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U.S. History: Civil War and Reconstruction - 1850–1899

U.S. History Timeline:
Civil War and Reconstruction 1850-1899

Read about major events in U.S. History from 1850–1899, including the Civil War, Lincoln's assassination, the great Chicago fire, and more.

1850

July 9

  • President Taylor dies and is succeeded by his vice president, Millard Fillmore.

1852

  • Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin is published. It becomes one of the most influential works to stir anti-slavery sentiments.

1853

March 4

  • Franklin Pierce is inaugurated as the 14th president.

Dec. 30

1854

May 30

  • The legislation repeals the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and renews tensions between anti- and proslavery factions.

1857

March 4

  • James Buchanan is inaugurated as the 15th president.

1858

Aug.–Oct.

  • Abraham Lincoln comes to national attention in a series of seven debates with Sen. Stephen A. Douglas during Illinois state election campaign.

1859

Oct. 16

  • Abolitionist John Brown and 21 followers capture federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va. (now W. Va.), in an attempt to spark a slave revolt.

1860

November 6

  • Abraham Lincoln is elected president.
    Abraham Lincoln
    Abraham Lincoln

December 20

1861

January

  • Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana secede.

February 8

February 9

March 2

  • Texas secedes.

March 2

  • Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as the 16th president.

1861 –
1865

  • Civil War: Conflict between the North (the Union) and the South (the Confederacy) over the expansion of slavery into western states.

April 12, 1861

  • Confederates attack Ft. Sumter in Charleston, S.C., marking the start of the war.

April–June

  • Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee secede.

Jan. 1, 1863

July 1–3

Nov. 19

Sept. 2, 1864

March 4, 1865

  • Lincoln's second inauguration.

April 3

April 9

  • Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrenders to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Va.

1863

January 1

  • Homestead Act becomes law, allowing settlers to claim land (160 acres) after they have lived on it for five years.

1865

April 14

  • Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in Washington, DC, and is succeeded by his vice president, Andrew Johnson.

December 6

1867

Treaty concluded March 30

  • U.S. acquires Alaska from Russia for the sum of $7.2 million.

1868

February 24

  • President Johnson is impeached by the House of Representatives.

May 26

  • Johnson is acquitted at his trial in the Senate.

July 9

1869

March 4

  • Ulysses S. Grant is inaugurated as the 18th president.

May 10

  • Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads are joined at Promontory, Utah, creating first transcontinental railroad.

1870

February 3

1871

October 8–9

  • Chicago fire kills 300 and leaves 90,000 people homeless.

1872

September

1873

March 4

  • Grant's second inauguration.

1876

June 25

1877

March 5

  • Rutherford B. Hayes is inaugurated as the 19th president.
  • The first telephone line is built from Boston to Somerville, Mass.; the following year, President Hayes has the first telephone installed in the White House.

1881

March 4

  • James A. Garfield is inaugurated as the 20th president.

July 2

  • He is shot by Charles Guiteau in Washington, DC.

Sept. 19

  • He later dies from complications of his wounds in Elberon, N.J. Garfield's vice president, Chester Alan Arthur, succeeds him in office.

1882

November 1

1885

March 4

  • Grover Cleveland is inaugurated as the 22nd president.

1886

October 28

December

1889

March 4

  • Benjamin Harrison is inaugurated as the 23rd president.

April 22

1890

July 2

December 29

  • In reporting the results of the 1890 census, the Census Bureau announces that the West has been settled and the frontier is closed.

1892

Jan. 1

1893

March 4

  • Grover Cleveland is inaugurated a second time, as the 24th president. He is the only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms.

1896

May 18

1897

March 4

  • William McKinley is inaugurated as the 25th president.
    William McKinley
    William McKinley

1898

Feb. 15

April 25

  • This prompts U.S. to declare war on Spain.

Dec. 10

  • Treaty of Paris is signed, ending the Spanish-American War.
  • Spain gives up control of Cuba, which becomes an independent republic, and cedes Puerto Rico, Guam, and (for $20 million) the Philippines to the U.S.

1898

July 7

  • U.S. annexes Hawaii by an act of Congress.

1899

Dec. 2

  • U.S. acquires American Samoa by treaty with Great Britain and Germany.
U.S. History Timeline