Sesquicentennial events

April 1862 & 2012

Events Then & Now

Peninsula Campaign

McClellanThen: Finally opening his much-delayed campaign against Richmond, Union Gen. George McClellan began assembling troops in and around Fort Monroe in Hampton (VA) in mid-March. His plan was to advance his Army of the Potomac west on the Virginia "Peninsula" between the York and James Rivers. McClellan moved slowly and carefully, fighting along the Warwick River and at Williamsburg. By mid-May the massive Union army was in the Richmond suburbs. The Union army barely held off a Confederate attack at Seven Pines May 31–June 1 and badly wounded the Confederate commander Gen. Joseph Johnston in the process. Less than a month later, Johnston's replacement, Robert E. Lee, led the cornered Confederates against McClellan's army, putting the Union back on its heels during the Seven Days' Battles.

2012: The Civil War Trails program has outlined a driving tour of the Peninsula Campaign. Download a map from and find site descriptions here in the Virginia Peninsula section.

Fort Monroe, where the Federal campaign began, is a new national park with guided ranger tours.

The Peninsula Campaign Museum is located in Lee Hall in Newport News. Website:

See listings below for anniversary commemorations.

PeninsulaApril 5, 1862 – Battle of Lee's Mill, Siege of Yorktown (VA) begins

Then: The slow-moving Union campaign headed west on the Virginia "peninsula" toward Richmond halted in front of Confederate fortifications along the Warwick River and Yorktown. After trying to punch through at Lee's Mill, McClellan settled into a siege and brought his heavy guns to the outskirts of the famous Colonial town. The Confederate defenders cleared out about a month later and McClellan marched into Yorktown May 4.

2012: The Battle of Lee's Mill is a Newport News park with an interpreted walking trail through preserved Confederate trenches.

NPS site at Yorktown offers some Civil War interpretation:

Endview hosts a reenactment of Peninsula campaign battles with talks and living history April 21–22.

The Colonial National Historical Park (Yorktown Unit) opens a special Civil War exhibit in the Yorktown National Cemetery Lodge April 14 during a artillery living history weekend (April 14–15) highlighting the Peninsula Campaign. More on the campaign during the park's annual Memorial Day Civil War event (May 26–28).

April 6-7, 1862 – Battle of Shiloh (TN)

Then: Confederates under Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston very nearly pushed U.S. Grant's Union army into the Tennessee River the first day of this battle. Grant rallied his troops the next day and held the ground. Johnston was killed during the battle as were more than 3,000 young men. This was by far the bloodiest battle of the war to date.

2012: The battlefield is preserved in the Shiloh National Military Park, Website:

  • The park hosts ranger-led hikes April 6–8 that follow the movements of troops during the battle. An illumination is planned the evening of April 7. Living history camps and demonstrations also scheduled in the park. See park website for details.
  • "Invasion by Rail and River" conference April 4–5 at Pickwick Landing State Park. Website:
  • The Battle of Shiloh reenactment is planned March 30-April 1 at a site near — but not in — the national park.
  • Another reenactment (different sponsor) has been scheduled March 30–April 1 at another site near the batlefield. Details:
April 7–8, 1862 – Fall of Island No. 10 (TN)

Then: After much delay and maneuvering, Union forces finally forced the surrender of this island in the Mississippi, opening up middle part of the river to Federal gunboat navigation.

2012: The island itself no longer exists. Historical marker located in New Madrid (MO). See
Details and location:
Artifacts are in the New Madrid Museum:

April 10–11, 1862 – Bombardment and surrender of Fort Pulaski (GA)

Then: Confederates surrendered this Savannah-area fort after 30 hours of bombardment by close and effective Union guns. Union soldiers occupied the fort for the rest of the war, strengthening the blockade and closing off another major Southern port. The easy "reduction" of the fort by rifled cannon meant the end of the effectiveness of masonary forts.

2012: The battle and significance of the fort is interpeted in the Fort Pulaski National Monument near Savannah.

The fort is hosting a series of 150th anniversary events April 10–15, including boat tours, living history demonstrations, ranger programs and more.
Detailed schedule:


April 12, 1862 – The Great Locomotive Chase, Kennesaw (GA)

Then: A group of Union raiders captured a locomotive April 12, 1862, at Big Shanty (Kennesaw) and headed north, beginning one of the most colorful episodes of the war. The raiders were eventually run down near Ringgold ending what became known as "The Great Locomotive Chase.

Train2012: The stolen locomotive "The General" is housed in the Southern Museum in Kennesaw. One of the chase vehicles "Texas" is displayed in the Atlanta Cyclorama. On-site interpretation of the chase is found along the route from Kennesaw to Ringgold.
Southern Museum:
Atlanta Cyclorama:

A public commemoration of the event is planned in Kennesaw April 12. A related living history camp across the street from the Southern Museum is scheduled April 14–15. More on both events:


April 15, 1862 – Battle of Picacho Pass (modern AZ)

Then: This little battle between Confederate pickets and Union cavalry marks the westernmost battle of the war.

2012: The battle is interpreted in the Picacho Peak State Park.

Reenactments planned:

150April 16, 1862 – Battle of Dam No. 1, Newport News (VA)

Then: A Union attempt to dislodge Confederate defenses on the west side of the Warwick River was unsuccessful here.

2012: Markers on the east side and well-preserved Confederate defenses on the west bank are part of a Newport News Park.

Endview hosts a reenactment of Peninsula campaign battles with talks and living history April 21–22.

April 16, 1862 – Emancipation for Washington DC slaves

Then: Abraham Lincoln signed a bill providing "compensated" emancipation of slaves in the District of Columbia. The legislation also included a colonization plan for the former slaves.

2012: A related program is set for the Nature Center in Rock Creek Park April 7 at 2 pm.

President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home hosts a commemoration of the event with talks, music and more April 15.

April 19, 1862 – Battle of South Mills (NC)

Then: In an effort to destroy locks on the Dismal Swamp Canal and prevent the Confederates from sending war ships to the Albemarle south, Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside ordered a small expedition to South Mills. Both sides claimed victory in this little fight, but Confederate forces saved the locks and the Federals eventually withdrew from the area.

2012: A Civil War Trails sign on the canal interprets the battle. So does the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, which is hosting a talk, bus tour and exhibits related to the battle on April 15.

April 25, 1862 – Fort Macon (NC) surrenders

Then: Confederate defenders gave up this fort near Beaufort following a siege and a short bombardment.

2012: The restored fort and visitor center is now a North Carolina State Park and is open to visitors daily. Living history events are held periodically and daily ranger tours are offered mid-April through mid-October. A living history weekend at the fort April 21–22 reenacts the battle and surrender.

Ft Macon

April 28, 1862 – Confederates surrender New Orleans (LA)

Then: Unopposed Union forces began occupying the city following naval victories at Confederate forts at the mouth of the Mississippi. The capture of the Confederacy's largest city was a severe blow to Southern hopes.

2012: Fort Jackson, one of the forts defeated and bypassed by the Federal fleet April 18-27, has reopened after hurricane damage and will host a 150th anniversary reenactment April 21-22.

The surrender and Federal occupation of New Orleans are interpreted at Louisiana's Civil War Museum at Confederate Memorial Hall in the city.

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