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Abraham Lincoln Event Timeline

March 04, 1861

 Abraham Lincoln (16) Event Timeline

05/16/1860 The Republican National Convention convenes in Chicago. The platform condemns proposals to allow slavery in U.S. Territories and calls reopening of the African slave trade "a crime against humanity." On 05/18/1860 the Convention nominated Abraham Lincoln on the third ballot.
05/19/1860 Remarks to Committee of the Republican National Convention Accepting the Presidential Nomination


Election Day.


Electoral College votes cast.


Secession Convention meets in Columbia, South Carolina.


South Carolina secedes from the Union.




Mississippi secedes followed by Alabama (1/11), Georgia (1/19), Louisiana (1/26), Texas (2/1).

02/04/1861 – 03/16/1861

First session of Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America at Montgomery, Alabama.  Adopts constitution on 02/09/1861.


Jefferson Davis is elected President of the Provisional Government of the Confederate States.


U.S. Electoral Votes tabulated by Congress.


Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address. Noted for his concluding words: "I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
Previously he rejects the notion that states may secede, and notes his oath to defend the Constitution, including the right of slave-owners to reclaim fugitive slaves. And, "Unanimity is impossible.  The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible, so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left."


Message to the Senate on Royal Arbitration of American Boundary Lines.


Protective tariff system defined by Morrill Tariff (passed on 03/02/1861; 12 Stat 178) takes effect.


Ft. Sumter, Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, is shelled and surrenders the next day.


Proclamation 80 Calling Forth the Militia and Convening an Extra Session of Congress,  Session to begin July 4, 1861.


Virginia secedes.


Proclamation 81- Declaring a Blockade of Ports in Rebellious States.


Robert E. Lee resigns his commission with the U.S. Army in order to “defend his native state” of Virginia.


Proclamation 82—Extension of Blockade to Ports of Additional States.


Proclamation 83- Increasing the Size of the Army and Navy.


Arkansas secedes.


North Carolina secedes.


Confederate capital relocated to Richmond, VA.


Union forces seize Arlington House, the residence of Robert E. Lee.


Tennessee secedes.


Western counties of Virginia break away from the state to form West Virginia and be recognized as a state in 1863.


In a Special Session Message, Lincoln reviews the events since his Inauguration and his decision to “call out the war power of the Government.”  He calls for raising an army of at least 400,000.  Argues forcefully against the idea that States have a right to withdraw from the Union.


Signs Appropriations for the Army for Fiscal Year 1862 (12 Stat 261).  This act supplemented funding for and expanded the Navy and Army.


First Battle of Bull Run, Manassas Junction, Virginia (Confederate victory).


Signs An Act for the Suppression of Rebellion (12 Stat 281) authorizing the President to employ any military forces necessary “to enforce the faithful execution of the laws of the United States” against rebellions.


Signs a complex Revenue Act (12 Stat 292) that includes among its provisions a three-percent tax on annual income above $800.


Signs an act (12 Stat 326) that approves Lincoln’s emergency use of army and navy and militia.  These orders are “in all respects legalized and made valid. . . as if they had been issued and done under the previous express authority and direction of the Congress of the United States.”


Signs Compensation Act (12 Stat 319) authorizing the seizing of any property used to support the insurrection, including slaves, providing a basis for freeing any escaped slaves.


Proclamation 86- Prohibiting Commercial Trade with States in Rebellion .


First transcontinental telegram sent from Sacramento, CA to Lincoln by the president of the Overland Telegraph Co.


McClellan named commanding General succeeding Winfield Scott.


First Annual State of the Union Message.  Lincoln discusses ways to encourage freeing of slaves and calls for a plan for colonization of the freed slaves.




War Order #1 Directs that February 22 be a day for “general movement” of forces against the insurgents.


Executive Order relating to Political Prisoners directs release of prisoners suspected or accused of treason provided they agree to provide no aid or comfort to the enemies.


Lincoln’s son Willie dies at the White House at the age of 11.


Recommends to Congress a program of compensated emancipation of slaves.

03/08/1862 – 03/09/1862

First battle of ironclad warships; demonstrated the importance of ironclads, and eventually kept the Confederate ship confined in a body of water known as Hampton Roads.


Signs "Additional Article of War" (12 Stat 354) prohibiting the return by military forces of escaped slaves.

04/06/1862 – 04/07/1862

Ulysses S. Grant wins major Union victory at Battle of Shiloh in western Tennessee.


Signs “Act for the Release of certain Persons held to Service of Labor in the District of Columbia,” (12 Stat 376) freeing slaves in the District and compensating their owners up to $300 provided the owner swears an oath of allegiance to the Government of the United States.  Appropriates $1 Million for the program and $100,000 to “aid in the colonization and settlement of such free persons of African descent now residing in said District.”


Proclamation 89—Termination of Blockade of Beaufort, North Carolina, Port Royal, South Carolina, and New Orleans, Louisiana.


Signs Homestead Act (12 Stat 392) allowing settlers to acquire up to 160 acres of public land.


Executive Order- Taking Military Possession of Railroads.


General Robert E. Lee becomes commander of Army of Northern Virginia replacing General Joseph Johnson who had been wounded in battle.


Signs "An Act to secure Freedom to all Persons within the Territories of the United States"  (12 Stat 432) eliminating slavery in any Territories of the United States.


Order Constituting the [Union] Army of Virginia.


Signs Act prescribing an Oath of Office for all federal government office-holders (12 Stat 502) including that “I have never voluntarily borne arms against the United States. . . given no aid, countenance, counsel, or encouragement to persons engaged in armed hostility thereto. . . “


Signs Morrill Act (12 Stat 503) donating public land to be used to support colleges “for agriculture and the mechanic arts.”


Message to Congress Proposing an Act of Compensated Emancipation.


Signs "An Act to grant Pensions" (12 Stat 566) that increased pension rates and provided pensions to anyone in military service since 03/04/1861. Also benefitting were their widows and orphans (if death due to military service), or a dependent mother or sister. These pensions eventually become the largest single expenditure of the government (other than interest on the debt).


Signs Second Confiscation Act (12 Stat 589) declaring that slaves owned by anyone participating in rebellion will be made free; seeks to seize property of Confederate leaders; specifies that escaped slaves are to be set free; allows the President to “employ as many persons of African descent as he may deem necessary and proper for the suppression of this rebellion.”


Signs Act amending the Act calling forth the Militia (12 Stat 597).  Includes provision freeing any slave serving in the Militia together with his mother, his wife and his children.


Beginning of “Dakota War” in the State of Minnesota.  Dakota warriors angry about their conditions attacked white settlers.  Eventually over 600 settlers and soldier died as well as 75-100 Dakota.


Letter to Horace Greeley published in New York Times, August 24;  “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.”

08/30/1862 – 08/31/1862

Second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas, VA) and a second Confederate victory.


Battle of Antietam (Maryland);  bloody battle ends Lee’s invasion of the North.


Proclamation 93—Declaring the Objectives of the War Including Emancipation of Slaves in Rebellious States on January 1, 1863 (Emancipation Proclamation).


State of the Union Message. Discusses prospects for colonization of “free Americans of African descent.”  Observes that “Indian tribes upon our frontiers have during the past year manifested a spirit of insubordination. . . “ The Sioux Indians attacked settlements “with extreme ferocity.”  Proposes a constitutional amendment for compensated abolition of slavery.


Message to the Senate Responding to the Resolution Regarding Indian Barbarities in the State of Minnesota.  Reports that he commuted the death sentences of all convicted in the “Dakota Wars” except for those proven to have participated in massacres as opposed to battles.  [Link to Senate Document with attachments.]


Battle of Fredericksburg (VA), is a grave defeat for the Union Army.


Signs Act admitting West Virginia to the Union (12 Stat 633) once a vote of the people certifies the choice and the President issues a proclamation.




Proclamation 95—Regarding the Status of Slaves in States Engaged in Rebellion Against the United States [Emancipation Proclamation].


Signs Act establishing the Territory of Arizona (12 Stat 664).


Signs the National Banking Act (12 Stat 665) creates a system for national banking; system of national currency; creates the office of Comptroller of the Currency.


Signs act establishing the Territory of Idaho (12 Stat 808).


Signs Act to Incorporate the National Academy of Sciences (12 Stat 806).


Signs Habeas Corpus Act (12 Stat 755) authorizing the President, during the present rebellion to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus “whenever, in his judgment the public safety may require it.”


Proclamation 100, Admitting West Virginia to the Union. (Admission takes effect 60 days later.)


General Grant opens his assault on Vicksburg (MS) in an effort to wrest control of the Mississippi River from the Confederates.


The War Department issues General Order 143, creating a Bureau devoted to the organizing of Colored Troops.


West Virginia admitted as a state pursuant to Proclamation 100 of 04/20/1863.

07/01/1863 – 07/03/1863

Battle of Gettysburg.  Confederate invasion of the North fails after a fierce battle with over 7,000 dead and 27,000 wounded.


Confederate troops surrender at Vicksburg (MS) after a 47 day siege.

07/13/1863 – 07/16/1863

New York City draft riots.  Protests against the draft degenerated into a anti-Black race riot leaving around 120 dead.


Executive Order directs equal retaliation against Southern prisoners for instances of execution or enslavement of Northern prisoners by the South.


Lincoln letter to James C. Conkling defending his policies on emancipation against criticism from Union supporters.


Proclamation 104- Suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus Throughout the United States.


Proclamation 107—Call for 300,000 Volunteers.


Gettysburg Address. Significant because it reframed the Civil War as a fight to abolish slavery and achieve "a new birth of freedom." Until then, the purpose of the war had only been to preserve the Union as it was.


Third Annual State of the Union Message.


Proclamation 108—Amnesty and Reconstruction.   Proposes lenient terms for former Confederates who accept prior Proclamations regarding slavery.




Signs "Act Amending the Act for enrolling and calling out the National Forces" (13 Stat 6) that authorizes the President to establish quotas for volunteers as needed, and if insufficient volunteers, draft authorized.


By Executive Order designates Ulysses Grant as commander of the armies of the United States.

03/21/1864 Signs "An Act enabling the People of Nevada to form a constitution and State Government." (13 Stat 30)


Proclamation 111 limits amnesty to individuals not already in custody (prisoners) or under bonds or on patrol.


Letter to Albert G. Hodges.  Lincoln explains and defends the evolution of his thinking about emancipation.  “I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the constitution, through the preservation of the nation.”


The Senate passes Joint Resolution to adopt the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which would end slavery.


Address at Sanitary Fair in Baltimore:  A Lecture on Liberty.  Addresses reports of massacre of Union troops imprisoned at Fort Pillow, Tennessee (see proclamation of 07/30/1863)


Executive order for Arrest and Imprisonment of Irresponsible Newspaper Reporters and Editors.


Signs Act establishing the Territory of Montana. (13 Stat 85)


Lincoln nominated for President at Union National Convention.


Address at a Sanitary Fair in Philadelphia.


Lincoln Letter Accepting the Presidential Nomination.


Signs Act  Repealing the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (13 Stat 200).


Pocket Veto of Wade-Davis Reconstruction bill (see 07/08/1864).


Proclamation 113 Declares Martial Law and suspends Habeas Corpus in Kentucky. Acts pursuant to Act of 03/03/1863 (above).


Proclamation 115 explains the pocket veto of the Wade Davis Reconstruction bill.  

07/09/1864 – 07/22/1864

Exchange of letters with Horace Greeley about possibility of peace negotiations in Niagara Falls.


In Proclamation 116, calls for 500,000 volunteers pursuant to a law that authorizes him to institute a draft in areas where quotas are not met.


Interview with John T. Mills.  “Abandon all the posts now garrisoned by black men, take one hundred and fifty thousand men from our side and put them in the battle-field or corn-field against us, and we would be compelled to abandon the war in three weeks.”


Executive Order Tendering Thanks to Major-General William T. Sherman [upon capture of Atlanta, Georgia on September 2].  Also directs a celebration of Sherman’s successes at military posts around the country by Executive Order.


Proclamation 119—Admitting State of Nevada Into the Union.


Election Day. Lincoln handily defeats George McClellan.


Fourth Annual State of the Union Message.


Proclamation 121—Calling for 300,000 Volunteers.




House of Representatives passes resolution proposing the 13th Amendment.


Signs resolution submitting to the states the 13th Amendment to the Constitution; for ratification (13 Stat 567).


Hampton Roads Peace Conference between Lincoln, Secretary of State Seward and two members of the Confederate Cabinet.


Message of Reply to a Committee of Congress Reporting the Result of the Electoral Vote Count


Message to the House of Representatives Containing a Chronologic Review of Peace Proposals [to end the Civil War].


Signs Act to establish a Bureau for the Relief of Freedmen and Refugees (13 Stat 507). 


Second Inaugural Address. “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”


Proclamation 124—Offering Pardon to Deserters.


Executive Order—Ordering the Arrest and Designation as Prisoners of War all Persons engaged in intercourse or trade with the Insurgents by sea.


Proclamation 125—Ordering the Arrest and Prosecution of those Furnishing arms to Hostile Indians.


Address to an Indiana Regiment.  “While I have often said that all men ought to be free, yet would I allow those colored persons to be slaves who want to be, and next to them those white people who argue in favor of making other people slaves.”


Executive Order—Ordering the Raising of the Flag and other Commemorations at Fort Sumter.


Union troops occupy Petersburg and Richmond.


Lincoln visits Richmond.


Lee surrenders Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House but other Confederate Generals continue to fight.


Final public Address to a crowd on the White House lawn.


Lincoln dies following his shooting by John Wilkes Booth on the night of 04/14/1865.


Last edited 07/24/2023.

Abraham Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln Event Timeline Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/346012

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