Civil War Timeline and History, from July to December 1862

July 1, 1862–December 31, 1862

The second year of the American Civil War continued into the second half of 1862. This timeline covers important moments from July to December, including military and political events that affected the course of the war and the history of the United States.

Civil War Timeline, History, July to December 1862, AHC Original

A timeline of the Civil War, featuring rare images from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated and Harper’s Weekly.

10 Moments That Shaped the Civil War

  1. July 17 — President Lincoln signed the Confiscation Act of 1862, which prohibited the return of slaves to the South.
  2. August 9 — The Confederate victory at the Battle of Cedar Mountain allowed them to push Union forces into Northern Virginia.
  3. August 28 — Confederates won the Second Battle of Bull Run.
  4. September 4 — Robert E. Lee started his First Invasion of the North, as Confederate forces moved into Maryland.
  5. September 17 — Union forces won the Battle of Antietam, forcing the Confederates to retreat to Virginia.
  6. September 19 — Union forces won the Battle of Iuka, stopping the Confederate advance in Mississippi.
  7. September 22 — President Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, announcing he would free all slaves in rebellious territories on January 1, 1863.
  8. October 8 — Confederate forces were defeated at the Battle of Perryville, allowing the Union to retain control of Kentucky.
  9. December 11 — Confederate forces held their ground at the First Battle of Fredericksburg.
  10. December 31 — Union forces won the Battle of Stones River, forcing Confederates to retreat southeast toward Chattanooga, Tennessee.

1862, July

July 1 — The Bureau of Internal Revenue, the forerunner of the Internal Revenue Service, was established.

July 1President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Acts, authorizing the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad

July 1 — Malvern Hill

Virginia — The final engagement of the Seven Days Battles and the end of the Peninsula Campaign. General Robert E. Lee, in a last-ditch effort, launched a series of assaults against the fortified Union position on Malvern Hill. The attacks were costly, resulting in more than 5,300 casualties. 

Despite the victory, General George B. McClellan decided to withdraw his forces to entrench at Harrison’s Landing on the James River where his army was protected by Union gunboats on the river. 

Battle of Malvern Hill, 1862, Union Line
Union lines at the Battle of Malvern Hill. Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

With McClellan’s army no longer posing a threat to Richmond, Lee sent General Stonewall Jackson to conduct operations against the army under the command of General John Pope, situated along the Rapidan River. This started the Northern Virginia Campaign, as Lee shifted his focus to confront a new Union threat.

July 2 — President Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant Act, creating a system of land-grant colleges to teach agricultural and mechanical sciences.

July 7 — Hill’s Plantation

Arkansas — Union General Samuel R. Curtis initiated a campaign to secure supplies that were originally promised but never delivered by the Navy. His target was Helena, Arkansas. 

In response, Confederates led by General Thomas C. Hindman engaged in a series of skirmishes with the advancing Union troops.

The Confederates made a stand at the Cache River on July 7. During the engagement, Union Colonel Charles Loper Harris led elements of the 11th Wisconsin, 33rd Illinois, and the 1st Indiana Cavalry forward. However, their advance led them into a Confederate ambush. The engagement escalated into a larger battle, with the Confederates launching a frontal assault that forced the Union troops to retreat approximately a quarter of a mile. However, the Union forces managed to stop the next Confederate attack.

With the arrival of reinforcements, Union forces pursued the retreating Confederates, eventually turning their retreat into a rout. Although Curtis succeeded in changing his supply base, Hindman maintained a position between Curtis and Little Rock, which was his ultimate objective.

July 11 — Lincoln named General Henry W. Halleck General-in-Chief. Halleck took command on July 23.

July 13 — Murfreesboro, First Battle

Tennessee — General Don Carlos Buell, leading the Army of the Ohio, commenced a slow advance towards Chattanooga. Chattanooga had been threatened by Union General James Negley and his forces on June 7-8, prompting the Confederate government to send General Nathan Bedford Forrest to Chattanooga with the mission of organizing a cavalry brigade. By July, Confederate cavalry under the joint command of Forrest and Colonel John Hunt Morgan were conducting raids into Middle Tennessee and Kentucky.

One of the most noteworthy cavalry raids during this period was Forrest’s capture of the Union garrison in Murfreesboro on July 13, 1862. Forrest left Chattanooga on July 9, initially commanding two cavalry regiments, but he gathered additional units along the way, resulting in a total force of approximately 1,400 men. The primary objective of the raid was to launch a surprise attack on Murfreesboro, an essential Union supply center situated along the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad. The attack was scheduled for dawn on July 13.

At the time of the raid, the Murfreesboro garrison was encamped in three different locations around the town. It included detachments from four different units, comprising infantry, cavalry, and artillery, and was under the command of General Thomas T. Crittenden, who had recently arrived on July 12. 

Thomas Crittenden, General, USA, Civil War, FL
General Thomas Crittenden (USA). Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

The raid started between 4:15 and 4:30 a.m., and Forrest’s cavalry quickly overwhelmed Union pickets along Woodbury Pike, east of Murfreesboro. They also seized a Union hospital and the camp of the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment detachment. Confederates launched attacks on the camps of other Union units, along with the local jail and courthouse. By late afternoon, all Union units had surrendered to Forrest. 

The Confederates proceeded to destroy a significant portion of the Union supplies and disrupt the railroad tracks in the area. However, the main outcome of the raid was the diversion of Union forces away from their planned advance on Chattanooga. 

This raid, in conjunction with Morgan’s raid into Kentucky, allowed General Braxton Bragg to concentrate his forces in Chattanooga and launch an invasion of Kentucky in early September.

July 16 — David Farragut became the first Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy.

David Farragut, Admiral, USA, Civil War, FL
Rear Admiral David Farragut. Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

July 17 — Confiscation Act of 1862

President Lincoln approved the Confiscation Act of 1862. The act expanded the terms of the previous Confiscation Act, allowing broader seizure of Confederate property, and the emancipation of enslaved people in Federally occupied territory, and prohibited the return of fugitive slaves.

1862, August

August 5 — Baton Rouge

Louisiana — To regain control of Louisiana, Confederates looked to recapture Baton Rouge. General John C. Breckinridge devised a combined land and water expedition, which included his corps and the CSS Arkansas

The Confederate land forces, originating from Camp Moore and advancing from the east, were within 10 miles of their objective by August 4. They reached the outskirts of Baton Rouge early in the morning, organized an assault in two divisions, and drove back Union units they met along the way.

Battle of Baton Rouge, 1862, Union Advance
Battle of Baton Rouge. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, September 6, 1862.

However, the Confederate advance was met with resistance from Union gunboats patrolling the river. The engines of the Arkansas malfunctioned, rendering it unable to effectively participate in the battle. As a result, Union land forces fell back to strong defensive positions. The Union commander, General Thomas Williams, was killed in action. His successor, Colonel Thomas W. Cahill, ordered a retreat to a prepared defensive line closer to the river, where the protection of the Union gunboats could be leveraged. Confederates launched attacks against the new defensive line, but ultimately, the Union troops were able to stop their advances. 

The next day, as the CSS Arkansas made another attempt to approach the Union gunboats, the engines malfunctioned again, leading the crew to scuttle and destroy the vessel. This unfortunate turn of events prevented the Confederates from recapturing Baton Rouge and regaining control of Louisiana.

August 6 — Kirksville

Missouri — Colonel John McNeil and his Union force, consisting of approximately 1,000 troops, had been in pursuit of Colonel Joseph C. Porter and his Confederate Missouri Brigade, numbering 2,500 men, for over a week. 

The pursuit led to an engagement on August 6, as McNeil’s forces launched an attack against Porter’s troops in the town of Kirksville, where the Confederates took cover in various locations, including homes, stores, and nearby fields.

The battle lasted for nearly 3 hours, with Union forces eventually securing control of the town. During the engagement, they captured a significant number of Confederate prisoners while forcing the remaining Confederate soldiers to retreat. Three days later, another Union force effectively destroyed Porter’s command.

The Union victory at Kirksville solidified Union control in Northeastern Missouri.

August 9 — Donaldsonville, First Battle

Louisiana — A series of incidents involving Confederate artillery firing on Union steamers navigating the Mississippi River at Donaldsonville prompted a response from the U.S. Navy. 

Rear Admiral David Farragut informed the town of his intention and suggested the residents of Donaldsonville should evacuate women and children.

Following his warning, Farragut positioned his fleet in front of Donaldsonville and initiated a bombardment of the town using both guns and mortars. In addition to the naval bombardment, a detachment was sent ashore to carry out further actions. This group set fire to several structures, including hotels, wharf buildings, and the dwelling houses of Captain Phillippe Landry. Landry was believed to be the leader of a partisan unit and was reportedly involved in firing upon the landing party during their operation.

While some citizens expressed their objections to the raid, the overall impact of this retaliatory action was a reduction in artillery fire directed at Union ships navigating the Mississippi River in the vicinity of Donaldsonville.

August 9 — Cedar Mountain

Virginia — General Robert E. Lee sent General Stonewall Jackson with a force of 14,000 troops to Gordonsville in July to confront General John Pope and his command. Jackson was reinforced by General A.P. Hill.

As August approached, Pope initiated a movement with his forces, marching them south into Culpeper County, intending to capture the railroad junction at Gordonsville. 

Battle of Cedar Mountain, 1862, Union Artillery Batteries
Union artillery batteries at the Battle of Cedar Mountain. Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

On August 9, the Battle of Cedar Mountain took place between Jackson’s Confederates and the command of General Nathaniel Banks. 

Initially, the Federals enjoyed an early advantage in the battle. However, General A.P. Hill launched a counterattack that successfully repulsed Union forces and secured victory for the Confederacy. Confederate General William Winder was killed in the battle.

The battle was an important moment as the war in Virginia shifted from the Peninsula to Northern Virginia.

August 11 — Independence, First Battle

Missouri — A Confederate force under the command of Colonel John T. Hughes, which included William Quantrill, launched an attack on Independence. The attack took place at dawn and was executed with two columns advancing on different roads. The Confederate troops quickly moved through the town and eventually reached the Union Army camp. In the process, they captured, killed, and dispersed the Union soldiers.

Lieutenant Colonel James T. Buel, who led the garrison, made an effort to hold out with a portion of his men in one of the buildings. However, when the building next to theirs caught fire, Buel decided to initiate a meeting with the Confederate commander, Colonel G.W. Thompson. Colonel Thompson had taken over command after Hughes was killed in the battle.

During this meeting, Buel surrendered. With the capture of Independence, the Confederates maintained control of the area.

August 14 — President Lincoln met with prominent black leaders, including Frederick Douglass, becoming the first U.S. President to do so.

August 15 — Lone Jack

Missouri — Major Emory S. Foster led a Union force consisting of around 800 men from Lexington to the Lone Jack area. Foster discovered approximately 1,600 Confederate troops commanded by Colonel John T. Coffee and prepared to attack the Confederates.

Around 9:00 p.m., Foster attacked the Confederate camp, successfully dispersing the Confederates. However, during the early hours of the following morning, Union pickets that a Confederate force numbering around 3,000 men was advancing toward their position.

Soon after, the Confederates launched an attack, resulting in a battle that included charges, retreats, and counterattacks. The intense fighting continued for approximately five hours, and during the battle, Major Foster was killed. Following Foster’s death, Colonel Coffee and his 1,500 Confederate troops reappeared on the scene, prompting Foster’s successor, Captain Milton H. Brawner, to issue a retreat order. Union forces withdrew and returned to Lexington.

Despite the victory, the Confederates found it necessary to evacuate the area soon after due to a threat posed by the approaching large Union forces. Except for a brief period during Price’s Raid in 1864, this battle marked a turning point in Jackson County, effectively diminishing the Confederate influence in the region.

August 17 — The Dakota War started in Minnesota when the Santee Sioux attacked U.S. settlements along the Minnesota River. The Santee Sioux, led by Chief Little Crow, were upset with the U.S. Government’s failure to provide annual payments and the subpar quality of rations. Fueled by these grievances, the Sioux initiated an offensive in the Minnesota River Valley. During this uprising, they targeted settlers and soldiers, resulting in the deaths of approximately 800 individuals, along with numerous prisoners taken and extensive property damage.

August 19 — Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, published an editorial titled “The Prayer of Twenty Millions.” Greely called on President Lincoln to make the abolition of slavery an official goal of the Union war effort.

August 20 — Fort Ridgley

Minnesota — Fort Ridgely, situated roughly 12 miles from the Lower Sioux Agency, emerged as a refuge for white civilians in the region. The fort’s commander, Captain John S. Marsh, decided to march out with most of his men toward the Lower Sioux Agency. 

Unfortunately, before reaching their destination, a sizable force of Indians ambushed the soldiers, resulting in the loss of half of Marsh’s men, including the captain himself. The survivors of the attack were pursued back to Fort Ridgely by the Indians.

On August 20th, an assault was launched on the fort by about 400 Sioux, but the garrison successfully stopped the attack. Two days later, on the 22nd of August, an even larger force of 800 Sioux launched a renewed assault on the fort. However, the combined efforts of the garrisoned soldiers and civilians held the fort, withstanding the assault.

August 22 — Rappahannock Station, First Battle

Virginia — In early August, General Robert E. Lee saw that General George B. McClellan was withdrawing his army from the Peninsula to reinforce General John Pope. To counter this move, Lee sent General James Longstreet from Richmond to join with General Stonewall Jackson’s wing of the Confederate army near Gordonsville. Lee arrived to take command of the Confederates on August 15.

John Pope, General, USA, Civil War, FL
General John Pope (USA). Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

Pope ordered a withdrawal to the defensive line along the Rappahannock River, a move carried out on August 20–21. Meanwhile, Confederate cavalry under the command of General J.E.B. Stuart executed a daring raid on Pope’s headquarters at Catlett Station on August 23, revealing vulnerabilities in the Union right flank and the potential for a flanking maneuver.

Over the next several days, from August 22–25, the two armies engaged in a series of minor skirmishes along the Rappahannock River. These engagements included battles at Waterloo Bridge, Lee Springs, Freeman’s Ford, and Sulphur Springs.

The battles heightened tensions and positioned Pope’s army along the Rappahannock River, while Jackson’s wing went through Thoroughfare Gap, intending to capture Bristoe Station and disrupt Federal supply lines at Manassas Junction.

August 26 — Manassas Station Operations

Virginia — On the evening of August 26, General Stonewall Jackson moved around General John Pope’s right flank by going through the Thoroughfare Gap. Jackson then launched a surprise attack on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad near Bristoe Station. By dawn on August 27, Jackson had captured and destroyed the Union supply depot at Manassas Junction.

This attack forced Pope to abandon his defensive position along the Rappahannock River. On August 27, Jackson’s forces engaged and routed a Union brigade near Union Mills, also known as Bull Run Bridge. This engagement resulted in several hundred casualties among the Union forces and the mortal wounding of Union General George W. Taylor.

Meanwhile, the Confederate division of General Richard Ewell fought a rearguard action against the division led by Union General Joseph Hooker at Kettle Run. This battle led to approximately 600 casualties, and Ewell successfully held back the Union forces until darkness fell.

Over the night of August 27–28, Jackson’s divisions moved north to position themselves behind an unfinished railroad grade where the First Battle of Bull Run took place.

August 28 — Thoroughfare Gap

Virginia — Following skirmishes near Chapman’s Mill in Thoroughfare Gap, the Union division commanded by General James Ricketts found itself in a difficult position. It was flanked by a Confederate column that had passed through Hopewell Gap, located several miles to the north, and by Confederate troops that had secured the high ground at Thoroughfare Gap itself. 

Faced with this threat, Ricketts decided to withdraw, which allowed General James Longstreet to lead his wing of the Confederate Army through the Thoroughfare Gap and join with Jackson. This paved the way for the subsequent battles on August 29–30 and virtually ensured the defeat of General John Pope.

Following the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap, Ricketts led his forces through Gainesville to Manassas Junction.

August 28 — Bull Run at Manassas, Second Battle

Virginia — To lure General John Pope’s Union army into battle, General Stonewall Jackson ordered an attack on a Federal column that was moving across his front along the Warrenton Turnpike on August 28, starting the Second Battle of Bull Run

The engagement at Brawner’s Farm ensued and lasted for several hours, resulting in a standoff between the two forces. Pope, believing that he had trapped Jackson, concentrated the majority of his army against him in the following days.

On August 29, Pope launched a series of assaults against Jackson’s position, located along an unfinished railroad grade. These attacks led to heavy casualties on both sides, with neither gaining a decisive advantage. However, at noon, General James Longstreet arrived on the battlefield after marching through Thoroughfare Gap, positioning his forces on Jackson’s right flank.

Pope renewed the attack on August 30, apparently unaware of Longstreet’s presence on the field. During this phase, Confederate artillery played a key role in repulsing a Union assault led by General Fitz John Porter’s command. Subsequently, Longstreet’s wing, consisting of approximately 28,000 men, launched a counterattack. This assault marked the largest simultaneous mass assault of the entire war. As a result, the Union’s left flank was crushed, and the army was pushed back toward Bull Run.

Fitz John Porter, General, USA, Civil War, FL
General Fitz John Porter. Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

A rearguard action by Union forces prevented a repetition of the First Battle of Manassas disaster. Nevertheless, Pope’s retreat to Centreville was hasty. The following day, General Robert E. Lee ordered his Confederate Army to pursue Pope.

August 29 — Richmond

Kentucky — During General Kirby Smith’s Confederate offensive into Kentucky in 1862, the advance was led by General Patrick R. Cleburne, with Colonel John S. Scott’s cavalry units in advance. 

As the Confederate cavalry moved north from Big Hill along the road to Richmond, Kentucky, on August 29, they met Union troops and engaged in skirmishes. In the afternoon, Union artillery and infantry forces joined the conflict, forcing the Confederate cavalry to withdraw to Big Hill.

General Mahlon D. Manson, who was in command of Union forces in the area, ordered one of his brigades to march toward Rogersville in pursuit of the Confederates. Skirmishing continued briefly between pursuing Union forces and Cleburne’s men later in the afternoon. That night, Manson reported to his superior, General William Nelson, who ordered another brigade to prepare to march to support Manson.

Smith instructed Cleburne to launch an attack in the morning and promised to expedite the arrival of reinforcements, specifically the division of Thomas J. Churchill. Cleburne commenced his advance early in the morning, moving north and passing through Kinston. He dispersed Union skirmishers and approached Manson’s battle line near Zion Church as the day progressed. Additional troops from both sides joined the conflict. After an artillery exchange, the battle commenced, and following a coordinated Confederate assault on the Union right flank, the Union forces retreated.

As they fell back into Rogersville, the Union troops made a stand, but it proved futile. By this time, both Smith and Nelson had arrived and assumed command of their respective armies. Nelson managed to rally some troops in the cemetery outside Richmond, but they were eventually overwhelmed. Although Nelson and some of his men escaped, the Confederates captured approximately 4,000 Union soldiers, leaving the path north open for the Confederates.

1862, September

September 1 — Chantilly

Virginia — In a strategic maneuver aimed at cutting off the Union retreat from Bull Run, General Stonewall Jackson executed a wide flank march on September 1, near Chantilly Plantation along the Little River Turnpike, close to Ox Hill.

Stonewall Jackson, General, CSA, Civil War, FL
General Stonewall Jackson (CSA). Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

During the Battle of Chantilly, Jackson directed his divisions to engage two Union divisions under the command of Generals Philip Kearny and Isaac Stevens. Confederates launched attacks against the Union troops, but the fighting was halted by the intensity of the battle, which unfolded amid a severe thunderstorm. Both Union generals, Stevens and Kearny, were killed.

Recognizing that his army remained in danger at Fairfax Courthouse, General John Pope, who had been leading the Union forces, ordered his troops to continue their retreat toward Washington. With Pope’s threat neutralized, General Robert E. Lee turned his Confederate army west and then north, starting the Maryland Campaign.

In response, General George B. McClellan assumed command of the Union forces stationed around Washington, D.C.

September 2 — Following the Union defeat at Second Bull Run, Lincoln reinstated McClelland to full command of the Union Army.

September 4 — Robert E. Lee initiated his First Invasion of the North as Confederates crossed into Maryland. Lee marched toward Harpers Ferry in Western Virginia.

September 12 — Harpers Ferry

Western Virginia — Upon learning that the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry had not retreated following his advance into Maryland, General Robert E. Lee decided to surround and capture the town. To achieve this, he divided his Confederate army into four columns. Three of these columns were directed to converge on Harpers Ferry.

On September 15, Confederate artillery was positioned on the heights overlooking the town, putting pressure on the Union defenders. In response to this mounting threat, Union commander Colonel Dixon S. Miles surrendered the garrison, which consisted of more than 12,000 soldiers. Miles was mortally wounded by a final salvo fired from a Confederate battery located on Loudoun Heights during the Battle of Harpers Ferry.

Following the capture of Harpers Ferry, General Stonewall Jackson assumed control of the town and its strategic position. He then led the majority of his troops to join General Lee’s Confederate army at Sharpsburg, Maryland.

After paroling the prisoners taken at Harpers Ferry, the division commanded by General A.P. Hill arrived in time to provide support to Lee’s army, preventing it from defeat at the Battle of Antietam.

September 13Battle of Charleston. Confederate victory.

September 14 — Munfordville

Kentucky — General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army left Chattanooga, Tennessee, in late August. General Don Carlos Buell’s Union Army pursued Bragg’s forces as they approached Munfordville, a crucial station on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. Munfordville was significant due to its location at the railroad bridge crossing the Green River.

The Union garrison at Munfordville was under the command of Colonel John T. Wilder and consisted of three regiments, along with extensive fortifications. When Confederate General James R. Chalmers demanded the surrender of Munfordville on September 14th, Wilder refused.

Chalmers launched attacks on the 14th, which the Union forces successfully stopped. However, on the 15th and 16th, the Confederates resorted to siege operations. Late on the 16th, realizing that Buell’s Union forces were nearby and wishing to avoid harming innocent civilians, the Confederates once again proposed a demand for surrender.

Battle of Munfordville, 1862, Confederate Charge
Union forces under attack at the Battle of Munfordville. Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

Wilder, under a flag of truce, ventured into the enemy lines, where General Simon B. Buckner escorted him to witness the full strength of the Confederates. This demonstration aimed to persuade Wilder of the futility of further resistance. Impressed by the Confederate presence and the difficult situation, Wilder agreed to surrender.

The formal surrender ceremony took place on September 17th. With Munfordville’s capture, including the railroad and the bridge, the Confederates gained control of a critical transportation hub. This control significantly impacted the movement of Union supplies and troops in the region.

September 14 — South Mountain

Maryland — After moving into Maryland, General Robert E. Lee divided his army to march on and besiege Harpers Ferry. Meanwhile, the Army of the Potomac (USA), led by General George B. McClellan, pursued the Confederates through Maryland. As the Union forces advanced toward South Mountain, pitched battles erupted on September 14 for control of the mountain passes: Crampton’s Gap, Turner’s Gap, and Fox’s Gap.

By nightfall, the Confederates were forced to retreat, sustaining significant casualties in the process. McClellan’s position at the end of the day allowed him to potentially destroy Lee’s army before it could regroup. However, McClellan’s actions on September 15 were limited following the Union victory at South Mountain.

The delay led to the capture of the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry and provided Lee with the time needed to reunite his scattered divisions at Sharpsburg. The battles at South Mountain resulted in the deaths of Union General Jesse Reno and Confederate General Samuel Garland, Jr., among others.

Battle of South Mountain, 1862, Confederate Attack
Union forces under attack at the Battle of South Mountain. Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

September 17 — Antietam

Maryland — General George B. McClellan’s Union forces confronted General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Sharpsburg, Maryland. The following morning, September 17, marked the start of the single bloodiest day in American military history.

At the break of dawn, General Joseph Hooker’s corps initiated a powerful assault on Lee’s left flank. This attack led to intense fighting in Miller’s cornfield, with combat swirling around the Dunker Church. Union forces launched assaults against the Sunken Road, eventually piercing the Confederate center. However, the Union’s advantage was not fully exploited.

Later in the day, General Ambrose Burnside’s corps finally entered the battle, crossing the stone bridge over Antietam Creek and rolling up the Confederate right. Meanwhile, Confederate General A.P. Hill’s division arrived from Harpers Ferry and launched a counterattack, driving back Burnside and saving the day for the Confederates.

Battle of Antietam, 1862, Union Forces Crossing the Bridge
Union forces crossing the stone bridge. Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

Despite being outnumbered two-to-one, General Lee committed his entire force to the battle, while General McClellan sent in less than three-quarters of his army. This allowed Lee to hold off the Federal forces to a standstill. Throughout the night, both armies consolidated their lines.

Despite significant casualties, Lee continued to skirmish with McClellan on September 18 while evacuating his wounded soldiers south of the river. McClellan, however, chose not to renew the assaults. After nightfall, Lee ordered the battered Army of Northern Virginia to withdraw across the Potomac River into the Shenandoah Valley.

Battle of Antietam, 1862, Union Bayonet Charge
A Union bayonet charge at the Battle of Antietam. Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

September 19 — Iuka

Mississippi — In September 1862, General Sterling Price and the Army of the West marched into Iuka, Mississippi, with approximately 14,000 men. His mission was to prevent General William S. Rosecrans and his Army of the Mississippi troops from moving into Middle Tennessee and reinforcing General James Negley’s division of General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio, which was stationed in Nashville. Additionally, there was a concern that Price might join forces with General Braxton Bragg, who was leading an offensive into Kentucky.

General Ulysses S. Grant, commanding the Army of the Tennessee, feared that Price might head north to join Bragg against Buell. To counter this threat, Grant devised a plan where General Edward O.C. Ord and his left-wing forces would advance on Iuka from the west, while Rosecrans’s forces would march from the southwest and arrive at Iuka on the 18th of September. The goal was to launch a coordinated attack on the Confederate position.

Edward O.C. Ord, General, USA, Civil War, FL
General Edward O.C. Ord (USA). Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

Ord’s forces reached their designated positions on time, and skirmishing started between his scouts and Confederate pickets about 6 miles from Iuka before nightfall. However, Rosecrans informed Grant that he would not arrive at Iuka on the 18th but would instead start his march at 4:30 a.m. on the 19th.

On the 19th, Ord sent Price a message demanding surrender, but Price refused. Price also received dispatches from General Earl Van Dorn, suggesting that their two armies should meet as soon as possible at Rienzi to launch attacks on Union forces in the area.

Price decided to prepare his men for a march to join Van Dorn. Meanwhile, Rosecrans’s army started its march on the 19th. However, instead of using the two roads as initially directed, they followed the Jacinto Road.

As Rosecrans’s forces advanced, they engaged in skirmishes with Confederate troops at various points. Around 4:00 p.m., after ascending a hill, the Union column halted, as they found themselves facing well-placed Confederates in a ravine filled with timber and underbrush. Both sides launched attacks, and the fighting continued until after dark, with the Union troops eventually camping behind the ridge for the night.

During the battle, Price redeployed some of his troops to fight against Rosecrans. Ord, however, did not engage the enemy, later claiming that he had not heard any fighting, and Grant also stated that he had not heard sounds of battle.

After the intense fighting on the 19th, Price initially planned to reengage the enemy the next day. Still, his subordinates convinced him to stick to the original plan and march to join Van Dorn. At the same time, Rosecrans redeployed his men in preparation for further combat.

Price’s army eventually evacuated Iuka, using the uncovered Fulton Road and protecting their rear with a heavy rearguard. They successfully joined Van Dorn’s forces five days later at Ripley.

Despite the opportunity to destroy or capture Price’s army, Rosecrans’s pursuit was hindered by the Confederate rearguard and difficult terrain. This allowed the Confederates to regroup and join Van Dorn in assaulting Corinth in October.

September 19 — Shepherdstown

Western Virginia — Following the Battle of Antietam, a detachment from Porter’s V Corps executed a daring move by crossing the Potomac River at Boteler’s Ford. They launched an attack on the Confederate rearguard, which was under the command of General William Pendleton. In this bold maneuver, the Union forces managed to capture four Confederate artillery pieces.

Early on the 20th of September, Porter continued his advance by pushing elements of two divisions across the Potomac. Their objective was to establish a bridgehead on the other side of the river. However, A.P. Hill’s division launched an attack while many of the Union soldiers were crossing the river.

Hill’s attack was effective, nearly annihilating the 118th Pennsylvania Regiment, famously known as the “Corn Exchange” Regiment. This engagement resulted in a high number of casualties for the Union, with 269 soldiers lost in the Battle of Shepherdstown.

The significant rearguard action conducted by Hill’s division had a discouraging effect on the Federal pursuit of the Confederates. It slowed the Union’s advance and their ability to press the retreating Confederates further.

As a consequence of various factors, including the events at Shepherdstown and other strategic considerations, President Abraham Lincoln decided to relieve General George B. McClellan of his command on November 7. This decision stemmed from McClellan’s perceived failure to aggressively pursue Lee’s retreating army. Following McClellan’s removal, General Ambrose E. Burnside assumed command of the Union army.

September 22 — Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

Washington — Following the victory at Antietam, President Lincoln introduced the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which announced his intention to declare all enslaved people free on January 1, 1863, if those places remained in rebellion at that time.

September 23 — Wood Lake

Minnesota — On September 19, Colonel Henry Hastings Sibley embarked on a mission from Fort Ridgely with a contingent of 1,500 volunteers. His objective was to quell the Santee Sioux uprising. As Sibley’s force approached Wood Lake on September 23, it narrowly escaped an ambush from approximately 700 Sioux warriors under the leadership of Chief Little Crow.

The ambush was thwarted, leading to a significant engagement between Sibley’s forces and the Little Crow’s warriors. Sibley’s troops emerged victorious, inflicting heavy casualties on the Sioux.

September 24 — Sabine Pass, First Battle

Texas — On September 23, 1862, a Union naval expedition consisting of the steamer Kensington, the schooner Rachel Seaman, and the mortar schooner Henry James arrived off the bar at Sabine Pass. The next morning, the two schooners successfully crossed the bar and positioned themselves to commence an attack on the Confederate shore battery situated in the vicinity. Initially, the shots fired by both the Confederate land battery and the shore battery fell short of their intended targets, failing to cause any significant damage to the Union vessels.

In response, the Union ships moved closer to the Confederate positions, adjusting their range until their projectiles started to land among the Confederate guns. Despite the increased proximity, the Confederate gunners continued to struggle to hit the Union ships effectively. As night fell, the Confederates decided to evacuate the area, prioritizing the removal of as much property as possible while rendering the four guns left behind inoperable by spiking them.

On the morning of September 25th, the Union schooners moved up to the evacuated Confederate battery and proceeded to destroy it. Acting Master Frederick Crocker, who commanded the expedition, received the surrender of the town of Sabine Pass. This successful operation resulted in Union control of Sabine Pass.

September 30 — Newtonia, First Battle

Missouri — Following the Battle of Pea Ridge (March 1862), the majority of Confederate and Union forces vacated Northwestern Arkansas and Southwestern Missouri. However, by late summer, Confederate troops started returning to the region, causing concern among the Union-occupied towns of Springfield, Missouri, and Fort Scott, Kansas.

In late September, Confederate Colonel Douglas Cooper arrived in the area and stationed two of his units in Newtonia, where a mill for producing breadstuffs was located. Around the same time, two brigades from General James G. Blunt’s Union Army of Kansas left Fort Scott, heading for Southwest Missouri. On September 29th, Union scouts approached Newtonia but were quickly driven away. Additional Union troops appeared in the nearby town of Granby, which housed lead mines, prompting Cooper to send reinforcements to that location.

The following morning, Union forces converged on Newtonia, and by 7:00 a.m., fighting had commenced. Initially, the Federals gained the upper hand, pushing back the Confederates. However, as Confederate reinforcements arrived, the balance of forces shifted. The Union troops were forced to retreat hastily, but as more of their reinforcements reached the scene, they managed to slow their retreat.

The Union forces then launched a renewed attack, posing a threat to the Confederate right flank. Nevertheless, the arrival of additional Confederate troops effectively halted the Union advance, ultimately forcing the Federals to withdraw once more. The pursuit of the retreating Union troops continued into the evening.

During the retreat, Union gunners placed artillery in the roadway to impede the Confederate pursuit. As Confederate gunners observed the Union artillery fire for location, they returned fire, creating panic among the retreating Union forces. This panic escalated into a full-blown rout, with some Union soldiers fleeing as far as Sarcoxie, which was over ten miles away.

While the Confederates emerged victorious in the battle, they were unable to maintain a presence in the area due to the overwhelming number of Union troops. Most Confederates retreated into northwest Arkansas. The Confederate victories at Newtonia and Clark’s Mill in 1862 marked the high point of Confederate success in southwestern Missouri. Following these battles, the only Confederate presence in the area consisted of raiding columns.

1862, October

October 1 — Saint John’s Bluff

Florida — General John Finegan placed a Confederate battery on St. John’s Bluff near Jacksonville to slow the movement of Federal ships up the St. Johns River. In response, General John M. Brannan embarked with approximately 1,500 infantry aboard the transports Boston, Ben DeFord, Cosmopolitan, and Neptune at Hilton Head, South Carolina, on September 30. The flotilla reached the mouth of the St. Johns River on October 1, where it was joined by Commander Charles Steedman’s gunboats, including the Paul Jones, Cimarron, Uncas, Patroon, Hale, and Water Witch.

By midday, the gunboats started their approach to the bluff, while Brannan commenced the landing of his troops at Mayport Mills. Meanwhile, another infantry force disembarked at Mount Pleasant Creek, situated approximately 5 miles behind the Confederate battery, and initiated an overland march on October 2nd.

Faced with being outmaneuvered, Lieutenant Colonel Charles F. Hopkins decided to abandon the position under the cover of darkness. Consequently, when the gunboats approached the bluff on the following day, they found the Confederate battery abandoned.

October 3 — Corinth, Second Battle

Mississippi — Following the Battle of Iuka, General Sterling Price’s Confederate Army of the West marched from Baldwyn to Ripley, where it joined forces with General Earl Van Dorn’s Army of West Tennessee. 

With Van Dorn as the senior officer, he assumed command of the combined force, which numbered approximately 22,000 men. The Confederates then advanced to Pocahontas on October 1 and continued southeastward toward Corinth. Their objective was to seize Corinth and then launch an offensive into Middle Tennessee.

Corinth had been fortified by Union forces since the Siege of Corinth in the spring, resulting in the creation of various fortifications, including inner and intermediate lines, to defend the important transportation center. As the Confederates approached, numbering around 23,000, the Union troops occupied the outer line of fortifications and positioned men in front of them.

Van Dorn’s forces reached a point within three miles of Corinth at 10:00 a.m. on October 3. They moved into some fieldworks that had been constructed during the previous siege of Corinth, and the fighting commenced. The Confederates steadily pushed the Union troops backward, and a gap developed between two Union brigades, which the Confederates exploited around 1:00 p.m. The Union forces attempted to close the gap but were unsuccessful. Price then launched an attack, driving the Federals even further back to their inner line.

By evening, Van Dorn believed that he could finish off the Federals the following day. However, his confidence, combined with the extreme heat, fatigue, and water shortages, led him to cancel any further operations for that day. William S. Rosecrans, the Union commander, regrouped his forces within the fortifications in preparation for the expected Confederate attack the next morning.

Van Dorn had initially planned to launch the attack at daybreak but postponed it until 9:00 a.m. due to General Louis Hebert’s illness. As the Confederates advanced, Union artillery took a heavy toll on their ranks, causing significant casualties. Nevertheless, the Confederates pressed forward, stormed Battery Powell, and engaged in desperate hand-to-hand combat around Battery Robinett. Some Confederate soldiers briefly entered Corinth but were quickly expelled by the Union forces.

The Union troops continued their counterattack, recapturing Battery Powell and forcing Van Dorn into a general retreat. Rosecrans delayed the pursuit until the following day, allowing Van Dorn to escape without being destroyed or captured. Consequently, while Van Dorn suffered defeat at the Battle of Corinth on October 4, he managed to evade complete annihilation.

October 4 — Galveston, First Battle

Texas — In July 1861, the United States Navy initiated a blockade of Galveston Harbor, but the town remained under Confederate control. On October 4, 1862, at 6:00 a.m., Commander Willliam B. Renshaw, who was in charge of the blockading ships in the Galveston Bay area, directed the USS Harriet Lane to enter the harbor while flying a flag of truce. The objective was to inform the military authorities in Galveston that unless the town surrendered, the U.S. Navy would launch an attack. Renshaw demanded a reply within one hour.

Colonel Joseph J. Cook, the Confederate commander, declined to come out to the Union vessel or send an officer to receive the communication. Consequently, the Harriet Lane returned to the fleet. Meanwhile, 4 Union steamers, accompanied by a mortar boat, entered the harbor and positioned themselves in the same area where the Harriet Lane had been.

Confederates at Fort Point fired one or more shots, prompting the U.S. Navy ships to respond. Eventually, the Union vessels disabled the lone Confederate gun at Fort Point and engaged other targets. Two Confederate guns from another location also opened fire on the Union ships.

Meanwhile, a boat sent by Colonel Cook approached the Union vessels, and two Confederate officers boarded the USS Westfield. Commander Renshaw demanded an unconditional surrender of Galveston, threatening to commence shelling if the demand was not met. However, Cook refused to accept Renshaw’s terms and conveyed to him the responsibility for the potential destruction of the town, including harm to women, children, and others.

Eventually, a verbal truce was agreed to. The Confederates evacuated Galveston, taking with them all their weapons, ammunition, supplies, and whatever they could carry.

The fall of Galveston temporarily closed an important Confederate. However, this blockade was not a lasting one, and the port of Galveston was eventually reopened to Confederate trade and operations.

October 6 — Hatchie’s Bridge

Tennessee — After General Earl Van Dorn’s Confederate Army of West Tennessee retreated from Corinth, General William S. Rosecrans did not immediately pursue. Instead, he ordered a pursuit to commence on the morning of October 5. 

Meanwhile, General Edward O.C. Ord, who commanded a detachment of the Army of West Tennessee, was advancing toward Corinth to provide support to Rosecrans.

On the night of October 4–5, Ord’s troops made camp near Pocahontas. Early the next morning, between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m., they met Union General Stephen A. Hurlbut’s 4th Brigade, which was part of the Army of West Tennessee, in their path. Ord assumed command of the combined Union forces and initiated an attack that drove back the advance of General Sterling Price’s Army of the West, which was part of Van Dorn’s Confederate army. The Union forces pushed the Confederates about 5 miles to the Hatchie River and forced them to retreat across Davis’ Bridge.

During this engagement, Ord was wounded, and command was passed to Hurlbut. As Price’s men were engaged in combat with Ord’s forces, Van Dorn’s scouts identified another crossing of the Hatchie River. Van Dorn then led his army in retreat back to Holly Springs, Mississippi.

Although Ord forced Price to retreat, the Confederates managed to escape capture or destruction.

October 8 — Perryville

Kentucky — Confederate General Braxton Bragg launched an invasion of Kentucky, moving close to the cities of Louisville and Cincinnati. However, he was eventually forced to retreat and regroup his forces. 

On October 7, Union forces led by General Don Carlos Buell and consisting of nearly 55,000 troops, converged on the small crossroads town of Perryville, Kentucky, using three separate columns.

The initial skirmishes started with Union forces engaging Confederate cavalry along the Springfield Pike. As the battle unfolded, more intense fighting erupted on Peters Hill as Confederate infantry units arrived at the scene. The following day, at dawn, hostilities resumed around Peters Hill as a Union division advanced along the pike, coming to a halt before the Confederate defensive line.

Battle of Perryville, 1862, Union Troops and Artillery
Battle of Perryville. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, November 1, 1862.

Later in the day, a Confederate division launched an assault on the Union’s left flank, which resulted in the Union forces falling back. As additional Confederate divisions joined the fight, the Union line put up a strong defense, launched counterattacks, and eventually fell back, with some of their troops routed. Buell, unaware of the situation on the battlefield, was not able to send in reserves.

Despite this setback, Union troops on the left flank, reinforced by two brigades, managed to stabilize their position, and the Confederate assault lost momentum. Later in the day, a Confederate brigade attempted to attack the Union division positioned on the Springfield Pike but was repulsed and forced to retreat into Perryville. As the day wore on, Union reinforcements threatened the Confederate left flank.

Facing shortages of both men and supplies, Bragg decided to withdraw during the night. After a brief stop in Harrodsburg, the Confederate Army continued its retreat, passing through Cumberland Gap and into East Tennessee. This marked the end of the Confederate offensive, and Kentucky remained under Union control.

October 10 Battle of Charleston, Western Virginia. Confederate victory.

October 11 — Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart and his men raided Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

October 22 — Old Fort Wayne

Indian Territory — General James G. Blunt and his Union troops launched an attack against Colonel Douglas H. Cooper and his Confederate command on Beatties Prairie, near Old Fort Wayne. The engagement started at 7:00 a.m. when Union forces initiated their assault.

Initially, the Confederates put up a strong resistance, holding their ground for approximately half an hour. However, they soon found themselves outnumbered and faced with overwhelming Union forces. The Confederates were forced to retreat from the battlefield, leaving behind valuable artillery pieces and equipment.

October 27 — Georgia Landing

Louisiana — In October 1862, General Benjamin F. Butler, who commanded Union forces in the Department of the Gulf, initiated an expedition into the Bayou Lafourche region. The objectives of this campaign were to eliminate the Confederate presence in the area, ensure that sugar and cotton resources from the region would fall into Union hands, and establish a base for potential future military operations. To execute these missions, he assembled a brigade comprising approximately 4,000 soldiers under the leadership of General Godfrey Weitzel.

On October 25, 1862, Weitzel and his brigade arrived at Donaldsonville, where the Lafourche River meets the Mississippi River. From there, they started advancing up the east bank of the bayou. Meanwhile, Confederates under the command of General Alfred Mouton attempted to concentrate their troops to confront the Union threat.

By October 27, Confederates had established a defensive position on the bayou, above Labadieville. Their troops were divided, with some on the east bank and others on the west bank near Georgia Landing. This separation made it difficult for them to coordinate their efforts effectively.

As the Federal troops continued their advance along the east bank, they engaged the Confederates around 11:00 a.m., resulting in skirmishes. The Confederates initially resisted fiercely, halting the Union assault. However, their artillery ammunition ran low, forcing them to withdraw to Labadieville. This withdrawal effectively opened up the Lafourche region to Union control, achieving one of the expedition’s primary objectives.

1862, November

November 4 — Richard Jordan Gatling patented the Gatling Gun.

November 5 — More than 300 Santee Sioux were found guilty of rape and murder of white settlers, and were sentenced to death.

November 7 — Battle of Clark’s Mill in Missouri. Union forces under Captain Hiram Barstow surrendered to Confederates under Colonel John Q. Burbridge and Colonel Colton Greene.

November 7 — Lincoln replaced McClellan with Ambrose Burnside.

November 14 — Lincoln approved Burnside’s plan to capture Richmond, Virginia, leading to the Battle of Fredericksburg.

November 28 — Cane Hill

Arkansas — General Thomas C. Hindman decided to detach General John Marmaduke’s cavalry and send them from Van Buren towards the Cane Hill area. The intention was to secure control of the region. Upon learning of Marmaduke’s advance, General James Blunt, commanding Union forces, initiated a proactive response by advancing to confront Marmaduke’s command to defeat it if possible.

As the Union pressed forward, they met the brigade led by Colonel Joe Shelby, who skillfully conducted a delaying action to safeguard their supply trains. Shelby’s forces gradually retreated, employing a tactical withdrawal until they reached a strategically advantageous defensive position on Cove Creek. There, they successfully stopped a strong attack by Union forces.

With their assault stopped, Union troops withdrew to Cane Hill, while Marmaduke’s Confederates regrouped and returned to Van Buren.

1862, December

December 1 — In his State of the Union address, President Lincoln reaffirmed the necessity of ending slavery.

December 7 — Prairie Grove

Arkansas — General Thomas C. Hindman aimed to dismantle the divisions commanded by Generals Francis Herron and James Blunt before they could combine their forces. Hindman positioned his Confederate force between the two Union divisions, initially engaging Herron’s cavalry and forcing them to retreat.

As Hindman pursued the retreating cavalry, he met Herron’s infantry, who eventually drove him back. The Confederates regrouped and established a defensive line on a wooded high ridge situated northeast of Prairie Grove Church. Herron managed to bring his artillery across the Illinois River and commenced an artillery duel with the Confederates.

The Union troops launched two assaults on the Confederate positions but were stopped on both occasions. In response, the Confederates launched a counterattack but were halted by the fire of Union canister rounds. However, they persevered and resumed their advance. At a critical juncture in the battle, Blunt’s forces executed a well-timed assault on the Confederate left flank.

As night fell, neither side secured victory. Nevertheless, Hindman decided to retreat to Van Buren, effectively ceding control of northwest Arkansas to the Union.

December 7 — Hartsville

Tennessee — The 39th Brigade of the XIV Army Corps undertook the responsibility of guarding the Cumberland River crossing. Their primary objective was to prevent Confederate cavalry, led by General John Hunt Morgan, from launching raids in the area.

John Hunt Morgan, General, CSA, Civil War, FL
General John Hunt Morgan (CSA). Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

Under cover of darkness, Morgan’s forces executed a daring river crossing in the early morning hours. To evade detection, they donned Union blue uniforms, which allowed them to pass through the Union lines undetected. As they approached the Union camp, the pickets eventually sounded the alarm, and the Union forces organized themselves into a battle formation.

The engagement commenced at 6:45 a.m. and raged on for nearly 2 hours until approximately 8:30 a.m. During the battle, one of Colonel Absalom B. Moore’s units faltered and retreated, creating confusion among the Union ranks. This development, coupled with the relentless Confederate pressure, eventually forced Union forces to fall back.

By 8:30 a.m., the Confederates had effectively surrounded the Union troops, forcing them to surrender. This action at Hartsville, north of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was a prelude to Confederate cavalry raids led by General Nathan Bedford Forrest into West Tennessee (December 1862–January 1863) and General John Hunt Morgan into Kentucky (December 1862–January 1863).

December 11 — Fredericksburg, First Battle

Virginia — In November 1862, General Ambrose Burnside assumed command of the Army of the Potomac, and he promptly ordered a corps to move and occupy the area around Falmouth, near Fredericksburg. The remainder of the army soon followed. General Robert E. Lee responded by fortifying his forces on the elevated terrain behind the city.

Battle of Fredericksburg, 1862, Burnside Directing Troops
Burnside directing troops at Fredericksburg. Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

On December 11, despite facing enemy fire, Union engineers successfully laid down five pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock River. The next day, the Union Army crossed over to the other side, and on December 13, General Burnside launched a series of frontal assaults on Confederate positions at Prospect Hill and Marye’s Heights. These attacks resulted in devastating casualties for the Union forces. 

During these engagements, there were notable casualties on both sides, including the deaths of Union generals C. Feger Jackson and George Bayard, as well as Confederate generals Thomas R.R. Cobb and Maxey Gregg.

Although a brief penetration of General Stonewall Jackson’s line was achieved by General George G. Meade’s division on the Union left flank, it was stopped by a counterattack. 

Another Union assault on December 15 failed, prompting Burnside to halt the offensive and order his troops to recross the river, effectively bringing an end to the campaign.

Burnside initiated a fresh offensive in January 1863, known as the “Mud March,” which was difficult due to the winter conditions and muddy ground. These challenges, along with other operational setbacks, led to Burnside’s replacement by General Joseph Hooker in January 1863.

December 12 — During the Yazoo Pass Expedition, the Union ironclad gunboat USS Cairo was sunk by a remotely detonated mine while clearing mines from the Yazoo River. The Cairo was the first armored ship sunk by mine.

December 14 — Kinston

North Carolina — A Union expedition under the command of General John G. Foster embarked from New Bern to disrupt the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad at Goldsborough. The advance was met with strong resistance by Evans’s Brigade near Kinston Bridge on December 14. However, the Confederates found themselves outnumbered and eventually withdrew to positions north of the Neuse River, moving in the direction of Goldsborough.

John G. Foster, General, USA, Civil War, FL
General John G. Foster (USA). Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

The following day, Foster pressed on with his movement, choosing the River Road that ran south of the Neuse River as his route of advance. This marked the continuation of the Union expedition as they aimed to achieve their goal of disrupting the critical Wilmington & Weldon Railroad.

December 16 — White Hall

North Carolina — On December 16, the Union forces under General John G. Foster arrived at White Hall, where they met Beverly Robertson’s Confederate brigade, which was positioned along the north bank of the Neuse River. Throughout much of the day, the Federal troops engaged in demonstrations against the Confederates, intending to keep them occupied and fixed in their positions. This diversionary tactic allowed the main Union column to continue its advance toward the targeted Wilmington & Weldon Railroad.

December 17 — Goldsborough Bridge

North Carolina — On December 17, General John G. Foster’s expedition reached the railroad near Everettsville and started destroying the tracks north toward the Goldsborough Bridge. Thomas Clingman’s Confederate brigade delayed the advance but was unable to prevent the destruction of the bridge. His mission accomplished, Foster returned to New Berne where he arrived on the 20th.

December 19 — Jackson

Tennessee — Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest led his 2,100-man cavalry into West Tennessee to disrupt the supply line to General Ulysses S. Grant’s army, which was advancing down the Mississippi Central Railroad. By targeting the Mobile & Ohio Railroad that ran south from Columbus, Kentucky, through Jackson, Forrest aimed to force Grant to curtail or halt his operations.

Forrest crossed the Tennessee River between December 15 and 17, heading westward. In response, Grant ordered General Jeremiah C. Sullivan to concentrate troops at Jackson and sent a cavalry force under Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll to confront Forrest.

However, Forrest’s cavalry achieved a significant victory at Lexington on December 18 and continued their advance. The next day, General Jeremiah C. Sullivan ordered Colonel Adolph Englemann to take a small force northeast of Jackson. Englemann’s two infantry regiments, while acting defensively, successfully repulsed a mounted Confederate attack near Old Salem Cemetery before withdrawing about a mile closer to the town.

To Forrest, this engagement was a diversion and a display of force designed to hold Jackson’s Union defenders in place. While Englemann’s troops checked part of Forrest’s force, other Confederate units achieved their mission of destroying railroad tracks north and south of Jackson before withdrawing from the area.

December 20 — The Holly Springs Raid took place in Missouri. Confederate victory.

December 24 — Benjamin Butler Declared an Outlaw

VirginiaJefferson Davis wrote an order declaring U.S. General Benjamin Butler to be an outlaw for his treatment of the civilians of New Orleans. Included in this proclamation is a statement that Lincoln’s upcoming Emancipation Proclamation was designed to “excite servile war,” and that any black U.S. soldiers or their white officers were to be sent to the individual states instead of being treated as prisoners of war.

Santa Claus Visiting Union Troops, December 1862
This illustration depicts Santa Claus visiting Union troops. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, January 3, 1863.

December 26 — Chickasaw Bayou

Mississippi — Three Union divisions under the command of General William T. Sherman disembarked at Johnson’s Plantation on the Yazoo River. Sherman’s objective was to approach the Vicksburg from the northeast. A fourth Union division landed upstream on December 27th, increasing Sherman’s strength.

The Battle of Chickasaw Bayou started when Union forces quickly advanced through the swamps toward Walnut Hills, a strong Confederate position. Despite the challenging terrain and Confederate resistance, Union forces pressed forward on December 28th, making several attempts to maneuver around the Confederate fortifications.

However, these efforts proved futile, and on December 29th, Sherman ordered a frontal assault on the Confederate positions. This assault failed, resulting in heavy casualties for the Union forces. In the face of the setback, Sherman decided to withdraw.

The Confederate victory frustrated Grant’s initial attempts to seize Vicksburg through a direct approach, however, the campaign to capture Vicksburg would continue.

December 30 — The Monitor sank in a storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

December 31 — President Lincoln signed an act admitting West Virginia to the Union, officially dividing Virginia between the United States and the Confederacy.

December 31 — Stones River

Tennessee — After their defeat at the Battle of Perryville, Confederates led by Braxton Bragg retreated, reorganized, and redesignated the Army of Tennessee. Subsequently, they advanced to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where they made preparations to go into winter quarters. In pursuit of Bragg, General William S. Rosecrans led his Union Army of the Cumberland from Kentucky to Nashville, Tennessee.

Rosecrans left Nashville with approximately 44,000 men on December 26, to engage and defeat Bragg’s army, which numbered over 37,000. On December 29, Rosecrans found Bragg’s forces and established his camp within hearing distance of the Confederate lines. 

At dawn on December 31, Bragg’s Confederates launched an attack on the Union right flank, starting the Battle of Stones River. By 10:00 a.m., the Confederate advance had pushed the Union line back to the Nashville Pike, but the Union forces held their ground. 

Reinforcements from the Union left arrived later in the morning, strengthening their position and ultimately halting the Confederate advance. By the end of that day, the Union had established a strong defensive line.

On New Year’s Day, both armies essentially held their positions, but Bragg believed that Rosecrans would withdraw. To his surprise, on January 2, Rosecrans remained in his position. Late in the afternoon, Bragg launched an attack with one of his divisions against a Union division that had crossed Stones River and taken a strong position on the bluff east of the river. 

Battle of Stones River, 1862, Union Troops Crossing the River
Union forces crossing the river. Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

Although the Confederates initially drove most of the Union forces back across McFadden’s Ford, the Federals, with the support of artillery, repulsed the attack, forcing the Confederates to return to their original position.

Bragg eventually withdrew on January 4–5, retreating to Shelbyville and Tullahoma, Tennessee. Rosecrans did not pursue the retreating Confederates. 

Rosecrans claimed victory at the Battle of Stones River, also known as the Battle of Murfreesboro, which provided a significant boost to Union morale. The battle marked a turning point as the Confederates faced setbacks in the Eastern Theater, Western Theater, and Trans-Mississippi region.

Battle of Stones River, 1862, Capture of Confederate Artillery
Union forces capturing Confederate artillery at Stones River. Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

December 31 — Parker’s Cross Roads

Tennessee — As General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s expedition in West Tennessee was drawing to a close, Union General Jeremiah C. Sullivan sought to cut off Forrest’s retreat and prevent him from crossing the Tennessee River. 

On December 31, 1862, the brigades of Colonel Cyrus L. Dunham and Colonel John W. Fuller, under Sullivan’s command, came into contact with Forrest’s forces at Parker’s Cross Roads.

The skirmishing started at around 9:00 a.m., with Forrest initially taking a position along a wooded ridge northwest of Dunham’s troops at the crossroads. The Confederate artillery gained an early advantage, forcing Dunham to pull his brigade back approximately half a mile. There, he redeployed his forces, facing north and preparing for the Confederate attack.

Forrest’s mounted and dismounted troops launched frontal feints and attacks on Dunham’s position, and the Union forces stopped these initial assaults. However, the Confederates then attacked from both the flanks and the rear, putting immense pressure on Dunham’s brigade.

During a momentary lull in the fighting, Forrest sent a demand for Dunham’s unconditional surrender. Dunham refused to surrender and prepared for the next Confederate assault.

However, Colonel John W. Fuller’s Union brigade arrived from the north, surprising Forrest’s troops with an attack on their rear. Confederate security detachments had failed to detect Fuller’s approach. 

In response to the sudden threat, Forrest ordered his men to “charge ‘em both ways.” The Confederates briefly reversed their front, stopped Fuller’s attack, and then rushed past Dunham’s demoralized forces as they withdrew southward, heading toward Lexington and eventually crossing the Tennessee River.

Both sides claimed victory in the engagement, but historical accounts suggest that the Confederate claims hold more credibility.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Civil War Timeline and History, from July to December 1862
  • Date July 1, 1862–December 31, 1862
  • Author
  • Keywords Civil War Timeline, Civil War History, Civil War 1862
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 21, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update January 12, 2024