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Decisive Battles in the American Civil War

Among the hundreds of battles fought during the American Civil War, 45 are considered decisive by the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission (CWSAC), due to their "direct, observable impact on the direction, duration, conduct, or outcome of the war". This chronological list aims at helping you learn the key facts of these decisive battles, as well as the timeline of the American Civil War in general.
a data set by WorldExplorer
created February 15, 2017
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FAMILY TREE
BattleOther NamePictureStart DateEnd DateCity/TownStateCommander (Union)Commander (Confederacy)Strength (Union)Strength (Confederacy)Casualties and Losses (Union)Casualties and Losses (Confederacy)VictorOutcome
Battle of Fort SumterApril 12, 1861April 14, 1861CharlestonSouth CarolinaRobert AndersonP. G. T. Beauregard85500–6,000 (estimated)00ConfederacyBeginning of the American Civil War; The Confederates took the Charleston Harbor.
First Battle of Bull RunBattle of First ManassasJuly 21, 1861July 21, 1861ManassasVirginiaIrvin McDowellP. G. T. Beauregard18,00018,0002,7081,982ConfederacyThe Union troops retreated and ran without order in the direction of Washington, D.C.
Battle of Wilson's CreekBattle of Oak HillsAugust 10, 1861August 10, 1861 SpringfieldMissouriNathaniel Lyon; Samuel D. SturgisSterling Price; Benjamin McCulloch5,43012,1201,3171,232ConfederacyThe Union forces retreated to Springfield; Lyon was killed during the battle; The Confederates gained control of southwestern Missouri.
Battle of Fort DonelsonFebruary 11, 1862February 16, 1862DoverTennesseeUlysses S. GrantJohn B. Floyd24,53116,1712,69113,846UnionThe Confederates surrendered; The Union troops gained control of the Cumberland River.
Battle of Island Number TenBattle of New MadridFebruary 28, 1862April 8, 1862New MadridMissouriJohn PopeJohn P. McCown23,0007,000787,000UnionThe Confederates surrendered and lost a position on the Mississippi River in battle for the first time.
Battle of Pea RidgeBattle of Elkhorn TavernMarch 6, 1862March 8, 1862Pea RidgeArkansasSamuel CurtisEarl Van Dorn10,50016,5001,3842,000UnionThe Union established control of Missouri and northern Arkansas for the rest of the war.
Battle of Glorieta PassMarch 26, 1862March 28, 1862Santa Fe CountyNew MexicoJohn P. SloughCharles L. Pyron; William R. Scurry1,3001,100147222Tactical: Confederacy; Strategic: UnionThe Union force was pushed back through the pass; The Confederates were forced to retreat back to Santa Fe due to the destruction of their supplies and they eventually abandoned New Mexico Territory.
Battle of ShilohBattle of Pittsburg LandingApril 6, 1862April 7, 1862ShilohTennesseeUlysses S. Grant; Don Carlos BuellAlbert Sidney Johnston; P. G. T. Beauregard63,00040,33513,04710,699UnionJohnston was killed during the battle; The Confederate forces were forced to retreat from the area, ending their hopes of blocking the Union advance into northern Mississippi.
Battle of Forts Jackson and St. PhilipApril 18, 1862April 28, 1862New OrleansLouisianaDavid G. FarragutJohnson K. Duncan229782UnionThe Union captured the forts and New Orleans; CSS Louisiana was destroyed by her crew.
Siege of CorinthFirst Battle of CorinthApril 29, 1862May 30, 1862CorinthMississippiHenry HalleckP. G. T. Beauregard120,00065,0001,0001,000UnionThe Union forces captured the town; A change in the tactics in West Tennessee.
First Battle of WinchesterMay 25, 1862May 25, 1862WinchesterVirginiaNathaniel P. BanksStonewall Jackson6,50016,0002,019400Confederacy The Union force fled across the Potomac River into Maryland.
Battle of Gaines's MillBattle of Chickahominy River; First Battle of Cold HarborJune 27, 1862June 27, 1862MechanicsvilleVirginiaGeorge B. McClellanRobert E. Lee34,21457,0186,8377,993Confederacy McClellan abandoned his advance on Richmond and began a retreat to the James River.
Battle of Malvern HillBattle of Poindexter's FarmJuly 1, 1862July 1, 1862VarinaVirginiaGeorge B. McClellanRobert E. Lee54,00055,0003,0005,650Tactical: UnionAfter defeating the Confederates, the Union forces withdrew from Malvern Hill to Harrison's Landing.
Second Battle of Bull RunBattle of Second ManassasAugust 28, 1862August 30, 1862ManassasVirginiaJohn PopeRobert E. Lee62,00050,00014,4627,298Confederacy The Union left flank was crushed and the army was driven back to Bull Run; Lee initiated his Maryland Campaign.
Battle of AntietamBattle of SharpsburgSeptember 17, 1862September 17, 1862SharpsburgMarylandGeorge B. McClellanRobert E. Lee87,16438,00012,41010,316Tactical: Inconclusive; Strategic: UnionMcClellan ended Lee's first invasion of North; Bloodiest single-day battle in American history; Announcement of Emancipation Proclamation
Battle of Perryville Battle of Chaplin HillsOctober 8, 1862October 8, 1862PerryvilleKentuckyDon Carlos BuellBraxton Bragg22,00016,0004,2413,396Tactical: Inconclusive; Strategic: UnionThe Union retained control of the critical border state of Kentucky for the remainder of the war.
Battle of FredericksburgDecember 11, 1862December 15, 1862FredericksburgVirginiaAmbrose BurnsideRobert E. Lee114,000 72,50012,6535,377Confederacy The Confederates beat back repeated frontal assaults by the Union army; One of the most one-sided battles of the war.
Battle of Stones RiverSecond Battle of MurfreesboroDecember 31, 1862January 2, 1863MurfreesboroTennesseeWilliam RosecransBraxton Bragg43,40035,00012,90611,739UnionBragg chose to withdraw after heavy losses, losing the confidence of the Army of Tennessee.
Battle of ChancellorsvilleApril 30, 1863May 6, 1863ChancellorsvilleVirginiaJoseph HookerRobert E. Lee133,86860,29817,28713,303 Confederacy The Union forces withdrew; Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded.
Battle of Champion HillMay 16, 1863May 16, 1863EdwardsMississippiUlysses S. GrantJohn C. Pemberton32,00022,0002,4573,840UnionGrant defeated Pemberton's army, leading inevitably to the Siege of Vicksburg.
Siege of VicksburgMay 18, 1863July 4, 1863VicksburgMississippiUlysses S. GrantJohn C. Pemberton77,00033,0004,83532,697UnionPemberton surrendered his army to Grant; Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas were cut off from the rest of the Confederacy.
Siege of Port HudsonMay 22, 1863July 9, 1863East Baton Rouge ParishLouisianaNathaniel P. BanksFranklin Gardner30,000 – 40,0007,50010,0007,500UnionThe last Confederate stronghold on Mississippi surrendered.
Battle of GettysburgJuly 1, 1863July 3, 1863GettysburgPennsylvaniaGeorge G. MeadeRobert E. Lee93,92171,69923,04923,231UnionThe turning point of the American Civil War; The largest number of casualties of the entire war; Meade's army defeated attacks by Lee's army, ending Lee's attempt to invade the North.
Battle of ChickamaugaSeptember 18, 1863September 20, 1863Fort OglethorpeGeorgiaWilliam RosecransBraxton Bragg60,00065,00016,17018,454 ConfederacyThe second-highest number of casualties of the entire war; The Union forces retired to Chattanooga while the Confederates occupied the surrounding heights, besieging the city.
Battle of Missionary RidgeNovember 25, 1863November 25, 1863ChattanoogaTennesseeUlysses S. GrantBraxton Bragg56,359 44,0105,824 6,667UnionGrant defeated Bragg, ending the siege of Union forces in Chattanooga.
Battle of Mansfield Battle of Sabine CrossroadsApril 8, 1864April 8, 1864MansfieldLouisianaNathaniel P. BanksRichard Taylor12,00014,0002,1171,000ConfederacyThe Union troops retreated and were captured; End of the Union Army's Red River Campaign
Battle of the WildernessMay 5, 1864May 7, 1864Locust GroveVirginiaUlysses S. GrantRobert E. Lee101,89561,02517,66611,033InconclusiveGrant disengaged and continued his offensive.
Battle of Spotsylvania Court HouseBattle of SpotsylvaniaMay 8, 1864May 21, 1864Spotsylvania CourthouseVirginiaUlysses S. GrantRobert E. Lee100,00052,00018,39912,687InconclusiveGrant disengaged and started southeast on another maneuver to turn Lee's right flank.
Battle of Cold HarborMay 31, 1864June 12, 1864MechanicsvilleVirginiaUlysses S. GrantRobert E. Lee108,00059,00012,7385,287ConfederacyLee repulsed Grant's attacks; Grant advanced by his left flank, marching to the James River.
Second Battle of PetersburgAssault on PetersburgJune 15, 1864June 18, 1864PetersburgVirginiaUlysses S. GrantRobert E. Lee62,00038,00011,3864,000ConfederacyLee repulsed Grant at back door to Richmond; Start of the ten-month Siege of Petersburg.
Battle of the CraterJuly 30, 1864July 30, 1864PetersburgVirginiaAmbrose E. BurnsideRobert E. Lee8,500 6,1003,7981,491ConfederacyThe Union forces were repulsed with severe casualties; Burnside was relieved of command.
Battle of Mobile BayAugust 2, 1864August 23, 1864Mobile BayAlabamaDavid Farragut; Gordon GrangerFranklin Buchanan; Richard L. Page5,5001,5003281,622UnionThe Confederates surrendered; The Union forces gained complete control of lower Mobile Bay.
Battle of JonesboroughAugust 31, 1864September 1, 1864JonesboroGeorgiaWilliam T. ShermanJohn Bell Hood70,00024,0001,1492,000UnionThe Confederates were defeated, resulting in Atlanta's fall the following day.
Third Battle of WinchesterBattle of OpequonSeptember 19, 1864September 19, 1864WinchesterVirginiaPhilip SheridanJubal Early40,00012,0005,0203,610UnionThe Confederates retreated; Several general officers were killed or wounded on both sides.
Battle of Cedar CreekBattle of Belle GroveOctober 19, 1864October 19, 1864MiddletownVirginiaPhilip SheridanJubal Early31,61021,1025,6652,910UnionEnd of the final Confederate invasion of the North; Contributions to the reelection of Abraham Lincoln
Battle of WestportOctober 23, 1864October 23, 1864 Kansas CityMissouriSamuel R. CurtisSterling Price22,0008,5001,5001,500UnionThe Confederate army retreated, ending its last major offensive west of the Mississippi River; The Union maintained solid control over most of Missouri for the remainder of the war.
Battle of FranklinNovember 30, 1864November 30, 1864FranklinTennesseeJohn M. SchofieldJohn Bell Hood27,00027,0002,3266,252UnionThe Confederates attacked but failed to prevent the Union forces from a planned, orderly withdrawal to Nashville; The Army of Tennessee suffered from devastating losses.
Battle of NashvilleDecember 15, 1864December 16, 1864NashvilleTennesseeGeorge H. ThomasJohn Bell Hood55,00030,0003,0616,000UnionEnd of the Army of Tennessee as a fighting force
Second Battle of Fort FisherJanuary 13, 1865January 15, 1865WilmingtonNorth CarolinaAlfred H. TerryBraxton Bragg11,8938,3001,0571,900UnionThe Union took the Fort Fisher - the last major coastal stronghold of the Confederacy.
Battle of BentonvilleMarch 19, 1865March 21, 1865BentonvilleNorth CarolinaWilliam T. ShermanJoseph E. Johnston60,00021,9001,5272,606UnionDue to the overwhelming Union strength and the heavy casualties, Johnston elected to withdraw, and surrendered to Sherman little more than a month later.
Battle of Fort StedmanBattle of Hare's HillMarch 25, 1865March 25, 1865PetersburgVirginiaJohn G. ParkeJohn B. Gordon 14,89810,0001,0444,000UnionThe Confederates failed to break the Siege of Petersburg.
Battle of Five ForksApril 1, 1865April 1, 1865Five ForksVirginiaPhilip SheridanGeorge E. Pickett22,00010,6008302,950UnionThe Union force seized Five Forks, the key to control of the South Side Railroad.
Third Battle of PetersburgBreakthrough at Petersburg; Fall of PetersburgApril 2, 1865April 2, 1865PetersburgVirginiaUlysses S. GrantRobert E. Lee63,00020,000 3,9365,000UnionEnd of the Siege of Petersburg and opening of the Appomattox Campaign; Fall of Richmond the following day
Battle of Fort BlakelyApril 2, 1865April 9, 1865Baldwin CountyAlabamaEdward CanbySt. John R. Liddell45,0004,0006292,900UnionFort Blakely surrendered to the Union.
Battle of Appomattox Court HouseApril 9, 1865April 9, 1865AppomattoxVirginiaUlysses S. GrantRobert E. Lee150,00028,00016428,000UnionSurrender of the Army of Northern Virginia; Lee's surrender triggered a series of surrenders across the South, signaling the end of the war.
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