and Social History
|10 January. In Lawrence, Massachusetts, the structurally deficient Pemberton Mill collapses, trapping 500 people in the ruins and eventually killing 250 after the ruins catch fire. The incident inspires Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's story "The Tenth of January."
27 February. In a speech at the Cooper Union Institute in New York, Abraham Lincoln attacks slavery and insists that the Federal government has "the power of restraining the extension of the institution."
Abraham Lincoln elected president. (Image courtesy of American Treasures page at the Library of Congress.)
South Carolina votes to secede from the Union.
U. S. population: 31,443,321
|| Hamlin Garland born (d. 1940)
Hawthorne, The Marble Faun
Emerson, Conduct of Life
Stephens, Malaeska (first dime novel)
| 12 April. Attack on Fort Sumter off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, signals the beginning of the Civil War. See the "Valley of the Shadow" website for images of two communities during the Civil War.
20 April. After being offered field command of the Union forces, Robert E. Lee resigns his commission in the U. S. Army and takes up a commission in the Confederate Army.
21 July. First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) provides a decisive victory over Union forces for Confederate Generals Johnston and Beauregard and their troops. It is in this battle that Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson earns his nickname--"Stonewall"--for "standing like a stone wall" against Union troops.
21 October. Union forces defeated at the battle of Ball's Bluff, Virginia.
1 November. Lincoln replaces general-in-chief Winfield Scott with George B. McClellan. McClellan creates a disciplined army, but as months go by and he refuses to engage the enemy in battle, Lincoln grows frustrated with his inaction.
|| Harriet Jacobs (Linda Brent), Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Rebecca Harding Davis, "Life in the Iron Mills"
Holmes publishes his "medical novel" Elsie Venner
Longfellow, "Paul Revere's Ride"
James T. Fields, Hawthorne's publisher (Ticknor and Fields), becomes editor of Atlantic
| Robert E. Lee commands the Confederate Armies of Northern Virginia
16 February. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant captures Ft. Donelson, near Nashville, Tennessee.
8 March. The Confederate ironclad Merrimack attacks the Cumberland, one of the Union ships blockading the Confederacy at Hampton Roads, Virginnia. Before retiring at the end of the day, the Merrimack also destroys the Congress and runs the Minnesota aground, with plans to destroy it the next day. But on March 9 the Monitor, the Union's ironclad, fights the Merrimack until the latter withdraws. The battle establishes that the future of the navy will be in iron, not wooden, ships.
6-7 April. Union forces narrowly prevail at the Battle of Shiloh, but losses on both sides are heavy. Casualties include 11,000 soldiers on the Confederate side and 13,000 on the Union side (Schlesinger 282). . Of the 100,000 men who fought, one in four was a casualty, and 3,477 died--"more than all the Americans who died in all the battles of the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the war with Mexico, combined" (Ward and Burns 121). (Read Herman Melville's poem "Shiloh").
25 April. Admiral David Farragut takes New Orleans for the Union.
20 May. Lincoln signs the Homestead Act.
30 May. McClellan's troops are attacked by Joseph E. Johnston near the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia as McClellan insists that he needs more troops to attack the city. The North loses 5,000 and the South 6,000 men in the battle called Fair Oaks (North) or Seven Pines (South) (Ward 139).
2 July. Lincoln signs the Morrill Act granting land for land grant colleges.
30 June -2 July. In several battles known collectively as "Seven Days," Lee forces McClellan's army to withdraw and ends Union hopes for capturing Richmond. McClellan had squandered his chance to capture it by failing to act. Lincoln replaces McClellan with General Henry W. Halleck but restores him to command a few months later. .
9 August. Stonewall Jackson and his Confederate forces defeat Union troops at the Battle of Cedar Mountain (Virginia).
22 August. In a letter to Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, Lincoln writes, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that . . . . I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty, and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men, everywhere, could be free."
30 August. At the Second Battle of Bull Run (Second Manassas), the combined forces of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and James Longstreet push Union troops back to Washington.
17 September. Battle of Antietam, fought by the banks of Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland. In what has been called the single bloodiest day of the war, McClellan forces Lee to pull back but then does not follow up this advantage by pursuing Lee's troops. Losses: Union--2,109 dead, 10, 293 wounded or missing; Confederacy--10, 318 dead, wounded, or missing, a quarter of Lee's army (Ward 160).
23 September. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation is published in newspapers in the North. It frees slaves in the Confederate states but not those in border states or recaptured territories.
5 November. Lincoln relieves McClellan of command, replacing him with Gen. Ambrose Burnside.
Lincoln signs the Homestead Act allowing citizens to acquire a parcel of land up to 160 acres after farming it for 5 years.
13 December. Battle of Fredericksburg. Entering Fredericksburg, Union troops under Burnside attack Longstreet's Confederates despite the Confederates' tactical advantage of firing down from Marye's Heights. The Union is badly defeated despite its greater numbers of troops.
December-2 January 1863. Battle of Murfreesboro, a fight to the draw between the two armies.
|| Rebecca Harding Davis, Margret Howth
Stowe,The Pearl of Orr's Island
24 January. Birth of Edith Wharton (d. 1937)
| 1 January. The Emancipation Proclamation is signed.
26 January. The governor of Massachusetts begins to recruit African-American troops, and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, the first black regiment, is formed shortly thereafter. By the end of the war, the Union army will contain 166 all-black regiments composed of 185,000 soldiers.
3 March. Abraham Lincoln signs the first national Conscription Act requiring males from ages 20-45 to register for service in the army. The act allows males to purchase substitutes to take their place for $300, a clause that allows many wealthy Americans to avoid serving and led to accusations that this was a "rich man's war but a poor man's fight."
2-4 May. With heavy losses on both sides, Lee's forces of 60,000 defeat Hooker's Army of the Potomac of 115,000 men for a Southern victory at Chancellorsville, a battle later described in Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage (1895). By the end of the battle, Hooker has lost 17,000 men killed or wounded and Lee has lost 13,000 (Ward 210). Stonewall Jackson is wounded and dies a few days later; his final words are "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."
22 May. Ulysses Grant's troops besiege Vicksburg, Mississippi.
20 June. West Virginia is admitted to the Union as a state.
1-3 July. Battle of Gettysburg. Under General Meade, Northern troops hold their position and deflect Lee's attack. Particularly costly in terms of men is Pickett's charge, in which three divisions (13,000 men) of Confederate soldiers march across a field and toward a wall in front of the heights where Union troops await. Over 6500 are mowed down, either killed or captured by Union troops. After the battle, Lee and his troops withdraw to Virginia, but Meade fails to follow. The South loses 28,000 and the North 23,000 men in three days of fighting, the bloodiest battle of the war" (Ward 256).
4 July. With its populace and soldiers starving, besieged Vicksburg surrenders unconditionally to Ulysses S. Grant, who earns a new nickname: "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.
13-16 July. Draft riots erupt in New York City as a predominantly Irish-American mob protests the drawing of names on July 11 under the Conscription Act . Widespread lynchings of African Americans and lootings are finally brought under control by Federal troops. (Read about the draft riots at the extended day-by-day chronology at Virtual New York)
18 July. Led by Col. Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts, an all-African American regiment, Union forces attack Fort Wagner. The 54th incurs heavy losses but wins new respect for the fighting abilities of African American soldiers.
21 August. Led by Southern sympathizer William C. Quantrill, a group calling itself "Quantrill's Raiders" invades Lawrence, Kansas, and kills over 180 civilians.
19-20 September. Battle of Chickamauga (Georgia). Gen. Bragg's Confederate troops defeat Union forces, which retreat to Chattanooga. Confederate casualties number 18,000; Union casualties, 16,000.
19 November. Lincoln dedicates the cemetery at Gettysburg, the occasion of the "Gettysburg Address." Listed as "remarks" by the President, the speech lasts less than two minutes, and LIncoln worries that it is a "flat failure." But the day's featured speaker, Edward Everett, wrote to Lincoln, "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes" (Ward 262).
|| Louisa May Alcott publishes Hospital Sketches about her experiences as a nurse in a Union hospital.
Longfellow, Tales of a Wayside Inn
Abraham Lincoln, "Gettysburg Address"
Hawthorne,Our Old Home
Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909), "The Man Without a Country"
| Sand Creek Massacre of Native Americans in Colorado.
10 March. Grant is promoted from commander of the Union forces in the west to commander of the Union armies.
5-6 May. The forces of Grant and Lee clash in the battle of the Wilderness, during which brushfires started by gunfire kill many wounded. By the time Grant's forces withdraw, he has lost 17,000 men (Ward 290). (Image: General Grant and staff on the road from the Wilderness to Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia May 7, 1864 courtesy of American Treasures page.)
11-20 May. Grant attacks Lee's forces at Spotsylvania and then, on 2 June, at Cold Harbor. As 60,000 Union soldiers charge the Confederate ranks, 5,000 to 7,000 of them are mowed down, most within the first eight minutes of the fight (Ward 294).
12 June. Union forces move on Petersburg, Virginia, south of Richmond, the beginning of a siege that will last until July 30. Burnside orders troops to dig a tunnel beneath the enemy's lines and fill it with explosives. When the explosives are ignited, the explosion causes the formation of a 30' deep crater into which Union forces rush in their haste to reach the city. No one has thought to provide ladders to get out of the crater, however, and Confederate soldiers fire on the trapped and helpless Union forces.
27 June. Confederate forces repel Sherman at Kenesaw Mountain, Georgia. At Brices Cross Roads near Tupelo, Mississippi, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest continues his successful harassment of Union forces and the capture of their supplies.
5 August. Union naval forces under Admiral David Farragut successfully attack the key Confederate port of Mobile Bay. After mines destroy one ship, Farragut continues the assault, yelling "Damn the torpedoes! Full Speed ahead!"
2 September. Sherman takes Atlanta and, on 16 November, begins his "march to the sea," creating a 40-mile-wide path of destruction that ends when he reaches Savannah on 22 December.
8 November. Despite his fears that he will be beaten, Lincoln wins re-election over the Democratic candidate, George McClellan.
30 November. At Franklin, Tennessee, Confederate General John Bell Hood orders a series of charges against Union forces but loses a quarter of his army in the fight.
|| Death of Nathaniel Hawthorne; he is buried in Concord, Mass.
Locke, The Naseby Papers
| 31 January. Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolishes slavery..
4 February. Robert E. Lee is promoted to commander-in-chief of the Confederate army.
17-18 February. Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina, fall to Union forces under Sherman.
4 March. Lincoln is inaugurated for his second term; his "Second Inaugural" speech is justly famous for its appeal to bind up the wounds of the nation.
22 February. Wilmington, North Carolina, the last remaining southern port, is captured.
1 April. Sheridan repels a Confederate assault at the Battle of the Five Forks (Virginia), the last major battle of the war. Grant attacks the badly outnumbered Confederate forces at Petersburg and takes the city.
3 April. Union forces under Grant take Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy; two days later, Lincoln visits the site.
6 April. Union forces of 125,000 close in on Lee's army of 25,000 near Sayler's Creek, Virginia.
8 April. Civil War officially ends when Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House. The terms are generous: Confederate soldiers may keep their side arms and possessions, and Grant orders 25,000 rations to be distributed. The terms are written for the men's signatures by Colonel Eli Parker, a Seneca Indian on Grant's staff (Ward 379). The Army of Northern Virginia formally surrenders three days later.
13 April. The Union begins disbanding its forces. Senate records later showed that the Union had enlisted 2,324,516 soldiers, of whom 360,000 were killed; the Confederacy had about a million soldiers, of whom 260,000 were killed (Schlesinger 294). .
14 April. While watching Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater, Lincoln is shot by John Wilkes Booth and dies the following day.
27 April. One of the worst steamship disasters in American history occurs as the Sultana blows up on the Mississippi, killing 1700 people, mostly returning Union soldiers.
24 November. Mississippi institutes the Black Codes, which legalize limits against African Americans' citizenship rights.
4 December. The House of Representatives establishes a Joint Committee on Reconstruction, to which the Senate agrees on 12 December.
|| Mark Twain, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County"
Walt Whitman, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd"; Drum-Taps
Louisa May Alcott, Moods
Birth of Sui-Sin Far (Edith Maude Eaton) (d. 1914)
Julia C. Collins, The Curse of Caste; or, The Slave Bride ("possibly the first serialized novel by a black American woman")
|13-27 July . Atlantic cable is completed.
30 April. Congress passes the Civil Rights Bill of 1866.
First appearance of a 5-cent coin, soon called "the nickel."
The Sioux nations are angered as the US Army begins building forts along the Bozeman Trail, an important route to the gold fields of Virginia City; Capt. Fetterman and 80 soldiers are killed.
|| Melville, Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (poems)
John Greenleaf Whittier, Snow-Bound
Mary Mapes Dodge, Hans Brinker; or, The Silver Skates
The Galaxy (New York), 1866-1878, was founded to counter the limitations of The Atlantic Monthly. Among its contributors were Mark Twain, Henry James, Rose Terry Cooke, Rebecca Harding Davis, and Walt Whitman.
| 31 January. All males over 21 are granted suffrage in US territories
2 March. First Reconstruction Act passed over the president's veto; the second is passed on March 23.
30 March. Secretary of State Seward purchases Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. Congressional critics call this "Seward's Folly."
17 July. Congress passes the Third Reconstruction Act over a presidential veto. Instead of a majority calculated from the number of registered voters, only a majority vote by those voting will be necessary to confirm ratification and readmission of states.
Nebraska becomes the 37th state to join the US.
An American era begins as Jesse Chisholm maps the Chisholm trail, one of several routes over which cowboys drive cattle from Texas to the railheads of Kansas City, Cheyenne, Dodge City, and Abilene.
|| George Washington Harris, Sut Lovingood Yarns
William Dean Howells, Venetian Life
John W. DeForest, Miss Ravenel's Conversion from Secession to Loyalty
Augusta Evans, St. Elmo
Emerson, May-Day and Other Poems
Elizabeth Stoddard, Temple House
Mark Twain, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calveras County and Other Sketches
Bret Harte, Condensed Novels and Other Papers
| 13 March-6 May. Impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson ends in his acquittal.
Custer moves against Chief Black Kettle, destroying an Indian village and all its inhabitants.
28 July. Ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment grants full citizenship to all (including African Americans) born in the US except Native Americans.
3 November. Ulysses S. Grant and his vice-presidential candidate, Schuyler Colfax, are elected by a landslide.
|| Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Bret Harte, "The Luck of Roaring Camp"
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward, The Gates Ajar
Mary Jane Holmes, The Guardian Angel
Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick
Lippincott's Magazine (Philadelphia), 1868-1916
Overland Monthly (San Francisco), 1868-1875; 1883-1935, publisher of Jack London, among others.
| Ulysses S. Grant becomes president (1869-77).
10 May. Union Pacific-Central Pacific transcontinental railroad is completed as the two lines meet at Promontory Point, Utah.
Wyoming passes first woman's suffrage act.
Susan B. Anthony elected president of the American Equal Rights Association.
Number of justices on the Supreme Court rises from 7 to 9.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton elected president of the National Woman Suffrage Association, which demands federal voting rights for women.
First Sioux War ends with the Treaty of Fort Laramie; the US agrees to abandon Forts Smith, Kearney, and Reno.
24 September. Earlier in the year, Jay Gould and Jay Fisk attempted to drive up the price of gold and corner the market. On this day, "Black Friday," President Grant releases $4 million and drives the price down, an action that causes a stock-market panic.
|| Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad
Louisa May Alcott, Good Wives (Little Women II)
Stowe, Oldtown Folks
Harte, "Tennessee's Partner" and "The Outcasts of Poker Flat"
Appleton's Journal (New York), 1869-1881, publisher of Constance Fenimore Woolson, among others.