January 9, 1861
Mississippi is the second state to adopt an ordinance of secession.


January 10, 1861
Republican Lyman Trumbull of Belleville (St. Clair County) is reelected U.S. Senator by the General Assembly. Florida adopts an ordinance of secession.


January 11, 1861
Alabama adopts an ordinance of secession.


January 14, 1861
Richard Yates of Jacksonville (Morgan County) is inaugurated governor of Illinois.

January 19, 1861
Georgia adopts an ordinance of secession.

January 26, 1861

Louisiana adopts an ordinance of secession.

January 30, 1861

Abraham Lincoln visits his stepmother, extended family and friends for the last time at the Rueben Moore Home in Coles County.

February 1, 1861

Texas adopts an ordinance of secession.

February 4, 1861
A “peace convention” called by Virginia is held in Washington, D.C., with representatives from 21 states attending. The Illinois delegation appointed by Gov. Yates is composed of Republicans determined to restrict slavery and to maintain the Union. The convention fails to calm tensions.

February 8, 1861
Representatives of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana meeting in Montgomery, Alabama, create the Confederate States of America by adopting a provisional constitution.

February 9, 1861
Former U.S. senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi is elected provisional president of the Confederate States of America.

February 11, 1861
Abraham Lincoln leaves Springfield, Illinois, for Washington, D.C. In a farewell to his neighbors Lincoln refers to the “task before me, greater than that which rested upon Washington.”

February 12, 1861
The Illinois Senate adopts House resolutions dealing with the sectional crisis. The first pledges that if states “deeming themselves aggrieved” call for a convention to consider amending the U.S. Constitution the State of Illinois will concur. It is also stated that “until the people of these United States shall otherwise direct” the Constitution and the laws of the United States must be upheld and pledge the “whole resources of the State of Illinois” toward that goal.

A discussion of the resolutions and Lincoln’s possible role in crafting them is in: Wayne C. Temple and Sunderine W. Temple, Abraham Lincoln and Illinois’ Fifth Capitol, pp. 267-77.

February 13, 1861
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, sitting in joint session, receive the vote of the Electoral College. Vice president John C. Breckinridge in his role as president of the Senate declares Abraham Lincoln to be duly elected president of the Unites States. There had been fears that this meeting might be disrupted.

February 18, 1861
Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as provisional president of the Confederate States of America.

March 4, 1861
Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as president of the United States. His inaugural address lays out the policy he will pursue in regard to secession and ends with a call for reconciliation and maintenance of the old Union.

For a recent study of the speech see: Douglas L. Wilson, Lincoln’s Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words, ch. 3.

April 1861
Appropriations are made to pay for uniforms and provide for support of volunteers’ families by the boards of supervisors in several counties, including Whiteside, Will, and Winnebago.

April 12, 1861
Confederate forces fire on U.S. troops in Fort Sumter, located in the harbor of Charleston, S.C.

April 14, 1861
U.S. troops surrender Fort Sumter.

April 15, 1861
President Lincoln issues a call to state governors to supply 75,000 troops to serve for three months to suppress rebellion against the U.S. government. Illinois governor Richard Yates responds by calling for six regiments of infantry for the national service and also calls for the General Assembly to meet in special session.

April 17, 1861
Virginia adopts an ordinance of secession.

April 19, 1861
The secretary of war telegraphs an order to Governor Yates to occupy Cairo, located at the militarily crucial junction of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Yates issues the necessary orders and on April 22 a force under the command of Gen. Richard Swift of Chicago occupies the town. Through the war the city remains an important military center.

For Cairo’s history during the war see: James M. Merrill, “Cairo, Illinois: Strategic Civil War River Port”, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 76:4 (Winter 1983).

April 20, 1861
The Lee County Volunteer Aid Association is organized during a meeting at the courthouse in Dixon.

April 22, 1861
A concert held in Rockford’s Metropolitan Hall raises over $150 to be used in equipping the Rockford Zouaves before their departure for Springfield, where they became Co. D, 11th Illinois Infantry (3 months).

A newspaper reported that “the Hall was filled with an immense audience, our patriotic people turning out en masse…” The song sheet shown here was distributed at the concert and inscribed to an acquaintance by Zouaves member Alpheus M. Blakesley.

All for the Star Spangled Banner
Remember this night & your
Soldier friend
AM Blakesley
Metropolitan Hall Rockford April 22

April 23, 1861
A special session of Illinois General Assembly begins, called by Governor Yates to consider steps to support the war effort: the “more perfect organization and equipment of the militia of the State and placing the same on a war footing”; “to render efficient assistance to the General Government in preserving the Union”; “to raise such money or other means as may be required to carry out the foregoing.”

April 24-25, 1861
Under orders of Col. Benjamin Prentiss the southbound steamboats C. E. Hillman and John D. Perry are seized near Cairo and large numbers of arms and ammunition removed.

April 25, 1861
U. S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas speaks at the Illinois statehouse in Springfield. He calls on all to rally to the defense of the Union, and declares that Democrats disappointed by the election of Lincoln and the Republicans should not let that defeat “convert you from patriots to traitors to your native land.”

For more on Douglas’s role in rallying fellow Democrats to sustain the Lincoln administration in its effort to preserve the Union see: Robert W. Johannsen, Stephen A. Douglas, ch. 31.

April 25-26, 1861
Weapons stored at the U.S. arsenal in St. Louis are smuggled past Confederate sympathizers and shipped to Springfield by way of Alton.

April 27, 1861
At the end their first week at work men at the Illinois state arsenal have produced over 7,000 rounds of musket ammunition.

April 29, 1861
A convention in Maryland rejects an ordinance of secession.

April 29, 1861
Former U. S. Army captain Ulysses S. Grant of Galena (Jo Daviess County) begins to serve Governor Richard Yates as a military aide. His first task is an inventory of small arms stored at the state arsenal.

May 1861
Five infantry regiments are mustered into the service. Units are now sworn in for a term of three years.

May 3, 1861
President Lincoln issues a call for 42,000 volunteers to serve for three years. This call and others under congressional acts of July 1861 soon bring almost 82,000 Illinoisans into the U.S. army for a term of three years. In Illinois over 200 companies offer their services. On May 6 the companies are ordered into camps, one located in each of the state’s nine congressional districts: Freeport, Dixon, Joliet, Peoria, Quincy, Jacksonville, Mattoon, Belleville, Anna, and Chicago.

May 3, 1861
The Military Department of the Ohio is created, taking in the state of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.

May 6, 1861
Conventions in Arkansas and Tennessee adopt ordinances of secession.

May 8-20
Ulysses S. Grant visits camps in southern Illinois and musters troops into the U.S. service.

May 10-11, 1861
Rioting between unionists and Confederate sympathizers rages in St. Louis, just across the Mississippi River from Illinois.

May 20, 1861
Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin issues a proclamation of neutrality. It is observed for a time. North Carolina adopts an ordinance of secession.

May 21, 1861
In Missouri U.S. General William Harney and C.S. General Sterling Price agree that Price will be responsible for maintaining order in the state. Unionists, including President Lincoln, are alarmed.

May 24, 1861
In Virginia Federal General Benjamin Butler refuses to turn fugitive slaves over to those secessionists claiming them as their property. Butler declares the slaves to be contraband of war because they had performed labor that aided the Confederacy. It is one of the first U. S. army actions that begin to chip away at slavery.

Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth of the New York Fire Zouaves is killed in Alexandria, Virginia, after tearing down a Confederate flag. Before the war Ellsworth commanded a famous Chicago militia unit and become well-acquainted with Abraham Lincoln, who weeps at the news of the colonel’s death. A funeral service is held in the East Room of the White House.

For more on the death of Ellsworth and his relationship with the Lincoln family see Ruth Painter Randall, Colonel Elmer Ellsworth: A Biography of Lincoln’s Friend and First Hero of the Civil War.

June 1861
Four infantry regiments, one cavalry regiment, and one battery of light artillery are mustered into the service. Officials meeting in May and June make appropriations to pay for uniforms and provide for support of volunteers’ families in several counties, including Carroll, Jasper, Knox, Stark, and Will.

June 3, 1861
Senator Stephen A. Douglas dies in Chicago at age 48. He is eulogized throughout the North by supporters of both political parties as a stalwart defender of the Union. Gov. Richard Yates appoints Republican Orville H. Browning of Quincy (Adams County) to fill the post until the January 1863 meeting of the General Assembly.

June 8, 1861
During the past week men, women, and children working at the state arsenal produced 48,000 musket cartridges. For the first time artillery ammunition is produced in the form of 300 blank cartridges and 100 rounds of canister for 12-pounder guns.

June 11, 1861 
The new Federal commander in Missouri, Nathaniel Lyon, declares any truce with secessionists to be at an end. The troops of both sides begin movement through the state.

June 18, 1861
Ulysses S. Grant is appointed colonel of what becomes the 21st Illinois Infantry Regiment.

June 19, 1861
Citizens of Lane (today Rochelle, Ogle County) lynch T. D. Burke, notorious for “his open and fearless utterance of ultra secession doctrines.” Burke allegedly admitted to setting one major arson fire and planning others.

The story is covered in “Exciting Affair in Ogle County,” Chicago Tribune, June 20, 1861, p. 1. A letter written from Ogle County a few days earlier and discussing issues of freedom in wartime is “Treason by Word of Mouth,” Chicago Tribune, June 21, 1861, p. 2.

July 1861
The Seventh through Twelfth infantry regiments, originally enlisted for three months in state service, are mustered into the federal service for a term of three years. Two new infantry regiments enter the service. Governor Yates visits Washington and New York to obtain arms and equipment. It is hard going, as other states compete to purchase material for their troops. By the late fall of 1861 Federal officials take procurement matters out of the hands of state governments.

July 22, 1861
A convention meeting in Jefferson City, Missouri, declares the state’s loyalty to the Union and creates a new government, which will locate in St. Louis. The pro-Confederate governor claims his government to still be the state’s legitimate leadership.

The defeat of U.S. forces at the battle of Bull Run, Virginia, on July 21 and the coming expiration of three-month enlistments lead President Lincoln to call for 500,000 volunteers. New enlistments will be for a term of three years. Illinois sends 13 regiments of infantry and 3 regiments of cavalry.

July 22 and 25, 1861 
Congress approves acts calling for volunteers. These acts, with the president’s May 3 call for troops, would add 500,000 to U.S. forces. Illinois’ quota is 47,785. Just under 82,000 Illinoisans volunteer for a three-year term.

July 29, 1861 
Illinoisan John Pope is named commander of Federal troops in northern Missouri.

July 31, 1861
Ulysses S. Grant of Galena (Jo Daviess County) is nominated for brigadier general. The Senate confirms the appointment on August 5.

August 1861
Six infantry regiments, two cavalry regiments, and two batteries of light artillery are mustered into the service. Camp Butler, located about six miles east of Springfield, begins operation as one of the state’s two camps of instruction for Illinois troops. The camp, like Camp Douglas outside of Chicago, will continue operations to the end of the war, each also serving for a time as a prisoner of war facility.

For a full account of Camp Butler see: William S. Peterson, “A; History of Camp Butler, 1861-1866,” Illinois Historical Journal 82:2 (Summer 1989): 74-92. For Camp Butler’s effect on life in Springfield see: Camilla A. Quinn, “Soldiers in Our Streets: The Effects of a Civil War Military Camp on the Springfield Community,” Illinois Historical Journal 86:4 (Winter 1993)

August 8, 1861
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant of Galena begins command of U.S. forces near Ironton, in southeast Missouri.

August 12, 1861 
Three river steamboats converted into gunboats—Tyler, Lexington, and Conestoga—arrive at Cairo.

August 30, 1861
Gen. John C. Fremont, commander of the Department of the West and headquartered in St. Louis, issues an order authorizing the confiscation of property owned by disloyal citizens and the freeing of their slaves. On September 2 President Lincoln privately orders Fremont to modify the proclamation to conform to existing law. When Fremont refuses the president publicly revokes the general’s proclamation. Illinois Republicans condemn Lincoln’s action as coddling traitors.

For the story of Fremont’s proclamation and Lincoln’s reaction see Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, vol. 2, pp 200-12. A sampling of reaction from Illinois is in Arthur C. Cole, The Era of the Civil War, 1848-1870, Centennial History of Illinois, vol. 3, p. 265-66.

September 1, 1861
Eight regiments of infantry, two regiments of cavalry, and a battery of light artillery are mustered into the service. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant is named commander of the District of Southeast Missouri.

September 3, 1861
Confederate troops enter and occupy western Kentucky, violating the state’s declared neutrality.

September 4, 1861
Ulysses S. Grant arrives at Cairo and takes command of U. S. forces.

September 6, 1861
On hearing of the Confederate occupation of Columbus, Kentucky, Ulysses Grant moves into Paducah, Kentucky controlling the mouth of the Tennessee River.

September 9-15, 1861 
The Illinois State Agricultural Society holds its annual fair at Chicago.

September 12-20, 1861
U.S. troops, including the 23rd Illinois Infantry and the 1st Illinois Cavalry, under the command of Col. James Mulligan of Chicago, defend Lexington, Missouri, against a larger Confederate force. Mulligan surrenders on September 20.

For more see: Lexington, Missouri, Historical Society, The battle of Lexington, fought in and around the city of Lexington, Missouri, on September 18th, 19th and 20th, 1861, by forces under command of Colonel James A. Mulligan, and General Sterling Price. The official records of both parties to the conflict; to which is added memoirs of participants
(digital format: http://digital.library.umsystem.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?;c=umlib;idno=umlc000087 )

September 17, 1861
A train carrying the 19th Illinois Infantry through Indiana to Cincinnati derails. Over 130 men are killed or injured, “a loss…nearly as great as any of the battles in which we fought.”

September 26, 1861 
Many Illinoisans join in observance of a “day of humiliation, prayer, and fasting” declared by President Lincoln on August 12 at the urging of Congress.

Fall 1861 
Agricultural fairs are held in some counties, including Marion, Stark, St. Clair, and Winnebago. Annual fairs in Grundy, Peoria, and Schuyler are cancelled due to “the troubled state of the country generally.” Three regiments of infantry, a regiment of cavalry, and a battery of artillery are mustered into the service.

October 7, 1861
Women of Galena (Jo Daviess County) meet to form the Soldiers’ Aid Society.

October 21, 1861
Illinois troops fight at Fredericktown, Missouri. Lincoln friend and former Illinois congressman Col. Edward D. Baker is killed in battle at Ball’s Bluff, Virginia.

November 1861
Two regiments of infantry and two of cavalry are mustered into the service. Production of musket and artillery cartridges at the state arsenal at Springfield is discontinued. State officials had pleaded with the War Department to continue the operation as a means of employment for soldiers’ wives and children. U.S. troops under command of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant move to Pilot Knob, Missouri.

November 7, 1861
Grant’s Illinois and Iowa troops, moving via steamboat, land and defeat Confederates at Belmont, Missouri. The troops lose discipline and begin to plunder the Confederate camp, allowing enemy troops to reorganize. Grant’s troops escape back to Cairo via transports. After-action reports tally Illinois losses at 53 killed and 218 wounded.

Grant wrote of Belmont in his Memoirs, ch. 20. The battle is also discussed in Bruce Catton, Grant Moves South, ch. 4. A full-length study is: Nathaniel C. Hughes, The Battle of Belmont: Grant Strikes South.

November 7, 1861
Women in Sterling (Whiteside County) organize a soldier aid society to raise cash and collect clothing for soldier relief efforts.

November 9, 1861 
The War Department creates the Department of the Missouri. It includes Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and western Kentucky.

November 11, 1861
Allen C. Fuller of Belvidere takes position as Illinois adjutant general, the official responsible for the organization and administration of the state’s troops.

November 18, 1861
Women in Salem (Marion County) who have formed a society for “procuring and making articles for the comfort and convenience” of local soldiers, issue an appeal for donations of fabric, yarn, and knitted socks and mittens.

November 20, 1861
Women of Middleport (Iroquois County) form a soldier aid society and issue an appeal for blankets, quilts, underwear, and mittens “knit with one finger, so as to give free use of the index finger of the hand.”

November 28, 1861 
The Confederate Congress admits Missouri to the Confederacy. The state thus has two governments claiming legitimacy.

Winter 1861 
Coins have disappeared to the extent that some merchants in Whiteside County print bills in fractions of a dollar so that they can make change. Nine regiments of infantry, four regiments of cavalry, and seven batteries of artillery are sworn into service.

December 10, 1861 
Kentucky is admitted to the Confederate States of America. The state thus has two competing governments claiming legitimacy.

December 18, 1861
An “exhibition” held in Salem (Marion County) College Hall raises about $30 which is donated for soldier relief. The evening includes vocal music and tableaux of Mary Queen of Scots, Pocahontas, and the Goddess of Liberty.

December 21, 1861
President Lincoln signs legislation creating the Navy Medal of Honor. A law signed July 12, 1862, authorizes an Army Medal of Honor. For more on Illinois awardees see: Civil War Commission of Illinois, Civil War Medal of Honor Winners from Illinois.