5. 5 The Course of the War
To get a clearer insight into the battles fought
during the Civil War, the war has been divided on geographical basis.
During the war, the Southern soldiers were nicknamed ’Johnny Rebe’
after Rebel by the northern troops. The Southern troops called the
northern soldier Billy Yank after Yankee.
When the war broke out, many Northerners thought
that the conflict would be over in three months. Several early victories
gained by the confederates proved that this was going to be a long
and bitter struggle.
The First Battle of Bull Run (also called
the First Battle of Manassas) was fought on July 21, 1861. Here
the confederate army resisted several attacks by the Union forces.
Finally the Northern troops were forced to flee from Virginia to
Washington D.C. So strong was the resistance of the confederate
troops led by General Thomas J. Jackson that it earned him the nickname
This victory was followed by more Southern victories
at the Battles of the Seven Days (June 25 - July 1, 1862, and the
Second Battle of Bull Run fought between August 27 - August 30,
Battle of Antietam (also known as the Battle
In September 1862, the confederate General Robert
E. Lee invaded Maryland. Here, he sent a part of his army to capture
Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). But the Union army
got a inkling of Lee’s moves, and was prepared to meet the Southern
troops. When Lee got the news of the Union troops lined on at Harper’s
Ferry under the leadership of General George B. McClellan, he took
up position at Sharpsburg, a town on Antietam Creek, Maryland. So
when McClellan’s army launched a series of attacks, a part of Lee’s
troops arrived at the scene from its successful campaign at Harper’s
Ferry to save the day. In the Battle, the Union army suffered heavy
losses and was made to retreat. This battle is considered to the
bloodiest battle of the war. For about 2,000 Northern and 2,700
Southern soldiers lost their lives. Thousands more from both sides
were wounded, out of which 3,000 succumbed to their wounds. Since
Lee’s army was forced to retreat, the North called it a Union Victory.
The First Battle between Iron Clads
The Confederates, in 1861, had raised a sunken
federal ship called "Merri mack" near Norfolk, Virginia.
This wooden vessel was covered with iron plates. The ship renamed
the "Virginia" attacked northern ship on March 8, 1862,
at Hampton Rods. Hampton Rods was a channel that emptied itself
into the Chesapeake Bay. When the ship returned to the channel the
next day, it was in for a surprise. For it ran to the Union iron
- clad ship - the "Monitor." The battle that followed
was the first battle between iron clad warship in the history of
Soon after the battle of Antietam, Lincoln replaced
General McClellan with General Ambrose E. Burnside. He became the
Commander of the Eastern Union Army or the Army of Pontomac. But
due to crushing defeat faced by the Union forces at Fredricksburg
Virginia, Burnside was relieved of the post of Commander at his
own request General Joseph Hooker was appointed as the new Commander-in
Yet again, in May 1863, Lee’s forces won a decisive
victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville, near Fredericksburg.
And Hooker was forced to retreat with his troops.
The turning point of the war was the Battle of
Gettysburg fought in June 1863. When Lee’s forced moved into Pennsylvania,
the Northern Union troops followed it towards the North. At this
point, Lincoln replaced Hooker with General George G. Meade, a Pennsylvanian,
as the Commander. The shooting began when a Confederate brigade
met a Union Cavalry head on near Gettysburg. And what followed (between
the Southern army of 65,000 men and the northern army of 85,000
men) is considered to be the greatest of all battles ever fought
in the Western Hemisphere.
Barely half of Lee’s men survived this Battle.
Many were shot, while the others were captured. After this crushing
defeat, Lee withdrew to Virginia. The Confederate army had lost
20,500 men in the Battle. And Lee could not regain the strength
of his army to launch major attacks.
The War in the West
The center of the Confederates in the West lay
in 2 forts, about 20 kilometers from each other in W. Tennessee.
They were Fort Henry and Fort Donelson.
In February 1862, General Ulysses S. Grant, sent
gunboats which captured Fort Henry. Later, Grant himself led an
attack on Fort Donelson, which fell quickly. These union victories
were followed by clashes between both troops near Pittsburg landing,
at the Battle of Shiloh. Though the Union forces suffered heavy
casualties, it was the Southern army, which was forced to retreat.
The Battle of Chickamunga (September 19 - 20, 1863)
was the Confederate army’s last significant victory in the Civil
At the end of September 1863, General Bragg the
Commander of Southern forces in Tennessee, (after pushing the Union
army out of Georgia) headed towards Chattanooga. General Grant,
who had been given the Command of the entire Union army headed towards
Chattanooga. In the battles that were fought in November, the Southern
army received a crushing blow. The Union army captured Chattanooga
and used it as their base to enter Georgia and Alabama. This served
to divide the confederates into two.