Timeline: The Civil War and American Art

1851 Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin serialized. September 1851 Christiana Riot 1852 Frederick Edwin Church paints The Natural Bridge, Virginia March 1852 Uncle Tom's Cabin published as a book. 1853 Robert Duncanson, <i>Uncle Tom and Little Eva</i>, 1853, Detroit Institute of Arts, Gift of Mrs. Jefferson Butler and Miss Grace R. Conover, Image courtesy the Bridgeman Art Library Robert Duncanson paints Uncle Tom and Little Eva. May 1854 The Kansas-Nebraska Act permits each newly-admitted state to determine whether slavery is legal.
May 24–25 1856 John Brown leads the Pottawatomie Massacre in Kansas. 1857 Eastman Johnson, <i>The Old Mount Vernon</i>, 1857, Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, Purchased with funds courtesy of an anonymous donor and the Mount Vernon Licensing Fund, 2009 Eastman Johnson paintsThe Old Mount Vernon. March 6, 1857 The Dred Scott ruling declares slaves to be property, not citizens. 1859 John Kensett paints Sunrise among the Rocks of Paradise, Newport.
April 1859 Eastman Johnson, <i>Negro Life at the South</i>, 1859, The New-York Historical Society, The Robert L. Stuart Collection Eastman Johnson exhibits Negro Life at the South. October 16–18, 1859 John Brown raids the arsenal at Harper's Ferry. December 5, 1859 Dion Boucicault's play The Octoroon premieres in New York.
Spring 1860 Martin Johnson Heade, <i>Approaching Thunder Storm</i>, 1859, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Erving Wolf Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Erving Wolf, in memory of Diane R. Wolf, 1975, Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Martin Johnson Heade exhibits Approaching Thunder Storm. Summer 1860 Frederic Edwin Church, <i>Meteor of 1860</i>, 1860, Collection of Ms. Judith Filenbaum Hernstadt Frederic Edwin Church paints Meteor of 1860. November 6, 1860 President Abraham Lincoln elected. December 2, 1860 John Brown hanged.
Brown inspires Whitman to write "Year of Meteors (1859–1860)."
December 20, 1860 South Carolina secedes from the Union.
January 9, 1861 Mississippi secedes. January 10, 1861 Florida secedes. January 11, 1861 Alabama secedes. January 19, 1861 Georgia secedes. January 26, 1861 Louisiana secedes. January 29, 1861 Kansas admitted as a free state. February 1, 1861 Texas secedes. February 18, 1861 Jefferson Davis provisionally inaugurated as president of the Confederacy.
March 1861 Sanford Robinson Gifford, <i>Twilight in the Catskills</i>, 1861, Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Joanne and John Payson in memory of Joan Whitney and Charles Shipman Payson (Class of 1921) and in honor of Joan Whitney Payson (Class of 2009) Sanford Robinson Gifford exhibits Twilight in the Catskills. March 4, 1861 President Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated. April 12–13, 1861 Major Anderson surrenders Fort Sumter to the Confederacy. April 15, 1861 Lincoln calls for 75,000 volunteers to enlist for the Union. April 24, 1861 Frederic Edwin Church, <i>The Icebergs</i>, 1861, Dallas Museum of Art, Gift of Norma and Lamar Hunt Frederic Edwin Church exhibits The Icebergs.
May 6, 1861 Arkansas secedes. May 20, 1861 North Carolina secedes. May 23, 1861 Virginia secedes. May 24, 1861 Union Colonel Elmer Ellsworth becomes the first officer killed in the war during the Union capture of Alexandria, Virginia.

Major General Benjamin Butler declares escaped slaves to be "contraband of war."
June 8, 1861 Tennessee secedes. June 10 Writer-soldier Theodore Winthrop is killed in the Battle of Big Bethel.
July 1861 Frederic Edwin Church, <i>Our Banner in the Sky</i>, 1861, Collection of Fred Keeler Frederic Edwin Church exhibits Our Banner in the Sky. July 21, 1861 Confederate victory at First Manassas. November 6, 1861 Jefferson Davis elected Confederate president. December, 1861 Albert Bierstadt exhibits Guerrilla Warfare, Civil War.
1862 Thomas Moran, <i>Slave Hunt, Dismal Swamp, Virginia</i>, 1862, Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Gift of Laura A. Clubb, Image © 2012 Philbrook Museum of Art, Inc., Tulsa, Oklahoma Thomas Moran paints Slave Hunt, Dismal Swamp, Virginia. Homer Dodge Martin, <i>The Iron Mine, Port Henry, New York</i>, about 1862,  Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of William T. Evans Homer Dodge Martin paints The Iron Mine, Port Henry, New York. Winslow Homer, <i>Sharpshooter</i>, 1863, Portland Museum of Art, Maine. Gift of Barbro and Bernard Osher Winslow Homer paints Sharpshooter.
Eastman Johnson, <i>A Ride for Liberty—The Fugitive Slaves, March 2, 1862</i>, 1862, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, The Paul Mellon Collection, Image by Katherine Wetzel © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Eastman Johnson paints A Ride for Liberty—The Fugitive Slaves, March 2, 1862. March–August 1862 Union General George B. McClellan’s unsuccessful Peninsular Campaign April 1862 Jervis McEntee, <i>The Fire of Leaves</i>, 1862, Private Collection Jervis McEntee exhibits The Fire of Leaves.
April 1862 Sanford Robinson Gifford, <i>Bivouac of the Seventh Regiment, Arlington Heights, Virginia</i>, 1861, New York State Military Museum, New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs Sanford Robinson Gifford exhibits Preaching to the Troops, or Sunday Morning at Camp Cameron near Washington, May 1861 and Bivouac of the Seventh Regiment, Arlington Heights, Virginia. April 6–7, 1862 Union forces win the Battle of Shiloh.
Soldier-artist Conrad Wise Chapman is injured.
May–June 1862 Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's leads successful Shenandoah Campaign. May 31–June 1, 1862 General Robert E. Lee assumes command of the Confederate army.
Summer 1862 Sanford Robinson Gifford, <i>Basin of the Patapsco from Federal Hill, Baltimore, 1862</i>, 1862, Frank M. Gren, "Annapolis Collection" Sanford Robinson Gifford paints Basin of the Patapsco from Federal Hill, Baltimore, 1862. August 29–30, 1862 Confederate victory at Second Manassas September 17, 1862 Battle of Antietam
September 19–21, 1862 Alexander Gardner and James Gibson photograph corpses at Antietam. September 22, 1862 President Lincoln announces provisional Emancipation Proclamation. October 1862 Mathew Brady displays Gardner's photographs from Antietam. December 13, 1862 Confederate victory at the Battle of Fredericksburg.
Walt Whitman goes to Fredericksburg to find his wounded brother.
Afterward, he follows the Federal troops to Washington, D.C.
1863 Eastman Johnson, <i>The Lord Is My Shepherd</i>, 1863, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Francis P. Garvan Eastman Johnson paints The Lord Is My Shepherd. 1863 Alexander Gardner publishes Catalog of Photographic Incidents of the War. January 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation liberates slaves in the Confederate states. March 1863 Frederic Edwin Church, <i>Cotopaxi</i>, 1862, Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Robert H. Tannahill Foundation Fund, Gibbs-Williams Fund, Dexter M. Ferry Jr. Fund, Merrill Fund, Beatrice W. Rogers Fund, and Richard A. Manoogian Fund, Image courtesy the Bridgeman Art Library Frederic Edwin Church exhibits Cotopaxi.
April 1863 Winslow Homer, <i>Home, Sweet Home</i>, about 1863, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons' Permanent Fund, Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington Winslow Homer exhibits Home, Sweet Home. April 1863 Sanford Robinson Gifford, <i>Fort Federal Hill at Sunset, Baltimore</i>, 1862, New York State Military Museum, New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs Sanford Robinson Gifford exhibits Fort Federal Hill at Sunset, Baltimore. May 1–4, 1863 Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, Virginia. Stonewall Jackson dies. May 1863 A. J. Russell photographs Marye’s Heights during the Battle of Chancellorsville.
July 1–3, 1863 Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg July 4, 1863 Union victory at Vicksburg, Mississippi, after a 48-day siege July 5–7, 1863 Timothy O’Sullivan, <i>A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, July 1863</i>, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Va., Museum purchase and partial gift of Carol L. Kaufman and Stephen C. Lampl in memory of their parents Helen and Carl Lampl Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan photograph the unburied dead at Gettysburg. July 13–16, 1863 New York City draft riots July 18, 1863 Robert Gould Shaw’s Massachusetts 54th Infantry massacred at Fort Wagner, South Carolina.
October–December 1863 Conrad Wise Chapman, <i>Fort Sumter, Interior, Sunrise, Dec. 9 1863</i>, 1863–1864, The Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia, Photography by Alan Thompson Conrad Wise Chapman begins painting the fortifications of Charleston, South Carolina. November 19, 1863 President Lincoln delivers his Gettysburg Address. November 23–25, 1863 Union victory at Chattanooga
1864 Winslow Homer, <i>Defiance: Inviting a Shot Before Petersburg</i>, 1864, Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society purchase and Dexter M. Ferry Jr. Fund, Image courtesy the Bridgeman Art Library Winslow Homer paints Defiance: Inviting a Shot Before Petersburg. 1864 Winslow Homer paints The Brierwood Pipe. March 1864 Union League Club raises 20th New York Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops.
March 9–10, 1864 Ulysses S. Grant assumes command of the Armies of the United States. May 1864 New York Metropolitan Fair begins. Many artists donate works to benefit the U.S. Sanitary Commission. May 5–6, 1864 Generals Grant and Lee engage at the Battle of the Wilderness. June 1–3, 1864 Confederate victory at the Battle of Cold Harbor June 28, 1864 President Lincoln repeals the Fugitive Slave Act. June 30, 1864 President Lincoln sets aside Yosemite as a federally protected park. July 30, 1864 Confederate victory at the Battle of the Crater
September 2, 1864 William Tecumseh Sherman occupies Atlanta. September–November, 1864 George Barnard, <i>Rebel works in front of Atlanta, Georgia No. 1</i>, 1864, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc. George Barnard photographs occupied Atlanta. October 1864 Winslow Homer exhibits Skirmish in the Wilderness. October 19, 1864 General Phil Sheridan’s "ride" wins Union victory at the Battle of Cedar Creek. November 8, 1864 Lincoln is reelected president. November 15, 1864 Sherman begins his "March to the Sea."
George Barnard accompanies Sherman’s troops to Savannah.
December, 1864 Eastman Johnson, <i>Christmas-Time, The Blodgett Family</i>, 1864, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Whitney Blodgett, 1983, Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art Eastman Johnson paints Christmas-Time, The Blodgett Family. December 21, 1864 Sherman occupies Savannah, Georgia.
January 31, 1865 Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery. February 17, 1865 Sherman’s troops occupy Columbia, South Carolina. March 1865 Freedman’s Bureau established. March 1865 Frederic Edwin Church, <i>Aurora Borealis</i>, 1865, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Eleanor Blodgett Frederic Edwin Church displays Aurora Borealis in his studio.
March 1865 George N. Barnard, <i>Ruins in Charleston, South Carolina</i>, 1865, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc., Photo by Michael Lamy George Barnard photographs ruins of Charleston. March 4, 1865 President Lincoln is inaugurated for a second term. March 29, 1865 The Appomattox Campaign begins at Petersburg, Virginia. April 2, 1865 The Confederate government flees Richmond, Virginia. April 9, 1865 Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House.
Postwar April 14, 1865 John Wilkes Booth assassinates President Lincoln. April 15, 1865 President Andrew Johnson inaugurated. Reconstruction begins. April 1865 Sanford Robinson Gifford, <i>A Coming Storm</i>, 1863, retouched and redated in 1880,  Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of the McNeil Americana Collection Sanford Robinson Gifford exhibits A Coming Storm. April 1865 Albert Bierstadt, <i>Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California</i>,  1865, Birmingham Museum of Art; Gift of the Birmingham Public Library Albert Bierstadt exhibits Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California.
April 1865 Winslow Homer, <i>The Bright Side</i>, 1865, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd, Image © Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Winslow Homer exhibits The Bright Side. April 1865 Eastman Johnson, <i>Card Players, Fryeburg, Maine</i>, 1865, Private Collection Eastman Johnson paints Card Players, Fryeburg, Maine. April 1865 John Reekie photographs skeletons at Cold Harbor. May 10, 1865 President Johnson declares the war over. July 7, 1865 Four conspirators in Lincoln’s assassination are hanged.
November 1865 Winslow Homer, <i>The Veteran in a New Field</i>, 1865, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967), 1967, Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art Winslow Homer exhibits The Veteran in a New Field.
1866 Winslow Homer, <i>Near Andersonville</i>, 1865–1866, Newark Museum, Gift of Mrs. Hannah Corbin Carter; Horace K. Corbin, Jr.; Robert S. Corbin; William D. Corbin and Mrs. Clementine Corbin Day in memory of their parents Winslow Homer exhibits Near Andersonville and Trooper Meditating Beside a Grave. 1866 Frederic Edwin Church, <i>Rainy Season in the Tropics</i>, 1866, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, Mildred Anna Williams Collection, Image © Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Frederic Edwin Church paints Rainy Season in the Tropics. January 1866 Alexander Gardner publishes Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War. March–April 1866 George Barnard returns to the South to take photographs.
April 16, 1866 Winslow Homer, <i>Prisoners from the Front</i>, 1866, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Frank B. Porter, 1922, Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art April 16: Winslow Homer exhibits Prisoners from the Front. August 17, 1866 Herman Melville publishes Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War. November 1866 George Barnard publishes Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign.
1867 Conrad Wise Chapman paints The Fifty-ninth Virginia Infantry–Wise’s Brigade. May 1867 Americans exhibit artworks in the Paris Exposition, including Frederic Edwin Church, Rainy Season in the Tropics; Winslow Homer, Prisoners from the Front and The Bright Side; and Eastman Johnson, Negro Life at the South.
1868 John Kensett paints Paradise Rocks: Newport. February–May 1868 President Andrew Johnson impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate. June 22, 1868 Arkansas readmitted to the Union. June 25, 1868 Florida readmitted. July 4, 1868 North Carolina readmitted. July 9, 1868 South Carolina and Louisiana readmitted. July 13, 1868 Alabama readmitted.
July 28, 1868 The Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing citizenship to all who are U.S.-born is ratified. November 3, 1868 Ulysses S. Grant elected president.
1869 The Union League Club commissions Edward Lamson Henry to paint Presentation of the Colors 1864.
Edward Lamson Henry paints The Old Westover House.
1869 Clarence King and Timothy H. O’Sullivan embark on the 40th parallel survey.
January 26, 1870 Virginia is readmitted. February 23, 1870 Mississippi is readmitted. March 30, 1870 The Fifteenth Amendment is ratified, allowing all male citizens the right to vote. March, 1870 Texas is readmitted. July 15, 1870 Georgia, the last Confederate state, is readmitted to the Union.
1872 Eastman Johnson, <i>The Girl I Left Behind Me</i>, about 1872, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible in part by Mrs. Alexander Hamilton Rice in memory of her husband and by Ralph Cross Johnson Eastman Johnson paints The Girl I Left Behind Me. November 5, 1872 President Grant reelected over Horace Greeley.
1873 Julian Scott, <i>Surrender of a Confederate Soldier</i>, 1873, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Nan Altmayer Julian Scott paints Surrender of a Confederate Soldier.
1876 Winslow Homer, <i>A Visit from the Old Mistress</i>, 1876, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of William T. Evans Winslow Homer visits Virginia and paints A Visit from the Old Mistress. 1876 The Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia celebrates the 100th anniversary of the United States. 1876 Eastman Johnson's Negro Life at the South exhibited at the Centennial.
March 1877 Winslow Homer, <i>The Cotton Pickers</i>, 1876, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Acquisition made possible through Museum Trustees: Robert O. Anderson, R. Stanton Avery, B. Gerald Cantor, Edward W. Carter, Justin Dart, Charles E. Ducommun, Camilla Chandler Frost, Julian Ganz, Jr., Dr. Armand Hammer, Harry Lenart, Dr. Franklin D. Murphy, Mrs. Joan Palevsky, Richard E. Sherwood, Maynard J. Toll, and Hal B. Wallis, Digital Image © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA. Licensed by Art Resource, NY Winslow Homer exhibits The Cotton Pickers and Winslow Homer, <i>Dressing for the Carnival</i>, 1877, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Amelia B. Lazarus Fund, 1922, Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art Dressing for the Carnival. 1877 End of Reconstruction. Last Union Troops withdrawn from the South.