Civil War 1861 Timeline

What Happened In The Civil War During 1861?

The Civil War began in 1861 when the Rebels fired upon Fort Sumter. Some other major events of 1861 are: Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as the 16th president of the United States, the Southern states secede from the Union, the Confederate States of America’s government is formed with Jefferson Davis as its president, Robert E. Lee resigns from the United States Army and decides to fight for the South, both North and South begin to fill their armies by calling for volunteers, United States General-In-Chief Winfield Scott proposes his Anaconda Plan, the Border States are established, the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) is fought, George B. McClellan becomes commander of the Army of the Potomac, Ulysses S. Grant has command of Federal troops in southeastern Missouri and southeastern Illinois, William Tecumseh Sherman has a short time of command in the eastern and central parts of Kentucky, Ball’s Bluff is a Union disaster, Winfield Scott is replaced by George B. McClellan as general-in-chief, and the Trent Affair causes diplomatic problems for the Union.


“I cannot comprehend the madness of the times. Southern men are theoretically crazy. Extreme northern men are practical fools, the latter are really quite as bad as the former. Treason is in the air around us every where & goes by the name of Patriotism.”
… Words of Thomas Corwin to Abraham Lincoln on January 16, 1861.

1–6 – During this stretch of dates Southern state militias are busy. Fort Pulaski in Savannah, Georgia, two forts and an arsenal in Alabama, and a United States Arsenal in Apalachicola, Florida, are all occupied by state militias.

5 – A caucus is held by United States senators from six gulf states and Arkansas. Their conclusion is that reconciliation is only a waste of time, and that the slave states should secede and form a confederacy.

Star of the West

Star of the West

5 – The Star of the West is loaded with 200 troops and provisions as it leaves New York. The ship is sailing to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina to provide relief for the troops on duty there.

8 – Jacob Thompson resigns his position as the Mississippi Secretary of the Interior.

9 – The Star of the West has made its way to the South Carolina coast, but rebel fire prevents the ship from entering Charleston Harbor, it returns to New York.

“The first gun of the new struggle for independence [if struggle there is to be] has been fired, and Federal power has received its first repulse.”
… An excerpt from an editorial by the Charleston Mercury on January 10, 1861.

9 – Mississippi secedes from the Union.

10 – Florida secedes from the Union.

11 – Alabama secedes from the Union.

19 – Georgia secedes from the Union.

“The day that Georgia was declared out of the Union was a day of the wildest excitement in Rome [Rome, Georgia]. There was no order or prearrangement about it all, but the people met each other and shook hands and exchanged congratulations over it and manifested the utmost enthusiasm. Of course, a great many of the older and wiser heads looked on with a great deal of foreboding at these rejoicings and evidence of delight, but the general feeling was one of excitement and joy.”
… Georgian Mary A. Ward speaking before Congress after the war.

19 – In an attempt to stave off secession, the state of Virginia proposes a national peace conference.

21 – The United States Senate loses five more members from the South (others had resigned in December, 1860) as they resign. Notable among these resigning senators is Jefferson Davis of Mississippi.

26 – Louisiana secedes from the Union.

29 – After losing five states to secession, the new state of Kansas is admitted as the thirty-fourth state of the Union. The Kansas state constitution prohibits slavery.


“Upon my weary heart was showered smiles, plaudits, and flowers, but beyond them, I saw troubles and thorns innumerable. We are without machinery, without means, and threatened by a powerful opposition; but I do not despond and will not shrink from the task imposed on me.”
… Jefferson Davis, the provisional president of the Confederate States of America, writes to his wife, Varina, in February, 1861.

1 – Texas secedes from the Union.

“I am for the Union without any ‘if.’”
… Unlike others in his state, Texas Governor Sam Houston was not in favor of secession.

4 – Virginia’s national Peace Convention opens in Washington, D.C. with former President John Tyler presiding. There are 131 delegates from 21 states in attendance, but there are no delegates present from the seceded states. The convention is boycotted by states of the Deep South.

4 – The six seceded states begin to organize as they meet at a convention in Montgomery, Alabama to create their new government. The seceded states at this time are: South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

8 – At the Montgomery convention, the seceded states adopt a Constitution for their provisional government.

9 – The provisional Confederate Congress at Montgomery elects Jefferson Davis of Mississippi as the provisional Confederate President, and Alexander Stephens of Georgia as the Confederate provisional Vice-President.

“Mr. Davis is a man of slight sinewy figure, rather over the middle height, and of erect, soldierlike bearing. He is about fifty-five years of age; his features are regular and well-defined, but the face is thin and marked on cheek and brow with many wrinkles, and is rather careworn and haggard. One eye is apparently blind, the other is dark, piercing, intelligent.”
… A description of Jefferson Davis by William Russell of the London Times.

“You cannot transform the negro into anything one-tenth as useful or as good as what slavery enables them to be.”
… Words of Jefferson Davis, the provisional president of the Confederate States of America. February, 1861.

9 – A secession convention up for vote in Tennessee is rejected by nearly ten thousand votes.

10 – In Springfield, Illinois, a tall man named Abraham Lincoln leaves on his journey to Washington, D.C., and his place in history.

13 – The Electoral College confirms Abraham Lincoln’s election as President of the United States.

15 – Now that it has provisional President Jefferson Davis and provisional Vice-President Alexander Stephens, the Montgomery, Alabama Confederate convention acts as a provisional Congress and passes a resolution to take Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina and Fort Pickens in Pensacola Beach, Florida. The resolution says that if necessary, force can be used to take these forts.

18 – Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as the provisional President of the Confederacy.

Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis

“The man and the hour have met. Prosperity, honor and victory await his administration.”
… Fire-eater William Lowndes Yancy introducing Jefferson Davis to an enthusiastic crowd. Yancy was one of the South’s most vocal proponents for secession.

23 – Abraham Lincoln completes his journey from Springfield, Illinois when he arrives in Washington, D.C., he has many challenges awaiting him.

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Clara Barton – The Angel Of The Battlefield

Clara Barton Spent Her Life Helping And Serving Others

A young lad is badly injured when he falls from the rafters of a barn at North Oxford, Massachusetts in 1832. His name is David, and the fall makes him an invalid. Young David will spend the next two years recovering from his injuries and during this time his eleven-year-old sister stays by his bedside nursing him back to health. The sister’s name was Clara, and this was the beginning of Clara Barton’s life of caring for and helping others.

Civil War Nurse Clara Barton

Civil War Nurse Clara Barton

Clara Barton was born on Christmas day in 1821 and like her four older siblings, Clara’s schooling was at home. At age fifteen she becomes a schoolteacher and then later she starts a free public school in Bordentown, New Jersey. Clara Barton would spend her life aiding and serving others. During the Civil War, Clara Barton becomes known as “The Angel of the Battlefield.”

When the Civil War began in 1861, Clara Barton was working for the United States Patent Office and living in Washington, D.C. The women working at the Patent Office before the Civil War were known as “government girls” as they were part of the growing Federal government. These women had jobs that were previously held only by men. When the Civil War began, these “government girls” lost their jobs.

The Baltimore Riot occurs on April 19, 1861 when Massachusetts and Pennsylvania militia making their way to Washington are attacked by secessionists in Baltimore. Four militiamen and twelve citizens are killed. Clara Barton starts a relief program for the 6th Massachusetts Regiment when it arrives at Washington.

Barton advertised in the Worcester, Massachusetts, Spy newspaper for donations when she learned after First Bull Run that the injured men did not have adequate medical supplies for their needs. Clara started an independent organization to distribute the collected supplies. Her efforts were successful, and the next year Clara Barton was granted a general pass by United States Surgeon General William A. Hammond to travel along with the army ambulances. Hammond’s pass said Barton’s presence with the ambulances was: “for the purpose of distributing comforts for the sick and wounded, and nursing them.” Clara accepted this pass, but she was somewhat reluctant to do so, she was afraid she might be confused as one of the women who made it a habit of following the army – but not for the good, and higher purposes like her’s.

After Second Bull Run, Clara Barton was part of the volunteer nurses United States Secretary Edwin M. Stanton called for to help the troops spread along the defeated Union line of retreat. She gathered and solicited wagonloads of food and needed medical supplies, taking them to the troops on the front lines. Barton would aid the injured and sick, and make soup and coffee.

“The men were brought down from the field till they covered acres. By midnight there must have been three thousand helpless men lying in that hay…. All night we made compresses and slings – and bound up and wet wounds, when we could get water, fed what we could, traveled miles in that dark over to those poor helpless wretches, in terror lest some one’s candle fall into the hay and consume them all.”

— Clara Barton writing of her experiences tending to the injured men after Second Bull Run. Barton had helped spread bales of hay onto the ground for the men to lay on.

Washington, D.C. Patients in Ward K of Armory Square Hospital

Washington, D.C. Patients in Ward K of Armory Square Hospital

Clara Barton was almost killed during the Antietam Campaign in September, 1862. While she is attending to an injured soldier a bullet passes through a sleeve of her dress. The bullet misses Clara, but strikes and kills the injured soldier. Clara also dug a bullet out the cheek of another soldier using only her pocketknife. A few days after Antietam, Barton becomes ill with typhoid fever.

Clara Barton was working in field hospitals of General Benjamin Butler’s Army of the James in June, 1864. Also in 1864, Barton was part of a petition along with other notables such as Horace Greeley, P. T. Barnum, William Cullen Bryant, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, for the establishment of veteran’s homes. By 1933, fifteen such homes were built.

In February 1865, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Clara Barton to attend to correspondence to help reunite missing soldiers with their families. That July, she was at the infamous Andersonville prison in Georgia to manage the identification of unmarked graves. From hospital and burial records, Clara was able to create a list of missing prisoners.

In 1877, Clara Barton organized the American National Committee and three years later it became the American Red Cross. Clara served as the first president of the American Red Cross and she published a book in 1882, titled: History of the Red Cross.

Clara Barton retired from the Red Cross to her home at Glen Echo outside of Washington, D.C. in 1904. “The Angel of the Battlefield died on April 12, 1912.

“If I were to speak of war, it would not be to show you the glories of conquering armies but the mischief and misery they strew in their tracks; and how, while they marched on with tread of iron and plumes proudly tossing in the breeze, some one must follow closely in their steps, crouching to the earth, toiling in the rain and darkness, shelterless themselves, with no thought of pride or glory, fame or praise, or reward; hearts breaking with pity, faces bathed in tears and hands in blood. This is the side which history never shows.”

— Clara Barton

Clara Barton: The Beginnings of the American Red Cross