July 1861

The Lincoln administration had approved plans for a Federal invasion of northern Virginia as troops continued pouring into Washington. The Federal naval blockade was slowly gaining strength, but southern blockade runners were still delivering supplies with little interference. War hysteria continued spreading as people awaited the one big battle they believed would decide the war.

The Special Session of the 37th U.S. Congress

4 July – The 37th Congress of the United States assembled in special session as requested by President Abraham Lincoln’s militia proclamation of April 15.

The Battle of Carthage

5 July – Secessionists defeated a Federal detachment in a minor clash as both sides scrambled to link with larger forces in southwestern Missouri.

Naval Operations Along the Coast and at Sea

6 July – C.S.S. Sumter completed her first major raid on Federal shipping, Federals strengthened their blockade and their strategy, and a Federal crew fought back against Confederate privateers off the Atlantic Coast.

Federals Advance in Northwestern Virginia

7 July – Heavy skirmishing erupted at the foot of Laurel Hill as Major General George B. McClellan’s Federals prepared to attack Confederate defenders led by Brigadier General Robert S. Garnett.

Confederates Look to Conquer New Mexico

8 July – Henry Hopkins Sibley received a promotion to Confederate brigadier general and “entrusted” to command the Department of New Mexico due to his “recent service in New Mexico and knowledge of that country and the people.”

Movements in the Shenandoah Valley

9 July – The standoff between Federal Major General Robert Patterson and Confederate Major General Joseph E. Johnston continued in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, as each commander waited to see what the other would do next.

The Battle of Rich Mountain

11 July – A detachment of Major General George B. McClellan’s Federal force attacked an isolated portion of Brigadier General Robert S. Garnett’s Confederates near the town of Beverly in western Virginia.

More Confederate Disasters After Rich Mountain

13 July – One Confederate commander surrendered his command, and another became the first general killed in action in the war.

From Sullivan Ballou, 2nd Rhode Island

14 July – Letter from Major Sullivan Ballou, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, to his wife in Smithfield.

Federals Mobilize in Northern Virginia

16 July – The largest army ever assembled in North America went into motion at 2 p.m., targeting the Confederate army at Manassas.

Federals Continue Advancing in Western Virginia

17 July – A Federal force sought to clear Confederates out of the Great Kanawha Valley, while Confederates tried consolidating and coordinating their armies in western Virginia.

Sparring and Final Planning in Northern Virginia

18 July – The Federal Army of Northeastern Virginia arrived at Centreville, unaware that troops of the Confederate Army of the Shenandoah were en route by rail to reinforce their outnumbered comrades at Manassas.

The Battle of Bull Run

21 July – The first major battle of the war took place in northern Virginia.

The Bull Run Aftermath

22 July – News of yesterday’s Confederate victory spread throughout North and South. Southerners celebrated while northerners resolved to continue the fight.

From Eugene Blackford, 5th Alabama

22 July – Letter from Major Eugene Blackford, 5th Alabama Volunteer Infantry.

From Philip Powers, 1st Virginia Cavalry

23 July – Letter from Sergeant Major Philip Powers, 1st Virginia Cavalry.

The Special Session of the 37th U.S. Congress: Legislation

24 July – The House of Representatives began considering a new form of direct taxation. In addition, Congress retroactively endorsed President Lincoln’s executive orders and approved recruiting one million three-year volunteers. Meanwhile, the War Department reluctantly accepted some 30,000 two-year volunteers from various states.

The Crittenden-Johnson Resolution

25 July – Congress approved a resolution defining the Federal government’s goals in the war.

From Robert McAllister, 1st New Jersey

25 July – Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Robert McAllister, 1st New Jersey Volunteer Infantry.

Bull Run Aftermath: Federal Command Changes

26 July – Major General George B. McClellan arrived in Washington to take command of all Federal troops around the capital. This was the most significant of several command changes made by the Lincoln administration this month.

The Confederate Territory of Arizona

27 July – Federal troops retreating from Fort Fillmore surrendered to their pursuers, giving the Confederacy control of the southern New Mexico Territory.

Federal Fugitive Slave Policy

30 July – Major General Benjamin F. Butler, commanding the Federal garrison at Fort Monroe, Virginia, wrote to Secretary of War Simon Cameron requesting clarification on the Lincoln administration’s policy on slaves escaping from their masters and seeking protection within Federal military lines.

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Last Updated: 3/11/2017

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