U.S. History Timeline: Civil War and Reconstruction - 1850–1899
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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.
- President Taylor dies and is succeeded by his vice president, Millard Fillmore.
- The continuing debate whether territory gained in the Mexican War should be open to slavery is decided in the Compromise of 1850: California is admitted as a free state, Utah and New Mexico territories are left to be decided by popular sovereignty, and the slave trade in Washington, DC, is prohibited. It also establishes a much stricter fugitive slave law, than the original, passed in 1793.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin is published. It becomes one of the most influential works to stir anti-slavery sentiments.
- Franklin Pierce is inaugurated as the 14th president.
- Gadsden Purchase treaty is signed; U.S. acquires border territory from Mexico for $10 million.
- Congress passes the Kansas-Nebraska Act, establishing the territories of Kansas and Nebraska.
- The legislation repeals the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and renews tensions between anti- and proslavery factions.
- James Buchanan is inaugurated as the 15th president.
- Abraham Lincoln comes to national attention in a series of seven debates with Sen. Stephen A. Douglas during Illinois state election campaign.
- Abolitionist John Brown and 21 followers capture federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va. (now W. Va.), in an attempt to spark a slave revolt.
- Abraham Lincoln is elected president.
- South Carolina secedes from the Union.
- Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana secede.
- Confederate States of America is established.
- Jefferson Davis is elected president of the Confederacy.
- Texas secedes.
- Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as the 16th president.
- 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.
- Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee secede.
Jan. 1, 1863
- Emancipation Proclamation is issued, freeing slaves in the Confederate states.
- Battle of Gettysburg is fought.
- President Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address.
Sept. 2, 1864
- Gen. William T. Sherman captures Atlanta.
March 4, 1865
- Lincoln's second inauguration.
- Gen. Ulysses S. Grant captures Richmond, Va., the capital of the Confederacy.
- Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrenders to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Va.
- Homestead Act becomes law, allowing settlers to claim land (160 acres) after they have lived on it for five years.
- Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in Washington, DC, and is succeeded by his vice president, Andrew Johnson.
- Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, prohibiting slavery.
Treaty concluded March 30
- U.S. acquires Alaska from Russia for the sum of $7.2 million.
- President Johnson is impeached by the House of Representatives.
- Johnson is acquitted at his trial in the Senate.
- Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, defining citizenship.
- Ulysses S. Grant is inaugurated as the 18th president.
- Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads are joined at Promontory, Utah, creating first transcontinental railroad.
- Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, giving blacks the right to vote.
- Chicago fire kills 300 and leaves 90,000 people homeless.
- Crédit Mobilier scandal breaks, involving several members of Congress.
- Grant's second inauguration.
- 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.
- James A. Garfield is inaugurated as the 20th president.
- He is shot by Charles Guiteau in Washington, DC.
- He later dies from complications of his wounds in Elberon, N.J. Garfield's vice president, Chester Alan Arthur, succeeds him in office.
- U.S. adopts standard time.
- Grover Cleveland is inaugurated as the 22nd president.
- Statue of Liberty is dedicated.
- American Federation of Labor is organized.
- Benjamin Harrison is inaugurated as the 23rd president.
- Oklahoma is opened to settlers.
- National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) is founded, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as president.
- Sherman Antitrust Act is signed into law, prohibiting commercial monopolies.
- In reporting the results of the 1890 census, the Census Bureau announces that the West has been settled and the frontier is closed.
- Ellis Island becomes chief immigration station of the U.S.
- Grover Cleveland is inaugurated a second time, as the 24th president. He is the only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms.
- William McKinley is inaugurated as the 25th president.
- This prompts U.S. to declare war on Spain.
- 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.
- U.S. annexes Hawaii by an act of Congress.
- U.S. acquires American Samoa by treaty with Great Britain and Germany.