Chronology

1820 The Missouri Compromise allows Maine to be admitted to the Union as a free state and Missouri as a slave state in 1821.

1831 William Lloyd Garrison publishes the first issue of his abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator.

1836 The House of Representatives passes a gag rule that automatically tables or postpones action on all petitions relating to slavery without hearing them.

1838 The Underground Railroad is formally organized.

1845 Former slave Frederick Douglass publishes his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave.

1850 Congress enacts several measures that together make up the Compromise of 1850.

1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom's Cabin.

1854 Congress passes the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which overturns the Missouri Compromise and thus opens northern territories to slavery.

1855 As Kansas prepares to vote, thousands of Border Ruffians from Missouri enter the territory in an attempt to influence the elections. This begins the period known as Bleeding Kansas.

1856 South Carolina representative Preston Brooks attacks Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor and beats him with a cane.

1857 The Supreme Court rules, in Dred Scott v. Sandford, that blacks are not U.S. citizens and slaveholders have the right to take slaves into free areas of the country.

1859 John Brown seizes the arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Robert E. Lee, then a Federal Army regular, leads the troops that capture Brown.

1860 NovEMBER Abraham Lincoln is elected president.

DEcEMBER A South Carolina convention passes an ordinance of secession, and the state secedes from the Union.

1861 JANuARY Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana secede from the Union.

FEBRuARY Texas votes to secede from the Union. The Confederate States of America is formed and elects Jefferson Davis as its president.

MARcH Abraham Lincoln is sworn in as the sixteenth president of the United States and delivers his first inaugural address.

ApRIL 12 At 4:30 a.m., Confederate forces fire on South Carolina's Fort Sumter. The Civil War begins. Virginia secedes from the Union five days later.

MAY Arkansas and North Carolina secede from the Union.

JuNE Tennessee secedes from the Union.

JuLY 21 The Union suffers a defeat in northern Virginia, at the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas).

August The Confederates win the Battle of Wilson's Creek, in Missouri.

1862 FEBRuARY 6 In Tennessee, Union general Ulysses S. Grant captures Fort Henry. Ten days later, he captures Fort Donelson.

MARCH The Confederate ironclad ship CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimack) battles the Union ironclad Monitor to a draw. The Union's Peninsular Campaign begins in Virginia.

APRIL 6-7 Ulysses S. Grant defeats Confederate forces in the Battle of Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing), in Tennessee.

APRIL 24 David Farragut moves his fleet of Union Navy vessels up the Mississippi River to take New Orleans.

MAY 31 The Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks) takes place in Virginia.

JUNE 1 Robert E. Lee assumes command of the Army of Northern Virginia.

JUNE 25-JULY 1 The Seven Days Battles are fought in Virginia.

AUGUST 29-30 The Union is defeated at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

SEPTEMBER 17 The bloodiest day in U.S. military history: Confederate forces under Robert E. Lee are stopped at Antietam, Maryland, by Union forces under George B. McClellan.

SEPTEMBER 22 The first Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves in the rebellious states is issued by President Lincoln.

DECEMBER 13 The Union's Army of the Potomac, under Ambrose Burnside, suffers a costly defeat at Fredericksburg, Virginia.

1863 JANUARY 1 President Lincoln issues the final Emancipation Proclamation.

JANUARY 29 Ulysses S. Grant is placed in command of the Army of the West, with orders to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi.

MAY 1-4 Union forces under Joseph Hooker are defeated decisively by Robert E. Lee's much smaller forces at the Battle of Chancellorsville, in Virginia.

MAY 10 The South suffers a huge blow as General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson dies from wounds he received during the battle of Chancellorsville.

JUNE 3 Robert E. Lee launches his second invasion of the North; he heads into Pennsylvania with 75,000 Confederate troops.

JULY 1-3 The tide of war turns against the South as the Confederates are defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.

JULY 4 Vicksburg, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, surrenders to Ulysses S. Grant after a six-week siege.

JULY 13-16 Antidraft riots rip through New York City.

JULY 18 The black 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment under Colonel Robert Gould Shaw assaults a fortified Confederate position at Fort Wagner, South Carolina.

SEPTEMBER 19-20 A decisive Confederate victory takes place at Chickamauga, Tennessee.

NOVEMBER 19 President Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address.

NOVEMBER 23-25 Ulysses S. Grant's Union forces win an important victory at the Battle of Chattanooga, in Tennessee.

1864 MARCH 9 President Lincoln names Ulysses S. Grant general-in-chief of all the armies of the United States.

MAY 4 Ulysses S. Grant opens a massive coordinated campaign against Robert E. Lee's Confederate armies in Virginia.

MAY 5-6 The Battle of the Wilderness is fought in Virginia.

MAY 8-12 The Battle of Spotsylvania is fought in Virginia.

JUNE 1-3 The Battle of Cold Harbor is fought in Virginia.

JUNE 15 Union forces miss an opportunity to capture Petersburg, Virginia; this results in a nine-month Union siege of the city.

SEPTEMBER 2 Atlanta, Georgia, is captured by Union forces led by William Tecumseh Sherman.

OCTOBER 19 Union general Philip H. Sheridan wins a decisive victory over Confederate general Jubal Early in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

NOVEMBER 8 Abraham Lincoln is reelected president, defeating Democratic challenger George B. McClellan.

NOVEMBER 15 General William T. Sherman begins his March to the Sea from Atlanta.

DECEMBER 15-16 Confederate general John Bell Hood is defeated at Nashville, Tennessee, by Union forces under George H. Thomas.

DECEMBER 21 General Sherman reaches Savannah, Georgia; he leaves behind a path of destruction 300 miles long and 60 miles wide from Atlanta to the sea.

1865 Southern states begin to pass Black Codes.

JANUARY 31 The U.S. Congress approves the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

FEBRUARY 3 A peace conference takes place as President Lincoln meets with Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens at Hampton Roads, Virginia; the meeting ends in failure, and the war continues.

MARCH 4 Lincoln delivers his second inaugural address ("With Malice Toward None"). Congress establishes the Freedmen's Bureau.

MARcH 25 Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia begins its last offensive with an attack on the center of Ulysses S. Grant's forces at Petersburg, Virginia. Four hours later, Lee's attack is broken.

ApRIL 2 Grant's forces begin a general advance and break through Lee's lines at Petersburg. Lee evacuates Petersburg. Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, is evacuated.

ApRIL 9 Robert E. Lee surrenders his Confederate Army to Ulysses S. Grant at the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

ApRIL 14 John Wilkes Booth shoots President Lincoln at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C.

ApRIL 15 President Abraham Lincoln dies. Vice President Andrew Johnson assumes the presidency.

ApRIL 18 Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston surrenders to Union general William T. Sherman in North Carolina.

ApRIL 26 John Wilkes Booth is shot and killed in a tobacco barn in Virginia.

DEcEMBER The Thirteenth Amendment is ratified.

1866 Congress approves the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Congress passes the Civil Rights Act.

The responsibilities and powers of the Freedmen's Bureau are expanded by Congress. The legislation is vetoed by President Johnson, but Congress overrides his veto.

The Ku Klux Klan is established in Tennessee.

1867 Congress passes the Military Reconstruction Act. Congress passes the Tenure of Office Act.

1868 The impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson ends in acquittal.

Ulysses S. Grant is elected president.

1869 Congress approves the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

1871 The Ku Klux Klan Act is passed by Congress.

1872 President Grant is reelected.

1875 A new Civil Rights Act is passed.

1877 Rutherford B. Hayes assumes the presidency. The Reconstruction Era ends.

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