Home   Timeline of Southern History  
1600s | 1700s | Early-1800s | Mid-1800s | Late-1800s | Early-1900s | Mid-1900s | Late 1900s  


Spanish found St. Augustine, FL - first permanent white settlement in what is now the United States. (1565)




Jamestown Settlement (1607) - The first permanent settlement by the English in the new world, it was located in present-day Virginia.

The first Africans arrive in Virginia. They appear to have been indentured servants, but the institution of hereditary lifetime service for blacks develops over time. (1619)

The Maryland Toleration Act (1649) - This act formally allowed for any and all Christian faiths to be fully tolerated in Maryland.

The practice of slavery becomes a legally recognized institution in British America. Colonial assemblies begin to enact laws known as slave codes, which restrict the liberty of slaves and protect the institution of slavery. (1660's)

Charlestown, South Carolina founded. (1670)

First Spanish settlement in Texas. (1682)

La Salle claims the Mississippi and the land it drains for France. (1682)

Ft. St. Louis is established in Texas on Matagorda Bay by La Salle. (1685)

French establish settlement in Arkansas. (1686)

The first church in Texas, San Francisco de Tejas, is organized. (1690)




The fort (San Antonio de Bexar, aka the Alamo) and the settlement that will become San Antonio are established. (1718)

James Oglethorpe founds Savannah, Georgia. (1733)

Formation of Mason-Dixon line (1763)

First permanent settlement in Tennessee. (1769)

First permanent settlement in Kentucky. (1774)

Mecklenburg Declaration (1775)

Patriots in Charleston, South Carolina remove powder from the public magazines (April 21, 1775)

Patriots in Savannah, Georgia remove powder from the royal magazines. (May 11, 1775)

Patriots capture Fort Charlotte, South Carolina.  (July 12, 1775)

Josiah Martin, Governor of North Carolina, boards the British sloop Cruzier.  (July 18, 1775)

William Campbell, Governor of South Carolina, boards the British sloop Temar.  (September 15, 1775)

Patriots defeat a small Loyalist force at Reedy Creek, South Carolina.  (November 22, 1775)

Virginia and North Carolina Patriots route Loyalist troops and burn Norfolk.  (December 11, 1775)

Col. Thomson with 1500 Rangers and militia capture a force of Loyalists in Great Canebreak, South Carolina.  (December 22, 1775)

Sir James Wright, Royal Governor of Georgia, boards a British warship.  (February 11, 1776)

Continental Congress establishes the Southern Department of the Continental Army, consisting of Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia.  (February 27, 1776)

Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge (February 27, 1776)

Sir James Wright, Royal Governor of Georgia, fails to recapture Savannah, Georgia.  (March 7, 1776)

Battle of Fort Sullivan (June 28, 1776)

Declaration of Independence (1776)

Maj. General Moultrie defeats British detachment at Port Royal Island, South Carolina. (February 3, 1779)

Battle of Kettle Creek, Georgia.  Andrews Pickens and Elijah Clarke defeat North Carolina Tories.  (February 14, 1779)

Battle of Monck's Corner, South Carolina (April 14, 1780)

Patriot militia defeat Tories at Ramsour's Mill.  (June 20, 1780)

Thomas Sumter defeats Tories at Williamson's Plantation.  (July 12, 1780)

Georgia Patriots attack Loyalist camp and defeat them at Gowen's Old Fort, South Carolina. (July 13, 1780)

Thomas Sumter leads unsuccessful attack at Rocky Mount, South Carolina.  (August 1, 1780)

Battle of Hanging Rock (August 6, 1780)

Thomas Sumter captures the Wateree Ferry.  (August 15, 1780)

Francis Marion rescues Patriot prisoners at Nelson's Ferry, South Carolina.  (August 20, 1780)

Militia Colonel William R. Davie surprises Tories at Wahab's Plantation.  (September 21, 1780)

Battle of King's Mountain  (October 7, 1780)

Thomas Sumter defeats Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton at the Blackstocks.  (November 20, 1780)

Continental cavalry defeats Tories at Hammond's Store, South Carolina.  (December 28, 1780)

Battle of Cowpens (January 17, 1781)

Lt. Col Henry Lee and Francis Marion raid, Georgetown, South Carolina.  (January 24, 1781) 

Pyle's Hacking Match; Haw River, North Carolina.  Continental Lt. Colonel Henry Lee surprises and massacres Tory militia.  (February 25, 1781)

Articles of Confederation (1781)

Battle of Guilford Courthouse  (March 15, 1781)

Lt. Colonel Francis Lord Rawdon abandons Camden, South Carolina.  (May 10, 1781)

British outpost at Orangeburg, South Carolina surrenders to Thomas Sumter.  (May 11, 1781)

Lt. Colonel Henry Lee and Francis Marion capture Fort Motte, South Carolina.  (May 12, 1781)

Lt. Colonel Henry Lee captures Fort Granby, South Carolina.  (May 15, 1781)

Maj. General Nathanael Greene lays siege to Ninety-Six, South Carolina.  (May 22-June 19, 1781)

Patriots capture British garrison at Monck's Corner, South Carolina.  (July 17, 1781)

The French maintained control of Chesapeake Bay at the Second Battle of the Capes.  (September 5, 1781)

Battle of Yorktown  (October 19, 1781)

Maj. General Nathanael Greene captures garrison at Dorchester, South Carolina.  (December 1, 1781)

Formal peace negotiations begin in Paris, France.  (September 27, 1782)

Treaty of Paris (1783)

The first American golf course was built in Charleston, South Carolina and the South Carolina Golf Club was formed. (1786)

Delaware admitted to the American union. (1787)

Georgia admitted to the American union. (1788)

Maryland admitted to the American union. (1788)

South Carolina admitted to the American union. (1788)

Virginia admitted to the American union. (1788)

U.S. Constitution was ratified (1789)

North Carolina admitted to the American union. (1789)

The Bank of the United States created, enacting second element of Hamilton's financial plan.  Launches constitutional debate between Jefferson and Hamilton(1791)

Bill of Rights ratified by the member States of the union. (1791)

Kentucky admitted to the American union. (1792)

Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin. (1793)

Tennessee admitted to the American union. (1796)

Mint Julep invented in Virginia. (1797)

Kentucky - Virginia Resolutions (1798 & 1799)


Early 1800s

Louisiana Purchase (1803)

Louisiana admitted to the American union. (1812)


War of 1812

Due to Great Britain's constant interference with shipping ventures by American shipping companies, President Madison asks Congress for a declaration of war against Great Britain. Congress  supports war, except for most New England states and other maritime and commercial states  such as New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. (1812)

Hartford Convention secretly convenes - Representatives of New England states gather to adopt a  series of States' Rights proposals, and to consider secession from the American union.  Signing of the Treaty of Ghent, and news of the New Orleans victory brings the Convention to an end without action. (1814)

Treaty of Ghent signed by American and British peace commissioners, ending the war of 1812 provides for release of prisoners and restoration of conquered territory, but does not resolve maritime issues. (1814)

Battle of New Orleans - Unaware that peace has been declared, Andrew Jackson leads American soldiers into the most spectacular land victory of the war. (1814)

Second Bank of the United States established. (1816)

Mississippi admitted to the American union. (1817)

Spain cedes remainder of Florida to United States (1819)

Alabama admitted to the American union. (1819)

Missouri Compromise (1820)

Missouri admitted to the American union. (1821)

Texas becomes part of new nation of Mexico; Stephen F. Austin founds Anglo-American colony in Texas. (1821)

Monroe Doctrine (1823)

"The Tariff of Abominations," raising the protective Tariff of 1824, passes through  Congress and is signed by President Adams.  "South Carolina Exposition and Protest" issued by S.C. state legislature - written anonymously  by John C. Calhoun, the essay declares the Tariff of 1828 unconstitutional, and advocates state  sovereignty and the doctrine of nullification. (1828)

Mexico passes anti-colonization law to prevent Americans from further colonizing Texas. (1830)

Tariff Bill & Nullification Acts (1832)

Texas declares independence from Mexico; Battle of the Alamo.  (1836)

Arkansas admitted to the American union. (1836)

Trail of Tears forces 13,000 Cherokee west of the Mississippi(1838-39)



Mid 1800s


Mexican War

As Texas and the U.S. consider Texas joining the American union, Santa Anna, President of Mexico, warns that he would consider the American annexation of Texas as tantamount to a declaration of war against Mexico.  (1843)

Florida admitted to the American union. (1845)

Texas joins the Union as the twenty-eighth state. (1845)

Mexican forces strike Fort Texas. At the request of President  Polk, Congress approves a declaration of war with Mexico. (1846)

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is signed by the Senate, ending the war with Mexico. The United States gains over 500,000 square miles which include what shall become the states  of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado.  Texas is also conceded to the U.S., with its boundary at the Rio Grande. The U.S. pays $15  million. (1848)

Nashville Convention (1850)

Dred Scott Decision (1857)

The Crittenden Compromise (December 1860)


The War for Southern Independence (1861 - 1865)

South Carolina's Ordinance of Secession (December 1860)

The South Secedes (January 1861)

Mississippi's Ordinance of Secession (January 1861)

Florida's Ordinance of Secession (January 1861)

Alabama's Ordinance of Secession (January 1861)

Georgia's Ordinance of Secession (January 1861)

Louisiana's Ordinance of Secession (January 1861)

Texas's Ordinance of Secession (February 1861)

The South Creates a Government (February 1861)

Confederate Troops Occupy Federal Forts in CSA territory (February 1861)

U.S. Congress passes proposed 13th Amendment which is intended to secure slavery in America forever (February/March 1861)

Lincoln's Inauguration (March 1861)

Arizona Territory's Ordinance of Secession (March 1861)

Attack on Fort Sumter (April 1861)

Four More States Join the Confederacy (April 1861)

Virginia's Ordinance of Secession (April 1861)

Arkansas's Ordinance of Secession (May 1861)

North Carolina's Ordinance of Secession (May 1861)

Tennessee's Ordinance of Secession (June 1861)

Four Southern States make a Decision about Staying in the Union (June 1861)

Battle of 1st Manassas (July 1861)

Blockading the South (July 1861)

Missouri's Ordinance of Secession (October 1861)

Kentucky's Ordinance of Secession (November 1861)

Battle of the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor (March 1862)

Battle of Shiloh (April 1862)

Flag Officer David Farragut led an assault up the Mississippi River. By April 25, he was in command of New Orleans. (April 1862)

Battle of Fair Oaks (June 1862)

Seven Days Battles (July 1862)

Harper's Ferry (September 1862)

Sharpsburg (September 1862)

Battle of Fredericksburg (December 1862)

Emancipation Proclamation (January 1863)

Battle of Chancellorsville (May 1863)

Vicksburg Campaign (May 1863)

Gettysburg Campaign (June-July 1863)

West Virginia is Born (June 1863)

Battle of Chickamauga (September 1863)

At the Battle of Chattanooga, Union forces pushed Confederate troops away from Chattanooga. The victory set the stage for General Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. (November 1863)

Abraham Lincoln announces his Reconstruction Plan. (December 1863)

Wilderness Campaign (May 1864)

Battle of Spotsylvania (May 1864)

Battle of Cold Harbor (June 1864)

Confederate Troops Approach Washington D.C. (July 1864)

U.S. Congress passes its own Reconstruction Plan.  (July 1864)

Sherman's Atlanta Campaign (August 1864)

Sherman's March to the Sea (November 1864)

Fall of the Confederacy (January 1865)

General Sherman moves through North and South Carolina, repeating his tactics that were used against international rules of war, in Georgia.  (February 1865)

Chance for Reconciliation (February 1865)

Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse (April 1865)

Remaining Confederate troops were defeated between the end of April and the end of May. Jefferson Davis was captured in Georgia on May 10. (April-May 1865)

Quick facts about the War Between the States

Freedman's Bureau established.  In addition to providing medical, education and relocation services, the Bureau begins the redistribution of small plots of land to blacks. (1865)

President Johnson implements his own Reconstruction Plan.  (Summer 1865)

Congress refuses to recognize the state governments reconstructed under Johnson's plan.  (December 1865)

The 13th Amendment, which abolishes slavery, becomes law (January 1866)

Congress passes the Southern Homestead Act, opening public lands in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Florida to all settlers regardless of race. (1866)

Tennessee is re-admitted to the American union. (1866)

The Ku Klux Klan is formed. (1866)



Late 1800s


Reconstruction (an overview) (1867 - 1877)

First and Second Reconstruction Acts passed by Congress. (March 1867)  

Congress passes 14th Amendment. (1867)

Congress enacts the Third Reconstruction Act.  It affirms the authority of the military district commanders to remove state officials from office. (July 1867)

Congress passes the Fourth Reconstruction Act.  It allows the proposed state constitutions to be ratified by a simple majority vote in each state. (March 1868)

Arkansas is re-admitted to the American union. (1868)

Florida is re-admitted to the American union. (1868)

Louisiana is re-admitted to the American union. (1868)

North Carolina is re-admitted to the American union. (1868)

South Carolina is re-admitted to the American union. (1868)

Alabama is re-admitted to the American union. (1868)

Virginia is re-admitted to the American union. (1870)

Mississippi is re-admitted to the American union. (1870)

Texas re-admitted to the American union. (1870)

Georgia is re-admitted to the American union. (1870)

"Redeemer" governments begin to be elected across the South.  The majority of white Southern voters replace the 'scalawag' Republican state governments, created under Congressional reconstruction, with Democratic state governments, which are sympathetic to the former Confederate cause. (1869-70)

Land distributed by the Freedman's Bureau has netted freed blacks 160,960 acres in Florida, more than 350,000 acres in Georgia and 116 of 243 homesteads in Florida. (1874)

Congress passes the Civil Rights Act granting blacks the right to equal treatment in inns, public conveniences, and public amusement places, and prohibits their exclusion from jury duty. (1875)

The Compromise of 1877- Political finagling in the presidential election of 1876 between Samuel Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes gives the election to Hayes.  This results in an end to military intervention in the South and the fall of the last radical governments; restores "home rule" in the South. (1877)

The National Farmers' Alliance is formed. The farmers' plight has taken on catastrophic proportions in the face of high tariffs, flood and drought, unfair railroad rates and high interest on loans and mortgages.  (1880)

Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute is founded by Booker T. Washington. At Tuskegee, Booker T. Washington advocates an education limited to vocational skills, and from this base, Washington rises to national prominence. (1881)

U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Civil Rights Act of 1875. (1883)

Responding to public pressure, land in Oklahoma formally ceded to the Indians is opened to white settlers by government decree.  (1889)

The Southern Farmers Alliance, the Farmers' Mutual Benefit Association, and the Colored Farmers' Alliance meet in Ocala, Florida, to see if there is some way to take joint action on their respective grievances. Nothing comes of the meeting. (1890)

Supreme Court rules in Plessy v. Ferguson that 'separate but equal' facilities are constitutional. (1896)


Early 1900s

Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first four successful flights of a heavier-than-air machine in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  (1903)

Oklahoma is admitted to the American union. (1907)

Woodrow Wilson is elected president. (1912)

Precipitated in part by farm labor wages falling to $ .75 a day and the boll weevil devastation of cotton crops, Southern blacks begin migrating to northern and western cities when war industries seek their services.  By 1930, almost one million blacks leave the South in what becomes known as the Great Migration. (1914)

D.W. Griffith films Birth of a Nation.  (1915)

Scopes Monkey Trial takes place in Dayton, Tennessee. (1925)

Nashville country radio program becomes "The Grand Ole Opry"  (1926)


Mid 1900s

Second major migration of blacks from the South seeking opportunities in northern cities during war years. (1940 - 1945)

Southern Democrats break the New Deal coalition, bolting the Democratic Party and forming the State's Rights Democratic Party (the 'Dixiecrats'). (1948)

Civil Rights Era (1954 - 1972)

The U.S. Supreme Court rules on the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, unanimously agreeing that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.  While the case is heralded as a victory for minorities, it is condemned as an outright attack by the federal government on the sovereignty of the states. (May 1954)

Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama.  This starts a boycott of the city buses that lasts for a year until the buses are desegregated. (December 1955)

Federal troops are sent to desegregate Arkansas schools.  (1957)

Four black students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College begin a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter. Although they are refused service, they are allowed to stay at the counter. The event triggers many similar nonviolent protests throughout the South. (February 1960)

About 250,000 people join the March on Washington. Congregating at the Lincoln Memorial, participants listen as Reverend King delivers his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. (August 1963)

Four young girls attending Sunday school are killed when a bomb explodes at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, a popular location for civil rights meetings. Riots erupt in Birmingham, leading to the deaths of two more black youths. (September 1963)

President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964, making segregation in public facilities and discrimination in employment illegal. (July 1964)

Malcolm X, black nationalist and founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, is shot to death in Harlem. It is believed the assailants are members of the Black Muslim faith, which Malcolm had recently abandoned. (February 1965)

Reverend King, at age 39, is shot as he stands on the balcony outside his hotel room in Memphis, TN. Although escaped convict James Earl Ray later pleads guilty to the crime, questions about the actual circumstances of King's assassination remain to this day. (April 1968)



Late 1900s

The Supreme Court, in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, upholds busing as a legitimate means for achieving integration of public schools. Seen as another undermining of state's rights, busing is carried out under court orders and continues until the late 1990s. (April 1971)




Jamestown Colony (1607)

The first permanent English settlement in North America, with all its tragedies and disasters, established in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia.

Roughly 400 years ago, on December 20, 1606, three merchant ships loaded with passengers and cargo embarked from England on a voyage that would later set the course of American history.

The Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery reached Virginia in the spring of 1607, and on May 14, their 104 passengers all men and boys began building on the banks of the James River what was to be America's first permanent English colony, predating Plymouth in Massachusetts by 13 years.

The ambitions of these pioneers and the hardships they faced are vividly depicted at Jamestown Settlement, a museum operated by the Commonwealth of Virginia, through living history, a film and gallery exhibits. Jamestown Settlement is located about a mile from the original site and 10 minutes from the Historic Area, Jamestown's successor as capital of the Virginia colony.


The Maryland Toleration Act (1649)

This was an act concerning religion. The first two paragraphs read as follows:

“Forasmuch as in a well governed and Christian Common Wealth matters concerning Religion and the honor of God ought in the first place to be taken, into serious consideration and endeavored to be settled, Be it therefore ordered and enacted by the Right Honorable Cecilius Lord Baron of Baltemore absolute Lord and Proprietary of this Province with the advise and consent of this General Assembly:

That whatsoever person or persons within this Province and the Islands thereunto belonging shall from henceforth blaspheme God, that is Curse him, or deny our Savior Jesus Christ to be the son of God, or shall deny the holy Trinity the father son and holy Ghost, or the Godhead of any of the said Three persons of the Trinity or the Unity of the Godhead, or shall use or utter any reproachful Speeches, words or language concerning the said Holy Trinity, or any of the said three persons thereof, shall be punished with death and confiscation or forfeiture of all his or her lands and goods to the Lord Proprietary and his heirs.”

The act goes on to declare in an effort to “better preserve mutual love and amity amongst the inhabitants” that “no person whatsoever within this province…professing to believe in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth be any ways troubled, molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof within this province…nor any way compelled to the beliefs or exercise of any other religion against his or her consent.”



Formation of Mason - Dixon Line (1763)

Mason-Dixon Line, boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland (running between lat. 39°43?26.3??N and lat. 39°43?17.6??N), surveyed by the English astronomers Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon between 1763 and 1767. The ambiguous description of the boundaries in the Maryland and Pennsylvania charters led to a protracted disagreement between the proprietors of the two colonies; the dispute was submitted to the English court of chancery in 1735. A compromise between the Penn and Calvert families in 1760 resulted in the appointment of Mason and Dixon. By 1767 the surveyors had run their line 244 mi (393 km) W from the Delaware border, every fifth milestone bearing the Penn and Calvert arms. The survey was completed to the western limit of Maryland in 1773; in 1779 the line was extended to mark the southern boundary of Pennsylvania with Virginia (the present-day West Virginia). Before the Civil War the term "Mason-Dixon Line popularly designated the boundary dividing the slave states from the free states, and it is still used to distinguish the South from the North.



Mecklenburg Declaration (1775)

There are those who say Polk, then commander of the Mecklenburg County, North Carolina militia, called a meeting in 1775 at the courthouse he had built. In the middle of that meeting, a courier rode into town and announced shocking news: British troops had fired on Americans at Lexington, Mass. The American Revolution had begun.

Mecklenburgers were furious. All that day and into the next, they drew up the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, declaring their freedom from Britain.

``We the Citizens of Mecklenburg County do hereby desolve the political bands which have connected us to the Mother Country & hereby absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the British crown,'' they wrote.

The handwritten original of the Mecklenburg Declaration is said to have burned in a fire at the home of John McKnitt Alexander, secretary to the drafting committee. The document was reconstructed from Alexander's notes, but was not published until decades later. For that reason, some historians question its authenticity. So did Thomas Jefferson, whose national Declaration of Independence was adopted more than a year after the Mecklenburg Declaration.


Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge (1776)

In early 1776, Maj. General William Howe ordered Maj. General Henry Clinton to sail south as part of a campaign to capture the port city of Charleston and gather the support of Southern Tories. As part of the plan, Tories were to join General Clinton at Cape Fear, North Carolina. On February 20, 1776, 1,600 Scottish Highlanders set out for Cape Fear. On February 26, they learned that 1,000 Rebels were waiting with two cannon at Moore's Creek Bridge

After a council of war, the Highlanders decided to fight. They walked right into a trap and got obliterated by the Rebels. General Clinton would arrive at Cape Fear to find no Tories waiting for him. The defeat had cowed other Tories from joining the fight as well.

Battle of Fort Sullivan (1776)

Following their defeat at Bunker Hill, the British now knew they had a real fight on their hands. They looked to a quick compaign in the Southern colonies where they expected resistance to be weakest and support to be strongest. They believed it would a simple matter to capture the Southern port cities of Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina. This would eliminate the Rebels there, swell the army's ranks with Tory volunteers and leave only Virginia and New England to be subjugated.

After debating the method of attack, the British chose a direct approach to Charleston by way of the harbor, but they found stiff resistance from Fort Sullivan. After sustaining severe damages to several of their ships, the British withdrew. They sailed back north and would not return to campaign until 1780.

Battle of King's Mountain (1780)

Following the defeats of Maj. General Benjamin Lincoln at Charleston in May and then Maj. General Horatio Gates at Camden, British Lt. General Charles Cornwallis appeared to now have a clear path all the way to Virginia. In September, General Cornwallis invaded North Carolina and ordered Major Patrick Ferguson to guard his left flank. Ferguson provoked the Mountain Men living in the area by sending out a threat.

The Over Mountain Men came out of the mountains and pursued Major Ferguson. Along the way, they were joined by Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina militia. They caught up with Ferguson at King's Mountain. The seven Patriot colonels came up with a plan to approach Ferguson's position from four directions. Ferguson and his men found the higher position impossible to defend as they were in the open and the Patriots had cover to protect them. Ferguson and his all Tory force was soon defeated, forcing General Cornwallis to retreat from Charlotte, North Carolina.

Battle of Cowpens (1781)

New Continental Southern Commander Maj. General Nathanael Greene determined that he needed time to rehabilitate his army. He decided to split his force and assigned command of the more mobile force to Brig. General Daniel Morgan. British Lt. General Charles Cornwallis recognized the strategy and sent his own mobile force under Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton after Morgan.

After several weeks of maneuvering, General Morgan finally had to choose his ground before Lt. Colonel Tarleton overran him. He settled on Cowpens, South Carolina. He counted on British expectations of a militia retreat as it had at Camden, so that when Andrew Pickens' militia withdrew as planned, the British became undisciplined and broke ranks. This loss of discipline allowed the ordered actions of the Continentals to thoroughly rout the British and destroy General Cornwallis' light troops.


Articles of Confederation (1781)

Before the Constitution....there was The Articles of Confederation-- in effect, the first constitution of the United States. Drafted in 1777 by the same Continental Congress that passed the Declaration of Independence, the articles established a "firm league of friendship" between and among the 13 states.

Created during the throes of the Revolutionary War, the Articles reflect the wariness by the states of a strong central government. Afraid that their individual needs would be ignored by a national government with too much power, and the abuses that often result from such power, the Articles purposely established a "constitution" that vested the largest share of power to the individual states.

Under the Articles each of the states retained their "sovereignty, freedom and independence." Instead of setting up executive and judicial branches of government, there was a committee of delegates composed of representatives from each state. These individuals comprised the Congress, a national legislature called for by the Articles.

The Congress was responsible for conducting foreign affairs, declaring war or peace, maintaining an army and navy and a variety of other lesser functions. But the Articles denied Congress the power to collect taxes, regulate interstate commerce and enforce laws.

Eventually, these shortcomings would lead to the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. But during those years in which the 13 states were struggling to achieve their independent status, the Articles of Confederation stood them in good stead.

Adopted by Congress on November 15, 1777, the Articles became operative on March 1, 1781 when the last of the 13 states signed on to the document.


Battle of Guilford Courthouse (1781)

Following Brig. General Daniel Morgan's victory over Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens on January 17, 1781, both Morgan and Maj. General Nathanael Greene retreated to Virginia, while Lt. General Charles Cornwallis vainly chased them. In March, Greene returned to North Carolina and began maneuvering against Cornwallis. He finally chose to stand at Guilford Courthouse.

Using the terrain, General Greene had a successful and devastating first attack. However, General Cornwallis was able to steady his troops and Greene withdrew from the field rather than take casualties. The casualties that Cornwallis took at Guilford Courthouse were the final straw in a series of setbacks. He abandoned the Carolinas and marched for Virginia.

Battle of Yorktown (1781)

In May 1781, French Admiral de Barras arrived in Rhode Island to take command of the blockaded fleet there and brought word that Admiral de Grasse would be bringing the long-awaited French fleet later in the year. General George Washington met with French Lt. General Rochambeau to plan operations up to and after Admiral de Grasse arrived. They decided to operate around New York City where Lt. General Henry Clinton was located, although Washington feared that Maj. General Nathanael Greene could not keep Lt. General Charles Cornwallis occupied in the Carolinas and would soon move into Virginia in an effort to link up with Clinton.

As a matter of fact, following the loss of his light infantry and cavalry at the Battle of Cowpens on January 17, 1781, burning his baggage train in pursuit of General Greene later that month and a costly victory at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, General Cornwallis abandoned the Carolinas in May 1781. He arrived in Petersburg Virginia later that month and soon received reinforcements from General Clinton, which increased his force to around 7,000 men.

General Cornwallis spent the next couple of months maneuvering against the Maquis de Lafayette in an effort to destroy the Frenchman's roving force, but aside from a few raids in the countryside, Cornwallis was unable to carry out his objective. He also was also receiving conflicting orders from General Clinton, so he now moved to establish a fort on the James River Peninsula at Yorktown as well as across the river at Gloucester. His fortifications were ready by August 22, 1781.

Meanwhile, General Washington received word that Admiral de Grasse was on his way to the Chesapeake Bay area. Washington immediately abandoned his operations around New York and while decoying General Clinton like he was preparing to attack various coastal positions around New York began marching south for Virginia in late August. While Washington was marching through Philadelphia, Clinton finally learned that Washington was heading south, but he was not alarmed because of the perceived superiority of the British fleet.

Long before General Washington arrived at Yorktown, the French Navy had established control of the Chesapeake. The British Navy arrived first in late August, but left when they found the waters empty. The next day Admiral de Grasse arrived and began landing forces from the West Indies. The British fleet returned and Admiral de Grasse engaged them. The two fleets drifted south before the French broke off. When Admiral de Grasse returned to the Chesapeake, he found that Admiral de Barras had arrived from Rhode Island. All the naval action had taken place before mid-September arrived.

General Washington arrived at the end of the month. After maneuvering and an action at Gloucester, official siege operations began on October 9, 1781. General Cornwallis attempted to hold out until reinforcements arrived from General Clinton. However, on October 17, he could no longer hold out and a parley was called. Terms of Surrender were negotiated on October 18 and the official surrender ceremony took place without Cornwallis, who claimed illness, on October 20, 1781. Yorktown turned out to be the last major engagement of the American Revolutionary War.


Treaty of Paris (1783)

The Treaty of Paris of 1783 formally ended the American Revolution. Great Britain acknowledged the independence of the American colonies, recognizing them as 13 independent and sovereign states.



The United States Constitution (1789)

The document that embodies the fundamental principles upon which the American republic is conducted. Drawn up at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787, and ratified by the required number of states (nine) by June 21, 1788. It established the system of federal government that began to function in 1789. There are seven articles and a Preamble; 27 amendments have been adopted.

From its very beginnings, the Constitution has been subject to stormy controversies, not only in interpretation of some of its phrases, but also between the "loose constructionists and "strict constructionists". The middle of the 19th century saw a tremendous struggle concerning the nature of the Union and the extent of states' rights.



Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 & 1799

Resolutions passed in 1798 and 1799 by the Kentucky and Virginia legislatures in opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Kentucky Resolutions, written by Thomas Jefferson, from Virginia, stated that the federal government had no right to exercise powers not delegated to it by the Constitution. A further resolution declared that the states could nullify objectionable federal laws (this was known as Nullification). The Virginia Resolution, written by James Madison, from Virginia, was milder. Both were later considered the first notable statements of the State’s Rights doctrine.



The Louisiana Purchase (1803)

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, on behalf of the United States, signed a treaty with France to acquire the Louisiana territory. This land purchase effectively doubled the size of the United States! This was a precursor to the great westward migration that would come half a century later during the period described as America's Manifest Destiny.



The Missouri Compromise (1820)

Missouri Compromise was a plan agreed upon by the United States Congress in 1820 to settle the debate over slavery in the Louisiana Purchase area. The plan temporarily maintained the balance between free and slave states.

In 1818, the Territory of Missouri, which was part of the Louisiana Purchase, applied for admission to the Union. Slavery was legal in the Territory of Missouri, and about 10,000 slaves lived there. Most people expected Missouri to become a slave state. When the bill to admit Missouri to the Union was introduced, there were an equal number of free and slave states. Six of the original 13 states and five new states permitted slavery, while seven of the original states and four new states did not. This meant that the free states and the slave states each had 22 senators in the United States Senate. The admission of Missouri threatened to destroy this balance.

This balance had been temporarily upset a number of times, but it had always been easy to decide whether states east of the Mississippi River should be slave or free. Mason and Dixon's Line and the Ohio River formed a natural and well-understood boundary between the two sections. No such line had been drawn west of the Mississippi River. In addition, some parts of Missouri Territory lay to the north of the mouth of the Ohio River, while other parts of it lay to the south.

A heated debate broke out in Congress when Representative James Tallmadge of New York introduced an amendment to the bill enabling Missouri to become a state. Tallmadge proposed to prohibit the bringing of any more slaves into Missouri, and to grant freedom to the children of slaves born within the state after its admission. This proposal disturbed Southerners, who found cotton growing by means of slave labor increasingly profitable, and feared national legislation against slavery. Because the free states dominated the House of Representatives, the slave states felt they must keep the even balance in the Senate.

The Tallmadge Amendment passed the House, but the Senate defeated it. During the next session of Congress, Maine applied for admission to the Union. Missouri and Maine could then be accepted without upsetting the Senate's balance between free and slave states, and the Missouri Compromise became possible.

The compromise admitted Maine as a free state and authorized Missouri to form a state constitution. A territory had to have an established constitution before it could become a state. The compromise also banned slavery from the Louisiana Purchase north of the southern boundary of Missouri, the line of 36 degrees 30 minutes north latitude, except in the state of Missouri.

The people of Missouri believed they had the right to decide about slavery in their state. They wrote a constitution that allowed slavery and that restricted free blacks from entering the state.

Before Congress would admit Missouri, a second Missouri Compromise was necessary. Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House, helped work out this agreement. It required the Missouri legislature not to deny black citizens their constitutional rights. With this understanding, Missouri was admitted to the Union in 1821.



The Monroe Doctrine (1823)

Principle of American foreign policy enunciated in President James Monroe's (from Virginia) message to Congress, Dec. 2, 1823. It initially called for an end to European intervention in the Americas, but it was later extended to justify U.S. imperialism in the Western Hemisphere.



The Tariff Bill & Nullification Acts (1832)

The tariff bill of 1832 disappointed the pro-tariff Henry Clay, but it also disappointed the anti-tariff Nullifiers. They had hoped that with their proclamation of the principal of Nullification, and the Vice President being the author of the principal, and Jackson's partial tendencies towards States rights -- Jackson and the Congress would go a long way in their direction.

On October 22, 1832, the South Carolina legislature declared a convention on November 19, to decide whether the state would, according to Calhoun's formula, Nullify the new tariff. The convention did declare the law null in South Carolina, by a vote of 136 to 26.

On December 11, 1832, Jackson published a proclamation, "... ending in a strong plea and threat, which was mostly pure Jackson: "Those who told you that you might peaceably prevent [the execution of the laws] deceived you; they could not have been deceived themselves... Their object is disunion. But be not deceived by names. Are you really ready to incur its guilt? If you are, on the heads of the instigators of the act be the dreadful consequences; on their heads be the dishonor, but on yours may fall the punishment."

Most of the nation responded to this with wild enthusiasm. Jackson claimed he could have 100,000 men on the side of the Union in a matter of weeks. Still, the South Carolina legislature authorized its Governor to call a draft, and appropriated $200,000 for arms. Jackson's actual military moves were on a fairly large scale, but careful, and calculated to avoid confrontation while negotiations went on.

Meanwhile a battle went on in Congress. Jackson was skillfully wielding threats and promises. On January 8, the administration submitted a bill, known as the Verplanck bill after one of Van Buren's allies, which cut the tariff in half over two years.

The Verplanck Bill was rejected by Nullifiers and Clay's pro-tariff men. Then came a move to save Calhoun's face and take credit away from Jackson. Clay stood up to propose a "Compromise bill", and was seconded by Calhoun. The bill was, in fact, much less of a tariff reduction (at least until nearly 10 years out) than the administration bill. Clay got a friend in the house to deftly swap his bill for the Verplanck bill and it was quickly passed, taking the administration by surprise. The Senate then passed this bill with the nullifiers perversely lending their support.

In South Carolina, with such face saving as the revised tariff gave them, the legislature rescinded the nullification proclamation against the tariff.



The Nashville Convention (1850)

A two-session meeting of proslavery Southerners in the United States. John C. Calhoun initiated the drive for a meeting when he urged Mississippi to call for a convention. The resulting Mississippi Convention on Oct. 1, 1849, issued a call to all slave-holding states to send delegates to Nashville, Tennessee, in order to form a united front against what was viewed as Northern aggression.

Delegates from nine Southern states met in Nashville on June 3, 1850. Robert Barnwell Rhett, a leader of the extremists, sought support for secession, but moderates from both the Whig and the Democratic parties were in control. The convention ultimately (June 10) adopted 28 resolutions defending slavery and the right of all Americans to migrate to the Western territories. The delegates were ready to settle the question of slavery in the territories, however, by extending the Missouri Compromise line west to the Pacific.

In September the U.S. Congress enacted the Compromise of 1850, and six weeks later (November 11-18) the Nashville Convention reconvened for a second session. This time, however, there were far fewer delegates, and the extremists were in control. Although they rejected the Compromise of 1850 and called upon the South to secede, most Southerners were relieved to have the sectional strife seemingly resolved, and the second session of the Nashville Convention had little impact.


The Dred Scott Decision (1857)

Dred Scott was the name of a black man who was a slave. He was taken by his master, an officer in the U.S. Army, from the slave state of Missouri to the free state of Illinois and then to the free territory of Wisconsin.

When the Army ordered his master to go back to Missouri, he took Scott with him back to that slave state, where his master died. In 1846, Scott was helped by Abolitionist (anti-slavery) lawyers to sue for his freedom in court, claiming he should be free since he had lived on free soil for a long time. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

In March of 1857, Scott lost the decision as seven out of nine Justices on the Supreme Court declared no slave or descendant of a slave could be a U.S. citizen, or ever had been a U.S. citizen. As a non-citizen, the court stated, Scott had no rights and could not sue in a Federal Court and must remain a slave.

At that time there were nearly 4 million slaves in America. The court's ruling affected the status of every enslaved and free black person in the United States. The ruling served to turn back the clock concerning the rights of blacks, ignoring the fact that black men in five of the original States had been full voting citizens dating back to the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

The Supreme Court also ruled that Congress could not stop slavery in the newly emerging territories and declared the Missouri Compromise of 1820 to be unconstitutional. The Missouri Compromise prohibited slavery north of the parallel 36°30´ in the Louisiana Purchase. The Court declared it violated the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution which prohibits Congress from depriving persons of their property without due process of law.


The Crittenden Compromise (1860)

The Crittenden Compromise, which was supported by Abraham Lincoln, was perhaps the last-ditch effort to resolve the secession crisis of 1860-61 by political negotiation. Authored by Kentucky Senator John Crittenden (whose two sons would become generals on opposite sides of the War for Southern Independence), the Compromise only addressed the issue of slavery, ignoring the greater concerns of the Southern States.

 The Compromise proposed to extend the right to hold slaves across the American continent south of latitude 36 degrees 30 minutes.  In addition, the Compromise proposed a constitutional amendment that would enshrine slavery in the law and bar Congress from ever abolishing it.  The Compromise further declared that the fugitive slave laws were to be strictly enforced, and any state laws conflicting these laws were to be declared null and void.

The fact that the Compromise made no serious headway, in the north or the South, in resolving the secession crisis refutes the idea that slavery was the main cause of the South seceding from the union.


The South Secedes (1861)

Abraham Lincoln was a known advocate for Henry Clay's "American System."  This "system" advocated the supremacy of the federal government over the states, in direct contradiction of the founders' expressed intentions in their writings.  Clay's "system" also included advocating protective tariffs, and Lincoln strongly supported high tariffs.  As the South incurred 80% of the cost of tariffs, and the Northern states reaped all the benefits, Southerners saw no benefit in voting for Lincoln.  Therefore, no Southern state provided any electoral votes for Lincoln in the presidential election of 1860.  When Lincoln was elected president, the South Carolina legislature 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 all the gulf states -- Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.


The South Creates a Government (February 1861)

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 clarification of the autonomy of each state. Jefferson Davis was named provisional president of the Confederacy until elections could be held.


Confederate Troops Occupy Federal Forts (1861)

As President Buchanan -- Lincoln's predecessor -- believed member States of the American union had a right to secede, he allowed southern state troops to seize federal forts in Confederate territory. At Fort Sumter, South Carolina troops denied a supply ship trying to reach federal forces based in the fort access to the fort. The ship was forced to return to New York, its supplies undelivered.


Lincoln's Inauguration (1861)

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. 

Attack on Fort Sumter (1861)

While President Lincoln stalled a delegation from the Confederacy, who wished to talk about settling any part of the federal government's debt the South might owe, as well as reaching a peaceful settlement to the South's separation from the rest of the union, Lincoln was quietly sending supplies to Fort Sumter, in violation of a promise he made to the South that he would not attempt to do so (soldiers at the fort were allowed to freely enter the city of Charleston and buy what they needed). South Carolina, seeing that they had been tricked, fired on the fort to prevent the supply ship from accessing the fort.  Fort Sumter eventually was surrendered to South Carolina, and the union troops in the fort were allowed to return to the United States.

Four More States Join the Confederacy (1861)

Lincoln sends out orders to the remaining states in the union to provide troops to invade the Confederacy.  This is considered by Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and North Carolina to be a violation of the Constitution.  Realizing that Lincoln cares less about the Constitution and the law, and more about forcing all the member states of the union to remain in the union, even if against their will, these states vote to leave the union and join the Confederacy.  With Virginia's secession, Richmond was named the Confederate capitol.

Four Southern States make a Decision About Staying in the Union (1861)

Delaware - Political pressures ensured that this Southern state chose to remain within the union.

Kentucky - Initially this state voted to stay neutral in the war, and thereby remain in the union.  Later on, a questionable state convention was held that voted for secession.  The Confederacy recognized the convention's desire to join the CSA, but the USA did not.

Maryland - When this state  prepared to vote on secession, Lincoln sent in troops to arrest many of the state legislators (especially those who were known to be sympathetic with the South), deny citizens the right to vote, and replaced the arrested legislators with union officers.  In this way, Lincoln ensure the vote for secession went down to defeat.  Maryland grudgingly stayed in the union and under the watchful eye of Lincoln's troops.

Missouri - In the beginning, the state's legitimately elected legislature voted to secede, and the South accepted the state into their new Confederation.  Union troops invaded the state, and the legitimate state government went into exile.  The north set up a "rump government" which immediately took another vote on secession and voted to stay in the union.  The USA recognized this rump government's vote, not the vote of the legitimate government. 

* As the Confederacy recognized Kentucky and Missouri as being part of the Confederacy, the total number of states in the Confederacy (according to the CSA) totaled thirteen (not the eleven usually mentioned).  These thirteen states are recognized on the Confederate Battle Flag with thirteen stars.

Battle of 1st Manassas (1861)

Union General-in-Chief Winfield Scott advanced on the South before with high hopes from the public that the war would be short.  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.

Blockading the South (1861)

Realizing that if the Confederacy was to remain in existence, the lower tariffs the South establish would mean large financial losses to the north.  To prevent commerce, as well as the import of food, arms and munitions for their war effort, Lincoln ordered a blockade of all Southern ports.   In response to the blockade by the heavier military vessels of the north, the South responded by building small, fast ships that could outmaneuver Union vessels.

Battle of the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor (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 rechristened 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.


Battle of Shiloh (1862)

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.

Battle of Fair Oaks (1862)

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.

Seven Days Battles (1862)

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.

Harper's Ferry (1862)

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.

Sharpsburg (1862)

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.

Battle of Fredericksburg (1862)

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.

Emancipation Proclamation (1863)

In an effort to discourage Britain and France from officially recognizing the Confederacy, Lincoln released the Emancipation Proclamation.  Lincoln privately acknowledged that this proclamation did nothing to actually free blacks from slavery, and was nothing more than a political tool to keep the European powers from entering the war on the side of the Confederacy.  It was also an unconstitutional proclamation in accordance with the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.  In fact, the proclamation only purported to "free" slaves in parts of the Confederacy not under control of union forces, and slaves in union-controlled territories of the CSA and slave states that had remained in the union, remained in slavery.    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.   In response to the proclamation, there was an uproar in the north.  Many union troops deserted, declaring they had been fighting to maintain the union, not to free slaves, and a riot broke out in New York City in which rioters lynched blacks on the streets.

Battle of Chancellorsville (1863)

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 casualties.

Vicksburg Campaign (1863)

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.

Gettysburg Campaign (1863)

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, 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. 


West Virginia is Born (1863)

Some residents of the western counties of Virginia did not wish to secede from the USA. In a move similar to the convention of Kentucky that voted to secede, a small contingent of Virginians in the western part of the state met and declared themselves the "legitimate" state government.  They voted to remove their counties from control of Confederate Virginia and become their own state.  With the help of union troops, and in clear violation of Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, West Virginia was admitted to the union June 20, 1863.  West Virginia was admitted as a slave state to the union, offering more proof that the War for Southern Independence was not about slavery.


Battle of Chickamauga (1863)

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.

Lincoln's Reconstruction Plan (1863)

Lincoln announces his reconstruction plan, offering general amnesty to all white Southerners who take an oath of future loyalty and accept wartime measures abolishing slavery.  Whenever 10% of the number of 1860 voters take the oath in any state, those 'loyal' citizens can then establish a state government.  In early 1864 the governments of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee are reconstructed under Lincoln's 'Ten Percent Plan.'  Radical Republicans are furious at the policy's leniency, so Congress refuses to recognize the governments or seat their elected federal representatives.


Wilderness Campaign (1864)

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.

Battle of Spotsylvania (1864)

General Grant continued to attack Lee. At Spotsylvania Court House, he fought for five days, vowing to fight all summer if necessary.

Battle of Cold Harbor (1864)

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.

Confederate Troops Approach Washington D.C. (1864)

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 Virginia.

Radical Republican's pass their own Reconstruction Plan (1864)

Disapproving of Lincoln's plans, the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress passes the Wade-Davis bill.  It requires a majority of 1860 voters to take a loyalty oath, but only those who swear an 'ironclad' oath of never having fought against the Union can participate in reconstructing their state's government.  Congress requires the state constitutions to include bans on slavery, disfranchisement of Confederate political and military leaders, and repudiation of Confederate state debts.  Lincoln refuses to sign the bill, pocket-vetoing the bill.


Sherman's Atlanta Campaign (1864)

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.

Sherman's March to the Sea (1864)

General Sherman continued his march through Georgia to the sea.  He declared that he planned to "make Georgia howl." In the course of the march, Sherman and his troops took intentional actions to brutalize the civilian population, and enact a scorched earth policy.  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, as well as civilian's homes, livestock and crops.  Union troops carried out a barbaric assault on the Southern people, raping, pillaging and plundering across Georgia.

Fall of the Confederacy (1865)

Transportation problems and successful blockades caused severe shortages of food and supplies in the South. Starving soldiers became less effective in battle, and the number of soldiers continued to be depleted, while the north continued to increase their number of troops by enlisting mercenaries and all foreigners that came to the U.S.  Although President Jefferson Davis approved the arming of slaves as a means of augmenting the shrinking army, the measure was never put into effect.

Chance for Reconciliation (1865)

The last of several secret conferences between north and south in an attempt to settle the dispute, Confederate President Jefferson Davis agreed to send delegates to a peace conference with President Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward.  However, Jefferson insisted on Lincoln's recognition of the South's independence as a prerequisite and Lincoln insisted on the South agreeing to rejoin the union before any talks could take place.  The conference never occurred.

Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse (1865)

General Lee's troops were soon surrounded, and, not seeing the need for more bloodshed as Lee determined that he could not prevail, on April 7 Lee to surrendered. 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.

Johnson's Reconstruction Plan (1865)

President Johnson implements his own reconstruction plan.  It offers general amnesty to those taking an oath of future loyalty, although high-ranking Confederate officials and wealthy Confederates have to petition the president for individual pardons.  The plan also requires states to ratify the 13th Amendment which prohibits slavery and to repudiate Confederate debts.   This last part violated the U.S. Constitution, in that it set requirements for statehood in the Union not enumerated in the Constitution.  However, all the proposed reconstruction plans, in effect, acknowledged what Lincoln had always denied:  The Southern states had successfully seceded, and were not a part of the Union.  This was a back-handed recognition of the legitimacy of the Confederate States.


Ku Klux Klan is formed (1866)

A group of former Tennessee Confederate army officers, who were all fraternity men, in 1866 formed a convivial society to which they gave the name of Kuklos, the Greek word for circle. For alliterative purposes, the word Klan was added, and Kuklos became Kuklux or Ku Klux. The organization shortly began to emphasize "patriotism" and a "fraternity" among their fellow Southerners. It originated in the desire to keep alive the horse play, hazing, and camaraderie of the truncated college days of the members; but these impulses morphed under Reconstruction and the organization began to carry out acts of vigilantism and use scare tactics in an attempt to maintain a semblance of order (as they interpreted things) in their communities, as the occupational Union forces did little to protect civilians.  The organization spread, or was imitated, across the South.


Military Rule "Radical Reconstruction" (1867 - 1877)

Rejecting the lenient reconstruction measures initiated by Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, the U.S. Congress, under the control of the Radical Republicans, passed the punitive Reconstruction Act of 1867 on March 7, over Johnson's veto. This act sought to rebuild the governments of the Southern states in the Northern mold and ensure the civil rights of the freed blacks. The members of the existing state governments in the South, made up of the leaders of the Confederacy, were removed, and the states were placed under the military rule of the U.S. Army. No one who had supported the Confederate government was allowed to vote or hold political office. As a result, the state governments were controlled by scalawags and carpetbaggers and the military rulers of the Radical Republican Congress.

The South was divided into five military districts, with a U.S. Army general in charge of each. Virginia, the first district, was commanded by Gen. John Schofield. The second district brought North and South Carolina under the command of Gen. Daniel E. Sickles, and Gen. John Pope oversaw the reconstruction of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida in the third district. The fourth district, comprising Mississippi and Arkansas, was commanded by Gen. Edward Ord, and in the fifth, Texas and Louisiana came under the control of Gen. Philip H. Sheridan. Some 200,000 U.S. soldiers were stationed throughout the South to preserve order and carry out the dictates of Congress.

These first military commanders had virtually unlimited power. They removed thousands of civil officials from their jobs and actively cultivated the registration of black voters, thereby placing former slaves in position to dominate their former masters and to wring from the South what little was left after four years of devastating war. Military rule in the South lasted for 10 years, until 1877, when Rutherford B. Hayes agreed to return the states to home rule in exchange for Southern support in his bid for the presidency.

Fascinating Fact: Because of its large Unionist population and its submission to congressional demands, the State of Tennessee was the only Southern state to escape harsh reconstruction measures.


First and Second Reconstruction Acts (1867)

The Confederacy is divided into five military districts under the direction of military officers, supported by federal troops.  Military courts can be used to try cases involving civil and property rights violations, as well as criminal trials.  Southern states are forced to enact new constitutions, with the content dictated by the north.  Confederate officials are barred from political participation.  States must ratify the 14th Amendment in order to be re-admitted to the Union (another violation of the U.S. Constitution, as only member states can vote on Amendments.  Non-member states cannot be used in tallying the two-thirds needed for ratification of amendments to the Constitution).  The Southern states initially resist, but the Second Reconstruction Act gives military district commanders the 'right' to hold state constitutional conventions.  This allows the Radical Republicans and the military to violate the rights of Southern citizens, and make the South virtual slaves of the Union.  President Johnson attempts to veto these actions, but Congress over rides the vetoes, thus becoming almost completely impotent in office.  


Scopes Monkey Trial (1925)

The Scopes Monkey Trial has been portrayed as a battle between teaching in public schools the theory of evolution and teaching creationism.  Contrary to the distortions promoted in the play 'Inherit the Wind,' this famous trial was about freedom of speech, due process of law, and then about the idea of religion in  the public school system.  Click here to view the facts.


The Civil Rights Era (1954 - 1972)

The Civil Rights Era was a time in American history when American blacks started to realize that conformity to traditional social mores was not in their personal long-term interest. Blacks started to demand the rights provided to them under the U.S. Constitution.

The swift changes in society concerning opportunities and restrictions on blacks in business, society and public places caused an upheaval that resulted in many riots, marches, court cases and deaths. Much of the study of the turmoil has been focused on the South, even though cities such as Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and New York faced their own riots and racial problems.

Resistance to change is a typical human trait. Resistance by the white majority to federal intrusion in what was considered by many a state domain brought turmoil to many communities. Through the struggle of those seeking to fulfill the promise of the American ideal, today anyone from any background, regardless of their ethnic, racial or religious background has the same opportunity to succeed in the American dream.