April 20, 1861: In response to Virginian threats to attack the Gosport Naval Yard at Norfolk, Virginia, Commander McCauley, a southerner in the US Navy, orders the naval yard with its mills, machine shops, dry dock, warehouses and several ships to be burned to prevent it falling into the hands of the Virginians. However, Virginia troops enter and are able to put out most of the fires and save the dry dock.
April 20, 1861: Robert E. Lee, although opposed to secession and even to slavery, decides to support his state's secession by tendering his resignation from the U.S. Army. He says, in a letter to a sister, that he hopes never to draw his sword again save in the defense of his home state.
April 23, 1861: The Commonwealth of Virginia state representatives vote for Virginia to join the Confederacy.
April 27, 1861: Virginia offers the Confederacy the state capital of Richmond to be capital of the Confederate States. Richmond is the second largest city in the Confederacy, and the largest industrial town.
April 26, 1861: St. Louis, Missouri. Illinois state militia, U.S. Regulars, and Missouri volunteers, led by Capt. Nathaniel Lyon of the U.S. Army, take possession of the U.S. Arsenal and load 21,000 rifled muskets on a steamboat to Illinois for safe-keeping. Mostly German-speaking St. Louisians, solidly for the Union, form new militia units for the Union to keep the Federal property in hand.
April 29, 1861: Annapolis: Maryland legislature schedules a vote on secession, and it is defeated by 53-13. Federal officials close down the Chesapeake Bay ferries, and many pro-secession delegates from the pro-Confederate Eastern Shore are unable to attend.
May 1, 1861: Newly-elected Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson secretly begins communication with the Confederates for artillery to help them take the St. Louis arsenal, which still has over 18,000 rifles and ammunition. Jackson calls for the Missouri Volunteer Militia (the state troops) to assemble outside of the city.
Confederate troops commanded by Col. Thomas J. Jackson occupy Harper’s Ferry, Virginia.
May 6, 1861: Arkansas votes 69 to 1 to secede from the Union. (Apparently, this was made possible by threatening scores of pro-Union delegates with violence not to come. Many who showed up anyway were denied entrance.)
Also, Tennessee votes 66-25 to secede from the Union, to be ratified by a public referendum on June 8.
May 9, 1861: C.S. Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory commissions James D. Bulloch of Georgia a commander in the Confederate Navy, and send him to Great Britain to begin acquiring naval vessels and stores from British shipyards.
May 10, 1861:
In St. Louis, Missouri, Federal regular,s reinforced with several regiments of pro-Union state militia led by Capt. Nathaniel Lyon of the U.S. Regulars, march out to the outskirts of town, near Lindell’s Grove (now part of the St. Louis Univ. campus), to Camp Jackson, where Gen. David Frost and the pro-Secession Missouri Volunteer Militia are camped. Lyon’s forces surround the state force and force their surrender. Lyon marches the 660 prisoners through downtown St. Louis with all 6,000 of his troops. Rioting breaks out throughout the city. An angry crowd attacks the column, throwing paving stones and finally firing into the bluecoats. The Union troops return fire. 28 civilians are killed, and at least 100 wounded. 5 soldiers had also been killed, with dozens injured.
May 11, 1861: Stephen Mallory, Secretary of the C.S. Navy, receives authorization from Pres. Davis to begin researching the building of ironclad ships, to help even the imbalance of navies between North and South.
May 13, 1861: Federal troops under Gen. Benjamin Butler occupy Baltimore and establish martial law.
May 13, 1861: In England, Queen Victoria pronounces her government’s official position of neutrality in the American conflict.
May 16, 1861: The pro-Union Kentucky state legislature refuses to vote for secession. Instead, the body votes to declare Kentucky "neutral." Both Federal and Rebel troops elect to honor the "neutrality" for the time being, and send no troops into Kentucky–nor does Kentucky send any regiments to either army.
May 20, 1861: North Carolina votes to secede from the Union.
The Confederate Congress votes to relocate the C.S. capital to Richmond, Virginia.
May 23, 1861: The referendum vote in Virginia votes in favor of secession, 97,000 votes to 32,000 votes. Delegates from the western counties, however, are forming a pro-Union convention in Wheeling.
May 24, 1861: Federal troops cross the Potomac River and occupy Alexandria, Virginia. One regiment, the 11th New York Fire Zouaves, is led by Col. Elmer Ellsworth, a young Chicago man who is personal friends with the Lincolns. Ellsworth rushes into the Marshall House Hotel and tears down the Confederate flag flying there. On his way down the stairs, he is met by the hotel owner, James Jackson, with a shotgun, who fires and kills Ellsworth on the spot. Corporal Brownell, of the 11th N.Y., fires and kills Jackson. Ellsworth provides the North with its first martyr. His body lies in state in the Capitol rotunda.
May 26, 1861: Postmaster General Montgomery Blair announces severing cross-border postal connections with the states currently in rebellion.
May 31, 1861: Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard is given command of the Confederate Army forming in northern Virginia, near Manassas.
June 1, 1861: Skirmishes in northern Virginia cause few casualties, but heighten tensions.
June 3, 1861: Sen. Stephen Douglas, Lincoln’s main opponent in the presidential race, dies of typhoid fever.
Battle of Phillippi: In a small battle in the western mountains of Virginia, Ohio regiments under command of Gen. George McClellan (who is not actually present) surprise a small Confederate force under Col. Porterfield. The Rebels flee the battlefield in disarray.
June 8, 1861: In a referendum, the people of Tennessee ratify the decision to secede made by its convention in May by a vote of 104,913 to 47, 238. Unionists in eastern Tennessee vow to resist secession, however.
June 10, 1861: Battle of Big Bethel: At the tip of the James peninsula in Virginia, a few miles from Union-held Ft. Monroe, Union troops under Gen. Butler advance to test the Rebel lines near Newport News under Gen. "Prince" John Magruder, who is outnumbered 2 to 1. A poorly planned attack results in a Union rout and retreat, as they lose 18 killed and 53 wounded. The Southerners lose only 1 killed and 6 wounded.
June 14, 1861: Confederates abandon Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in the face of a Union advance.
In Illinois, a little-known graduate of West Point who works as a tanner in his father’s saddle shop, Ulysses S. Grant, is commissioned a colonel of volunteers and give command of the unruly 21st Reg. of Illinois Infantry.
June 18, 1861: Newly promoted to Brig. General, Nathaniel Lyon and his brigade of Union troops marches west from St. Louis toward Jefferson City, the state capital, to prevent the state legislature from voting to secede. Gov. Jackson the state government flee south, and Lyon’s army occupies the capital. On this date, a few days later, Lyon’s forces put to rout a small Rebel force at Boonvillle.
June 19, 1861: Having declared the state offices vacant, the delegates at Wheeling, Virginia, elect Franice H. Pierpont as provisional governor of Virginia and call for the western counties to secede from the state of Virginia. They offer a loyal Virginia state government to Washington, and choose representatives and 2 senators.
June 27, 1861: Federal naval and army units attempt to land and capture Confederate batteries at Mathias Point, Virginia, which command the Potomac. The Federals are beaten off.
June 30, 1861: The CSS Sumter, the South’s first warship to steam as a commerce raider, commanded by Capt. Raphael Semmes, slips downriver from New Orleans and escapes through the Union Navy blockade. Sumter heads to sea to raid Northern commercial shipping.
July 2, 1861: Washington acknowledges and recognizes the loyal government of Virginia in Wheeling. West Virginia begins to raise troops for the Union army.
July 5, 1861: Advancing Union troops under Gen. Franz Sigel run into the Missouri State Guard near Carthage, Missouri, in the southwestern part of the state. The Missouri troops, although undisciplined and poorly armed, attack Sigel’s flanks and force him to retreat. The Rebels claim a victory.
July 11, 1861: Two small Union forces in West Virginia advance on Confederate bases at Laurel Mountain, forcing them to retreat, and at Rich Mountain, trapping the Confederate garrison and forcing a surrender.
July 13, 1861: The Union troops in West Virginia under McClellan advance, and attack the Confederate force at Carrickford, under Gen. Robert S. Garnett, who is killed in the fight. West Virginia is firmly in Northern hands now.