M19-MAY 1862

Confederates scrambled to stop the Federal push on Richmond. More key southern points were threatened or captured, New Orleans came under Federal military occupation, and a new Homestead law was enacted in the North. A glimmer of hope for the Confederacy was in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, where Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson fought off three Federal armies and threatened Washington.

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Butler Arrives in New Orleans

1 May – Major General Benjamin F. Butler arrived with his Federal troops to impose military rule over New Orleans.

The Corinth Campaign Finally Begins

2 May – Major General Henry W. Halleck was finally ready to lead his Federal “Grand Army” against the vital railroad center of Corinth, Mississippi.

From Amos Steere, 25th Massachusetts

2 May – Letter from Amos Steere, 25th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, to his sister.

The War’s Harshness Intensifies

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.

The Siege of Yorktown: Johnston Prepares to Retreat

3 May – As Major General George B. McClellan prepared to bombard Yorktown with siege artillery, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston began planning to retreat.

The Fall of Yorktown

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.

The Battle of Williamsburg

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.

The Peninsula Campaign: Eltham’s Landing

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.

The Shenandoah Valley Intensifies

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.

The Battle of McDowell

8 May – A fight for possession of a key hill resulted in a Federal withdrawal and Confederates seizing the initiative in the Shenandoah Valley.

The Peninsula Campaign: Dissension on Both Sides

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.

Confederates Abandon Norfolk

9 May – President Abraham Lincoln personally directed an operation that resulted in capturing one of the Confederacy’s most important naval bases.

The Battle of Plum Run Bend

10 May – Confederates launched a surprise attack on the Mississippi River to keep the Federals from continuing downstream and capturing Fort Pillow and Memphis.

The Fall of Pensacola

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.

The Destruction of the C.S.S. Virginia

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.

The Peninsula Campaign: Closing in on 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.

Surrendering the C.S.S. Planter

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.

The Confederate New Mexico Campaign Ends

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.

Butler’s Notorious Woman Order

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.

The Battle of Drewry’s Bluff

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.

Lee’s Fateful Message to Jackson

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.

McClellan Conditionally Receives Reinforcements

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.

Farragut Moves up the Mississippi

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.

Lincoln Revokes Slave Emancipation

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.

Conflicting Orders in the Shenandoah Valley

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.

The Homestead Act

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.

Federals Slowly Approach Corinth

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.

Jackson Targets Front Royal

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.

The Battle of 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.

Action Intensifies in the Shenandoah Valley

24 May – Following the Federal defeat at Front Royal, Major General Nathaniel P. Banks retreated and President Abraham Lincoln scrambled to send him reinforcements.

The Battle of Winchester

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.

Federals Vulnerable on the Peninsula

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.

The Battle of Hanover Court House

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.

The Fall of Corinth

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.

Johnston Plans to Attack

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.

The Battle of Seven Pines: Day One

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: 9/29/2018