The Battle of Fort Sumter



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History: Civil War Battles Breakdown Period: _______________________________

1. The Battle of Fort Sumter
Time and place: April 12-14, 1861, Charleston Harbor, South Carolina
Confederate Leader: General Joseph E. Johnson

Union Leader: Major Robert Anderson


Battle Breakdown:

Major Anderson, the leader of the Union forces in Charleston, moved his men to a fortified island fort, Fort Sumter. However, because he was surrounded by the Confederate Army, he began to run out of food and fuel and needed supplies. The Confederation knew this and they were hoping that Major Anderson and his soldiers would leave South Carolina without a fight. He refused to leave, however, and General Beauregard bombarded Fort Sumter from all sides. There were several After many hours of bombardment, Anderson realized that he had no chance to win the battle. He was almost out of food and ammunition and his forces were badly outnumbered, so he surrendered the fort to the Southern Army.


Significance of the Battle:

The Battle of Fort Sumter was the first battle of the American Civil War and signaled the start of the war. Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas joined the Confederation. West Virginia broke away from Virginia to become their own state so they could stay with the Union.

2. The First Battle of Bull Run
Time and place: July 21, 1861, Manassas, Virginia
Confederate Leaders: General P.G.T. Beauregard and General Joseph E. Johnston.

Union Leaders: General Irvin McDowell and General Robert Patterson


Battle Breakdown:

On the morning of July 21, 1861, General McDowell ordered the Union army to attack. The two inexperienced armies ran into many difficulties. The Union plan was far too complex for the young soldiers to implement and the Confederate army had troubles communicating. However, the superior numbers of the Union began to push the Confederates back. It looked like the Union was going to win the battle.

One famous part of the battle occurred at Henry House Hill. It was on this hill that Confederate Colonel Thomas Jackson and his forces held back the Union troops. It was said that he held the hill like a "stone wall." This earned him the nickname "Stonewall" Jackson. He would later become one of the most famous Confederate generals of the war.

While Stonewall Jackson held off the Union attack, Confederate reinforcements arrived from General Joseph Johnston who had been able to avoid Union General Robert Patterson to join the battle. Johnston's army made the difference pushing back the Union army. With a final cavalry charge led by Confederate Colonel Jeb Stuart, the Union army was in full retreat. The Confederates had won the first major battle of the Civil War.


Significance of the Battle:
The battle left both sides realizing that this would be a long and horrible war. The day after the battle, President Lincoln signed a bill that authorized the enlistment of 500,000 new Union soldiers.

3. The Battle of Antietam


Time and place: September 17, 1862, Sharpsburg, Maryland
Confederate Leader: General Robert E. Lee

Union Leader: General George B. McClellan


Battle Breakdown:

The Union army attacked the Confederate army on the left flank. Throughout the day the battle would continue. First the Union would attack then the Confederates would counterattack. The fighting was fierce and the day would be one of the bloodiest in American history.

Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Confederate army continued to hold their ground throughout the day. General McClellan was cautious and never committed his entire force, while Robert E. Lee had his entire army engaged in battle in order to hold off the Union soldiers. Lee continued to fight, but he also began to retreat back to Virginia.

From a military standpoint, neither side was a winner in the Battle of Antietam. The North, however, claimed victory as Lee's army was forced to retreat from Maryland and Union soil. Also, Great Britain and France continued to not recognize the Confederacy as a legal nation. At the same time, Abraham Lincoln was disappointed that General McClellan did not pursue the Confederate army when they were wounded and retreating. More decisive action from McClellan may have ended the Civil War much earlier.


Significance of the Battle:
One of the most important results of the battle was that Abraham Lincoln decided to use the victory as an opportunity to announce the Emancipation Proclamation. This document promised freedom for slaves in the South once the Union took back control.

4. Battle of Fredericksburg


Time and place: December 11-15, 1862, Fredericksburg, Virginia
Confederate Leader: General Robert E. Lee

Union Leader: Major General Ambrose Burnside


Battle Breakdown:

Union General Burnside would use floating pontoon bridges to move his army quickly across the Rappahannock River and surprise General Lee. Unfortunately, his plan was doomed from the start. The soldiers arrived weeks before the pontoon bridges arrived. While Burnside waited on his bridges, The Confederates rushed their army to Fredericksburg. They dug in on the hills overlooking Fredericksburg and were waiting for the Union soldiers to cross.

By the time the bridges were assembled, the Confederate Army was still dug into the hills outside of the city. On December 13, 1862, General Burnside and the Union Army were ready to attack. Burnside thought he would surprise the Confederates by attacking them head on at their strength.

Although the Confederates were surprised at the strategy of the Union Army, they were very ready for them. The frontal attack turned out to be a foolish plan as the Union soldiers were mowed down by Confederate fire. By the end of the day the Union had suffered so many losses, they were forced to retreat.


Significance of the Battle:

The Battle of Fredericksburg was a major defeat for the Union Army. Although the Union vastly outnumbered the Confederates, they suffered over twice as many casualties. This battle signaled the low-point of the war for the Union. The South celebrated their victory while President Lincoln came under increasing political pressure for not ending the war quickly.


5. The Battle of Chancellorsville


Time and place: April 30, 1863 – May 6, 1863, Chancellorsville, Virginia
Confederate Leader: General Robert E. Lee

Union Leader: Major General Ambrose Burnside


Battle Breakdown:

General Robert E. Lee's army was dug into the hills near Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was guarding the way to the Confederate capital of Richmond. Union general Joseph Hooker put together a plan to attack Lee and force him to retreat. He would take part of his army and sneak up on Lee from the side while the rest of his army kept Lee busy from the front. Hooker felt sure of his plan and his victory. He had an overwhelming force of 130,000 Union soldiers and Lee only had 60,000 Confederates.



The Battle

Union General Joseph Hooker planned to attack Robert E. Lee, who was guarding the Confederate capital of Richmond. He led a large number of troops to sneak up on the side of the Confederate Army. He had them trapped. Surely Robert E. Lee would retreat.

Then things started to go wrong. Instead of retreating, Lee attacked Hooker's army at Chancellorsville. The Confederate army quickly split into two forces. Lee sent half of his soldiers, led by General Stonewall Jackson, to attack Hooker's army from the side. The Confederates continued to attack over the next several days. General Lee constantly maneuvered his fewer forces to keep them from getting overwhelmed by the larger Union army. After several days of fighting, the Union Army was forced to retreat.
Significance of the Battle:
Even though they had won the battle, the Confederate Army was considerably weakened. They lost 13,000 of their 60,000 men, which was a large percentage of their soldiers. They also lost one of their best generals when Stonewall Jackson was accidentally shot by his own men.

6. The Battle of Gettysburg


Time and place: July 1, 1863 - July 3, 1863, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Confederate Leader: General Robert E. Lee

Union Leader: Major General Ambrose Burnside


Battle Breakdown:

The Battle took place over three days. On the first day the armies were still coming together. The Confederates outnumbered the Union the first day and caused them to retreat through the town of Gettysburg to the south side of town. General Lee wanted his men to continue the attack and finish off the Union troops. However, his men delayed and the Union had the opportunity to dig in and set up their defenses.

By the second day, the armies from both sides were now at full force. The Union had around 94,000 soldiers and the Confederates around 72,000. Lee attacked and there was fierce fighting throughout the day with both sides taking heavy losses. The Union lines held.

The third day, General Lee decided to make an all or nothing attack. He felt if he could win this battle, the South would win the war. He sent General Pickett, with 12,500 men, on a direct charge at the heart of the Union Army. This famous attack is called Pickett's Charge. Pickett's men were defeated with over half of them injured or killed. General Lee and the Confederate Army retreated.

The Battle of Gettysburg was the deadliest battle of the Civil War. There were around 46,000 casualties including nearly 8,000 deaths. General Meade and the Union Army were exhausted and had many casualties and deaths of their own to deal with. They did not pursue Lee's Army. President Lincoln was disappointed that Meade did not pursue General Lee as he felt the entire Confederate army could have been defeated and the war ended that day.
Significance of the Battle:
This battle was one of the most important battles of the Civil War for the North. Robert E. Lee had invaded the North and was trying to defeat the Union Army once and for all. However, the Union Army held him off and sent him retreating. This was a major turning point in the war.

7. The Siege of Vicksburg


Time and place: May 18, 1863 - July 4, 1863, Vicksburg, Mississippi
Confederate Leader: General John Pemberton

Union Leader: General Ulysses S. Grant


Battle Breakdown:

Union General Grant's army approached Vicksburg. The Confederate Army of General Pemberton were dug in. They were going to be nearly impossible to defeat while hiding behind the defenses of the city. Over the first couple of days, Grant tried to break into the city by overwhelming them with his superior numbers, but it didn't work. Many Union soldiers lost their lives and the Confederates still held the city.


Grant then decided to lay siege to the city. He would bomb them constantly and wait until they ran out of food. He knew that eventually they would have to surrender.
The conditions in the city got worse and worse over the next several weeks. The people in the city began to run out of food. They started to eat anything available including the horses, dogs, and cats. Near the end they were even eating rats and tree bark. Because of malnutrition, many of the soldiers became sick from diseases like scurvy, dysentery, and malaria.
In addition to not having food, the city was constantly being bombed. People couldn't safely walk the streets or live in their houses. They had to hide day and night in their basements or dug out caves in the hills. The Confederates had had enough and surrendered to Grant.

Significance of the Battle:
The Siege of Vicksburg was a great victory for the Union. It gave control of the Mississippi River to the Union. Around the same time, the Confederate army under General Robert E. Lee was defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg. These two victories marked the major turning point of the Civil War in favor of the Union.

8. The Fall of Atlanta and Sherman’s March to the Sea


Time and place: Fall of Atlanta: July 22, 1864. March to the Sea: November 15 – December 21, 1864
Confederate Leader: General John Hood

Union Leader: General Ulysses S. Grant


Battle Breakdown:
Prior to his famous march to the sea, General Sherman led 100,000 men into the southern city of Atlanta where he defeated Confederate General John Hood at the Battle of Atlanta.

After establishing control of Atlanta, General Sherman decided to march to Savannah, Georgia and take control of the seaport there. He was well into enemy territory, however, and didn't have supply lines back to the north. This was considered a risky march. What he decided to do was live off the land. He would take from the farmers and livestock along the way to feed his army.


General Sherman also decided that he could hurt the Confederacy even further by destroying cotton gins, lumber mills, and other industries that helped the Confederate economy. His army burned, looted, and destroyed much that was in their path during the march. This was a deep blow to the resolve of the Southern people.

During the march, Sherman divided up his army in four different forces. This helped to spread out the destruction and give his troops more area to get food and supplies. It also helped to confuse the Confederate Army so they weren't sure exactly what city he was marching to.

When Sherman arrived in Savannah, the small Confederate force that was there fled and the mayor of Savannah surrendered with little fight. Sherman would write a letter to President Lincoln telling him he had captured Savannah as a Christmas gift to the president.
Significance of the Battle:
General Sherman's march through the state of Georgia from Atlanta to Savannah was one of the most devastating blows to the South in the American Civil War. Not only did he take control of Atlanta, a major railroad hub, and Savannah, a major seaport, but he laid the land between Atlanta and Savannah to waste, destroying all that was in his path.

9. Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse


Time and place: April 9, 1865, Appomattox, Virginia
Confederate Leader: General Robert E. Lee

Union Leader: General Ulysses S. Grant


Battle Breakdown:
In early 1865, the Union Army began marching through the state of Virginia, pushing back the Confederate forces. In hopes of uniting with more Confederate troops in North Carolina, General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army abandoned the capital of Richmond and retreated. However, the Union Army soon cut off their retreat and they were forced to stop at Appomattox, Virginia.

General Grant and the Union Army had the Confederates surrounded. The Confederates were low on supplies, many soldiers were deserting, and they were greatly outnumbered. Upon looking at the conditions and the odds, General Lee felt he had no choice but to surrender.



The two Generals, Lee and Grant, met on April 9, 1865 to discuss the surrender of Lee's army. General Grant came and met Lee at the McLean house in Appomattox. Grant had great respect for Lee and, before they got down to surrender terms, he actually made some small talk with Lee.

Significance of the Battle:
General Grant had already discussed terms with President Lincoln. President Lincoln wanted peace to come to the Union and felt he needed to treat the Confederate soldiers such that they would not rebel again. The terms of the surrender were generous: Confederate soldiers would have to turn in their rifles, but they could return home immediately and keep their horses or mules. They were also given food as many of them were very hungry.

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