Civil War Timeline Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michael Gott

Mike is a veteran of the New Hampshire public school system and has worked in grades 1-12. His role has varied from primary instructor to special needs support.

The Civil War was a war between the Northern and Southern states of America, beginning in 1861 when rebelling confederate forces opened fire on a US military base, until 1865 when Confederate forces surrendered to American General Ulysses S. Grant.

The Background of The Civil War

On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. This upset many southern states, because Abraham Lincoln did not want to protect slave owners' right to bring their slaves out of the South. A slave is person who is bought and sold and has no freedom. Slaves were forced to work without pay, and any children they had would also be slaves. Much of the economy of the South was dependent on the work of slaves.

President Abraham Lincoln

Soon after Lincoln was elected, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas seceded from the United States. To secede means that the states claimed they were no longer part of the United States, and did not have to follow the rules of the United States. Instead, the states formed their own country, the Confederate States of America. Jefferson Davis was chosen as the new nation's first president on February 18, 1861.

Fighting Begins

On April 12th, 1861, the first shots of the Civil War are fired at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Confederate soldiers rebelling against the United States opened fire on a US Military base. President Lincoln began to prepare the US army for war, while General Robert E. Lee took command of the rebelling Confederate Armies. By the end of April, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas all seceded to join the Confederacy.

Newspaper from 1861
Civil War Timeline

Early Victories for the Southern Rebels

The Confederate army started out strong in the war, winning several major battles between 1861 and 1862. Many were land battles, such as the Battle of Shiloh, a two day battle in early April 1862 that ended in a Union victory, but with 23,000 casualties. There were also battles at sea, such as the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack. The iron-sided Merrimack was a Confederate ship that battled the Union battleship Monitor, marking a great victory for the South and a virtual end to wooden naval warfare.

Northern Forces Turn the Tide

In February of 1862, Union soldiers began to win a string of strategic victories against the Confederate forces, including battles at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in Tennessee. A strategic victory is a win that helps for the next battle. The Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862 was one of the bloodiest days in American military history, with heavy losses on both sides. Still the Union prevailed, and following this victory, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, granting freedom to slaves across the South.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account