The Battles Of 1861-62


Battle of Fort Sumter in April 1861 was the start of civil war between Union and Confederation. It triggered a series of hostilities from both sides. During the first two years of war many important battles were fought between the two sides. Important battles fought during this period were Battles of Fort Sumter, First Bull Run, Antietam, Shiloh and Fredericksburg.

Battle of Fort Sumter:

Immediately after the secession crisis unfolded, Union and Confederate forces confronted each other on the issue of occupation of Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor, South Carolina in April 1861. A small Union loyal garrison had occupied the Fort and refused to surrender or vacate the fortification.

Confederate forces occupied entire area around the fort and all attempts by Union to reinforce and resupply the besieged garrison were foiled by Confederate forces. After Lincoln decided to resupply the garrison and informed Governor of South Carolina, Confederate President Davis authorized Confederate commander of siege General Beauregard to commence bombardment of the fort. The fighting lasted mere 34 hours after which the garrison surrendered. This short confrontation triggered the civil war.

The First Battle of Bull Run:

This battle was the first major land battle of the war. A union army drove inside Confederate territory in Virginia in an attempt to invade Richmond, the Confederate capital. Confederate forces led by General Beauregard defended against Union army led by General Irwin McDowell. Union forces gained advantage initially but were very slow in positioning themselves. This delay allowed Confederate army to be reinforced by fresh troops and resultantly gain back lost ground. Union army retreated in a hap hazard manner. Troops on both side were ill equipped and trained for the fight.

Battle of Shiloh:

Battle of Shiloh was the biggest battle fought in the western theater of civil war. It was fought in Hardin County, Tennessee. Confederate forces were commanded Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and Beauregard while Union forces were under the command of Ulysses S Grant. The first day of the battle was dominated by Confederate forces. However, despite heavy losses, some of the Union lines withheld the onslaught.

Confederate forces dominated the first day’s proceedings but lost their commander General Johnston and then relented. Union reinforcement reached the battlefield before the second day begun. A resurgent Union army under the able leadership of Grant counter attacked on the second day. Confederate forces now led by Beauregard were outnumbered and retreated.

Battle of Antietam:

Battle of Antietam was an important battle fought in September, 1862. This was the first major battle fought on Union soil and was a part of Confederate General Robert E Lee’s first offensive campaign. Both forces faced each other near the town of Sharpsburg, Maryland. Union forces led by General McClellan were numerically far more superior to Robert Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The battle was an endless series of Confederate attacks and Union counter-attacks. The intense fighting took a heavy toll on men on both sides. With 3500 men dead in one day, Antietam is the bloodiest single day in the US military history. Lee, after losing many men retreated. His retreating forces were let of the hook by McClellan, who decided against pursuing Lee.

Battle of Fredericksburg:

Battle of Fredericksburg was a major battle fought between Union Army of Potomac and Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in December, 1862. Union army led by General Ambrose Burnside tried to launch multiple futile attacks against defensively entrenched Robert Lee around Fredericksburg, Virginia. The battle involved over 180,000 men. The Union losses were atrocious with 1284 men killed. After realizing the futility of effort, Burnside retreated.