Major Battles Of The American Civil War

The U.S. Civil War was fought between the north (Union), and the south (Confederates).
The U.S. Civil War was fought between the north (Union), and the south (Confederates).

The American Civil War was fought throughout the years 1861 and 1865 between the states of the Union and the states of the Confederacy. The main cause of the war was the question of whether or not to abolish slavery. By the end of the Civil War, it was esimated that up to one million people were dead. Here are the major battles that were fought in the Civil War. 

10. Battle of Atlanta (1864)

The Battle of Atlanta was fought on July 22nd in Georgia, just outside of the city of Atlanta. The Union forces were under the command of Major General William T. Sherman (1820-91) and were 34,000 strong, while the Confederates were under the command of General John Bell Hood (1831-79) and had 40,000 troops. The Battle of Atlanta was part of the Atlanta Campaign by Sherman to neutralize the the city as an important supply and rail center for the Confederate army. The battle led to a Union victory with only 3,600 casualties, while the Confederates suffered 8,500. Two months following Sherman's victory the siege of Atlanta was completed and Sherman burned down most of the city to crush southern morale. After this Sherman's March to the Sea began and northern morale was great increased, helping Lincoln to win reelection.

9. Battle of Pea Ridge (1862)

The Battle of Pea Ridge took place between March 6th and 8th in Benton Country, Arkansas. The Union forces were under the command of Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis (1805-66). The Union forces were 10,400 strong, while the Confederate forces under Major General Earl Von Dorn (1820-63) were 16,400 strong. The Confederacy strategy for this battle as part of the winter Missouri campaign was to advance northward through Missouri to try and capture St. Louis to help control the state and the Mississippi River. Despite the superior numbers of the Confederates, along with the support of about 2,000 Native American troops under the command of Brigadier General Albert Pike (1809-91), the battle resulted in a decisive Union victory. There were a total of 1,300 Union casualties and 2,100 Confederate casualties. The Union victory was in part due to the misguided battle tactics of the Confederates, a loss of morale after the death of several generals and the refusal of their Indian allies to help more with direct assaults on Union defensive positions.

8. Second Battle of Bull Run (1862)

The Second Battle of Bull Run took place between August 28th and 30th near Manassas, Virginia. The Union forces were under the command of Major General John Pope (1822-92) and were 62,000 strong, while the Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee (1807-70) were 50,000 strong. The Second Battle of Bull Run resulted in the sound defeat of the Union forces and a Confederate victory, with there being 14,000 Union casualties and 8,000 Confederate casualties. The Union defeat at the battle was due to the Pope's misconception of the battlefield, confused orders between Union officers and the reluctance of other Union commanders to aid Pope. This led to Lee, along with lieutenant generals Stonewall Jackson (1824-63) and James Longstreet (1821-1904) crushing the Union troops, who managed to make a stand and have an orderly retreat. This battle led to Pope being relived of command of the Army of Virginia and encouraged Lee to embark on his first invasion of the north, the Maryland Campaign.

7. Battle of Shiloh (1862)

The Battle of Shiloh took place between April 6th and 7th in Hardin Country, Tennessee near Pittsburgh Landing. The Union army was led by Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant (1822-85) and Major General Don Carlos Buell (1818-98) and was 65,700 strong. The Confederate army was led by General Albert Sidney Johnston (1803-62) and then by P.G.T. Beauregard (1818-93) following Johnston's death in battle. The Confederate army was 45,000 men strong. The battle started with Johnston launching a successful surprise attack on Grant's camps and driving them back, although Johnston was killed in the afternoon fighting. Beauregard then took command and stopped the fighting by pulling his soldiers away from Pittsburgh Landing since they were being shelled by gunboats. That night Buell's men and a division of Grant's army under Major General Lewis Wallace (1827-1905) arrived as reinforcements which turned the tide for the Union forces. The next day the Union army slowly but eventually took back all the ground they had lost, forcing the Confederates to withdraw. By the end the battle was the bloodiest battle in American history up to that point, with 13,000 casualties on the Union side and 10,700 on the Confederate side.

6. Siege of Vicksburg (1863)

The Siege of Vicksburg took place between May 18th and July 4th in Warren Country, Mississippi near the city of Vicksburg. The Union army was commanded by Major General Ulysses S. Grant and was 75,000 men strong, while the Confederate army was commanded by Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton (1814-81) and was 34,000 men strong. Prior to the siege Union and Confederate forces had clashed for the prior week during Grant's Inland Campaign in Mississippi. Grant decided to try and quickly take Vicksburg on the 18th of May but had successive assaults badly repealed in a span of four days due to the strong defensive works around the city. This led Grant to siege the city and cut it off from being resupplied. After almost two months of being shelled from all sides and being out of food for the soldiers and civilians, Pemberton surrendered to Grant with the condition that his men would be paroled. Despite the long siege the Confederates only suffered 3,300 casualties, while the Union had 4,800. The aftermath of the battle led to the Confederacy losing control of Mississippi and the Mississippi River and helped to cemented Grant's reputation that would eventually led him to command the whole Union army.

5. Battle of Antietam (1862)

The Battle of Antietam took place on September 17th in Washington County by the city of Sharpsburg, Maryland. The Union forces were under the command of Major General George B. McClellan (1826-85), who had been given command following the Second Battle of Bull Run and were 75,300 strong. The Confederate forces, under the command of Robert E. Lee, numbered only 52,000. The Battle of Antietam was the major battle of Lee's Maryland Campaign, which was undertaken due to Lee's increased confidence, to take pressure off of the Shenandoah Valley at harvest time, to demoralized Northerners and to encourage European support for the Confederacy. The one day battle between Lee and McClellan would result in the bloodiest single day in the Civil War and all of American history. When the fighting was done a total of 12,400 Union and 10,300 Confederate soldiers were dead. Despite the battle ending in a stalemate, the Union technically won due to the fact that they stopped Lee's northern invasion. In the aftermath of the battle McClellan was replaced as head of the Army of the Potomac by Ambrose Burnside (1824-81) due to his failure to pursue Lee's retreating forces. President Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) also used the repealing of Lee's forces as the justification for announcing the Emancipation Proclamation and basically ended any chance of European support for the Confederates.

4. Battle of Fort Sumter (1861)

The Battle of Fort Sumter took place between April 12th and April 13th in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The battle of Fort Sumter was the first battle of the American Civil War, taking place almost four months after South Carolina has seceded from the Union. Prior to the battle the fort had been under siege since December 26th, as Union commander Major Robert Anderson (1805-71) moved his troops from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter which defied the negotiations that South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens (1805-69) was attempting to hold with Washington about the occupied forts in his state. By April 12th after months of failed negotiations and surrender talks the Confederates decided to fire on the fort following the news that President Abraham Lincoln was going to mount a relief expedition to bring supplies to Fort Sumter. It was shortly after this that Confederate Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard told Anderson that firing on the fort would start at 4:30 a.m. after the final failed surrender talks, with it being said that Edmund Ruffin (1794-1865) fired the first shot. At 7:00 a.m. the Union forces fired their first return shot in the war, done by Captain Abner Doubleday (1819-93). On April 13th, Louis Wigfall (1816-74), without the approval of Beauregard, rowed out to the fort and negotiated a surrender. Following farther official negotiations by Beauregard it was agreed the official surrender would take place on April 14th at midday. Despite no casualties in the actual battle, during the 100-gun salute while lowering the American flag on the fort one of the guns prematurely discharged, killing Private Daniel Hough (1825-61), making him the first causality of the war.

3. First Battle of Bull Run (1861)

The First Battle of Bull Run took place on July 21st in Fairfax County and Prince William County near the city of Manassas, Virginia. The battle was one of the first to take place during the war and is the most well known early battle due to the fact that it was the first major land-based confrontation. The Union forces under Brigadier General Irvin McDowell (1818-85) were 28,400 strong, while the Confederate forces under Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard and General Joseph E. Johnston (1807-91) were 30,800 strong. Going into to the battle Union forces had high hopes of routing the rebels and putting a quick end to the war. The battle went back and forth between the Confederates and Union troops until Johnston's reinforcements arrived. This lead to a rout of the Union army, a major Confederate victory and dashed northern hopes of the war coming to a quick conclusion. The battle resulted in 2,700 Union casualties and 2,200 Confederate casualties.

2. Battle of Appomattox Station and Court House (1865)

The Battle of Appomattox Station and Court House took place on April 9th and was one of the final battles of the American Civil War. The Union Army led by Grant was 120,000 men strong, completely outnumbering Lee's Confederate army of only 30,000. Two days before the battle Lee had received a letter from Grant requesting his surrender but he refused. Lee was hopeful that his men could get to Lynchburg while fending off the Union calvary before any infantry showed up. After early fighting Lee received reports of Union infantry and decided to surrender to Grant since there was no reason to keep retreating. After correspondence Lee and Grant met to discuss surrender terms shortly after midday, effectively but not officially ending the American Civil War. The casualties on both sides of this battle were light, with 260 Union casualties and 440 Confederate.

1. Battle of Gettysburg (1863)

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought between July 1st and 3rd in Adams Country, Pennsylvania near the town of Gettysburg. The Union army was commanded by Major General George G. Meade (1815-72) and was 82,289 men strong, while the Confederate army was commanded by Robert E. Lee and was 75,000 men strong. The battle of Gettysburg was the culmination of Lee's Gettysburg Campaign in order to try and obtain badly needed supplies, undermine northern morale and encourage anti-war action in the north. What resulted from this campaign however was the largest and deadliest battle of the American Civil War, with 23,049 Union casualties and 28,063 Confederate casualties. Following his defeat Lee retreated back to Virginia with his army but would never invade the north again and would be pushed back towards Richmond for the remainder of the war. The aftermath of Gettysburg was a turning point in the war as the loss of the battle, along with the Confederate surrender at Vicksburg the following day is seen as the turning point in the war that would lead to victory by the Union. Months after the battle Lincoln would deliver his Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, one of the best known speeches in American history.


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