August 1861

The South was celebrating its victory at Bull Run, and northerners were mourning their defeat. However, Washington was still in Federal hands, and as it became apparent that the war would last longer than anticipated, both sides continued building up their militaries and planning for the next big battle.

The Confederate Campaign in New Mexico Continues

1 August – Lieutenant Colonel John R. Baylor issued a proclamation establishing the new Confederate Territory of Arizona, while Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley prepared his own Confederate campaign into New Mexico.

Davis Deals with Critical Commanders

4 August – Confederate President Jefferson Davis responded to allegations made by Major General P.G.T. Beauregard, who joined with Major General Joseph E. Johnston in criticizing Davis’s administration.

The First Federal Income Tax

5 August – The 37th U.S. Congress approved the Revenue Act of 1861, which raised taxes on imported goods, imposed taxes on the states, and provided for the first tax on individual income in American history.

The Confiscation Act

6 August – President Abraham Lincoln reluctantly signed a bill into the law authorizing Federal military commanders to seize property, including slaves, from people “aiding, abetting, or promoting” rebellion against the U.S.

Cameron Defines Federal Fugitive Slave Policy

8 August – Secretary of War Simon Cameron responded to Major General Benjamin F. Butler’s request to clarify the administration’s policy on fugitive slaves escaping into Federal military lines, one day after Confederates burned a refuge for escapees.

Wilson’s Creek: The Prelude

9 August – Two opposing forces inadvertently advanced upon each other in southwestern Missouri, setting the stage for the second major battle of the war.

The Battle of Wilson’s Creek

10 August – Federals not only suffered a second major defeat within a month, but they lost an army commander as well.

Wilson’s Creek: The Aftermath

11 August – Demoralized Federal troops began a long retreat in Missouri following yesterday’s defeat, and the victors did not pursue.

Scrutiny of Northern Anti-War Sentiment is Heightened

17 August – In the North, both the government and the public stepped up scrutiny of anti-war sentiment this month, as wartime demands threatened constitutional guarantees.

Federals Threaten Kentucky’s Neutrality

19 August – President Abraham Lincoln received a letter from Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin urging the removal of Federal troops from the state to in an effort to maintain neutrality in the conflict.

The New State of Kanawha

20 August – Delegates to the second session of the Second Wheeling Convention approved a measure seceding from Virginia and bundling the state’s northwestern counties into the new state of Kanawha.

The Western Virginia Military Situation: August 1861

26 August – Confederates won a minor clash in southwestern Virginia, while General Robert E. Lee continued struggling to coordinate the movements of several stubborn commanders in the region.

The Fall of Hatteras Inlet

29 August – The first joint Federal army-navy expedition of the war resulted in the capture of Hatteras Inlet, one of North Carolina’s busiest ports for blockade running.

The Controversial Fremont Proclamation

30 August – Major General John C. Fremont, commanding the Federal Military Department of the West, issued orders imposing martial law throughout Missouri and authorizing Federal troops to confiscate the property of disloyal Missourians, including slaves.


Last Updated: 3/12/2017


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