Major Events

Home/Major Events

Major Events That Happened During the Civil War

Bleeding Kansas


Bleeding Kansas was the result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed in 1854. This act superseded the Missouri Compromise of 1820.

Under this act it was up to the settlers in Kansas to vote and decide if they wanted to allow slavery or not allow slavery.

Since Kansas borders Missouri many pro-slavery people began moving to Kansas from Missouri. Anti-slavery settlers also begin moving to Kansas coming primarily from northern states.

These people were called free-soil settlers and they also included abolitionist who were fanatically against slavery.

The Pro-slavery and free-soil settlers could never get along with each other. Violence soon began to break out between the two groups.

If you would like to learn more about Bleeding Kansas read Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era

Since the Kansas-Nebraska Act enabled the people who lived in the territory to decide if Kansas would be a free state or slave state each side scrambled to get as many people into the territory as possible so they could win the vote which would decide the future of Kansas.

Bleeding Kansas

Bleeding Kansas

Each side also setup their own government in the territory with the free-soil settlers capital in Lawrence and the pro-slavery capital in Lecompton only a few miles away. United States President Franklin Pierce only recognized the pro slavery capital.

The Free-soil settlers simply wanted to live in peace and work their land, slavery was of no concern to them but they did not want it anywhere near them. These were farmers who wanted the land for themselves. Free-soil settlers were just as racist as the pro-slavery settlers and they knew that plantations near them meant less land and more African Americans, this was the reason they fought so hard against the pro-slavery settlers.

Bleeding Kansas is Similar to Another Conflict

The fight between the groups in Kansas is very similar to the fight in later decades between the homesteaders and the cattle barons out west. Homesteaders wanted land that they could fence in and farm or raise livestock while the cattle barons wanted open spaces so they could freely move their cattle across the country. Fences prevented the cattle barons from using the land.

In both instances it was all about the land and who controlled it.

It was only the abolitionists led by people such as John Brown who truly despised the entire institution of slavery and who fought for the freedom of all slaves. The abolitionists were a small fringe group and only made up a small percentage of the people in Kansas.

Free-soil settlers far outnumbered both abolitionists and pro-slavery settlers.

Bleeding Kansas Gets Violent

There was sporadic violence in the territory until on May 21st 1856 pro-slavery men attacked and ransacked the free-soil capital of Lawrence.

This was a coordinated attack against a free-soil town. It caused a lot of damage, the pro-slavery men burned many buildings down including the hotel and newspaper building.

On May 24th 1856 in retaliation a small group of Abolitionist led by John Brown attacked and murdered five pro-slavery settlers which came to be known as the Pottawatomie massacre.

The last major act of violence in Kansas took place on May 19th 1858 when eleven free-soil settlers were kidnapped by thirty pro-slavery men from Missouri. The free-soil men were taken to a ravine where they were shot. Five of the men were killed, five were wounded, and one escaped without being harmed. This event took place near the Marais des Cygnes river and is remembered as the Marais des Cygnes massacre.

Bleeding Kansas was finally resolved with the start of the Civil War in 1861. After the southern states seceded from the Union Kansas was formally declared a free state and joined the United States.

Approximately 56 people were killed resulting from the events of Bleeding Kansas.

Bleeding Kansas2019-11-30T21:57:51-05:00

Trent Affair

The Trent Affair was a diplomatic incident that occurred on November 8th 1861 between the United States and England during the Civil War. A United States ship the San Jacinto operating in the Caribbean stopped the British mail ship the Trent and arrested four of its passengers.

In October 1861 the USS San Jacinto commanded by Captain Charles Wilkes was returning from a voyage off the west coast of Africa.

Charles Wilkes Captain of the San Jacinto during the Trent Affair

Charles Wilkes Captain of the San Jacinto during the Trent Affair

The San Jacinto stopped at St. Thomas in the Caribbean to take on coal. While there, they learned that a Confederate Navy cruiser the Sumter commanded by Captain Raphael Semmes had recently been in the area.

Eager to capture this Confederate ship Captain Wilkes immediately set sail in an attempt to find it.

Trent Affairs begins with Two Confederate Commissioners

Reaching port on the south coast of Cuba Captain Wilkes learned that two Confederate commissioners to Europe, James M. Mason the Confederate commissioner to Great Britain and John Slidell the Confederate commissioner to France along with their two secretaries and families had left Charleston, South Carolina and arrived at Havana Cuba on October 17th.

John Slidell Commissioner to France involved in the Trent Affair

John Slidell Commissioner to France involved in the Trent Affair

James M. Mason Commissioner to Great Britain involved in the Trent Affair

James M. Mason Commissioner to Great Britain involved in the Trent Affair

They were set to depart for London on November 7th on the English steamer Trent. The Trent was a mail ship that also carried passengers; it was not a warship that could defend itself.

On October 26th Captain Wilkes set sail to intercept the Trent and capture the enemy agents.

Europe Sympathized with the Confederacy

Early in the Civil War England and France and most of Europe were very sympathetic to the Confederate cause. This was evident to the crew of the San Jacinto when they stopped to purchase supplies in the British possessions throughout the Caribbean. In St. Thomas, the Caymans and Cuba they were received with indifference from the locals. Prior to the Civil War these places were happy to sell provisions to United States ships but now they were much less interested in helping.

The Confederate cruiser Sumter, which the San Jacinto was still searching for, had stopped in the Caymans only days ahead of the San Jacinto. The locals praised the Sumter and talked highly of their crew while being less than eager to help Union ships.

Intercepting the British Mail Ship Trent

Leaving the Cayman islands Captain Wilkes correctly calculated the probable route the Trent would take and on November 8th the San Jacinto was lying in wait for the Trent in a narrow part of the Bahama channel about 240 miles from Havana when the Trent appeared.

As the Trent approached the San Jacinto Captain Wilkes fired a warning shot in an attempt to force it to stop. Not responding to this shot the Trent continued toward the San Jacinto. Captain Wilkes fired another shot directly in front of the Trent’s bow. This shot brought the Trent to a halt.

Captain Wilkes ordered his executive officer Donald McNeil Fairfax to take three small cutter boats, with an armed crew, board the Trent, demand the passenger list, arrest the two commissioners and their two secretaries and take the Trent as a prize.

Eager to avoid having the Trent Affair start an international incident which might cause England and France to declare war on the United States, Fairfax decided to do everything he could to disobey the order to capture the Trent.

Launching three small boats from the San Jacinto Fairfax along with a boarding party arrived at the Trent. He quickly explained to Captain Moir of the Trent the purpose of boarding his ship was to arrest the two commissioners and their two secretaries. He made no mention of capturing the Trent.

After hearing the reason for boarding the ship the passengers on the Trent, which numbered around 100 people, started screaming and becoming disorderly, threating to throw the men from the San Jacinto overboard. The executive officer demanded that Captain Moir restore order and threatened that every move being made on the Trent was being carefully watched by the San Jacinto and all guns were trained on the ship ready to fire.

Fairfax was afraid if things became too out of control the Captain of the Trent would simply give up his ship and force the United States to take it as a prize. While this is what Captain Wilkes intended to do from the beginning, it was exactly what Fairfax did not want to happen.

With Fairfax’s threat of opening fire on the Trent and Captain Moir’s ability to calm the passengers things began to calm down and order was restored. The two commissioners and their two secretaries were taken off the Trent and loaded with their luggage onto the San Jacinto.

On returning to the San Jacinto Fairfax explained to Captain Wilkes his reasons for not capturing the Trent. He gave two reasons; the first was that the San Jacinto would have to put a large prize crew aboard the Trent. This would weaken the ability of the remaining crew on the San Jacinto if they were to get into a battle. Second, since there were so many women, children and mail parcels on the Trent all destined for different ports, it would severely inconvenience everyone on board, so it would be better to release the Trent and let it continue on its voyage.

These reasons satisfied Captain Wilkes and the Trent was allowed to go free.  The four prisoners were sent to Fort Warren in Boston, MA. England and France both protested these arrests and demanded the release of the men. On January 1st 1862 the four prisoners were put aboard the English steamer Renaldo which was sent to Massachusetts to receive them. They sailed for England, arriving there on January 29th 1862.

The reason Fairfax disobeyed orders during the Trent Affair

Several weeks after the Trent Affair, Fairfax gave his real reason for not capturing the British ship. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase questioned Fairfax as to why he deliberately disobeyed Captain Wilkes order to capture the Trent.

The executive officer gave his real reason for disobeying the order. He reasoned that if the United States were to capture the British ship, which belonged to a neutral country it would have dire consequences which could have led to war between the United States and England. Fairfax’s decision not to capture the British ship during the Trent Affair potentially avoided a much larger incident.

Trent Affair2019-06-26T01:15:35-04:00



Reconstruction of the devastated south was very important. The Civil War was over. The North had claimed victory and now the time was at hand to claim the spoils that war rewards. A monumental task lay in front of the victors; the Northern leaders were scrambling trying to put the pieces of a war-torn nation back in place. Where to begin? Reconstruction.

The term refers to the rebuilding of something usually that was destroyed or diminished by an outside-unforeseen enemy. This was not the case, for the Union leaders who now had the unenviable job of reconnecting a country so ravaged by war, brother against brother.

President Lincoln was at the helm of the rebuilding effort and he alone was to lead the country back from the dark ages of war. This is not to say that Lincoln did not have assistance, for he did and some of that assistance was negative. Feuding factions within the Union threatened to bring the country to the brink of sheer destruction. A country that is still licking its gaping wounds was a vulnerable one at best.

President Lincoln realized this and knew what he had to do in order to save the red, white, and blue. Thousands of men had sacrificed their lives from both sides in one of the bloodiest conflicts the country could ever know. Regardless of the future wars, and they were traumatic, dramatic, casualty-filled battles on foreign soil, none would compare to the loss of life as the Civil War. Reconstruction was on the Presidents mind and not much else.

How to reconstruct the destroyed south? That was the main goal of the Reconstruction effort. The North had to devise a way to reinvent the South in everything that is required for a country. Commerce, residential, shipping, and farming. So many important points of interest and none more important as the one that was the cause of the war, slavery. The idea of slavery, which had been abolished by the Union victory, needed to be enforced.

That meant that troops were to be positioned in the South all through the sector. Dissent and hatred of the Boys in Blue, ran deeper than in the war itself. Not only did the South resent the North for all that had transpired during the war, they must now house, feed, and entertain the occupying force. The amendments of the Constitution, 13,14, and 15, outlawed all forms of slavery in the entire United States.

A great first step that had come with a heavy price. The free black slaves numbered in the millions, four million to be exact. That is a huge influx of humanity, new citizens that had to be counted, indoctrinated into the country that once had enslaved them.

The African-Americans that now found themselves on the street with nowhere to go were left to their own devices. What were they to do? Some actually stayed on as free-slaves as they had nowhere else to go. The irony of freedom. Free but still enslaved. A new dark age was creeping into the spotlight. Redemption.

This was what the South had in mind. The abolition of slavery was a Northern mandate. Resentment still ran deep, deep as the Mississippi. Something was brewing in the slave quarters and in the white houses of the plantation owners, and it was not good. It was a great start, yet, in itself, not the best solution. Time would prove that.


Missouri Compromise

The Missouri Compromise was the result of the problem of slavery. The slavery issue was at hand for many decades before the territory of Missouri decided it was to be the pivotal player in 1818. Petitioning Congress was the usual route for gaining admission into the United States, and that is what Missouri decided to do. Post-Revolutionary America had seen an explosion in both territory and state admission.

United States at the time of the Missouri Compromise in 1820

United States at the time of the Missouri Compromise in 1820

One must remember that a territory of the US was not the same as being an official state. Missouri was an expansive mid-western territory and was a piece of the land gained during the Louisiana Purchase.

The US had done a fairly good job of containing law and order even with the institution of slavery within its borders. Divisions were made and there where already thousands of supporters against slavery.

The Missouri Compromise – Free vs Slave States

Of the 22 states of the Union in 1818, 11 were free and 11 were slave states. This created a seemingly fair and equal balance of power for the states in the Senate but not in the House of Representatives. Since the House is inclusive of representatives per population, the free states had more voices since they had more citizens.

In 1819, New York representative James Tallmadge set up a proposal to the House that would ban slavery in the newly created territory of Missouri. The slave population in Missouri at the time of the slavery ban petition was 2,000. That is a substantial population in pre-war American territories and was a constant in newly formed locations in the US.

Political Differences Required a Solution

This line in the sand around the issue of slavery was not a new development. Men and women alike had formed political groups as soon as the first slaves arrived on these shores many years prior. The free states called the institution of slavery a “peculiar institution”.

The slave issue had been a staple of the Southern man’s life and there was no way that the average land owning southerner was going to give this up. Not without a fight. The years before the Civil War had seen many near misses and the citizens of America were poised to fight for their rights and beliefs. The pain of the Revolution and the loss of life in that war saw enough time pass to be out of the collective conscience of America.

Blood was on the minds of many of the citizens of America over the entire slave issue. On March 3rd, 1820, both Missouri and the free state of Maine were admitted into the Union. The balance was kept with one being free and one being slave. The writing was on of the wall with the inevitability of the war.

The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was signed into law on March 6th 1820 by President James Monroe. The Missouri Compromise made Missouri a slave state and Maine a free state. The law also made it lawful to own slaves from the southern border of Missouri down through to Mexico, and illegal to own slaves from that line northward to Canada.

Missouri Compromise2019-06-25T20:22:36-04:00

Lincoln Assassination

April 14th 1865

The Lincoln assassination marked one of the darkest periods in United States history. On the evening of April 14th 1865 at Ford’s Theater in Washington DC, John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln in the back of the head.

After the fatal gunshot Booth attempted to jump off of the balcony where the president was sitting. Major Rathbone, who had accompanied the Lincoln’s as their guest that night tried to stop Booth but was slashed with a knife.

Booth eventually jumped from the balcony onto the stage. In the process Booth caught his spur on a flag that was draped over the balcony, this resulted in booth falling awkwardly and breaking his ankle.

Upon hitting the stage Booth quickly regained his footing and yelled his famous words Sic Semper Tyrannis! Which meant Thus always to tyrants!

He quickly ran out of the theater even being chased by some of the guests, jumped quickly on his horse and rode out of the city. Booth was on the run for several days hiding in swamps and woods trying to get as far south as he could. Booth believed was he reached the south he would be protected by southern sympathizers. This was not the case.

On April 14th 1865 President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth

On April 14th 1865 President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth

People in the south did not view Booth as a hero and knew this act of violence would do nothing more than punish the south for years to come. They had little sympathy for him. Booth was finally tracked down by Union cavalry and cornered inside a barn. Refusing to surrender he was shot by a Union soldier named Boston Corbett.

John Wilkes Booth would die a few short hours after being shot in the neck by Corbett.

Many people were arrested following the assassination. The conspirators who paid the biggest price and found guilty of plotting the assassination were Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, and George Atzerodt they were all hanged on July 7th 1865.

Lincoln only lived a few hours after being shot. He died in relative peace on April 15th 1865. Andrew Johnson was immediately sworn in as the 17th President of the United States.

The death of Abraham Lincoln was not only a tragedy for the North; it was just as much a tragedy for the South. Lincoln was one of only a few people who actually wanted to welcome the South back into the Union. He did not seek revenge, unlike most Union leaders. With his death, the South lost one of its biggest supporters and greatest friends.

Lincoln Assassination2019-06-25T20:22:36-04:00

Gettysburg Address

The Gettysburg address written and read by Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863 is one of the most famous and well-known speeches in history.

Gettysburg was the largest battle of the Civil War and since it was such a devastating and decisive battle people were under the impression that the president would have a lot to say about it.

This was especially true when it came to the fallen and wounded soldiers who fought so bravely for the Union during the battle.

President Lincoln instead decided to write a very short speech, if he had chosen to give a more lengthy speech it more than likely would never have been remembered as well as it is today.

This is the only known picture of Lincoln at Gettysburg

This is the only known picture of Lincoln at Gettysburg

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth
on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and
dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing
whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so
dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-
field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of
that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave
their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether
fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate…we cannot
consecrate…we cannot hallow…this ground. The brave men,
living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it
far above our poor power to add or detract. The world
will little note nor long remember what we say here, but
it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished
work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly
advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the
great task remaining before us…that from these honored
dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which
they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here
highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain;
that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of
freedom; and that government of the people, by the people,
for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg Address

After Lincoln read the speech, the crowd was silent, only a few people clapped. It was disbelief at how quick and to the point the speech was.

Only lasting two minutes Lincoln was back in his seat before the crowd could even grasp what had occurred. The abruptness of this speech is why it is still remembered today.

Gettysburg Address2019-11-30T20:39:39-05:00

Emancipation Proclamation

January 1, 1863

A Transcription

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

“That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.”

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

Emancipation Proclamation2019-06-25T20:23:32-04:00

Draft Riots

July 13th 1863 – July 16th 1863

The New York Draft Riots were the result of the decree that officially demanded that every able-bodied man in the Union be conscripted into the army was set in place by the president. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States of America, made the landmark act a law in order to fund the war chest of troops that was be needed to squash the rebellion in the South.

On March 3rd, 1863, President Lincoln signed and put in effect The Enrollment Act of Conscription.

The citizens of New York, mostly Irish immigrants from Dublin, wanted no part of the act.

They felt that the blacks that were freemen in the states of the North were their direct competition for the low-paying jobs that were available to them. This was a slap in the face to be forced to fight and die for the same people that they had no favor with.

Racial tensions were high even in the free North, with both sides upset at each other yet realizing that the President would not back down from this act. President Lincoln desired 300,000 fresh troops to instill a heavy dose of “Yank-convincing” to the upstart Rebels.

Drawing of the New York Draft Riots in 1863

Drawing of the New York Draft Riots in 1863

By the time the New York Post released the names of the conscripts in the daily paper, the streets were already filling with incensed Irish immigrants, many whose names appeared in the paper. The Irish were out for blood and they attacked and beat even lynched blacks before the Army of the Potomac was called in to quell the riot.

The New York City Draft Riots caused 1.5 million dollars worth of property damage at a time when 1.5 million was the sum of most developing nations, combined GNP’s. The loss of life was the real disaster as upwards to over 75 people, most of them the targeted, innocent, and black freemen of the city.

The loss of both property and life seemed to have little effect on the Union war movement as the riots did nothing to stop the induction of over 150,000 Union troops into the Civil War front-lines.

The Union and President Lincoln had devised an effective plan of recruitment, albeit through force, the necessary troops that would be needed to win the war. Highly criticized and lambasted at every turn, The Conscription Act had one fatal flaw and that was in the manner that it let the wealthy slip through the cracks.

There was a loophole in the act that allowed the wealthy to buy their way out of military service for the Union. This did not sit well with the poor and the down trodden who were sent to battles to kill and be killed. The poor go to war. That’s the reality of the situation and little had changed since the freedom of oppression at the hands of the colonial British.

Nothing changes when it comes to enlistment of the poor in any country. The Union had its required troop strength and the South was at the ready for the final push to the eventual end of the war.

Draft Riots2019-06-25T20:23:32-04:00

Civil War Food Riots

Civil War Food riots were the result of shortages of food in the South.

Now technically there really weren’t any food shortages in the south. In fact there was an abundance of food in the south.

The problem was it just wasn’t getting to anybody. With the Federals blocking supply routes and the railroad system in shambles it was very difficult to get a piece of corn from a farm to a city.

It got so bad that in Richmond Virginia in 1863 a mob of women and children raided the retail district of flour, other food, and clothing.

It got very serious when the mob started to steal jewelry, fine clothes, and rob banks, now that’s just getting greedy.

The mayor of Richmond had to show up and threaten the mob by saying he was going to have the army open fire on them.

Well that threat didn’t quite work.

It wasn’t until Jefferson Davis arrived on the scene and had to plead with the crowd to stop stealing and just go home.

He must have been pretty convincing because the crowd did break up and leave.

Civil War Food Riots2019-06-25T20:24:34-04:00
Go to Top