Federal forces were still on the offensive, and hopes were dimming for Confederate independence. Few southerners openly acknowledged the possibility of defeat, but the possibility was apparent nonetheless. Northerners who had called for more action were now seeing it, but they were not yet satisfied.
1 May – Major General Benjamin F. Butler arrived with his Federal troops to impose military rule over New Orleans.
2 May – Major General Henry W. Halleck was finally ready to lead his Federal “Grand Army” against the vital railroad center of Corinth, Mississippi.
2 May – Letter from Amos Steere, 25th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, to his sister.
3 May – Federal troops retaliated against Confederate attacks in northern Alabama by committing various atrocities against civilians. Incidents such as these indicated the beginning of a new and more brutal phase of the war.
3 May – As Major General George B. McClellan prepared to bombard Yorktown with siege artillery, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston began planning to retreat.
4 May – The Federal Army of the Potomac entered the abandoned enemy works at Yorktown. Some celebrated this as a great victory, while others noted that the Confederate army had escaped intact.
5 May – Portions of the main armies on the Virginia Peninsula clashed in a savage engagement that did little to change the dispositions of either the Federals or Confederates.
6 May – The Confederates continued falling back, with a detachment trying to bide time by challenging a Federal troop landing at the mouth of the York River.
7 May – Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates moved west to join forces with the Army of the Northwest and confront a detachment of Major General John C. Fremont’s Federal army.
8 May – A fight for possession of a key hill resulted in a Federal withdrawal and Confederates seizing the initiative in the Shenandoah Valley.
8 May – As General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederates fell back to the Chickahominy River, Major General George B. McClellan continued complaining to the Lincoln administration about lack of adequate support.
9 May – President Abraham Lincoln personally directed an operation that resulted in capturing one of the Confederacy’s most important naval bases.
10 May – Confederates launched a surprise attack on the Mississippi River to keep the Federals from continuing downstream and capturing Fort Pillow and Memphis.
10 May – Confederate forces abandoned a key naval base on the Gulf of Mexico after holding out against a powerful Federal threat for over a year.
11 May – The ironclad that had terrified the Federals was destroyed to prevent capture. This paved the way for the Federal naval fleet to advance up the James River to threaten Richmond.
12 May – Panic began spreading throughout the Confederate capital of Richmond as Major General George B. McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac was now just 22 miles away and still advancing up the Virginia Peninsula.
13 May – A slave handed over a Confederate vessel to the Federal blockade fleet off South Carolina, along with key information about Confederate positions around Charleston.
14 May – Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley’s dream of making the New Mexico Territory part of the Confederacy ended as the remnants of his broken army finally made it back to El Paso and his detachment abandoned Tucson.
15 May – Commanding the Federal occupation forces in New Orleans, Major General Benjamin F. Butler issued an order that solidified his infamous reputation among southerners.
15 May – Confederate batteries repulsed the advance of a Federal naval fleet on the James River, which helped ease some of the panic spreading throughout the Confederate capital of Richmond.
16 May – As Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson moved back east, he received a message from General Robert E. Lee giving him free rein to operate against the Federals in the Shenandoah Valley, and even threaten Washington.
17 May – As the Federal Army of the Potomac continued inching toward Richmond, President Abraham Lincoln conditionally approved Major General George B. McClellan’s request for reinforcements.
18 May – The Federal naval squadron led by Flag Officer David G. Farragut tried following up its capture of New Orleans by pushing further up the Mississippi River. However, they met unexpected resistance.
19 May – President Abraham Lincoln revoked Major General David Hunter’s order freeing all slaves in his military department. Lincoln also announced for the first time that he had the wartime power to free slaves if necessary.
20 May – Confederate Major Generals Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and Richard Ewell struggled with conflicting orders while trying to join forces to attack Federals under Major General Nathaniel P. Banks in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
20 May – President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill into law giving away 160-acre plots to settlers who agreed to tend to the land for five years.
21 May – Major General Henry W. Halleck’s “Grand Army” inched its way toward Confederates under General P.G.T. Beauregard at Corinth, forcing Beauregard to decide whether to fight or flee.
22 May – Major Generals Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and Richard Ewell joined forces in the Shenandoah Valley and moved to attack Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s isolated Federal outpost at Front Royal.
23 May – Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Confederates scored a major victory and threatened to position themselves between the Federals in the Shenandoah Valley and Washington.
24 May – Following the Federal defeat at Front Royal, Major General Nathaniel P. Banks retreated and President Abraham Lincoln scrambled to send him reinforcements.
25 May – Confederates won a tremendous victory to gain control of most of the Shenandoah Valley and make the name “Stonewall” a legend in the South.
26 May – Confederate victories in the Shenandoah Valley prevented Federal reinforcements from reaching Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. This left McClellan in a vulnerable position on the Peninsula.
27 May – A small engagement on the Virginia Peninsula secured Major General George B. McClellan’s right flank and increased the Federal threat to Richmond.
29 May – As Major General Henry W. Halleck finally prepared to attack the vital railroad town of Corinth, Mississippi, the Confederates pulled out to fight another day.
30 May – Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston received vital intelligence that prompted him to plan an attack on the Federals isolated south of the Chickahominy River.
31 May – Confederates attacked the Federals on the south side of the Chickahominy River, but poor coordination prevented them from accomplishing their main goal of destroying the enemy.
Last Updated: 6/3/2017
Tagged: Abraham Lincoln, Army of the Potomac, Benjamin F. Butler, C.S.S. Virginia, Corinth Campaign, David G. Farragut, David Hunter, George B. McClellan, Henry W. Halleck, John C. Fremont, Joseph E. Johnston, Mississippi River, Nathaniel P. Banks, New Orleans Occupation, Norfolk, P.G.T. Beauregard, Peninsula Campaign, Shenandoah Valley, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Virginia Peninsula