Civil War Timeline and History, from January to December 1865

January 1, 1865—December 31, 1865

The American Civil War continued into 1865. This timeline covers important moments from the final year of the war, including military and political events that affected the course of the war and the history of the United States.

Civil War Timeline, History, 1865, AHC Original

A timeline of the Civil War, featuring rare images from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated and Harper’s Weekly. The image is The Peacemakers by George P. A. Healy. It depicts Major General William T. Sherman, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, President Abraham Lincoln, and Rear Admiral David D. Porter discussing peace terms less than a week before the fall of Petersburg, Virginia. Image Source: White House Historical Society.

10 Moments That Shaped the Civil War

  1. January 16 — General William T. Sherman (USA) issued orders dividing land in the South to be set aside for formerly enslaved people.
  2. January 13 — The U.S. House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment.
  3. February 3 — Peace talks failed at the Hampton Roads Conference.
  4. March 4 — President Abraham Lincoln (USA) was sworn in for his second term in office.
  5. March 13 — The Confederacy approved the use of blacks to fight in the war.
  6. April 9 — Robert E. Lee (CSA) surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant (USA) at Appomattox Court House.
  7. April 14 — At Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln, who died early the next morning.
  8. April 15 — Vice President Andrew Johnson was sworn in as the 17th President of the United States.
  9. April 26 — General Joseph E. Johnston (CSA) signed an agreement surrendering his army to General Sherman.
  10. December 6 — The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified.
Ulysses S. Grant, General, USA, Civil War, HW
General Ulysses S. Grant (USA). Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, December 9, 1865.

1865, January

January 4 — The New York Stock Exchange opened its first permanent headquarters at 10-12 Broad near Wall Street, in New York City

January 13 — Fort Fisher, Second

North Carolina — After General Benjamin Butler’s December expedition failed at Fort Fisher, he lost his command. General Alfred Terry took over, leading a contingent that included Charles J. Paine’s division of U.S. Colored Troops. Supported by about 60 naval vessels, they resumed operations against the fort. 

Following a bombardment by Rear Admiral David D. Porter on January 13, Union forces landed and prepared to attack Major General Robert Hoke’s infantry. 

On the 15th, Union forces approached the fort from the rear, conducted an assault in the late afternoon, and breached the parapet. 

The Confederates surrendered, opening the way for a Federal advance on Wilmington, the last open seaport on the Atlantic Coast of the Confederacy.

Battle of Fort Fisher, 1865, January 15, HW
Battle of Fort Fisher. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, February 8, 1865.

January 16 — Sherman’s Special Field Orders No. 15

GeorgiaGeneral Willliam T. Sherman (USA) ordered the confiscation of 400,000 acres of land along the Atlantic coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The land was to be divided into parcels of not more than 40 acres. The purpose of the order was to help settle approximately 18,000 formerly enslaved families and other black people living in the region.

January 31 — The 13th Amendment passed the House of Representatives.

January 31General Robert E. Lee was named Commander-in-Chief of Confederate forces.

1865, February

February 1 — Departure of Sherman’s Army from Savannah

Georgia — General William T. Sherman’s army left Savannah, beginning its march through the Carolinas.

February 2 — Rivers’ Bridge

South Carolina — On February 2, Confederates, led by Lafayette McLaws, blocked Sherman’s right wing at the Salkehatchie River crossings. Union troops started constructing bridges to bypass this obstacle. Meanwhile, other Union units maneuvered to encircle the Confederates. 

By February 3, two Union brigades waded through the downstream swamp and attacked McLaws on his right flank. The attack forced McLaws to withdraw towards Branchville, however, he still slowed Sherman’s advance.

February 3 — Battle of Rivers’ Bridge in South Carolina. Union victory.

February 3 — Hampton Roads Conference

Virginia — The Hampton Roads Conference was held at Hampton Roads, Virginia. President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward met with Confederate officials to discuss various issues, including potential terms of surrender. The talks were largely a failure, and President Jefferson Davis accused the Union of being unwilling to compromise.

February 5 — Hatcher’s Run

Virginia — On February 5, General David Gregg (USA) and his cavalry tried to intercept Confederate supply trains by traveling via Ream’s Station and Dinwiddie Court House to reach the Boydton Plank Road. 

Meanwhile, General Gouverneur K. Warren, leading the V Corps, crossed Hatcher’s Run and positioned his troops on Vaughan Road to block any interference with Gregg’s mission. Major General Andrew A. Humphreys, with two divisions of the II Corps, shifted westward near Armstrong’s Mill to protect Warren’s right flank. 

Later that day, General John B. Gordon (CSA) made an unsuccessful attempt to flank Humphreys near the mill but was stopped. During the night, the Union forces received reinforcements and prepared to continue the Battle of Hatcher’s Run

On February 6, Gregg returned to Gravelly Run on Vaughan Road and was attacked by elements of General John Pegram’s Confederate division. 

Meanwhile, Warren conducted a reconnaissance near Dabney’s Mill and met opposition from Pegram and General William Mahone. Pegram was killed during this portion of the battle. 

Although the Union advance was halted, they were able to extend their siege fortifications to the Vaughan Road crossing of Hatcher’s Run.

February 10 — Battle of James Island in South Carolina. Inconclusive.

February 11 — Battle of Aiken in South Carolina. Confederate victory.

February 12 — Wilmington

North Carolina — After Fort Fisher’s capture, Wilmington’s fate was sealed. 

General Robert Hoke (CSA) commanded approximately 6,600 troops defending Fort Anderson and a line of fortifications. His goal was to prevent Federal forces from advancing up the Cape Fear River.

In early February, the XXIII Corps, led by General John Schofield, arrived at Fort Fisher. Schofield took command of all Union forces and initiated a series of maneuvers aimed at compelling the Confederates to abandon their defensive positions.

On February 16, Jacob Cox and his division crossed the river to confront Fort Anderson, while Porter’s gunboats bombarded the fort. 

On February 17–18, Adelbert Ames and his division executed a flanking march to approach the rear of the fort. Realizing the impending danger, the Confederates evacuated Fort Anderson overnight. They retreated to Town Creek and established a new defensive line.

The next day, the new line collapsed during a Union assault. 

During the night of February 21–22, General Braxton Bragg ordered the evacuation of Wilmington, ordering his men to burn cotton, tobacco, and government supplies to prevent them from falling into Union hands.

February 15 — Battle of Congaree Creek in South Carolina. Union victory.

February 17 — Capture of Columbia and Evacuation of Charleston

South Carolina — General William T. Sherman captured Columbia, while Confederates evacuated Charleston.

Carolinas Campaign, 1865, Capture of Columbia, SC, HW
This illustration depicts Sherman entering Columbia, South Carolina on February 17. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, April 1, 1865.

February 22 — Fall of Wilmington and Change in Confederate Command

North Carolina — Wilmington fell to Federal troops, closing the last vital Southern port on the East Coast. On the same day, Joseph E. Johnston was restored to command of the  Army of the Tennessee, replacing John B. Hood.

February 22 — Tennessee adopted a new state constitution that abolished slavery.

1865, March

March 3 — The U.S. Congress authorized the formation of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands — commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau.

March 3 — Waynesboro

Virginia — On February 27, General Philip Sheridan, leading two cavalry divisions, traveled from Winchester up the Shenandoah Valley towards Staunton. They then turned eastward, where they met the last remaining elements from the command of General Jubal Early at Waynesboro on March 2. 

Following a brief standoff, Federal forces launched an attack that rolled up Early’s right flank and scattered his small remaining force at the Battle of Waynesboro. Over 1,500 Confederate soldiers surrendered, while Early and a few of his staff managed to evade capture.

Afterward, Sheridan crossed the Blue Ridge to reach Charlottesville and carried out a raid that included the destruction of the James River Canal locks near Goochland Court House. 

Sheridan joined forces with the Army of the Potomac near Petersburg on March 26, marking the beginning of the Appomattox Campaign.

March 4, 1865 — Inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln

Washington — President Abraham Lincoln was sworn in for his second term.

Abraham Lincoln, Second Inauguration, 1865, March 4, HW
This illustration depicts President Lincoln’s inauguration. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, March 18, 1865.

March 6 — Natural Bridge

Florida — General John Newton led a joint force expedition aimed at engaging and defeating Confederate troops responsible for attacks on Cedar Keys and Fort Myers. These Confederates were believed to be encamped in the vicinity of St. Marks. 

The Navy faced challenges in navigating its ships up the St. Marks River, however, the Army advanced and, upon discovering that one bridge had been destroyed, initiated an early morning attempt to cross the river at Natural Bridge on March 6. 

At first, Union troops managed to push back the Confederates but were unable to dislodge them from their positions near the bridge. Confederate troops, fortified behind breastworks, defended all approaches to the bridge itself.

The battle at Natural Bridge lasted most of the day. However, due to their inability to capture the bridge, Union forces eventually withdrew to seek refuge and protection with the fleet.

March 7 — Wyse Fork

North Carolina — In February, General John Schofield devised a plan to advance inland from Wilmington and entrusted General Jacob Cox with overseeing Union forces moving from New Berne toward Goldsboro. 

On March 7, Cox’s advance was halted by Confederates from the command of General Braxton Bragg, who were positioned at Southwest Creek below Kinston. On the 8th, the Confederates tried to seize the initiative by launching attacks on the Union flanks. Although they initially achieved some success, these assaults failed due to communication issues. 

On March 9, Union forces received reinforcements and stopped Bragg’s renewed attacks. Bragg eventually withdrew across the Neuse River and was unable to prevent the fall of Kinston, which occurred on March 14.

March 10 — Monroe’s Crossroads

North Carolina — As General Sherman’s army made its way into North Carolina, Judson Kilpatrick and his cavalry were responsible for safeguarding its left flank. On the evening of March 9, two of Kilpatrick’s brigades set up camp near the Charles Monroe House in Cumberland County, which is now part of Hoke County.

In the early hours of the 10th, Confederate cavalry, led by General Wade Hampton, executed a surprise attack on the Federal forces in their encampments. This sudden assault caused the Federals to retreat in disarray, resulting in the capture of wagons and artillery by the Confederates.

However, the Union troops quickly reorganized and launched a counterattack, engaging in a fierce struggle to reclaim their artillery and camps. With reinforcements from the Union en route, the Confederates opted to withdraw from the Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads.

March 11 — General William T. Sherman occupied Fayetteville, North Carolina.

March 13 — The Confederacy approved the use of African-American troops to fight in the war.

March 16 — Averasborough

North Carolina — On the afternoon of March 15, Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry engaged General William Hardee (CSA) and his corps along the Raleigh Road near Smithville. Hardee’s corps consisted of William Taliaferro’s and Lafayette McLaw’s infantry divisions, as well as Joseph Wheeler and his dismounted cavalry. 

After assessing the Confederate defenses, Kilpatrick decided to withdraw and requested infantry support. That night, 4 divisions of the XX Corps arrived to confront the Confederates at the Battle of Averasborough.

At dawn on March 16, Union forces advanced and pushed Confederate skirmishers back. However, their advance was stopped by the main Confederate defensive line, which launched a counterattack.

By mid-morning, Union reinforcements arrived and they advanced on the Confederates again. This time, they drove the Confederates from their first two lines of fortifications but were stopped at a third line.

Late in the afternoon, the Union XIV Corps started arriving on the battlefield, but the swampy terrain prevented them from deploying before nightfall. Hardee chose to retreat during the night after effectively delaying the Union advance for nearly two days.

March 18 — The Congress of the Confederate States of America adjourned for the last time.

March 19 — Bentonville

North Carolina — As Henry W. Slocum (USA) advanced, he met resistance from General William Hardee’s troops at Averasborough. Meanwhile, the right wing of Sherman’s army, under the command of General Oliver O. Howard, proceeded toward Goldsborough. 

On March 19, Slocum’s forces confronted the Confederates led by General Joseph E. Johnston, who had concentrated their efforts to counter the Union advance at Bentonville.

In the late afternoon, Johnston launched an attack that shattered the line of the XIV Corps. However, the Federals were able to launch counterattacks south of Goldsborough Road and slowed the Confederate advance.

Elements of the Union XX Corps arrived and joined the battle. Despite five attempts, the Confederates failed to dislodge the Union defenders. Darkness ended the fighting on the first day.

That night, Johnston adjusted his line, forming a protective “V” shape with Mill Creek to his rear to safeguard his flanks. On March 20, Slocum’s forces received substantial reinforcements, but fighting remained sporadic. Sherman was initially inclined to allow Johnston to retreat.

Battle of Bentonville, 1865, March 20, Turning the Confederate Flank, FL 431
Battle of Bentonville. Image Source: Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War, 1894.

However, on the 21st, Johnston chose to remain in position while he attended to his wounded men. Skirmishes intensified along the entire front, and in the afternoon, General Joseph Mower led a Union division along a narrow path that brought them across Mill Creek and into Johnston’s rear. 

Confederate counterattacks stopped Mower’s advance, preserving the army’s sole line of communication and retreat. Mower eventually withdrew, ending the day’s fighting.

Overnight, Johnston retreated across the bridge at Bentonville. Union forces pursued at dawn, driving back Wheeler’s rearguard and securing the bridge. Federal pursuit halted at Hannah’s Creek after a fierce skirmish.

Sherman regrouped at Goldsborough and continued his pursuit of Johnston towards Raleigh. 

On April 18, Johnston signed an armistice with Sherman at the Bennett House, and on April 26, he formally surrendered his army.

March 25 — Fort Stedman

Virginia — In a final offensive, General Robert E. Lee (CSA) assembled nearly half of his army to break through General Ulysses S. Grant’s defenses at Petersburg and threaten the supply depot at City Point. 

On March 25, Under the direction of General John B. Gordon, a pre-dawn assault was launched by Confederate forces that overwhelmed the garrisons of Fort Stedman and Batteries X, XI, and XII.

Battle of Fort Stedman, 1865, Confederate Attack, HW
This illustration depicts the Confederate assault at the Battle of Fort Stedman. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, April 15, 1865.

However, the Confederates found themselves caught in a crossfire, and counterattacks led by General John Parke and General John Hartranft stopped the advance. As a result, more than 1,900 Confederates were cut off and captured.

Throughout the day, elements of the II and VI Corps carried out attacks and seized Confederates along the entrenched picket lines. The number of men along the lines had been reduced to aid the assault on Fort Stedman, leaving the remaining pickets vulnerable.

This defeat at Fort Stedman was a devastating blow to Lee’s army, ultimately setting the stage for the Confederate defeat at Five Forks on April 1 and the subsequent fall of Petersburg on April 2–3.

March 27 — Spanish Fort

Alabama — General Edward R.S. Canby led his XIII and XVI corps along the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, pushing Confederates into their defensive positions. Union troops then focused their efforts on two key strongholds — Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely. 

On March 27, Canby’s forces converged at Danley’s Ferry and started siege operations against Spanish Fort. By April 1, Union forces had surrounded the fort, and on April 8, they captured it. 

Although most of the Confederate troops, led by General Randall L. Gibson, managed to escape and retreat to Mobile, the Spanish Fort was no longer a threat.

March 29 — Lewis’s Farm

Virginia — At the start of General Ulysses S. Grant’s spring offensive on March 29, General Phillip Sheridan led the cavalry, followed by the V Corps. They embarked on a march toward Dinwiddie Court House, to flank the right side of General Robert E. Lee’s defenses in Petersburg.

The Union V Corps, commanded by General Gouverneur K. Warren, crossed Rowanty Creek and proceeded along Quaker Road in the direction of the intersection with the Boydton Plank Road. Along this route, they engaged Confederate brigades under the command of General Bushrod R. Johnson around Lewis’s Farm.

The Confederates retreated to their fortified positions on the White Oak Road.

March 31 — White Oak Road

Virginia — On March 30, General Robert E. Lee (CSA) responded to the Union movement aimed at turning his right flank by shifting reinforcements. He positioned General William Henry Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee and his cavalry divisions at Five Forks and relocated General George Pickett and his division from the Bermuda Hundred front to the far right. 

Meanwhile, Major General Gouverneur K. Warren directed the V Corps to advance, establishing entrenched positions to shield the Boydton Plank Road from its intersection with Dabney Mill Road south to Gravelly Run. General Romeyn Ayres (USA) and his division proceeded northwest toward White Oak Road.

On March 31, in conjunction with General Philip Sheridan’s attack at Dinwiddie Court House, Warren ordered his men to engage the Confederate entrenchments along White Oak Road

Warren’s goal was to sever Lee’s communication lines with Pickett at Five Forks. 

Although the Union advance was met with a counterattack led by General Bushrod Johnson, Warren’s men held their positions, advanced, and closed in on the road by day’s end. 

This paved the way for the Confederate defeat at Five Forks on April 1.

March 31 — Dinwiddie Court House

Virginia — On March 29, General Philip Sheridan (USA), accompanied by the Cavalry Corps, as well as the II and V Corps, initiated a flanking march to outflank General Robert E. Lee’s defenses in Petersburg. However, heavy rains slowed Sheridan’s advance.

By March 31, General William Henry Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee and his cavalry, along with General George Pickett and his infantry division, engaged the vanguard of the Union forces to the north and northwest of Dinwiddie Court House. They successfully pushed the Union vanguard back, temporarily stopping Sheridan’s progress. Meanwhile, Union infantry units were approaching from the east.

Realizing the threat from the east, Pickett withdrew from the Battle of Dinwiddie Court House before dawn and relocated to Five Forks. General Lee ordered Pickett to hold the intersection at all costs.

1865, April

April 1 — Five Forks

Virginia — General Robert E. Lee (CSA) issued orders to General George Pickett, instructing him to maintain control of the strategically vital crossroads at Five Forks at any cost. Pickett was joined by the cavalry forces led by General William Henry Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee, General Thomas L. Rosser, and Colonel Thomas T. Munford.

On April 1, General Philip Sheridan (USA) and his cavalry pinned the Confederate force in its position while the V Corps, led by General Gouverneur K. Warren launched an attack that overwhelmed the Confederate left flank. 

Sheridan personally directed the decisive attack, which stretched Lee’s Petersburg lines to the breaking point. The Confederate loss at the Battle of Five Forks was a serious threat to Lee’s last remaining supply line, the South Side Railroad.

Battle of Five Forks, 1865, Sheridan Cavalry Charge, HW
This illustration depicts Sheridan at the Battle of Five Forks. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, April 22, 1865.

The next morning, April 2, Lee informed President Jefferson Davis (CSA) that Petersburg and Richmond had to be evacuated. 

Sheridan, who was not pleased with Warren’s performance as a commanding officer, relieved him of his command of the V Corps after the battle, effectively ruining Warren’s military career.

April 2 — President Jefferson Davis (CSA) and most of the members of his Cabinet fled from Richmond, Virginia, which was captured by Union troops the next day.

April 2 — Fort Blakely

Alabama — By April 1, Union forces had surrounded Spanish Fort, which allowed troops to be sent to lay siege to Fort Blakely. General St. John R. Liddell (CSA), commanding approximately 4,000 men, held out against the much larger Union force until Spanish Fort fell on April 8. 

This enabled General Edward R.S. Canby (USA) to bring together a force of 16,000 to attack Fort Blakely on April 9.

Union forces overwhelmed the fort, forcing the Confederates to surrender. 

April 2 — Selma

Alabama — On March 22, General James H. Wilson (USA) assumed command of 3 divisions of Union cavalry, totaling approximately 13,500 men, and marched south from Gravelly Springs, Alabama. 

Wilson’s advance was met with opposition from General Nathan B. Forrest (CSA). However, Wilson was able to continue his march, eventually defeating Forrest at Ebenezer Church on April 1.

As Wilson pushed toward Selma, he divided his command into 3 columns. Although Selma was well-fortified, the Union columns managed to breach the defenses at different points. The Union victory at the Battle of Selma forced the Confederates to surrender the city. 

April 2 — Petersburg, Third Battle

Virginia — Following the Union victory at Five Forks on April 1, General Ulysses S. Grant (USA) and General George G. Meade issued orders for a general assault against General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate defenses at Petersburg on April 2. 

The II, IX, VI, and XXIV Corps carried out the assault. However, a strong defense of Fort Gregg by a small contingent of Confederates prevented the Federal forces from entering the city that night. During the battle, General A.P. Hill (CSA) was killed.

That night, Lee decided to evacuate both Petersburg and Richmond — the capital of the Confederacy. The Union victory at the Third Battle of Petersburg allowed Grant to capture both cities.

April 2 — Sutherland’s Station

Virginia — On April 2, Union forces converged on Petersburg, and elements from the command of General Nelson A. Miles (USA) moved north from White Oak Road. They met elements of 4 Confederate brigades who were trying to defend the South Side Railroad. The Confederates positioned their left flank at Ocran Methodist Church, but it proved to be a weak position.

Led by Miles, 3 Union brigades overwhelmed the Confederates at Ocran Methodist Church, forcing them to scatter and retreat northwest.

The Union victory at the Battle of Sutherland’s Station gave it control of the South Side Railroad — General Robert E. Lee’s last supply line into Petersburg.

April 3 — Namozine Church

Virginia — Colonel William Wells (USA), from the command of General George Amstrong Custer, engaged Confederate cavalry led by General William Henry Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee near Namozine Church. Although the outcome of the Battle of Namozine Church was inconclusive, General Rufus Barringer (CSA) was captured.

April 5 — Amelia Springs

Virginia — On April 5, Confederate cavalry Confederate cavalry led by General William Henry Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee and General Thomas L. Rosser attacked Union cavalry led by General George Crook, who was returning from a mission to burn Confederate wagons at Painesville. The Battle of Amelia Springs started north of Amelia Springs and turned into a running battle that extended through and beyond Jetersville.

April 6 — Sailor’s Creek

Virginia — On April 6, a significant portion of the retreating Confederate army found itself cut off by General Philip Sheridan (USA) and his cavalry, along with elements from the II and VI Corps. A large number of Confederates, including General Richard S. Ewell, surrendered.

When General Robert E. Lee (CSA) saw survivors along the road, he exclaimed, “My God, has the army dissolved?”

The Battle of Sailor’s Creek is generally viewed as the end of Lee’s army.

April 6 — Rice’s Station

Virginia — On April 6, General James Longstreet (CSA) and his command reached Rice’s Station, which marked its southernmost advance. Here, they met Union forces from the XXIV Corps. Eventually, Longstreet decided to withdraw during the night, pulling back toward Farmville, and ending the Battle of Rice’s Station.

April 6 — High Bridge

Virginia — On April 6, the Confederate cavalry fought to secure the bridges over the Appomattox River. The next day, elements of the Union II Corps confronted Longstreet’s rear guard, which was trying to set fire to the High Bridge and wagon bridge. Union forces managed to save the wagon bridge, which allowed the II Corps to cross and continue their pursuit of Lee’s army. The failure to destroy the bridge at the Battle of High Bridge was significant, as it enabled Union forces to catch up with the Confederates at Farmville.

April 7 — Cumberland Church

Virginia — At around 2:00 p.m. on April 7, the vanguard of the Union II Corps engaged Confederates who were entrenched on elevated terrain near Cumberland Church. The Union forces launched two attacks but were met with strong resistance, but the Confederates held their positions. As night fell, the fighting ended. The Army of Northern Virginia’s victory at Cumberland Church was their final victory during the Civil War.

April 8 — Appomattox Station

Virginia George Armstrong Custer (USA) and his division captured a Confederate supply train and 25 guns. Custer’s forces also captured and destroyed 3 trains carrying provisions for General Robert E. Lee (CSA) and his army. The Union victory at the Battle of Appomattox Station was a key moment that led to Lee’s surrender.

April 9 — Appomattox Court House and Lee’s Surrender

Virginia — In the early hours of April 9, Confederate forces led by General John B. Gordon and General Fitzhugh Lee established a defensive line at Appomattox Court House. General Robert E. Lee, decided to make an effort to escape Union forces and reach his supplies at Lynchburg, and ordered his forces to advance at dawn.

Surrender at Appomattox, 1865, McLean House, HW
This illustration depicts the McLean House at Appomattox, where Lee surrendered to Grant. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, November 4, 1865.

At first, the Confederates gained ground against General Philip Sheridan (USA) and his cavalry. However, the arrival of Union infantry stopped the Confederate advance. 

At this point, Lee was surrounded on 3 sides and made the fateful decision to surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant

The Battle of Appomattox Court House was the last battle of the Civil War in Virginia.

Surrender at Appomattox, 1865, Confederate Army at Conner's Farm, HW
This illustration depicts the Confederate Army gathered at Appomattox. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, November 4, 1865.

April 13 — Battle of Morrisville in North Carolina. Union victory.

April 14 — Fort Sumter, South Carolina was re-occupied by Union forces.

April 14 — Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln

WashingtonPresident Lincoln was shot by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth while attending an evening performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre. Meanwhile, Lewis Powell, a conspirator allied with Booth attempted to assassinate Secretary of State William H. Seward.

Lincoln Assassination, 1865, April 14, Booth Escaping Ford's Theater, HW
This illustration depicts Booth escaping from Ford’s Theater. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, April 29, 1865.

April 15 — Andrew Johnson Sworn In

Washington — President Lincoln died from his wounds at the age of 56. Vice President Andrew Johnson was sworn in as the 17th President of the United States.

April 18 — Escorted by 1,000 Confederate troops, Jefferson Davis and his entire cabinet members arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina.

April 26 — Surrender of General Joseph Johnston

North Carolina — General Joseph E. Johnston (CSA) signed the surrender document for the Confederate Army of the Tennessee and other Confederate troops at Bennett’s Place near Durham, North Carolina.

April 26 — Union forces trapped John Wilkes Booth in a Virginia barn, and cavalryman Boston Corbett fatally shot the assassin.

April 27 — The steamboat Sultana, carrying 2,300 passengers, exploded and sank in the Mississippi River, killing 1,800 people, most of whom were Union troops who survived Andersonville Prison.

1865, May

May 4 — Surrender of General Richard Taylor

AlabamaGeneral Richard Taylor (CSA), commanding all Confederate forces in Alabama, Mississippi, and eastern Louisiana, surrendered to General Edward Canby (USA) at Citronelle, Alabama, effectively ending all Confederate resistance east of the Mississippi River.

May 5 — The first train robbery in America took place in North Bend, Ohio, outside of Cincinnati.

May 5 — Jefferson Davis met with his cabinet for the last time, in Washington, Georgia. The Confederate government was dissolved.

May 10 — Jefferson Davis was captured near Irwinville, Georgia.

May 12 — Palmito Ranch

Texas — In March 1865, an unofficial agreement had been in place, which prevented fighting between Union and Confederate forces along the Rio Grande at White’s Ranch and Palmito Ranch.

However, Colonel Theodore H. Barrett (USA) who was in command of forces at Brazos Santiago, Texas, decided to send an expedition to attack reported Confederate outposts and camps. The expedition consisted of 250 men from the 62nd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment and 50 men from the 2nd Texas Cavalry Regiment, led by Lieutenant Colonel David Branson.

In the early hours of May 12, Branson surrounded the Confederate outpost at White’s Ranch but found it deserted. Branson concealed his men in a thicket along the banks of the Rio Grande and allowed them to rest, before marching on Palmito Ranch

Around 8:30 a.m., the Confederates at Palmito Ranch were alerted to the presence of Union forces. As Branson advanced, he encountered Confederate skirmishers. However, he fought his way into the camp and the Confederates fled.

At 3:00 p.m., a large Confederate force appeared, forcing Branson to withdraw to White’s Ranch. Branson sent a message to Barrett, asking for reinforcements. Barrett responded by leading reinforcements to join with Branson. Barrett arrived at daybreak on May 13 and took command of the Union forces.

Barrett marched toward Palmito Ranch, engaging Confederate skirmishers along the way. When he arrived at Palmito Ranch, he had his men destroy Confederate supplies and then became engaged in a firefight with the Confederates. Barrett ordered a retreat to a bluff at Tulosa, intending to camp for the night. 

At 4:00 p.m., a Confederate cavalry led by Colonel John S. “Rip” Ford, approached, and Barrett’s men formed a battle line. Ford bombarded Barrett with artillery, forcing Barrett to retreat, ending what is recognized as the final battle of the Civil War.

May 23 — The Grand Review of the Armies took place in Washington, D.C, as Union troops paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue.

May 26General Simon Bolivar Buckner (CSA) agreed to terms of surrender for the Army of the Trans-Mississippi, effective on June 2, 1865. Bucker’s army was the last large Confederate Army in the field.

May 29 — President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation, declaring general amnesty for most citizens of the former Confederacy.

1865, June

June 2 — Confederates west of the Mississippi River under General Edmund Kirby Smith surrendered at Galveston, Texas.

June 19General Gordon Granger (USA) landed at Galveston, Texas, and informed the people of Texas of the Emancipation Proclamation. Granger’s proclamation is celebrated today as “Juneteenth.”

June 23 — At Fort Towson in Oklahoma Territory, General Stand Watie (CSA), a Cherokee, surrendered.

1865 July 

July 5 — The U.S. Secret Service was established.

July 7 — Following Lincoln’s assassination, 4 conspirators condemned to death during the trial were hanged, including David Herold, George Atzerodt, Lewis Powell, and Mary Surratt. John Surratt, Mary’s son, escaped execution by fleeing to Canada, and then to Egypt.

July 21 — In the market square of Springfield, Missouri, Wild Bill Hickok shot and killed “Little Dave” Davis Tutt over a poker debt, in what is regarded as the first true quick draw showdown of the Wild West.

Ulysses S. Grant, 1865, August 18, Galena Illinois, HW
This illustration depicts General Grant in Galena, Illinois on August 18. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, September 9, 1865.

1865, October

October 25 — Florida drafted a new state constitution.

1865, November

November 6 — The Confederate ship CSS Shenandoah surrendered to the British Royal Navy.

November 10 — Captain Henry Wirz (CSA), former superintendent of Andersonville Prison, was hanged for war crimes committed during the war.

Andersonville Prison, 1865, Burial Grounds, HW
This illustration depicts the burial grounds for the 14,000 Union troops who died at Andersonville Prison. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, October 7, 1865.

1865, December

December 13 — Following a proposal introduced by Pennsylvania Representative Thaddeus Stevens (December 4), Congress established the Joint Committee on Reconstruction.

December 18 — 13th Amendment Verified

WashingtonSecretary of State William H. Seward declared the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution ratified by three-quarters of the states, including those in secession. Slavery was officially abolished in the United States of America.

The Last Chattel, 1866, Harper's Weekly
The Last Chattel. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, January 6, 1866.

December 24 — In Pulaski, Tennessee, a group of former Confederate officers formed a private social club called the “Ku Klux Klan.”

1866, April

April 2 — President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation, declaring the “…insurrection which heretofore existed in the States of Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida…” — and the Civil War — was over.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Civil War Timeline and History, from January to December 1865
  • Date January 1, 1865—December 31, 1865
  • Author
  • Keywords Civil War Timeline, Civil War History, Civil War 1865
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date February 27, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update January 12, 2024

Civil War Timeline and History, from January to December 1865 is Part of the Following on AHC