The American Civil War in Texas
A Sesquicentennial Timeline
2011-2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. Texas was among those states voting to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy in 1861. Throughout the commemoration of this cataclysm that shaped a nation, the Texas State Library and Archives will be showcasing iconic documents and artifacts from the historic conflict.
To learn more about the Civil War in Texas, please visit our complete online exhibit, Under the Rebel Flag: Life in Texas During the Civil War, at www.tsl.texas.gov/exhibits/civilwar.
The following timeline highlights the major events during the opening months of the conflict.
February 1, 1861 – Meeting in Austin, a special convention passes the Texas Ordinance of Secession. Within the month, Texas voters ratify the ordinance in a special election.
February 16, 1861 – General David E. Twiggs, commander of federal forces in Texas, surrenders the federal arsenal in San Antonio to secessionist volunteers led by the famed Texas Ranger Ben McCulloch, along with all additional army posts and property in Texas. Twiggs orders all 3000 Army troops stationed in Texas – mostly in defense of the Indian frontier – to march to the coast to be evacuated.
March 5, 1861 – The Ordinance of Secession takes effect and all state officers are asked to take a loyalty oath to the Confederate States of America. Governor Sam Houston refuses to do so.
March 15, 1861 – The Secession Convention declares the office of the governor vacant and swears in Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark as Houston’s replacement.
April 13, 1861 – The Civil War officially begins with the Confederate capture of Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.
June 1861 – Texas riflemen under John R. Baylor invade the Arizona Territory (which included present-day New Mexico).
July 1861 – Federal gunboats begin blockade of Galveston, the export point for most Texas cotton and the only major business center in Texas. At first ineffective, the blockade tightens in the coming months, resulting in most shipping moving across the Mexican border to Matamoros.
July 24, 1861 – First battle of the Civil War at Bull Run (Manassas, Virginia).
August 1, 1861 – Confederate forces having seized control of most federal forts in the Arizona Territory, John R. Baylor declares himself governor of the territory, but fighting continues.
August 2, 1861 –Francis R. Lubbock, a hard-line secessionist, defeats Thomas J. Chambers, a colorful character advocating a return to Texas independence, to become governor of Texas. Lubbock’s margin of victory is a mere 124 votes out of 57,000 cast.
September 1861 – Federal forces reestablish control of Missouri, a significant step towards regaining control of the Mississippi River and splitting the Confederacy. Guerilla warfare continues.
November 1, 1861 – President Lincoln names George B. McClellan general-in-chief of the United States Army. At almost 170,000 men, McClellan’s Army of the Potomac is the largest military force assembled since antiquity.
November 8, 1861 – Two Confederate officials sailing for England are arrested by the United States Navy, setting off a diplomatic crisis between the United States and Great Britain. Unwilling to risk an international crisis, President Lincoln orders their release.
April 6-7, 1862 – Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee is first of the massive land battles of the Civil War. The 20,000 killed and wounded exceed the American casualties from the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War combined. Among the dead is Confederate commander Albert Sidney Johnston, famed veteran of the Texas army.
April 16, 1862 – Confederate Congress orders all men between ages 18 and 35 to report for military duty.
April 24, 1862 – The U.S. Navy seizes control of New Orleans, the South’s greatest seaport.
April 1862 – Confederate forces are sent into the Texas Hill Country to enforce conscription laws and disband the Union Loyal League, a group of German immigrants determined to resist the draft.
May 1862 – Captain Henry Eagle, commander of the U.S.S. Santee, issues a demand for the surrender of Galveston. In preparation for battle, Paul Hébert, the Confederate commander in Texas, orders the evacuation of the city. The refugees crowd into Houston shantytowns before Eagle is forced to abandon his siege due to scurvy among his troops.
May 1862 – General Hébert puts the entire state of Texas under martial law but is later overruled by Jefferson Davis.
May 31, 1862 – The Union Army escapes defeat at the Battle of Seven Pines near Richmond, the Confederate capital.
June 25-July 1, 1862 – In the Seven Days’ campaign, Robert E. Lee successfully repels Union attempts to capture Richmond.
August 12-18 – Union gunboats bombard Corpus Christi but are driven off by Confederate defenders.
August 29-30, 1862 – The South wins the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run).
September 17, 1862 – The Battle of Antietam in Maryland forces Lee to abandon attempts to bring the war to the North. The battle still stands as the bloodiest day in American history with 23,000 killed or wounded.
September 24-25 – Union gunboats destroy the fort at Sabine Pass on the Texas coast, but Confederate forces prevent a land invasion.
October 4-8, 1862 – The Union Navy seizes control of Galveston. Federal forces occupy the city.
October 1862 – Fifty-three suspected Unionists are murdered by mob violence in North Texas in a series of incidents that becomes known as “The Great Hanging at Gainesville.”
December 13, 1862 – The South inflicts a major defeat on the Union Army at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia.
January 1, 1863 – President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation.January 1, 1863 – Under the command of General John B. Magruder, newly appointed Confederate commander of Texas, Confederate forces launch a surprise attack on Galveston and regain control of the city.