The American Civil War

A quick summary of the American Civil War which took place during the time period of 1861-1865. There is a number of milestones that took place during this period and we will explain all in detail for you to understand. The American Civil War, it all started when sectional differences and questions were not completely resolved when the US Constitution was officially made valid in 1789. The Civil War had long lasting effects, such as the abolishment of slavery in the USA and it quite literally redefined the USA as a single, whole nation, to act as one. Rather than a group of states, loosely bound together.


What happened first?

What took first, was the inland clash between large numbers of troops which took place on the morning of June 3rd. To put it simply, 3000 union volunteers surprised around 800 confederates at Philippi in Virginia. The affair, lasted a measly half an hour and considering the skirmishes that took place in the war, this wouldn’t really be considered as something measurable by compare. Although, the Union Victory in this case and ones in other regions only strengthened Major General George B. Mccellnan’s reputation. The Major, was the commander of the Department of Ohio.

Bull run creek

The first major battle commenced on the date of July 21st among the hills of Bull Run creek, located outside Manassas, Virginia. It is known commonly as 2 different things, the First Battle of Manassas, which is the southern name, the northern name is the First Battle of Bull Run. Why two names you ask? The North would name battles for nearest body of water, such as a river, lake, sea or creek.  Were as Southerners took a different approach and chose names based on the nearest town. It is known that the Union Army made good progress early on in the battle, but once reinforcement troops from the Shenandoah Valley came along, which were Confederate reinforcements, they certainly made matters worse for the Federals.

On September 10th, the Union Victory that took place at Carnifax Ferry in the Kanawha Valley of Virginia (West) basically ended Confederate control of most western countries, but although this happened, multiple raids and guerrilla warfare was seen there.  The Western Theatre did not see many skirmishes and Kentucky, actually tried to stay neutral during this period but had made it clear that whatever side was to engage in battle and begin moving troops towards the other first, that they would take their side.

Then, near Springfield, Missouri. The South won what is considered a major battle on the 10th August. This was known as the Battle of Wilsons creek, but also goes under another name; The Battle of Oak Hills. This battle saw 5500 Union soldiers, painstakingly lose to an army of 12000 confederates which took no mercy. This allowed them to take control of southwestern Missouri, never the less, the Southerners surprisingly didn’t immediately pursue northwards. The first ever Federal General was then drastically killed, who in fact was a Union commander that goes by the name of Nathaniel Lyon.

Unfortunately, the southerners had already lost a fierce Brigadier General, Robert S. Garnett in a skirmish at Carrick’s Ford and also then saw Brigadier General Bernard E. Bee at First Manassas. Sadly for the Union, they saw another battle lost at the First Battle of Lexington which took place on September 13th-20th. Confederate forces proved their worth once again in Missouri territory.  Then as you can imagine both sides went into a mode of replenishment in terms of troops, ammo and weapon stocks, food and equipment, horses and mules.


If the events of 1861 had the Americans both in the North and South thinking this would be a short war, they were quickly mistaken as 1862 truly showed how drastic is cost of human life would really be. took off with two blood spilling days at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee and then the mayhem continued in a number of battles in Virginia and what is known as America’s “bloodiest” single day, The Battle of Antietam in Maryland.

The Battle of Shiloh

Battle of Shiloh

What happened at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862?

40,000 Confederate soldiers all led by General Albert Sidney Johnston swarmed out of the woods that were nearby and began engaging with the Union Soldiers which were stationed near Pittsburgh Landing on the Tennessee River. The Federal forces we not prepared, meaning the offensive of the Confederates drove them from their camps, which threatened to completely overwhelm Ulysses S. Grant’s (Federals General) entire command.

The road nearby known as the “Hornets’ Nest” quickly became a battle line once some Federals had stood their ground and fought back against the Confederates.  As hard as they tried, rebellious attacks could not save them and massed artillery definitely went in the favor of the Confederates, which allowed them to surround, kill, capture and wound most of the Union Troops. General Johnston was killed in action the first days attacks and was swiftly replaced with P.G.T Beauregard. The fighting did not stop just the day though, no. It lasted long into the night but the Federals held their ground.

The Federal army regrouped and reinforced and outnumbered Beauregard’s army by 10,000 men. The counter offensive tactics of Grant meant that the weakened numbers of the Confederate forces could not with stand the pressure that was quickly raining down on them. They retired from the field and the two Battle of Shiloh, saw more than 23,000 casualties and was the bloodiest battle in America’s History at the time.

The Battle of Antietam

Battle of Antietim 1
Battle of Antietime

When did The Battle of Antietam Start?

As above, this battle went on to be known as America’s “bloodiest” single day. It all began on September 16th, 1862. The major of Union Army, George B. McClellan took his Union Army and strongly confronted Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army of Northern Virginia at Sharpsburg, Maryland. The 16th was not the “bloodiest” day though, this began at dawn on September 17th, the Union Army began to flank the left side of the Confederate army’s barracks, and that was what initiated The Battle of Antietam.

The Union repeated their attacks over and over, but the Confederates certainly did not stand down, they too used equal amounts of force in their counterattacks. Although the Union had an advantage in the greater amount of troops, near the Dunker Church was were Stonewall Jackson’s forces truly held their own on this gruesome morning. Both party’s knew that this was a battle to take seriously and neither wanted to back down.


What else happened?

Meanwhile, the Union army actually gained a further advantage in the centre of the battlefield, which was a key defensive position, desirable by both parties. They pierced Confederate forces after a feisty struggle. Unfortunately for them, they did not take advantage of this when they had the chance and their attacks were not followed up with further advances.

Surprisingly, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army actually outnumbered the Union army leaded by McClellan. The Union army only sent in ¾ of their troops, whilst Lee utilised his whole army in the bloodshed, McClellan’s gradual approach allowed Lee to utilize his forces in waves. As the night went on, both army’s tended to their wounds and re-established their defensive lines.

The skirmishes continued on the 18th whilst Lee began removing his wounded towards the South. From a military point of view, the battle was actually a draw and strangely McClellan did not actively pursue the wounded Confederate army, which certainly made Abraham Lincoln feel distressed. Despite this, the Union Army still claimed the victory. This blood-filled battle gave Lincoln the much needed “victory” he needed before putting forward the Emancipation Proclamation, which would change the political course of the American Civil War in its entirety.

The Battle Of Gettysburg


When the year of 1863 came around, this was when The Battle of Gettysburg was fought and it truly changed the course of the American Civil War and is a main component within its history, not to mention being the most famous battle. Another vital event that took place in 1863 was the surrender of the southern city of Vicksburg.

July 1st

The commander of the Confederate army decided to advance on Gettysburg to secure an early advantage in the battle To both parties surprise, what started as a light encounter, soon turned into 2500 Union providing support, not quite the light counter they were expecting. This resulted in 1000 Confederate troops being captured, including Brigadier-General Archer. Before anyone could have predicted, more and more of both armies descended on Gettysburg, trying to gain the upper hand. Overnight, the numbers of both armies increased until close to 22,000 Confederate troops and 16,500 Unionists were based in and around Gettysburg.

July 2nd

As the second day of the battle, July 2nd, dawned on both parties, Lee decided to embark on a full blown attack against the Union forces, but Lee did not take into account that the Army of Potomac had dramatically increased their numbers, which meant Lee now faced 30,000 men. Unluckily for the Union army, some of the VI Corps had marched a huge 30 miles to get to Gettysburg during the night and tiredness was certainly a huge factor which as you can imagine, tiredness does not help when you’re about to go into a battle of this calibre. Ultimately, in the initial stages, Lee and the Army of North Virginia had the upper hand.

July 3rd

As July 3rd approached, many people do not know that Lee was suffering from dysentery, which is an intestinal infection which causes diarrhea and can cause bleeding and mucus to appear in faeces. Not a nice thought, but this may have affected Lee’s decision making.

He believed that due to his previous attacks which usually would end up in him aiming to breach the flanks of the Union army, going down the route of trying to tackle the Union army head on at the heart of their forces. He felt that he could force a wedge between the Unionists and once that had happened, he felt they would withdraw. Unfortunately for Lee, he got his calculations wrong.

The Union army had its numbers in full hitting a staggering 85,000 troops, whilst Lee’s army fell short at 75,000 troops. As the clock hit 1pm, Lee decided to start an artillery bombardment on the Unions position. Due to the heavy rate of fire, by 3pm the supply of artillery shells had run low and there was no logical way they could maintain such an aggressive attack.

Instead, Lee jumped the gun and carried out a full-scale infantry attack. Armed with rifles and bayonets at the ready, 13,000 from the division ran by Major General Pickett stormed Union positions. Over half of that number were either killed or wounded and the remainder of quickly retreated. Lee acknowledged that he had made the wrong decision this time and paid the price in losing a lot of his men. This day was obviously a disaster for the Confederate army and on this day Pemberton offered the surrender of Vicksburg.

Civil War Timeline


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