Civil War

Battle of Gettysburg

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July 1-3, 1863

The Battle of Gettysburg was a significant Union victory considered by many to be the turning point of the Civil War.

In the summer of 1863, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee launched his second invasion of the Northern states. Lee sought to capitalize on recent Confederate victories and defeat the Union army on Northern soil, which he hoped would force the Lincoln administration to negotiate for peace. Lee also sought to take the war out of the ravaged Virginia farmland and gather supplies for his Army of Northern Virginia. Using the Shenandoah Valley as cover as he moved north on June 3, Lee was pursued first by Union Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, and then by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, who replaced Hooker. Lee’s army crossed into Pennsylvania mid-June, and by June 28 had reached the Susquehanna River. The opposing forces collided at the crossroads town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the morning of July 1. In severe fighting, the Confederates swept the Federals from the fields west and north of town but were unable to secure Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill to the south. The following day, as reinforcements arrived on both sides, Lee attacked the Federals all along their line but failed to dislodge the defenders. On July 3, Lee attacked the Union center on Cemetery Ridge and was repulsed with heavy losses in what is now known as Pickett’s Charge. Lee’s second invasion of the North had failed and had resulted in an estimated 51,000 casualties on both sides, the bloodiest single battle of the entire war.

Battle Stats
Union Victory


George C. Meade


Robert E. Lee

3,155 killed
14,529 wounded
5,365 missing and captured
3,903 killed
18,735 wounded
5,425 missing and captured
  • The town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

  • Confederate dead awaiting burial

  • The gate house at the entrance of the Gettysburg cemetery

  • Little Round Top and Big Round Top

  • Three Confederate prisoners posing for a photograph after being captured after the battle.

  • The only known photograph of the day of the Gettysburg Address given by President Lincoln.

Same place, but what it looks like today.
Union dead in the Devil's Den at Gettysburg

Resource Used:

Battle of gettysburg facts & summary. (2020, December 15). Retrieved March 12, 2021, from

Photograph Resource Used:

Civil war – about this collection. (2000, January 1).

Battle of Antietam

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The Confederate States knew this battle as the Battle of Sharpsburg
September 16 – 18, 1862

The Army of the Potomac, under the command of Maj. Gen. George McClellan, mounted a series of powerful assaults against Gen. Robert E. Lee’s forces along Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862. The morning attacks by the Union I and XII Corps on the Confederate left flank, and vicious Confederate counterattacks by Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson’s brigades swept back and forth through Miller’s Cornfield, across the Hagerstown Turnpike and into the West Woods. Towards the center of the battlefield, Union II Corps assaults against the Sunken Road pierced the Confederate center after a terrible struggle but failed to capitalize on their breakthrough. A third and final assault by Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s IX Corps pushed over a stone bridge at Antietam Creek. Just as Burnside’s forces began to collapse the Confederate right, the timely arrival of Gen. A.P. Hill’s division from Harpers Ferry helped to drive the Army of the Potomac back once more. On the 18th, both sides remained in place, too bloodied to advance. Late that evening and on the 19th, Lee withdrew from the battlefield and slipped back across the Potomac into Virginia. The bloodiest single day in American military history ended in a draw, but the Confederate retreat gave President Abraham Lincoln the “victory” he desired before issuing the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation five days later.

Battle Stats
Union Victory


George B. McClellan


Robert E. Lee

2,108 killed
9,540 wounded
753 missing and captured
1,546 killed
7,752 wounded
1,018 missing and captured
  • President Abraham Lincoln visiting with General George McClellan after the Battle of Antietam.

  • The Burnside Bridge over Antietam Creek.

  • Dead Confederate soldier-notice the small grave behind his body.

  • Confederate dead lined up for burial on Antietam battlefield.

  • Dead Confederate soldiers along the Hagerstown Pike-that connected Hagerstown, PA and Sharpsburg, MD.

  • A Union burial detail with dead Union soldiers awaiting burial.

  • Confederate dead on Antietam battlefield-the white building in the background is the Dunker Baptist Church.

Same place, but what it looks like today.
Confederate dead on a field east of the Dunker Baptist Church.

Resource Used:

Battle of antietam facts & summary. (2020, December 15). Retrieved March 11, 2021, from

Photograph Resource Used:

Civil war – about this collection. (2000, January 1).

Battle of Shiloh

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The Union States knew this battle as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing
April 6-7, 1862

Following the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson, Confederate General Albert S. Johnston was compelled to withdraw from Kentucky, and leave much of western and middle Tennessee to the Federals. Major General Don Carlos Buell and his Army of the Ohio sliced into Middle Tennessee, capturing Nashville on February 25—the first Confederate state capital to fall—while Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee drove south toward Mississippi. Federal armies severed Confederate railroads, preventing reinforcements between the rebel armies in Virginia and those in the west, effectively splitting the Confederacy in two.

Johnston marshaled his forces at Corinth, Mississippi, a major railroad junction where the east-west rail lines met. Meantime, Grant prepared his army for its own offensive and camped at Pittsburg Landing 22 miles north of Corinth, where it spent time drilling recruits and awaiting the arrival of Buell’s army.

Johnston and his 44,000-man Army of Mississippi anticipated a Federal move against Corinth. Johnston planned to smash Grant’s army at Pittsburg Landing before Buell could join him. Johnston placed his troops in motion on April 3 but heavy rains delayed his attack. By nightfall on April 5, his army was deployed for battle only four miles southwest of Pittsburg Landing, and pickets from both sides nervously exchanged gunfire in the dense woods that evening.

At daybreak on Sunday, April 6, three corps of Confederate infantry stormed out of the woods and swept into the southernmost Federal camps of Brig. Gen. Benjamin M. Prentiss’ division. Most of the men were unprepared for the onslaught. Brigadier General William T. Sherman, the senior division commander at Pittsburg Landing while Grant was downriver at his headquarters, had dismissed reports warning of a Confederates advance, refusing to believe that Johnston would leave Corinth. Soon, the nearby divisions of generals McClernand and Stephen Hurlbut were also hard pressed by the rebel attack. Intense fighting swirled around Shiloh Church as the Confederates swept Sherman’s line from that area. Sherman’s men counterattacked but slowly lost ground and fell back northeast toward Pittsburg Landing.

Near the center of the Union line was a thick grove of oak trees and dense underbrush bordered by a farm lane. During the morning, this was the scene of the most intense fighting of the battle. For six hours, Confederate brigades charged into Union defenders. Each assault was shattered by a storm of Federal musketry and artillery. Confederate survivors labeled the position “a hornets’ nest.” On the northwest edge of the field, Rebel division commander Brig. Gen. Daniel Ruggles assembled 62 artillery pieces to blast the Union line barely 400 yards away. “Ruggles’ Battery” was the largest assembly of artillery in the war up to that time. After multiple attacks, the Confederates surrounded the position and forced nearly 2,300 Union soldiers to surrender, including Prentiss.

Around 2:30 p.m., while leading an attack on the left end of the Hornets’ Nest line, Johnston was shot behind the right knee as he rode ahead of his troops. The bullet severed an artery, and blood poured into his boot unseen by those around him. His staff laid Johnston on the ground under a tree, where he bled to death within minutes. Johnston’s second-in-command, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, took charge, calling a halt to the assaults.

On the night of April 5, the first units of Buell’s army arrived. Grant ordered the establishment of a new defensive line bolstered with more than 50 pieces of heavy artillery. Undaunted by the day’s events, Grant formed plans to go on the offensive the next morning. Aware he had been caught unprepared during the morning attack, Sherman remarked, “Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?” Grant, unmoved, drew from his cigar and proclaimed, “Yes. Lick em tomorrow, though.”

Grant attacked at 6:00 a.m. on April 7. Beauregard immediately ordered a counterattack. Though his force was initially successful, Union resistance stiffened, and the Confederates were compelled to fall back. Around 3:00 p.m., Beauregard broke contact with the Yankees and retreated toward Corinth.

The carnage was unprecedented with some 23,800 casualties—more casualties than the Revolution, War of 1812 and Mexican War combined.

The Confederate defeat at Shiloh ended any hopes of blocking the Union advance into Mississippi, and the Federals set their sights on the railroad crossroads of Corinth.

Battle Stats
Union Victory


Ulysses S. Grant


Albert Sidney Johnston

1,754 killed
8,408 wounded
2,885 missing and captured
1,728 killed
8,012 wounded
959 missing and captured

Resource Used:

Battle of shiloh facts & summary. (2020, December 15). Retrieved March 11, 2021, from

1st Battle of Bull Run

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The Confederate States knew this battle as the Battle of First Manassas
July 21, 1861

On July 16, 1861, the new Union volunteer army under Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell marched from Washington DC toward the Confederate army under Gen. Pierre G. T. Beauregard, drawn up behind Bull Run creek west of Centreville. Beauregard’s men defended the strategic railroad junction at Manassas, just west of the creek. On July 17, McDowell sent a small force across Bull Run at Blackburn’s Ford to test the Confederate defenses.  A brief skirmish ensured, with light casualties and little result. McDowell made plans to attack the north or left end of Beauregard’s line, while making a simultaneous demonstration where the Warrenton Turnpike crossed the creek at a stone bridge. Early on July 21, two of McDowell’s divisions crossed at Sudley Ford and attacked the Confederate left flank on Matthews Hill. Fighting raged throughout the morning as Confederate forces were driven back to Henry Hill and more Union brigades crossed Bull Run. In the afternoon, Confederate reinforcements arrived via railroad from Gen. Joseph Johnston’s army in the Shenandoah Valley, among them a brigade of Virginians under Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson. Jackson organized a defense of Henry Hill bolstered by artillery. McDowell also ordered more infantry and artillery to Henry Hill, where the fiercest fighting of the new war occurred. Additional Confederate reinforcements broke the Union right flank, and Jackson held his ground on Henry Hill “like a stone wall.” Under counterattack and with no reinforcements, the Federals retreated which soon deteriorated into a complete rout. The next day, the shattered Union army reached the safety of Washington and the first battle of the war was over.

Want to take a virtual tour of the Manassas Battlefield?
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Battle Stats
Confederate Victory


Irwin McDowell


P.G.T. Beauregard

460 killed
1,124 wounded
1,312 missing and captured
387 killed
1,582 wounded
13 missing and captured
  • A view where the bridge over Bull Run Creek once stood. Union forces on their retreat back to Washington demolished it in fear of being followed by Confederate forces. Notice that the landscape in the background is barren-that is from all the cannon and musket fire.

  • Along Bull Run Creek near where the bridge stood before the Union forces demolished it in fear of Confederate forces following them back to Washington, D.C.

  • Ruins of the Henry House Judith Henry, 85, lived on the hill that bears her name. Confederate snipers used her home which became a target for Union artillery. A shell struck the house and killed Judith late in the battle. She was the first civilian death in the war. Judith rests nearby. The current house is reconstructed.

  • On the battlefield after burial of Union soldiers-those wooden plaques sticking out of the ground close to the bottom of the photo.

  • Dead Confederate soldiers on the battlefield awaiting burial-which may or may not have happened.

Resource Used:

Battle of bull run facts & summary. (2020, December 15). Retrieved March 11, 2021, from

Fort Sumter

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The Battle of Fort Sumter was fought April 12-14, 1861, and was the opening engagement of the American Civil War. With the secession of South Carolina in December 1860, the garrison of the US Army’s harbor forts in Charleston, led by Major Robert Anderson, found itself isolated. Withdrawing to the island bastion of Fort Sumter, the it was soon besieged. While efforts to the relieve the fort moved forward in the North, the newly-formed Confederate government ordered Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard to fire on the fort on April 12, 1861. After a brief fight, Fort Sumter was compelled to surrender and would remain in Confederate hands until the final weeks of the war.

The Battlefield Trust. Fort Sumter: Animated Battle Map. You Tube, Battlefield Trust, 13 June 2019,  

Location of Fort Sumter

(Hover over map with your pointer to use magnifying glass)

Civil War Timeline Page 3

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Compromise of 1850 to the Election of 1860

  • Kentucky Senator Henry Clay proposes the Compromise of 1850 to deal with California’s petition to become a U.S. state and Texas wanting to expand into New Mexico. Clay proposes: 1. the admission of California as the 31st state 2. prohibiting Texas from expanding into New Mexico 3. compensation of $10 million to Texas to finance its public debt 4. permission for the citizens of New Mexico and Utah to vote on whether they want slavery allowed in their states 5. a stronger fugitive slave law with stronger enforcement Responses to the Compromise of 1850 varied. Southerners eased back from seceding from the U.S., but were upset by Northern resistance to enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. Anti-slavery groups are upset about possible expansion of slavery in the Southwest and the stronger fugitive slave law that could require all U.S. citizens to assist in returning runaway slaves.


  • The magazine article entitled, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe is reprinted as a book. The powerful book depicts slaveowner “Simon Legree” as evil and cruel, and the slave “Uncle Tom” as a hero. It sells between 500,000 and 1,000,000 copies in the U.S. and even more in Great Britain. Millions of people see the stage play of the book. By June 1852, Southerners move to ban the book’s publication throughout the South.

    Harriet Beecher Stowe


  • Opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Act [Read More] meet in Ripon, Wisconsin in February, and form the Republican Party. The party includes many former members of the Whig [Read More] and Free Soil [Read More] parties and some northern Democrats. Republicans win most of the Northern state seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in the fall of 1854 elections. Abraham Lincoln emerges as a powerful Republican leader in the West (Illinois).


  • Violence by pro-slavery looters from Missouri known as “Border Ruffians” and anti-slavery groups known as “Jayhawkers” begin in Kansas, as pro- and anti-slavery citizens try to organize the territory as a free or slave. Many Border Ruffians voted illegally in Kansas. Estimates show that the violence in “Bleeding Kansas” (as Kansas became known) resulted in about 200 people killed and $2 million worth of property destroyed during the middle and late 1850s. Over 95% of the pro-slavery votes in the election of a Kansas territorial legislature in 1855 are later determined to be forged.


  • On May 21st Missouri Border Ruffians and local pro-slavery men sack and burn the town of Lawrence, Kansas [where? Click Here], an anti-slavery town.


  • John Brown [read more], an abolitionist born in Connecticut, an his sons kill five pro-slavery men from Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas, in revenge for the sacking and burning of Lawrence, Kansas, by Border Ruffians.


  • In the court case, Ableman versus Booth, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law is constitutional and that state courts cannot overrule federal court decisions. On October 16, Kansas abolitionist John Brown attempts to spark a slave rebellion in Virginia by capturing weapons from the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Brown holds the arsenal building for 36 hours. No slaves joined him and no rebellion starts, but 17 people, including 10 of Brown’s men, are killed. Brown and his remaining men are captured by the U.S. Marines led by Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee. Brown is tried for treason to the state of Virginia, murder and calling for a slave uprising. He was found guilty of all charges and hanged on December 2, 1859.


  • May 16th…William H. Seward of New York, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, and Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania are leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, along with the more moderate Abraham Lincoln of Illinois. When the Republican convention starts in Chicago, Lincoln supporters from Illinois skillfully gain representative votes for Lincoln. On May 18th, Abraham Lincoln wins the Republican Party nomination for president. The Republicans create a document that precisely explains their political platform which includes the exclusion of slavery from the the territories that are awaiting statehood, but affirms the right of individual states to order and control their own “domestic institutions” (slavery).

    Abraham Lincoln in 1860


Civil War Timeline Page 2

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1812 to 1849

  • Nat Turner leads a slave revolt in Southampton County, Virginia. At least 58 white people are killed. Whites then kill about 100 slaves in the area during the search for Turner and his friends. Nat Turner is captured several months later and he along with 12 others are executed. Turner’s actions anger Southerners and some of them believe abolitionists supported the Turner slave revolt.


  • Slaves revolt on the Spanish ship “La Amistad” and attempt to turn the ship around to sail back to Africa. However, the ship ends up in the U.S. After a highly publicized Supreme Court case where the slaves’ lawyer was former U.S. President, John Quincy Adams. The slaves win their case and they are freed in March 1841 with most of them returning to Africa. The 1999 movie, Amistad, directed by Steven Spielberg is based on this historical event.


  • Frederick Douglass publishes his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. The book details his life as a slave and is read by thousands of Northerners.


  • Democrat Lewis Cass of Michigan proposes letting the people of each territory/state vote on whether to permit slavery in their territory or state. This theory of popular sovereignty would be further endorsed and supported by Democratic Senator (and political opponent of Abraham Lincoln) Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois in the mid-1850s.


  • Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery. She makes about 20 trips back into the South and returns back to the North along the Underground Railroad [Click Here] with slaves seeking freedom.


Civil War Timeline

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The Colonial Period

  • A Dutch ship arrives in the Virginia Colony carry about 20 black Africans as indentured servants. From this beginning, African slavery becomes a fixture in the future United States.


  • About 2,000 of the 40,000 inhabitants of the Virginia Colony are imported slaves from Africa.


  • Quakers, led by James Pemberton and others including Benjamin Rush and Benjamin Franklin, organize the first abolitionist society in the colonies, the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery, in Philadelphia.


  • The Virginia legislature passes a law, with Thomas Jefferson’s support, that bans importing slaves into Virginia. It is the first state to ban the slave trade, and all other existing states eventually follow Virginia’s lead.


  • The Continental Congress rejects by one vote Thomas Jefferson’s proposal to prohibit slavery in all territories, including areas that become the states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee.


  • Under the Articles of Confederation, the Continental Congress passes the Northwest Ordinance to govern the frontier territory north of the Ohio River and west of Pennsylvania, which includes the future states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. In the ordinance, Congress prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude in the Northwest Territory and requires the return of fugitive slaves (runaway slaves) captured in the territory to be returned to their owners (masters).   In the following years, anti-slavery Northerners cite the Northwest Ordinance many times as precedent for the limitation, if not the complete abolition, of slavery in the entire United States. Despite the ordinance being law, Southern-born settlers try and fail to pass laws to allow slavery in Indiana and Illinois.


  • The total U.S. slave population is 697,681. The number will grow to nearly 4 million by 1860, 3.5 million of whom live in the seceding Southern states.


  • Kentucky drafts a state constitution permitting slavery and is admitted at the 15th U.S. state.


  • Congress passes the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, based on Article 4 Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution and guaranteed a slaveowner’s right to recover an escape or runaway slave. Also this year, Eli Whitney, Jr. invents the cotton gin, making possible large-scale production of short-staple cotton in the South. The demand for slave labor increases with the resulting increase in cotton production.


  • The United States purchases the Louisiana Territory from France. Slavery already exists in the territory and efforts to stop or restrict it fail; the new lands thereby permit a great expansion of slave plantations.


  • At President Thomas Jefferson’s urging, the U.S. Congress outlaws the international slave trade, where importing or exporting slaves becomes a federal crime, effective January 1, 1808. Previously about 14,000 new foreign-born slaves had arrived in the U.S. each year. The new law stopped much of the international slave trade to the U.S., but illegal smuggling of slaves continued to bring in about 1,000 foreign-born slaves a year. Read the actual act prohibiting importation of slaves by clicking here


  • Speaker of the House of Representatives Henry Clay of Kentucky proposes the Missouri Compromise to break the Congressional deadlock over Missouri’s admission to the U.S. The compromise proposes that Missouri be admitted as a slave state and that the northern counties of Massachusetts, later the state of Maine, be admitted as a free state, thereby preserving the balance between slave-holding states and free-states. The Missouri Compromise also included a provision that prohibited slavery in all territories west of the Mississippi River and north of a line that formed the southern border of Missouri-though the state of Missouri did not have to follow this rule. Many Southerners argue against the exclusion of slavery from such a large area of the country, but the compromise passes anyway.  


The Civil War for Students

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Disunion of the Union
View a timeline that shows what was happening in the U.S. prior to the Civil War.
The Beginning of the Civil War
Fort Sumter

Learn about the start of the American Civil War…

The 5 Most Important Civil War Battles
The Battle of First Bull Run

The actual first on land battle between the Union and Confederate armies…

The Battle of Shiloh

What was the “Hornet’s Nest?”

The Battle of Antietam

September 17, 1862, still holds the record for the single deadliest day in American warfare history.

The Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg was a significant Union victory considered by many to be the turning point of the Civil War.

The Battle of Vicksburg

U.S. Grant’s campaign to split the Confederacy in half.

The End of the Civil War
Appomattox Court House

The town in Virginia where the Civil War finally came to an end.

Other Civil War Topics
Blacks in the Civil War
Indiana and the Civil War
Leaders and Generals You Should Know
Health and Medicine During the Civil War
How the Civil War has Changed Your Life
Civil War Food
Weird Stories and Facts from the Civil War