Brief Descriptions of the Battles, listed by date
From the book Killing Ground; The Civil War and the Changing American Landscape
(Johns Hopkins University Press)
14 March 1862
New Bern, North Carolina
South of the Virginia peninsula where a huge Federal army was moving towards Richmond, the Union army was also invading the North Carolina coast. Federal troops landed unopposed twelve miles from New Bern and marched to attack the Confederate defenses south of the city. After several hours of heavy fighting the Southern line collapsed. The strategic port was occupied that night and held for the rest of the war. Schools were quickly set up for the slaves who fled from nearby plantations to in New Bern. The schools were soon shut down, however, as the Federal government attempted to appease the local North Carolinians.
6-7 April 1862
The early morning Confederate attack near Shiloh Church caught the Federals unprepared and the North steadily lost ground. With ever increasing violence, the first day's fighting culminated in a repeated Southern charges at the Union position in the Hornets' Nest. Confederate commander Albert Johnston was killed here. The Union defenders of this critical site eventually surrendered, but they had allowed the Federal line to solidify behind them. Union reinforcements arrived during the night and the next day commander Ulysses S. Grant ordered an offensive and forced the Confederates to retreat. The Union now controlled strategic middle Tennessee and posed a constant threat to the western Confederacy. With its great carnage, Shiloh stunned Americans on both sides with the realization of how terrible this war had become.
18-28 April 1862
Fort Jackson, Louisiana
The Union navy under Captain David Farragut pounded this fort at the mouth of the Mississippi River, overwhelmed the Confederate fleet, and then moved upstream to take New Orleans. Cut off, the fort's garrison mutinied and surrendered several days later. The Union now held critical positions on the lower and upper Mississippi.
31 May 1862
Seven Pines, Virginia
The Union army had slowly pushed up the peninsula to within six miles of the Southern capital. A series of severe battles would ensue. Union commander George McClellan had divided his troops to both sides of the Chickahominy River, which was now in flood stage. The Confederates attacked the south wing but with poor coordination between their divisions. After several wild attacks and melees, the Southerners, now under a new leader, Robert E. Lee, withdrew to their original positions.
6 June 1862
Cavalry and infantry charges punctuated this rearguard action which ended in a mutual retreat. The death of General Turner Ashby, commander of all Confederate cavalry in the Shenandoah Valley, was a set back to the efforts of Stonewall Jackson to rid the valley of Federals.
27 June 1862
Gaines' Mill, Virginia
Despite continual success and a numerical superiority of two to one, the Union army slowly withdrew from their positions nearest Richmond. They fought off several Confederate charges here, but they were finally forced back by the evening attack of over 50,000 Southerners. Robert E. Lee had taken the offensive and would not relinquish it, despite heavy losses, until the Federal army had retreated well down the peninsula and abandoned their designs on the southern capital.
5 August 1862
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Attempting to retake the Louisiana capital, the Confederates attacked in a thick early morning fog. Fighting house to house, the Federals retreated towards the river and the support of their gunboats. The Southerners were expecting naval support of their own, but their ironclad had engine trouble upriver, and they were forced to withdraw. The Union troops evacuated the city two weeks later, returning to their strong base in New Orleans.
1 September 1862
Confederates, pursuing the Federals fleeing from the battle of Second Manassas, encountered a prepared Union rear guard in the late afternoon. Intense lightning, thunder, and rain added to the confusion of the attacks and counterattacks. At nightfall, the Federals withdrew toward Washington, leaving the way clear for the first Southern invasion of the North.
17 September 1862
All out attacks and counterattacks, "a fighting madness," continued throughout the bloodiest day in the Civil War until both armies were completely spent. The outnumbered Confederates had held their ground, but they retreated back into Virginia the next night. The defeat of the Southern invasion, and their hopes for European recognition and fresh Maryland recruits, gave Lincoln the opportunity to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.
29-30 August 1862
The Confederate invasion of Kentucky began here. The Federal army was pushed back from three successive positions, suffering an eighty percent loss. 300 pound General Bull Nelson, trying to rally his Union troops, rode along the front line shouting "If they can't hit me, they can't hit anything!" He was soon hit twice, furthering the panic of his soldiers. A month later, Nelson was murdered by another Union general he had releived of command. By October, the Federals had been heavily reinforced and pushed the Confederates out of the state. Kentucky was secured for the Union for the rest of the war.
14 May 1863
The Union army under Grant landed on the east bank of the Mississippi on 30 April for their second campaign against the strong river fort at Vicksburg. Confused by Grant's move to the northeast, instead of directly north towards Vicksburg, the Southerners were caught with their troops dispersed. An intense delaying action was fought by the Confederates, while they evacuated Jackson. The Federals had succeeded in isolating the troops at Vicksburg by controlling the railroad link to Jackson. They burned much of the city.
1-3 July 1863
After their victory at Chancellorsville, the Confederate army crossed over the Potomac River into Maryland and then moved into southern Pennsylvania in their second invasion of the North. The Southerners hoped to relieve the pressure on Richmond, gather supplies, and generally discourage the North from continuing the costly war. A lone Confederate infantry brigade searching for shoes contacted two Union brigades west of Gettysburg. Reinforcements arrived for both sides and the fighting escalated into horrendous proportions. After being driven back on the first day, the Federals regrouped in a strong position on Cemetery Ridge. The Southerners assaulted both Union flanks the next day with little success. On the third day, a massive Confederate attack on the center of the Northern line ended in disaster, and the Confederate army retreated the next day. The Union victories here and at Vicksburg marked a turning point of the war. The South would continue fighting for almost two more years but with ever-diminishing chances for success.
13-15 July 1863
New York, New York
The selection of the first draftees for the new army conscription act set off three days of rioting by mobs estimated at 50,000 to 100,000 people. A number of blacks were beaten and lynched, a black orphanage was burned down, stores were ransacked, the police and military were attacked. More troops were called in, some who had just fought at Gettysburg; they fired on the crowds, and order was restored.
21 August 1863
Partisans of both sides were responsible for massacres and arson along the border of Missouri and Kansas. Confederate William Quantrill and his band entered Lawrence early in the morning to kill every male capable of holding a gun and to burn the abolitionist community to the ground. In three hours they had finished.
February 1864-April 1865
Unsanitary conditions, extreme heat, disease, shortages of food in the crumbling Southern economy, and the Union's decision to discontinue the exchange of prisoners made Andersonville the worst of the prisoner of war camps.
25-28 May 1864
New Hope Church, Georgia
Another Union flanking maneuver to the southwest was anticipated by the Confederates. Assuming a strong position they repelled two major Federal attacks, inflicting heavy losses. Sherman directed his troops eastward and managed to reach the strategic railroad, forcing the Southern army to retreat towards Atlanta once again.
20 July 1864
Peachtree Creek, Georgia
The Confederates attacked one of the three advancing columns of the Union army three miles north of Atlanta. The Southerners almost broke the Federal line in several places, but Union resistance stiffened and the Confederates withdrew back into the city's defenses.
31 August-1 September 1864
Knowing that the defenses of Atlanta were still too strong to be taken, Union troops continued moved south of the city to cut the vital railroad. In a futile effort to stop the inevitable, outnumbered Confederates fought for two days at Jonesboro. Their initial attack failed on the first day, their defensive line was broken on the second day. With their defeat, the Confederate supply line was severed and the Southerners were compelled to evacuate Atlanta.
1-3 June 1864
Cold Harbor, Virginia
This critical road junction became the focus of Lee and Grant's armies in the Union drive towards Richmond. Reinforcements were rushed in by both sides. Attacks and counterattacks failed to break the stalemate on the first day. After a day of preparations, the Union army launched a major assault against strong entrenchments on June 3. In less than a half hour, 7,000 Federal soldiers were killed or wounded. Grant ordered a withdrawal to the southeast.
15 June 1864 - 2 April 1865
The ten months of trench warfare here were punctuated with several unsuccessful large scale attacks, including the one launched after the detonation of four tons of gunpowder under the Confederate line. The Union steadily extended their line westward to exceed a length of thirty miles, stretching the outnumbered Southerners to the breaking point. At Five Forks on 1 April 1865, Federal soldiers overwhelmed the Confederate right flank. The next day Grant ordered an assault that finally broke through the main line. Lee managed to extricate a large portion of his army, but Petersburg and Richmond were lost. Lee surrendered on the 9th of April at Appomattox Court House.
19 September 1864
Second Cabin Creek, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory
The Civil War in Indian Territory had become a brutal conflict of raids and killing. After an attack at Flat Rock, the Confederate Cherokees, Creeks, Seminoles, and Texans. moved in the direction of a reported Federal supply train. They encountered the large wagon train and its escort (including Union Cherokees) at the small enclosed outpost on Cabin Creek. Beginning at two o'clock in the morning, the Southerners attacked repeatedly and finally smashed the Union defense. Later that day the Confederates successfully defended their captured supplies against Union pursuit.
30 November 1864
Attempting to pull the Federal army out of Georgia, 40,000 soldiers of the Confederate army that had evacuated Atlanta moved north into Tennessee towards the Union occupied area around Nashville. They pursued and attacked 28,000 Federals at Franklin by relentless charging over two miles of flat ground. The Southerners broke the first Union line but were cut to pieces at the second line of entrenchments. The slaughter of Confederates was worse than at their final charge at Gettysburg. The Union army withdrew to Nashville that night.
16 March 1865
Averasboro, North Carolina
With Sherman's Federal columns pressing northward from South Carolina seeking to join the Union army moving west from the coast, the Confederates entrenched in front of the invasion from the south. Heavy fighting raged along the main line, until the Southerners were forced back by a threat to their flank. Darkness ended the combat at the second position, and the Confederates withdrew. The Southern army was forced to retreat again at Bentonville a few days later and they surrendered within a month.
Mixed Media Wall and Floor Pieces
The Dead Angle Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia
27 June 1864 3,750 American Casualties
In the morning the Union army staged two massive frontal attacks on the entrenched Confederate line. In vicious fighting, often hand to hand, the Federals made some small gains at a terrible price. The next few days were a standoff and then the Union resumed its flanking actions, making it necessary for the Southerners to move even closer to Atlanta.
The materials were found on battlefields of the Atlanta Campaign - Rocky Face Ridge, Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek, Ezra Church, and Jonesboro.
Position of the Confederate Trenches near the River (photograph)
10-16 July 1863 2,339 American Casualties
After Vicksburg had fallen, the Union army returned to Jackson which had been reoccupied by Southern troops. After a siege of a week involving several Federal attacks, the Confederates withdrew.
All the materials were found on the Jackson battlefield except the cotton, which comes from the nearby Big Black River battlefield, and the magnolia cones, which come from Vicksburg.
To the Army of Tennessee
Just in front of the Union Works, Franklin, Tennessee (top photograph)
30 November 1864 8,526 American Casualties
Attempting to pull the Union army out of Georgia, 40,000 soldiers of the Confederate army that had evacuated Atlanta moved into Tennessee towards occupied Nashville. They pursued and attacked 28,000 Federals at Franklin by relentless charging over two miles of flat ground. The Southerners broke the first Union line but were cut to pieces at the second line of entrenchments. The slaughter of Confederates was worse than at their final charge at Gettysburg. The Union army withdrew to Nashville that night.
Site of a Rearguard Action after the Main Battle, Nashville, Tennessee (bottom photograph)
15-16 December 1864 7,407 American Casualties
With the Confederate army encamped outside Nashville's defenses, the Federals prepared their attack for two weeks. Their plan worked well and they crushed the once powerful Army of Tennessee in front of thousands of spectators lining the hills. The Southerners who were able to retreat were pursued continuously.
The pressed wall panels are from a razed house on the Franklin battlefield.
Petersburg, Virginia Site of the Confederate Line opposite Union Fort Stedman
15 June 1864 - 2 April 1865 70,000 American Casualties
The ten months of trench warfare were punctuated with several unsuccessful large scale attacks, including the one launched after the detonation of four tons of gunpowder under the Confederate line. The Union steadily extended their line westward to exceed a length of thirty miles, stretching the outnumbered Southerners to the breaking point. At Five Forks on 1 April 1865, Federal soldiers overwhelmed the Confederate right flank. The next day Grant ordered an assault that finally broke through the main line. Lee managed to extricate a large portion of his army, but Petersburg and Richmond were lost. The Southern army surrendered at Appomattox on 9 April.
All the materials were found on the Petersburg battlefield or those nearby - Fair Oaks, Savage's Station, Sappony Church, Drewry's Bluff, Deep Bottom, Five Forks, Petersburg, Amelia Springs, Sayler's Creek.
The Richmond Campaign Known Dead from May 1864 - April 1865
The 17,476 names are Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the last campaign against Richmond from May 1864 to April 1865. An additional 70,000 unknown soldiers died during this campaign. The transparencies are portraits of Union and Confederate soldiers. The dirt is from the Wilderness battlefield. The color photograph is from the Cold Harbor battlefield. Cold Harbor and the Wilderness were important battles in this campaign.
Site of the Confederate Center, Cold Harbor, Virginia (Color Photograph)
1-3 June 1864 14,437 American Casualties
This critical road junction became the focus of Lee and Grant's armies in the Union drive towards Richmond. Reinforcements were rushed in by both sides. Attacks and counterattacks failed to break the stalemate on the first day. After a day of preparations, the Union army launched a major assault against strong entrenchments on June 3. In less than half an hour, 7,000 Federal soldiers were killed or wounded. Grant ordered a withdrawal to the southeast.
Unknown Dead from the Richmond Campaign, May 1864 - April 1865
These 61,716 Unknowns represent a conservative estimate of the unknown Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the last campaign against Richmond, Virginia. The transparencies are photographs and maps of the battlefields of this campaign - Wilderness. Spotsylvania Court House, Sheridan's Richmond Raid, Cold Harbor, Bermuda Hundred, Topotomoy Creek, North Anna River, Petersburg, Five Forks. The jump rope was found on the battlefield of the Second Winchester in Virginia; the flowers are from the Cross Keys battlefield in Virginia.
South of the Confederate Breastworks on the Union Left at Rich Mountain, West Virginia (bottom left and bottom right)
11 July 1861 346 American Casualties
One month after the secession of the pro-Union counties of western Virginia from the state of Virginia, Union troops attacked and, after three hours of fighting, overran the undermanned Confederate position on the heights of strategic Rich Mountain.
An Unknown Wounded Soldier (middle)
Inside the Union Fort, now a closed Strip Mine, at Cheat Mountain, West Virginia (top)
11-13 September 1861 281 American Casualties
Misinformation from captured Federals confused the multi-pronged Confederate attack on this strategic fort.
All the materials were found on West Virginia battlefields. The coal is from Cheat Mountain. The pieces of red root are from Droop Mountain. The carpet underlayment is from Barboursville.