The American Civil War was a four-year armed conflict between northern and southern sections of the United States. It also is called the War Between the States, the War of the Rebellion, the War for the Union, and the War for Southern Independence. Many Civil War battles also have more than one name; in this article, the more common names are used, with alternative names in parentheses. The fighting began April 12, 1861, and lasted until April and May, 1865. There was neither a formal declaration of war nor a formal armistice.

UniformsUniforms of the Union Army.

The Civil War cost more American lives than any other war in history. What began for many as a romantic adventure soon became a heartbreaking bitter struggle between the two parts of a divided country. Families were divided, sometimes with brother fighting against brother.

The North far surpassed the South in population, wealth, industrial capacity, and natural resources. The South, however, had the advantage of fighting a defensive war. It did not have to conquer the North to win, but had merely to wear it out.

Important events during the American Civil War
1861
April 12 Confederate troops attacked Fort Sumter.
April 15 Lincoln issued a call for troops.
April 19 Lincoln proclaimed a blockade of the South.
May 21 Richmond, Virginia, chosen as the Confederate capital.
July 21 Northern troops retreated in disorder after the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas).
1862
Feb. 6 Fort Henry fell to Union forces.
Feb. 16 Grant's troops captured Fort Donelson.
March 9 The ironclad ships Monitor and Merrimack (Virginia) battled to a draw.
April 6-7 Both sides suffered heavy losses in the Battle of Shiloh, won by the Union.
April 16 The Confederacy began to draft soldiers.
April 18-25 Farragut attacked and captured New Orleans.
May 4 McClellan's Union troops occupied Yorktown, Virginia, and advanced on Richmond.
May 30 Northern forces occupied Corinth, Mississippi.
June 6 Memphis fell to Union armies.
June 25-July 1 Confederate forces under Lee saved Richmond in the Battles of the Seven Days.
Aug. 27-30 Lee and Jackson led Southern troops to victory in the Second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas).
Sept. 17 Confederate forces retreated in defeat after the bloody Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg).
Sept. 22 Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
Oct. 8 Buell's forces ended Bragg's invasion of Kentucky in the Battle of Perryville.
Dec. 13 Burnside's Union forces received a crushing blow in the Battle of Fredericksburg.
Dec. 31-Jan. 2, 1863 Union troops under Rosecrans forced the Confederates to retreat after the Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro).
1863
Jan. 1 Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
March 3 The North passed a draft law.
May 1-4 Northern troops under Hooker were defeated in the Battle of Chancellorsville.
May 1-19 Grant's army defeated the Confederates in Mississippi and began to besiege Vicksburg.
July 1-3 The Battle of Gettysburg ended in a Southern defeat and marked a turning point in the war.
July 4 Vicksburg fell to Northern troops.
July 8 Northern forces occupied Port Hudson, Louisiana.
Sept. 19-20 Southern troops under Bragg won the Battle of Chickamauga.
Nov. 19 Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.
Nov. 23-25 Grant and Thomas led Union armies to victory in the Battle of Chattanooga.
1864
March 9 Grant became general in chief of the North.
May 5-6 Union and Confederate troops clashed in the Battle of the Wilderness.
May 8-19 Grant and Lee held their positions in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.
June 3 The Union suffered heavy losses on the final day of the Battle of Cold Harbor.
June 20 Grant's troops laid siege to Petersburg, Virginia.
July 11-12 Early's Confederate forces almost reached Washington but retreated after brief fighting.
Aug. 5 Farragut won the Battle of Mobile Bay.
Sept. 2 Northern troops under Sherman captured Atlanta.
Sept. 19-Oct. 19 Sheridan led his troops on a rampage of destruction in the Shenandoah Valley.
Nov. 8 Lincoln was reelected president.
Nov. 15 Sherman began his march through Georgia.
Nov. 23 Hood invaded Tennessee.
Nov. 30 Schofield's Union forces inflicted heavy losses on Hood in the Battle of Franklin.
Dec. 15-16 The Battle of Nashville smashed Hood's army.
Dec. 21 Sherman's troops occupied Savannah, Georgia.
1865
Feb. 6 Lee became general in chief of the South.
April 2 Confederate troops gave up Petersburg and Richmond.
April 9 Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox.
April 14 Lincoln was shot. He died the following morning.
April 26 Johnston surrendered to Sherman.
May 4 Confederate forces in Alabama and Mississippi surrendered.
May 11 Jefferson Davis was captured.
May 26 The last Confederate troops surrendered.