American Civil War Timeline and Battle for Columbia, S.C.
November 6, 1860 - Abraham Lincoln, who had declared "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free..." is elected president, the first Republican, receiving 180 of 303 possible electoral votes and 40 percent of the popular vote.
Dec 20, 1860 - South Carolina secedes from the Union. Followed within two months by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.
Feb 9, 1861 - The Confederate States of America is formed with Jefferson Davis, a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army officer, as president.
March 4, 1861 - Abraham Lincoln is sworn in as 16th President of the United States of America.
Fort Sumter Attacked
April 12, 1861 - At 4:30 a.m. Confederates under Gen. Pierre Beauregard open fire with 50 cannons upon Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The Civil War begins.
April 15, 1861 - President Lincoln issues a Proclamation calling for 75,000 militiamen, and summoning a special session of Congress for July 4.
Robert E. Lee, son of a Revolutionary War hero, and a 25 year distinguished veteran of the United States Army and former Superintendent of West Point, is offered command of the Union Army. Lee declines.
April 17, 1861 - Virginia secedes from the Union, followed within five weeks by Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina, thus forming an eleven state Confederacy with a population of 9 million, including nearly 4 million slaves. The Union will soon have 21 states and a population of over 20 million.
April 19, 1861 - President Lincoln issues a Proclamation of Blockade against Southern ports. For the duration of the war the blockade limits the ability of the rural South to stay well supplied in its war against the industrialized North.
April 20, 1861 - Robert E. Lee resigns his commission in the United States Army. "I cannot raise my hand against my birthplace, my home, my children." Lee then goes to Richmond, Virginia, is offered command of the military and naval forces of Virginia, and accepts.
July 4, 1861 - Lincoln, in a speech to Congress, states the war is..."a People's contest...a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men..." The Congress authorizes a call for 500,000 men.
July 21, 1861 - The Union Army under Gen. Irvin McDowell suffers a defeat at Bull Run 25 miles southwest of Washington. Confederate Gen. Thomas J. Jackson earns the nickname "Stonewall," as his brigade resists Union attacks. Union troops fall back to Washington. President Lincoln realizes the war will be long. "It's damned bad," he comments.
July 27, 1861 - President Lincoln appoints George B. McClellan as Commander of the Department of the Potomac, replacing McDowell.
McClellan tells his wife, "I find myself in a new and strange position here: President, cabinet, Gen. Scott, and all deferring to me. By some strange operation of magic I seem to have become the power of the land."
Sept 11, 1861 - President Lincoln revokes Gen. John C. Frémont's unauthorized military proclamation of emancipation in Missouri. Later, the president relieves Gen. Frémont of his command and replaces him with Gen. David Hunter.
Nov 1, 1861 - President Lincoln appoints McClellan as general-in-chief of all Union forces after the resignation of the aged Winfield Scott. Lincoln tells McClellan, "...the supreme command of the Army will entail a vast labor upon you." McClellan responds, "I can do it all."
Nov 8, 1861 - The beginning of an international diplomatic crisis for President Lincoln as two Confederate officials sailing toward England are seized by the U.S. Navy. England, the leading world power, demands their release, threatening war. Lincoln eventually gives in and orders their release in December. "One war at a time," Lincoln remarks.
Jan 31, 1862 - President Lincoln issues General War Order No. 1 calling for all United States naval and land forces to begin a general advance by Feb 22, George Washington's birthday.
Feb 6, 1862 - Victory for Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Tennessee, capturing Fort Henry, and ten days later Fort Donelson. Grant earns the nickname "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.
Feb 20, 1862 - President Lincoln is struck with grief as his beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, dies from fever, probably caused by polluted drinking water in the White House.
March 8/9, 1862 - The Confederate Ironclad 'Merrimac' sinks two wooden Union ships then battles the Union Ironclad 'Monitor' to a draw. Naval warfare is thus changed forever, making wooden ships obsolete. Engraving of the Battle
In March - The Peninsular Campaign begins as McClellan's Army of the Potomac advances from Washington down the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay to the peninsular south of the Confederate Capital of Richmond, Virginia then begins an advance toward Richmond.
President Lincoln temporarily relieves McClellan as general-in-chief and takes direct command of the Union Armies.
April 6/7, 1862 - Confederate surprise attack on Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's unprepared troops at Shiloh on the Tennessee River results in a bitter struggle with 13,000 Union killed and wounded and 10,000 Confederates, more men than in all previous American wars combined. The president is then pressured to relieve Grant but resists. "I can't spare this man; he fights," Lincoln says.
April 24, 1862 - 17 Union ships under the command of Flag Officer David Farragut move up the Mississippi River then take New Orleans, the South's greatest seaport. Later in the war, sailing through a Rebel mine field Farragut utters the famous phrase "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"
May 31, 1862 - The Battle of Seven Pines as Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's Army attacks McClellan's troops in front of Richmond and nearly defeats them. But Johnston is badly wounded.
June 1, 1862 - Gen. Robert E. Lee assumes command, replacing the wounded Johnston. Lee then renames his force the Army of Northern Virginia. McClellan is not impressed, saying Lee is "likely to be timid and irresolute in action."
June 25-July 1 - The Seven Days Battles as Lee attacks McClellan near Richmond, resulting in very heavy losses for both armies. McClellan then begins a withdrawal back toward Washington.
July 11, 1862 - After four months as his own general-in-chief, President Lincoln hands over the task to Gen. Henry W. (Old Brains) Halleck.
Aug 29/30, 1862 - 75,000 Federals under Gen. John Pope are defeated by 55,000 Confederates under Gen. Stonewall Jackson and Gen. James Longstreet at the second battle of Bull Run in northern Virginia. Once again the Union Army retreats to Washington. The president then relieves Pope.
Sept 4-9, 1862 - Lee invades the North with 50,000 Confederates and heads for Harpers Ferry, located 50 miles northwest of Washington.
The Union Army, 90,000 strong, under the command of McClellan, pursues Lee.
Sept 17, 1862 - The bloodiest day in U.S. military history as Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Armies are stopped at Antietam in Maryland by McClellan and numerically superior Union forces. By nightfall 26,000 men are dead, wounded, or missing. Lee then withdraws to Virginia.
Sept 22, 1862 - Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves issued by President Lincoln.
President Lincoln visits Gen. George McClellan at Antietam, Maryland - October, 1862
Nov 7, 1862 - The president replaces McClellan with Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside as the new Commander of the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln had grown impatient with McClellan's slowness to follow up on the success at Antietam, even telling him, "If you don't want to use the army, I should like to borrow it for a while."
Dec 13, 1862 - Army of the Potomac under Gen. Burnside suffers a costly defeat at Fredericksburg in Virginia with a loss of 12,653 men after 14 frontal assaults on well entrenched Rebels on Marye's Heights. "We might as well have tried to take hell," a Union soldier remarks. Confederate losses are 5,309.
"It is well that war is so terrible - we should grow too fond of it," states Lee during the fighting.
Jan 1, 1863 - President Lincoln issues the final Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in territories held by Confederates and emphasizes the enlisting of black soldiers in the Union Army. The war to preserve the Union now becomes a revolutionary struggle for the abolition of slavery.
Jan 25, 1863 - The president appoints Gen. Joseph (Fighting Joe) Hooker as Commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing Burnside.
Jan 29, 1863 - Gen. Grant is placed in command of the Army of the West, with orders to capture Vicksburg.
March 3, 1863 - The U.S. Congress enacts a draft, affecting male citizens aged 20 to 45, but also exempts those who pay $300 or provide a substitute. "The blood of a poor man is as precious as that of the wealthy," poor Northerners complain.
May 1-4, 1863 - The Union Army under Gen. Hooker is decisively defeated by Lee's much smaller forces at the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia as a result of Lee's brilliant and daring tactics. Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson is mortally wounded by his own soldiers. Hooker retreats. Union losses are 17,000 killed, wounded and missing out of 130,000. The Confederates, 13, 000 out of 60,000.
"I just lost confidence in Joe Hooker," said Hooker later about his own lack of nerve during the battle.
May 10, 1863 - The South suffers a huge blow as Stonewall Jackson dies from his wounds, his last words, "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."
"I have lost my right arm," Lee laments.
June 3, 1863 - Gen. Lee with 75,000 Confederates launches his second invasion of the North, heading into Pennsylvania in a campaign that will soon lead to Gettysburg.
June 28, 1863 - President Lincoln appoints Gen. George G. Meade as commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing Hooker. Meade is the 5th man to command the Army in less than a year.
July 1-3, 1863 - The tide of war turns against the South as the Confederates are defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.
July 4, 1863 - Vicksburg, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, surrenders to Gen. Grant and the Army of the West after a six week siege. With the Union now in control of the Mississippi, the Confederacy is effectively split in two, cut off from its western allies.
July 13-16, 1863 - Antidraft riots in New York City include arson and the murder of blacks by poor immigrant whites. At least 120 persons, including children, are killed and $2 million in damage caused, until Union soldiers returning from Gettysburg restore order.
July 18, 1863 - 'Negro troops' of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment under Col. Robert G. Shaw assault fortified Rebels at Fort Wagner, South Carolina. Col. Shaw and half of the 600 men in the regiment are killed.
Aug 10, 1863 - The president meets with abolitionist Frederick Douglass who pushes for full equality for Union 'Negro troops.'
Aug 21, 1863 - At Lawrence, Kansas, pro-Confederate William C. Quantrill and 450 proslavery followers raid the town and butcher 182 boys and men.
Sept 19/20, 1863 - A decisive Confederate victory by Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee at Chickamauga leaves Gen. William S. Rosecrans' Union Army of the Cumberland trapped in Chattanooga, Tennessee under Confederate siege.
Oct 16, 1863 - The president appoints Gen. Grant to command all operations in the western theater.
Nov 19, 1863 - President Lincoln delivers a two minute Gettysburg Address at a ceremony dedicating the Battlefield as a National Cemetery.
Nov 23-25, 1863 - The Rebel siege of Chattanooga ends as Union forces under Grant defeat the siege army of Gen. Braxton Bragg. During the battle, one of the most dramatic moments of the war occurs. Yelling "Chickamauga! Chickamauga!" Union troops avenge their previous defeat at Chickamauga by storming up the face of Missionary Ridge without orders and sweep the Rebels from what had been thought to be an impregnable position. "My God, come and see 'em run!" a Union soldier cries.
March 9, 1864 - President Lincoln appoints Gen. Grant to command all of the armies of the United States. Gen. William T. Sherman succeeds Grant as commander in the west.
May 4, 1864 - The beginning of a massive, coordinated campaign involving all the Union Armies. In Virginia, Grant with an Army of 120,000 begins advancing toward Richmond to engage Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, now numbering 64,000, beginning a war of attrition that will include major battles at the Wilderness (May 5-6), Spotsylvania (May 8-12), and Cold Harbor (June 1-3).
In the west, Sherman, with 100,000 men begins an advance toward Atlanta to engage Joseph E. Johnston's 60,000 strong Army of Tennessee.
June 3, 1864 - A costly mistake by Grant results in 7,000 Union casualties in twenty minutes during an offensive against fortified Rebels at Cold Harbor in Virginia.
Many of the Union soldiers in the failed assault had predicted the outcome, including a dead soldier from Massachusetts whose last entry in his diary was, "June 3, 1864, Cold Harbor, Virginia. I was killed."
June 15, 1864 - Union forces miss an opportunity to capture Petersburg and cut off the Confederate rail lines. As a result, a nine month siege of Petersburg begins with Grant's forces surrounding Lee.
July 20, 1864 - At Atlanta, Sherman's forces battle the Rebels now under the command of Gen. John B. Hood, who replaced Johnston.
Aug 29, 1864 - Democrats nominate George B. McClellan for president to run against Republican incumbent Abraham Lincoln.
Sept 2, 1864 - Atlanta is captured by Sherman's Army. "Atlanta is ours, and fairly won," Sherman telegraphs Lincoln. The victory greatly helps President Lincoln's bid for re-election.
Oct 19, 1864 - A decisive Union victory by Cavalry Gen. Philip H. Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley over Jubal Early's troops.
Nov 8, 1864 - Abraham Lincoln is re-elected president, defeating Democrat George B. McClellan. Lincoln carries all but three states with 55 percent of the popular vote and 212 of 233 electoral votes. "I earnestly believe that the consequences of this day's work will be to the lasting advantage, if not the very salvation, of the country," Lincoln tells supporters.
Nov 15, 1864 - After destroying Atlanta's warehouses and railroad facilities, Sherman, with 62,000 men begins a March to the Sea. President Lincoln on advice from Grant approved the idea. "I can make Georgia howl!" Sherman boasts.
Dec 15/16, 1864 - Hood's Rebel Army of 23,000 is crushed at Nashville by 55,000 Federals including Negro troops under Gen. George H. Thomas. The Confederate Army of Tennessee ceases as an effective fighting force.
Dec 21, 1864 - Sherman reaches Savannah in Georgia leaving behind a 300 mile long path of destruction 60 miles wide all the way from Atlanta. Sherman then telegraphs Lincoln, offering him Savannah as a Christmas present.
Jan 31, 1865 - The U.S. Congress approves the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, to abolish slavery. The amendment is then submitted to the states for ratification.
Feb 3, 1865 - A peace conference occurs as President Lincoln meets with Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens at Hampton Roads in Virginia, but the meeting ends in failure - the war will continue.
Only Lee's Army at Petersburg and Johnston's forces in North Carolina remain to fight for the South against Northern forces now numbering 280,000 men.
March 4, 1865 - Inauguration ceremonies for President Lincoln in Washington. "With malice toward none; with charity for all...let us strive on to finish the work we are in...to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations," Lincoln says.
March 25, 1865 - The last offensive for Lee's Army of Northern Virginia begins with an attack on the center of Grant's forces at Petersburg. Four hours later the attack is broken.
April 2, 1865 - Grant's forces begin a general advance and break through Lee's lines at Petersburg. Confederate Gen. Ambrose P. Hill is killed. Lee evacuates Petersburg. The Confederate Capital, Richmond, is evacuated. Fires and looting break out. The next day, Union troops enter and raise the Stars and Stripes.
April 4, 1865 - President Lincoln tours Richmond where he enters the Confederate White House. With "a serious, dreamy expression," he sits at the desk of Jefferson Davis for a few moments.
April 9, 1865 - Gen. Robert E. Lee surrenders his Confederate Army to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at the village of Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Grant allows Rebel officers to keep their sidearms and permits soldiers to keep horses and mules.
"After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources," Lee tells his troops.
General Lee surrendered in the parlor of this house.
April 10, 1865 - Celebrations break out in Washington.
April 14, 1865 - The Stars and Stripes is ceremoniously raised over Fort Sumter. That night, Lincoln and his wife Mary see the play "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater. At 10:13 p.m., during the third act of the play, John Wilkes Booth shoots the president in the head. Doctors attend to the president in the theater then move him to a house across the street. He never regains consciousness.
April 15, 1865 - President Abraham Lincoln dies at 7:22 in the morning. Vice President Andrew Johnson assumes the presidency.
April 18, 1865 - Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrenders to Sherman near Durham in North Carolina.
April 26, 1865 - John Wilkes Booth is shot and killed in a tobacco barn in Virginia.
May 4, 1865 - Abraham Lincoln is laid to rest in Oak Ridge Cemetery, outside Springfield, Illinois.
In May - Remaining Confederate forces surrender. The Nation is reunited as the Civil War ends. Over 620,000 Americans died in the war, with disease killing twice as many as those lost in battle. 50,000 survivors return home as amputees.
A victory parade is held in Washington along Pennsylvania Ave. to help boost the Nation's morale - May 23/24, 1865.
Dec 6, 1865 - The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, is finally ratified. Slavery is abolished.
Battle for Columbia, S.C.
Swamps outside Columbia, S.C. February 1965
Entrenched but outnumbered Confederates at the swampy Salkehatchie River held off Union Gen. William T. Sherman's advance into South Carolina for two days, Feb. 2–3, 1865.
BURNING OF COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA, FEBRUARY 17, 1865.
[SKETCHED BY W. WAUD. for HARPER's WEEKLY]
The unfinished State House
Confederate Mint (Gervais and Huger)
Ursuline Convent (Blanding & Main St.)
Carolina National Bank (Washington St.)
Christ Episcopal Church (Blanding &
RAISING THE STARS AND STRIPES OVER THE CAPITOL AT COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA. - [SKETCHED BY DAVIS]
On February 17, 1865, Columbia surrendered to Sherman, and Wade Hampton's Confederate cavalry retreated from the city. Union forces were overwhelmed by throngs of liberated Federal prisoners and emancipated African Americans. Many soldiers took advantage of ample supplies of liquor in the city and began to drink. Fires began in the city, and high winds spread the flames across a wide area. Most of the central city was destroyed, and municipal fire companies found it difficult to operate in conjunction with the invading army, many of whom were also fighting the fire. The burning of Columbia has engendered controversy ever since, with some claiming the fires were accidental, a deliberate act of vengeance, or perhaps set by retreating Confederate soldiers who lit cotton bales while leaving town. On that same day, the Confederates evacuated Charleston. On February 18, Sherman's forces destroyed virtually anything of military value in Columbia, including railroad depots, warehouses, arsenals, and machine shops.
Among the buildings burned were the old South Carolina State House and the interior of the incomplete new State House. The old State House was constructed between 1786 and 1790. James Hoban, a young Irishman who emigrated to Charleston shortly after the Revolution, was the architect. Upon the recommendation of Henry Laurens, President Washington engaged him to design the executive mansion in Washington. Old pictures of the two buildings show architectural similarities.
Bronze star on the State House, indicating an artillery strike. Legend has it that Columbia's First Baptist Church narrowly missed being torched by Sherman's troops. As the story goes, the soldiers marched to the church and asked the groundskeeper if he could direct them to the location of the church where the declaration of secession was signed. The loyal groundskeeper directed the men to another church, a Methodist church located nearby; thus, the historic landmark avoided being destroyed by Union soldiers.
Among the buildings destroyed was "Millwood," a large mansion owned by Confederate general Hampton. His late father's home, the Hampton-Preston House, in downtown Columbia was spared as it was being used as the headquarters for Union Maj. Gen. John A. Logan.
Controversy surrounding the burning of the city started soon after the war ended. General Sherman blamed the high winds and retreating Confederate soldiers for firing bales of cotton, which had been stacked in the streets. Sherman denied ordering the burning, though he did order militarily significant structures, such as the Confederate Printing Plant, destroyed. Firsthand accounts by local residents, Union soldiers, and a newspaper reporter offer a tale of revenge by Union troops for Columbia's and South Carolina's pivotal role in leading Southern states to secede from the Union, whereas other accounts (as documented in, for example, James W. Loewen's Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong) portray it as mostly the fault of the Confederacy.
The Burning of Columbia - February 17, 1865
The Last Confederate Soldier to Leave Columbia
By Lieutenant Milford Overley
9th Kentucky Cavalry
I was one of Hampton's rear guard, and was probably the very last Confederate to leave the city, yet I saw no cotton burning in the streets of Columbia, nor did I hear any order from any one to fire the cotton, but I did hear one just the reverse. It was given to a detachment, three companies, from the 9th Kentucky Cavalry that was ordered back to Columbia as a provost guard after the Confederates had evacuated the place and before Sherman entered it. I asked and obtained of Col. Breckinridge, the Brigade Commander, permission to accompany the detachment, and was present and heard this order given the officer commanding: "It is Gen. Hampton's order that you return to Columbia, bring out any straggling Confederates you may find, and see that no cotton is fired." Having no time to lose, the detachment immediately proceeded on its mission, passing down in front of Sherman's skirmish line, which was in plain view, and entering the city in advance of him. In the suburbs we met Mayor Goodwyn and other municipal officers in carriages, with a white flag, going out to surrender the city. During the parley, which, however, was a brief one, we hastily visited different streets in search of straggling Confederate soldiers, but found none, neither did we find any cotton burning. Falling back as the Federals advanced along the street, the detachment passed out toward the east. I remained in the city after the detachment had gone, just keeping out of the enemy's reach by falling back from street to street till pushed out by the advancing infantry (they had no mounted men in the city at that time), yet I saw no cotton burning in Columbia. Basing my conclusions on what I saw (the Federals, in possession of the city), on what I failed to see (any cotton burning in the street), and on what I heard (the order to see that no cotton was fired), I can safely say that the Confederates had no hand in the burning of Columbia, Gen. Sherman's official report to the contrary notwithstanding."
From the Diary of Emma LeConte
On February 17, 1865, Union Gen. William T. Sherman and his army marched into Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. The mayor had surrendered the city to him that morning. The story of what happened next can best be told by the entries for that night in the diary of local 17-year-old Emma LeConte:
"Gen. Sherman has assured the Mayor, 'that he and all the citizens may sleep as securely and quietly tonight as if under Confederate rule. Private property shall be carefully respected... ' At about seven o'clock I was standing on the back piazza in the third story. On one side the sky was illuminated by the burning of Gen. Hampton's residence a few miles off in the country, on the other side by some blazing buildings near the river. Sumter Street was brightly lighted by a burning house so near our piazza that we could feel the heat. By the red glare we could watch the wretches walking- generally staggering- back and forth from the camp to the town- shouting- hurrahing- cursing South Carolina- swearing- blaspheming- singing ribald songs and using such obscene language that we were forced to go indoors. The fire on Main Street was now raging, and we anxiously watched its progress from the upper front windows...
"The wind blew a fearful gale, wafting the flames from house to house with frightful rapidity. By midnight the whole town (except the outskirts) was wrapped in one huge blaze... Jane came in to say that Aunt Josie's house was in flames- then we all went to the front door- My God! what a scene! It was about four o'clock and the State House was one grand conflagration. Such a scene as this with the drunken fiendish soldiers in their dark uniforms, infuriated, cursing, screaming, exulting in their work, came nearer the material ideal of hell than anything I ever expect to see again."