January 1861 -- The
When Abraham Lincoln, a
known opponent of slavery, was elected president, the South Carolina
perceived a threat. Calling a state convention, the delegates
voted to remove the state of South Carolina from the union known as the
United States of America. The secession of South Carolina was followed by
the secession of six more states -- Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia,
Louisiana, and Texas -- and the threat of secession by four more --
Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. These eleven states
eventually formed the Confederate States of America.
February 1861 -- The
South Creates a Government.
At a convention in
Montgomery, Alabama, the seven seceding states created the Confederate
Constitution, a document similar to the United States Constitution, but with
greater stress on the autonomy of each state. Jefferson Davis was named
provisional president of the Confederacy until elections could be held.
February 1861 -- The South
Seizes Federal Forts.
When President Buchanan --
Lincoln's predecessor -- refused to surrender southern federal forts to the
seceding states, southern state troops seized them. At Fort Sumter, South
Carolina troops repulsed a supply ship trying to reach federal forces based in
the fort. The ship was forced to return to New York, its supplies undelivered.
March 1861 -- Lincoln's
At Lincoln's inauguration
on March 4, the new president said he had no plans to end slavery in those
states where it already existed, but he also said he would not accept secession.
He hoped to resolve the national crisis without warfare.
April 1861 -- Attack on
When President Lincoln
planned to send supplies to Fort Sumter, he alerted the state in advance, in an
attempt to avoid hostilities. South Carolina, however, feared a trick; the
commander of the fort, Robert Anderson, was asked to surrender immediately.
Anderson offered to surrender, but only after he had exhausted his supplies. His
offer was rejected, and on April 12, the Civil War began with shots fired on the
fort. Fort Sumter eventually was surrendered to South Carolina.
April 1861 -- Four More
States Join the Confederacy.
The attack on Fort Sumter
prompted four more states to join the Confederacy. With Virginia's secession,
Richmond was named the Confederate capitol.
June 1861 -- West Virginia
Residents of the western
counties of Virginia did not wish to secede along with the rest of the state.
This section of Virginia was admitted into the Union as the state of West
Virginia on June 20, 1863.
June 1861 -- Four Slave
States Stay in the Union.
Despite their acceptance of
slavery, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri did not join the
Confederacy. Although divided in their loyalties, a combination of political
maneuvering and Union military pressure kept these states from seceding.
July 1861 -- First Battle
of Bull Run.
Public demand pushed
General-in-Chief Winfield Scott to advance on the South before adequately
training his untried troops. Scott ordered General Irvin McDowell to advance on
Confederate troops stationed at Manassas Junction, Virginia. McDowell attacked
on July 21, and was initially successful, but the introduction of Confederate
reinforcements resulted in a Southern victory and a chaotic retreat toward
Washington by federal troops.
None of the included
photographs of First Bull Run were made at the time of battle (July 21); the
photographers had to wait until the Confederate Army evacuated Centreville and
Manassas in March 1862. Their views of various landmarks of the previous summer
are arranged according to the direction of the federal advance, a long flanking
movement by Sudley's Ford.
July 1861 -- General
McDowell Is Replaced.
Suddenly aware of the
threat of a protracted war and the army's need for organization and training,
Lincoln replaced McDowell with General George B. McClellan.
July 1861 -- A Blockade of
To blockade the coast of
the Confederacy effectively, the federal navy had to be improved. By July, the
effort at improvement had made a difference and an effective blockade had begun.
The South responded by building small, fast ships that could outmaneuver Union
January 1862 -- Abraham
Lincoln Takes Action.
On January 27, President
Lincoln issued a war order authorizing the Union to launch a unified aggressive
action against the Confederacy. General McClellan ignored the order.
March 1862 -- McClellan
On March 8, President
Lincoln -- impatient with General McClellan's inactivity -- issued an order
reorganizing the Army of Virginia and relieving McClellan of supreme command.
McClellan was given command of the Army of the Potomac, and ordered to attack
Richmond. This marked the beginning of the Peninsular Campaign.
Battle of the
"Monitor" and the "Merrimac" -- March 1862
In an attempt to reduce the
North's great naval advantage, Confederate engineers converted a scuttled Union
frigate, the U.S.S. Merrimac, into an iron-sided vessel re-christened the C.S.S.
Virginia. On March 9, in the first naval engagement between ironclad ships, the
Monitor fought the Virginia to a draw, but not before the Virginia had sunk two
wooden Union warships off Norfolk, Virginia.
April 1862 -- The Battle of
On April 6, Confederate
forces attacked Union forces under General Ulysses S. Grant at Shiloh,
Tennessee. By the end of the day, the federal troops were almost defeated. Yet,
during the night, reinforcements arrived, and by the next morning the Union
commanded the field. When Confederate forces retreated, the exhausted federal
forces did not follow. Casualties were heavy -- 13,000 out of 63,000 Union
soldiers died, and 11,000 of 40,000 Confederate troops were killed.
Fort Pulaski, Georgia --
General Quincy A. Gillmore
battered Fort Pulaski, the imposing masonry structure near the mouth of the
Savannah River, into submission in less than two days, (April 10-11, 1862). His
work was promptly recorded by the indefatigable Timothy H. O'Sullivan.
April 1862 -- New Orleans.
Flag Officer David Farragut
led an assault up the Mississippi River. By April 25, he was in command of New
April 1862 -- The
In April, General
McClellan's troops left northern Virginia to begin the Peninsular Campaign. By
May 4, they occupied Yorktown, Virginia. At Williamsburg, Confederate forces
prevented McClellan from meeting the main part of the Confederate army, and
McClellan halted his troops, awaiting reinforcements.
The Peninsular Campaign --
These photographs depict
McClellan's advance from Yorktown to Fair Oaks, only five miles from Richmond,
and, beginning with No. 85, his retreat to Harrison's Landing on the James. Some
of the sites of the Seven Days' Battles (June 25-July 1) were photographed only
after the fall of Richmond three years later.
May 1862 --
"Stonewall" Jackson Defeats Union Forces.
Confederate General Thomas
J. "Stonewall" Jackson, commanding forces in the Shenandoah Valley,
attacked Union forces in late March, forcing them to retreat across the Potomac.
As a result, Union troops were rushed to protect Washington, D.C.
June 1862 -- The Battle of
Seven Pines (Fair Oaks).
On May 31, the Confederate
army attacked federal forces at Seven Pines, almost defeating them; last-minute
reinforcements saved the Union from a serious defeat. Confederate commander
Joseph E. Johnston was severely wounded, and command of the Army of Northern
Virginia fell to Robert E. Lee. (See The Peninsular Campaign -- May-August 1862)
July 1862 -- The Seven
Between June 26 and July 2,
Union and Confederate forces fought a series of battles: Mechanicsville (June
26-27), Gaines's Mill (June 27), Savage's Station (June 29), Frayser's Farm
(June 30), and Malvern Hill (July 1). On July 2, the Confederates withdrew to
Richmond, ending the Peninsular Campaign. (See The Peninsular Campaign --
July 1862 -- A New
Commander of the Union Army.
On July 11, Major-General
Henry Halleck was named general-in-chief of the Union army.
August 1862 -- Pope's
Union General John Pope
suffered defeated at the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 29-30. General Fitz-John
Porter was held responsible for the defeat because he had failed to commit his
troops to battle quickly enough; he was forced out of the army by 1863.
Pope's Campaign --
These photographs depict
Pope's Campaign, spanning July to August 1862. The first two photographs reflect
McDowell shielding Washington during the Peninsular Campaign; thereafter the
movement, like Pope's, is retrograde, from Cedar Mountain near the Rapidan River
back to Bull Run again, in general along the line of the Orange and Alexandria
September 1862 -- Harper's
Union General McClellan
defeated Confederate General Lee at South Mountain and Crampton's Gap in
September, but did not move quickly enough to save Harper's Ferry, which fell to
Confederate General Jackson on September 15, along with a great number of men
and a large body of supplies.
September 1862 -- Antietam.
On September 17,
Confederate forces under General Lee were caught by General McClellan near
Sharpsburg, Maryland. This battle proved to be the bloodiest day of the war;
2,108 Union soldiers were killed and 9,549 wounded -- 2,700 Confederates were
killed and 9,029 wounded. The battle had no clear winner, but because General
Lee withdrew to Virginia, McClellan was considered the victor. The battle
convinced the British and French -- who were contemplating official recognition
of the Confederacy -- to reserve action, and gave Lincoln the opportunity to
announce his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation (September 22), which would
free all slaves in areas rebelling against the United States, effective January
The Army of the Potomac
remained in possession of the field, and the photographers were able to work
over it thoroughly immediately after the battle of September 17. One can witness
President Lincoln's visit to McClellan's headquarters, and follow the army
across the Potomac at Berlin (present day Brunswick, Maryland) and into
re-occupied Harper's Ferry.
December 1862 -- The Battle
General McClellan's slow
movements, combined with General Lee's escape, and continued raiding by
Confederate cavalry, dismayed many in the North. On November 7, Lincoln replaced
McClellan with Major-General Ambrose E. Burnside. Burnside's forces were
defeated in a series of attacks against entrenched Confederate forces at
Fredericksburg, Virginia, and Burnside was replaced with General Joseph Hooker.
January 1863 --
In an effort to placate the
slave-holding border states, Lincoln resisted the demands of radical Republicans
for complete abolition. Yet some Union generals, such as General B. F. Butler,
declared slaves escaping to their lines "contraband of war," not to be
returned to their masters. Other generals decreed that the slaves of men
rebelling against the Union were to be considered free. Congress, too, had been
moving toward abolition. In 1861, Congress had passed an act stating that all
slaves employed against the Union were to be considered free. In 1862, another
act stated that all slaves of men who supported the Confederacy were to be
considered free. Lincoln, aware of the public's growing support of abolition,
issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring that all
slaves in areas still in rebellion were, in the eyes of the federal government,
March 1863 -- The First
Because of recruiting
difficulties, an act was passed making all men between the ages of 20 and 45
liable to be called for military service. Service could be avoided by paying a
fee or finding a substitute. The act was seen as unfair to the poor, and riots
in working-class sections of New York City broke out in protest. A similar
conscription act in the South provoked a similar reaction.
May 1863 -- The Battle of
On April 27, Union General
Hooker crossed the Rappahannock River to attack General Lee's forces. Lee split
his army, attacking a surprised Union army in three places and almost completely
defeating them. Hooker withdrew across the Rappahannock River, giving the South
a victory, but it was the Confederates' most costly victory in terms of
May 1863 -- The Vicksburg
Union General Grant won
several victories around Vicksburg, Mississippi, the fortified city considered
essential to the Union's plans to regain control of the Mississippi River. On
May 22, Grant began a siege of the city. After six weeks, Confederate General
John Pemberton surrendered, giving up the city and 30,000 men. The capture of
Port Hudson, Louisiana, shortly thereafter placed the entire Mississippi River
in Union hands. The Confederacy was split in two.
Through the Fall of
Vicksburg -- July 1863
These photographs include
three which William R. Pywell took in February 1864, referring back to Grant's
brilliant campaign of the previous summer.
June-July 1863 -- The
Confederate General Lee
decided to take the war to the enemy. On June 13, he defeated Union forces at
Winchester, Virginia, and continued north to Pennsylvania. General Hooker, who
had been planning to attack Richmond, was instead forced to follow Lee. Hooker,
never comfortable with his commander, General Halleck, resigned on June 28, and
General George Meade replaced him as commander of the Army of the Potomac.
On July 1, a chance
encounter between Union and Confederate forces began the Battle of Gettysburg.
In the fighting that followed, Meade had greater numbers and better defensive
positions. He won the battle, but failed to follow Lee as he retreated back to
Virginia. Militarily, the Battle of Gettysburg was the high-water mark of the
Confederacy; it is also significant because it ended Confederate hopes of formal
recognition by foreign governments. On November 19, President Lincoln dedicated
a portion of the Gettysburg battlefield as a national cemetery, and delivered
his memorable "Gettysburg Address."
Photographs of the
battleground began immediately after the battle of July 1-3. This group of
photographs also includes a scene of Hooker's troops in Virginia on route to
September 1863 -- The
Battle of Chickamauga.
On September 19, Union and
Confederate forces met on the Tennessee-Georgia border, near Chickamauga Creek.
After the battle, Union forces retreated to Chattanooga, and the Confederacy
maintained control of the battlefield.
Meade in Virginia --
After the Battle of
Gettysburg, General Meade engaged in some cautious and inconclusive operations,
but the heavy activity of the photographers was confined to the intervals
between them -- at Bealeton, southwest of Warrenton, in August, and at Culpeper,
before the Mine Run Campaign.
November 1863 -- The Battle
On November 23-25, Union
forces pushed Confederate troops away from Chattanooga. The victory set the
stage for General Sherman's Atlanta Campaign.
January - April 1864 --
Winter Quarters at Brandy Station
All was quiet beyond the
Rappahannock, but there was a rich harvest for the photographers. Some
photographs date from December 1863.
May 1864 -- Grant's
General Grant, promoted to
commander of the Union armies, planned to engage Lee's forces in Virginia until
they were destroyed. North and South met and fought in an inconclusive three-day
battle in the Wilderness. Lee inflicted more casualties on the Union forces than
his own army incurred, but unlike Grant, he had no replacements.
Grant's Wilderness Campaign
-- May-June, 1864
Photographer Timothy H.
O'Sullivan followed the federal army and documented the actual course of
operations as had not been possible since the middle of McClellan's Peninsular
May 1864 -- The Battle of
General Grant continued to
attack Lee. At Spotsylvania Court House, he fought for five days, vowing to
fight all summer if necessary.
June 1864 -- The Battle of
Grant again attacked
Confederate forces at Cold Harbor, losing over 7,000 men in twenty minutes.
Although Lee suffered fewer casualties, his army never recovered from Grant's
continual attacks. This was Lee's last clear victory of the war.
June 1864 -- The Siege of
The Army of the James, June
Grant hoped to take
Petersburg, below Richmond, and then approach the Confederate capital from the
south. The attempt failed, resulting in a ten month siege and the loss of
thousands of lives on both sides.
General Benjamin F.
Butler's command was in the vicinity of Petersburg as early as May 11, missing
its opportunity to capture this vital railroad center; but the photographs are
all from the later days when Butler was holding a fortified line on both sides
of the James and extending northward as far as the Market or River Road running
into Richmond. The photographs follow Butler's lines from south to north, and
then, after the evacuation of Richmond, record the Confederate defenses on the
The Siege of Petersburg --
The Petersburg Campaign
gave the photographers full opportunity to build a superb corpus of
documentation, completed when they were able to enter the town and its defenses
in the first days of April. Grant won by steadily extending his lines westward,
but the photographers do not seem to have ventured very far from City Point. The
last three photographs place Timothy H. O'Sullivan with the army at Appomattox
Court House, where Lee surrendered the remnants of his valiant force.
July 1864 -- Confederate
Troops Approach Washington, D.C.
Confederate General Jubal
Early led his forces into Maryland to relieve the pressure on Lee's army. Early
got within five miles of Washington, D.C., but on July 13, he was driven back to
August 1864 -- General
William T. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign.
Union General Sherman
departed Chattanooga, and was soon met by Confederate General Joseph Johnston.
Skillful strategy enabled Johnston to hold off Sherman's force -- almost twice
the size of Johnston's. However, Johnston's tactics caused his superiors to
replace him with General John Bell Hood, who was soon defeated. Hood surrendered
Atlanta, Georgia, on September 1; Sherman occupied the city the next day. The
fall of Atlanta greatly boosted Northern morale.
November 1864 -- General
William T. Sherman's March to the Sea.
General Sherman continued
his march through Georgia to the sea. In the course of the march, he cut himself
off from his source of supplies, planning for his troops to live off the land.
His men cut a path 300 miles in length and 60 miles wide as they passed through
Georgia, destroying factories, bridges, railroads, and public buildings.
Sherman in Atlanta --
After three and a half
months of incessant maneuvering and much hard fighting, Sherman forced Hood to
abandon Atlanta, the munitions center of the Confederacy. Sherman remained
there, resting his war-worn men and accumulating supplies, for nearly
two-and-a-half months. During the occupation, George N. Barnard, official
photographer of the Chief Engineer's Office, made the best documentary record of
the war in the West. Much of what he photographed was destroyed in the fire that
spread from the military facilities blown up upon Sherman's departure.
November 1864 -- Abraham
Lincoln Is Re-Elected.
The Republican party
nominated President Abraham Lincoln as its presidential candidate, and Andrew
Johnson for vice-president. The Democratic party chose General George B.
McClellan for president, and George Pendleton for vice-president. At one point,
widespread war-weariness in the North made a victory for Lincoln seem doubtful.
In addition, Lincoln's veto of the Wade-Davis Bill -- requiring the majority of
the electorate in each Confederate state to swear past and future loyalty to the
Union before the state could officially be restored -- lost him the support of
Radical Republicans who thought Lincoln too lenient. However, Sherman's victory
in Atlanta boosted Lincoln's popularity and helped him win re-election by a wide
November - December 1864
Fort Monroe and Hampton,
Virginia -- 1864
Its own intrinsic strength
and the ease with which it could be supplied and reinforced by sea kept the
largest American fort in federal hands throughout the war. Fort Monroe was the
starting point for McClellan's Peninsular Campaign in 1862 and for Butler's
advance to Petersburg in 1864. The photographs depict only uneventful garrison
life toward the end of 1864.
Sherman at the Sea --
After marching through
Georgia for a month, Sherman stormed Fort McAllister on December 13, 1864, and
captured Savannah itself eight days later. These seven views show the former
stronghold and its dismantling preparatory to Sherman's further movement
northward. This operation was ordered on December 24, and General William B.
Hazen [2d Division, 15th Corps] and Major Thomas W. Osborn, chief of artillery,
completed the task by December 29, storing the guns at Fort Pulaski.
Hood before Nashville --
Continuing his policy of
taking the offensive at any cost, General John B. Hood brought his reduced army
before the defenses of Nashville, where it was repulsed by General George H.
Thomas on December 15-16, in the most complete victory of the war. If the dates
borne by the first two items are correct, the photographs were taken in the
course of battle.
January 1865 -- Fort
Fisher, North Carolina
After Admiral David D.
Porter's squadron of warships had subjected Fort Fisher to a terrific
bombardment, General Alfred H. Terry's troops took it by storm on January 15,
and Wilmington, North Carolina, the last resort of the blockade-runners, was
sealed off. Timothy H. O'Sullivan promptly recorded the strength of the works
and the effects of the bombardment.
January 1865 -- The Fall of
Transportation problems and
successful blockades caused severe shortages of food and supplies in the South.
Starving soldiers began to desert Lee's forces, and although President Jefferson
Davis approved the arming of slaves as a means of augmenting the shrinking army,
the measure was never put into effect.
February 1865 -- Sherman
Marches through North and South Carolina.
Union General Sherman moved
from Georgia through South Carolina, destroying almost everything in his path.
February 1865 -- A Chance
for Reconciliation Is Lost.
Jefferson Davis agreed to send delegates to a peace conference with President
Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward, but insisted on Lincoln's
recognition of the South's independence as a prerequisite. Lincoln refused, and
the conference never occurred.
April 1865 -- Fallen
On March 25, General Lee
attacked General Grant's forces near Petersburg, but was defeated -- attacking
and losing again on April 1. On April 2, Lee evacuated Richmond, the Confederate
capital, and headed west to join with other forces.
Fallen Richmond --
Alexander Gardner and
probably other photographers made a splendid record of the Confederate capital,
desolate after the evacuation of April 2 and the fire which raged along the
waterfront but fortunately had stopped short of Thomas Jefferson's capitol. The
photographs are arranged in a kind of guided tour of the city, first along the
James from Rocketts westward to the Tredegar Iron Works, inland to the capitol
and its environs, and on to the residence of President Jefferson Davis.
Present-day street numbers have been provided where possible.
The Defenses of Washington
The Lincoln administration
was determined to make the capital safe from attack by ringing the city with a
chain of forts manned by substantial garrisons of artillerists and other troops.
The sequence of photographs starts with the forts on the Virginia shore (in
alphabetical order, since hardly anyone today would be familiar with their
locations, mostly long since submerged by city or suburbs), follows with
defenses north of the Potomac (in the same order), and ends with a number of
garrisons or local military units.
April 1865 -- Surrender at
General Lee's troops were
soon surrounded, and on April 7, Grant called upon Lee to surrender. On April 9,
the two commanders met at Appomattox Courthouse, and agreed on the terms of
surrender. Lee's men were sent home on parole -- soldiers with their horses, and
officers with their side arms. All other equipment was surrendered.
April 1865 -- The
Assassination of President Lincoln.
On April 14, as President
Lincoln was watching a performance of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's
Theater in Washington, D.C., he was shot by John Wilkes Booth, an actor from
Maryland obsessed with avenging the Confederate defeat. Lincoln died the next
morning. Booth escaped to Virginia. Eleven days later, cornered in a burning
barn, Booth was fatally shot by a Union soldier. Nine other people were involved
in the assassination; four were hanged, four imprisoned, and one acquitted.
April 1865 -- The Battle of West Point
On April 16, Easter, Col. Oscar LaGrange lead Union
troops on an attack of the earthen fort at West Point. Fort Tyler,
named after the Confederate General commanding the fort, sustained a
day-long assault before succumbing to the Union forces.
The Assassination of
President Lincoln -- April-July 1865
Secretary of War Edwin M.
Stanton's fanatical insistence on secrecy was relaxed sufficiently to allow this
remarkable documentary series to be made at Ford's Theater, the Navy Yard, and
the Arsenal. Why the photographer chose Howard's Stable instead of Pumphrey's or
Naylor's must remain unexplained.
April-May 1865 -- Final
Surrenders among Remaining Confederate Troops.
troops were defeated between the end of April and the end of May. Jefferson
Davis was captured in Georgia on May 10.
The Grand Review of the
Army -- 1865
The Army of the Potomac
paraded on May 23, and the Army of Georgia on May 24. Unfortunately most of the
photographs, thought to have been taken by Brady himself, fail to distinguish
either the unit or the day.
August - November 1865
The Execution of Captain
Henry Wirz -- November 1865
superintendent of the Confederate prison at Andersonville, Georgia, was tried by
a military commission presided over by General Lew Wallace from August 23 to
October 24, 1865, and was hanged in the yard of the Old Capitol Prison on
The Photographic History of
the Civil War, The Blue and Grey Press