,000.
    Casualties: Union 276; Confederates 1,751, including 1,700 captured.
    Retreating from their defeat at Champion Hill, Pemberton defends the east bank of the river, but can not withstand a charge. After crossing the river, Pemberton orders the bridge burned and the Confederate force escapes to Vicksburg.

    May 18 - July 4, 1863 - Siege of Vicksburg - Class A.
    Strength: Union 77,000; Confederates 33,000.
    Casualties: Union 4,835; Confederates 3,202 (killed, wounded, missing), 29,495 (captured).
    After driving Pemberton's force from Champion Hill back into Vicksburg, U.S. Grant attempted two major assaults on May 19 and 22, which were repulsed with heavy casualties. A siege ensued for forty days; with no reinforcements or supplies, the Confederates surrendered on July 4, one day after the Battle of Gettysburg. The Mississippi River would now be in control of the Union Army for the remainder of the war.

    June 9, 1863 - Battle of Brandy Station - Class B.
    Strength: Union 11,000; Confederates 9,500.
    Casualties: Union 907; Confederates 523.
    In the largest predominantly cavalry battle of the war, Union cavalry under Pleasonton attack J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry in inconclusive battle and fail to discover Lee's infantry near Culpeper. Despite that failure, draw in battle proved the effectiveness of the Union cavalry for the first time.

    June 13-15, 1863 - Second Battle of Winchester - Class B.
    Strength: Union 7,000; Confederates 12,500.
    Casualties: Union 4,443, including 4,000 missing or captured; Confederates 269.
    After the Battle of Brandy Station, Robert E. Lee ordered General Ewell to clear the Shenandoah Valley to precipitate his invasion of Pennsylvania. Ewell attacked the various forts surrounding Winchester, defeating the Union garrison and capturing the city.

    July 1-3, 1863 - Gettysburg - Class A.
    Strength: Union 104,256; Confederates 71-75,000.
    Casualties: Union 23,049; Confederates 23-28,000.
    General Robert E. Lee's push into northern territory ends in the largest battle of the war with over fifty thousand casulaties. The ill-fated decision on the Third Day to attack the center of the Union line with Pickett's Charge ends in Confederate defeat and their High Water of the Confederacy would not again venture as deep into northern territory.

    May 21 to July 9, 1863 - Siege of Port Hudson - Class A.
    Strength: Union 30-40,000; Confederates 7,500.
    Casualties: Union 5-10,000; Confederates 1,000 with 6,500 captured.
    South of Vicksburg in Louisiana, Union General Banks was ordered to attack Port Hudson and then aid Grant in Vicksburg. His initial assaults failed, resulting in a forty-eight day siege. Both Union and Confederate soldiers suffered heavily from the fighting and disease. With the fall of Vicksburg and a lack of food and supplies, the Confederates surrendered, giving complete control of the Mississippi to the Union.

    July 4, 1863 - Battle of Helena - Class B.
    Strength: Union 4,129; Confederates 7,646.
    Casualties: Union 239; Confederates 1,649.
    In an attempt to relieve pressure on Vicksburg, Confederate forces under General Holmes attack the fortifications of the Arkansas town along the Mississippi River. Miscommunication and confusing orders wasted some initial success, and the Confederates would issue a general retreat, securing eastern Arkansas for the Union.

    July 17, 1863 - Battle of Honey Springs - Class B.
    Strength: Union 3,000; Confederates 6,000.
    Casualties: Union 79-200; Confederates 180-500.
    In the largest battle in the Indian territory of Oklahoma, the Union victory of General Blunt led to the capture of Fort Smith and the Arkansas River Valley to the Mississippi. Engagement unique in that more Native and African-American soldiers took part than white soldiers.

    July 18, 1863 - Second Battle of Fort Wagner - Class B.
    Strength: Union 5,000, 6 ironclads; Confederates 1,800.
    Casualties: Union 1,515; Confederates 174.
    Second attempt by the Union, including the 54th Massachusetts black regiment, to take South Carolina Fort Wagner fails when charges on the sixty yard wide approach in the dusk to night battle are reproached by the Confederate defenses.

    August 17 - September 9, 1863 - Second Battle of Fort Sumter - Class B.
    Strength: Union 413; Confederates 320.
    Casualties: Union 117; Confederates 9.
    Union General Gilmore bombard the fort and deploy a naval landing party, but are repulsed by P.G.T. Beauregard's men. Confederates remain in control of the fort. During this same period of time, the Union continued to attack Fort Wagner, which succumbed to the attacks.

    September 8, 1863 - Second Battle of Sabine Pass - Class B.
    Strength: Union 5,000, 4 gunboats, 18 transports; Confederates 36 infantry.
    Casualties: Union 200 killed/wounded/captured; Confederates 0.
    Ambitious amphibious assault, largest in U.S. history, planned against well-fortified Confederate location, Fort Sabine/Griffin, with little knowledge of river, ends in overwhelming defeat due to accurate gun barrage from the Confederate fort against the ships.

    September 10, 1863 - Battle of Bayou Fourche - Class B.
    Strength: Union 12,000; Confederates 7,700.
    Casualties: Union 72; Confederates 64.
    General Steele captures Little Rock after cavalry battle at the bayou forces Confederate troops back toward the town, which fell that afternoon.

    September 19-20, 1863 - Chickamauga - Class A.
    Strength: Union 60,000; Confederates 65,000.
    Casualties: Union 16,170; Confederates 18,454.
    Union troops headed into Georgia after forcing the Confederates out of Chattanooga; Confederate troops under General Bragg wanted to force the Union out of Georgia and recapture Chattanooga. After several days of fighting, the Union returned to Chattanooga, defeated, with Bragg's Army now commanding the heights surrounding the city. This was the second most costly battle in the war per casualties after Gettysburg.

    October 14, 1863 - Battle of Bristoe Station - Class B.
    Strength: Union 8,383; Confederates 17,218.
    Casualties: Union 540; Confederates 1,380.
    Confederate attack by A.P. Hill's Third Corps is repelled by General Warren's Second Corps. Although a Union victory, Warren would retreat to Centreville and Confederate troops would destroy the Orange and Alexandria Railroad.

    October 28-29, 1863 - Battle of Wauhatchie - Class B.
    Strength: Union 2 corps; Confederates 36 infantry.
    Casualties: Union 420; Confederates 408.
    Night battle against Brown's Ferry, which provided a supply line for the Union to Chattanooga, is defeated by two corps of Union troops under Generals Hooker and Geary. The supply line, known as the Cracker Line, would hold, leading the way to the Battle of Chattanooga one month later.

    November 7, 1863 - Second Battle of Rappahannock Station - Class B.
    Strength: Union 2,000; Confederates 2,000.
    Casualties: Union 419; Confederates 1,670, including 1,600 captured.
    General Early's troops secured the bridgehead defenses through the day, withstanding constant shelling from Sedgewick's artillery. General Lee, thinking the artillery shelling was a feint, was surprised at dusk when a sudden infantry assault secured the bridge, capturing one thousand six hundred men.

    November 23-25, 1863 - Chattanooga - Class A.
    Strength: Union 72,500; Confederates 49,000.
    Casualties: Union 5,824; Confederates 8,684.
    Besieged by Confederate troops since the Battle of Chickamauga, U.S. Grant relieved pressure on the siege by opening the Cracker Line for supplies and reinforcements. With a series of attacks on points at Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, the Union prevailed, eliminating Confederate control in Tennessee and setting the stage for Sherman's March to Atlanta in 1864.

    November 27 - December 2, 1863 - Battle of Mine Run - Class B.
    Strength: Union 81,000; Confederates 48,000.
    Casualties: Union 1,272; Confederates 680.
    Meade's attempt at a quick strike battle was thwarted by traffic jams, allowing Lee's Second Corps to interdict the Union at Payne's Farm. During the night, Lee built fortifications along the river while Meade planned an artillery assault, then attack the next day. After the artillery barrage, Meade changed his mind, thinking the defenses too strong, and retired to winter quarters at Brandy Station.

    November 27, 1863 - Battle of Ringgold Gap - Class B.
    Strength: Union 16,000; Confederates 4,200.
    Casualties: Union 509; Confederates 221.
    The Confederate Army of the Tennessee retreats after defeat at the Battle of Chattanooga with General Cleburne's troops defending the gap with great success against the Union pursuit. Battle allowed safe passage for the majority of the Confederate force; Grant decides to call off the pursuit and return to Chattanooga.

    November 29, 1863 - Battle of Fort Sanders - Class B.
    Strength: Union 440; Confederates 3,000.
    Casualties: Union 13; Confederates 813, including 226 captured.
    Dawn assault by James Longstreet against tough defenses is repulsed due to poor planning and execution. On December 4, Longstreet would leave Knoxville, ending the campaign to take the city.

    Note: Image above: The Battle of Chickamauga painting by Kurz and Allison, 1890. Courtesy Library of Congress. Casualty and troop strength numbers from Wikipedia Commons.

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