The South Secedes
When Abraham Lincoln, a known opponent of slavery, was elected president, the South Carolina legislature perceived a threat. Calling a state convention, the delegates voted to remove the state of South Carolina from the union known as the United States of America. The secession of South Carolina was followed by the secession of six more states—Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas–and the threat of secession by four more—Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. These eleven states eventually formed the Confederate States of America.
The South Creates a Government
At a convention in Montgomery, Alabama, the seven seceding states created the Confederate Constitution, a document similar to the United States Constitution, but with greater stress on the autonomy of each state. Jefferson Davis was named provisional president of the Confederacy until elections could be held.
The South Seizes Federal Forts
When President Buchanan—Lincoln's predecessor—refused to surrender southern federal forts to the seceding states, southern state troops seized them. At Fort Sumter, South Carolina troops repulsed a supply ship trying to reach federal forces based in the fort. The ship was forced to return to New York, its supplies undelivered.
At Lincoln's inauguration on March 4, the new president said he had no plans to end slavery in those states where it already existed, but he also said he would not accept secession. He hoped to resolve the national crisis without warfare.
Attack on Fort Sumter
When President Lincoln planned to send supplies to Fort Sumter, he alerted the state in advance, in an attempt to avoid hostilities. South Carolina, however, feared a trick; the commander of the fort, Robert Anderson, was asked to surrender immediately. Anderson offered to surrender, but only after he had exhausted his supplies. His offer was rejected, and on April 12, the Civil War began with shots fired on the fort. Fort Sumter eventually was surrendered to South Carolina.
Four More States Join the Confederacy
The attack on Fort Sumter prompted four more states to join the Confederacy. With Virginia's secession, Richmond was named the Confederate capitol.
West Virginia Is Born
Residents of the western counties of Virginia did not wish to secede along with the rest of the state. This section of Virginia was admitted into the Union as the state of West Virginia on June 20, 1863.
Four Slave States Stay in the Union
Despite their acceptance of slavery, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri did not join the Confederacy. Although divided in their loyalties, a combination of political maneuvering and Union military pressure kept these states from seceding.
First Battle of Bull Run
Public demand pushed General-in-Chief Winfield Scott to advance on the South before adequately training his untried troops. Scott ordered General Irvin McDowell to advance on Confederate troops stationed at Manassas Junction, Virginia. McDowell attacked on July 21, and was initially successful, but the introduction of Confederate reinforcements resulted in a Southern victory and a chaotic retreat toward Washington by federal troops.
None of the included photographs of First Bull Run were made at the time of battle (July 21); the photographers had to wait until the Confederate Army evacuated Centreville and Manassas in March 1862. Their views of various landmarks of the previous summer are arranged according to the direction of the federal advance, a long flanking movement by Sudley's Ford.
General McDowell Is Replaced
Suddenly aware of the threat of a protracted war and the army's need for organization and training, Lincoln replaced McDowell with General George B. McClellan.
A Blockade of the South
To blockade the coast of the Confederacy effectively, the federal navy had to be improved. By July, the effort at improvement had made a difference and an effective blockade had begun. The South responded by building small, fast ships that could outmaneuver Union vessels.
Port Royal, South Carolina—1861-1862
On November 7, 1861, Captain Samuel F. Dupont's warships silenced Confederate guns in Fort Walker and Fort Beauregard. This victory enabled General Thomas W. Sherman's troops to occupy first Port Royal and then all the famous Sea Islands of South Carolina, where Timothy H. O'Sullivan recorded them making themselves at home.
Confederate Winter Quarters—1861-1862
These photographs show Confederate winter quarters at Manassas, Centreville, Fairfax Court House, and Falls Church, Virginia.
This time line was compiled by Joanne Freeman and owes a special debt to the Encyclopedia of American History by Richard B. Morris.