Civil War and Reconstruction 1859-1875
over 2.8 million men serving along with several hundred women. Records were burned in the devastation of the Civil War. Where your ancestors ordered from their homes like those in the Ozarks of Missouri or did they desert their unit to get away from the fierce battles of the Civil War?  Organizations they may have joined, transportation they used, ways that they corresponded with each other help to put the puzzle pieces together. This era ranged from examining slavery, to the pony express riders, Civil War heroes, the expansion of the railroad and a look at child soldiers in the war. Where your ancestors silver or gold miners or maybe teamsters. All have clues about your ancestor by following the history as it unfolded around them.
Civil war records are available and ready to be searched if you have a few pieces of information to aid you. Do you know your soldier's name, state they served from (this is not necessarily the state in which they lived) and what side that they fought for? These three valuable pieces of information can lead you to their pension records, muster rolls, and much more. To find out how to search for Military records see the Military Basic Search Strategies page.
The Civil War Era
- 1859: Comstock Lode, silver was discovered bringing in miners from all over to stake their claims in this Nevada wilderness.
- 1860: The States begin to secede from the Union with South Carolina being the first. The Pony Express starts carrying mail by horseback from the east coast to the west.
- 1861: More states followed South Carolina’s lead and seceded from the Union. They were: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee. Kansas is the 34th state admitted to the Union after seven years of battling between residents over whether to be admitted as a free or slave state. The Confederate States of America is formed. The Apache declare war on the United States. Jefferson Davis is sworn in as the 1st President of the Confederate States of America with Alexander Stevens is sworn in as the 1st Vice President. The Nevada Territory is organized. The Colorado and Dakota Territories are organized. Abraham Lincoln is sworn in as the 16th President of the United States with Hannibal Hamlin is sworn in as the Vice President. Confederate forces begin an assault on Fort Sumter. After 34 hours of bombardment Fort Sumter surrenders. Union blockade of Confederate ports is initiated (1st part of the Anaconda Plan). Forty eight counties in western Virginia secede to rejoin the Union.
- 1861 to 1865: For more information about The Civil War  and its battles see the The Civil War Page along with individual State Military Pages.
- 1861: President Abraham Lincoln declares a state of insurrection in the southern states. Richmond, Virginia becomes the official capital city of the Confederate States. The transcontinental telegraph is completed immediately making the pony express obsolete. The Pony Express ceased operations two days later.
- 1862: The Homestead Act becomes law, allowing settlers to claim land (160 acres) after they have lived on it for five years. The Emancipation Proclamation is issued. The Pacific Railway Act of 1862; officially entitled "An ACT to aid in the construction of a railroad and telegraph line from the Missouri river to the Pacific ocean, and to secure to the government the use of the same for postal, military, and other purposes." 175 million acres of public land was dedicated to the railroads. Farmers and ranchers purchased land close to rail stations at premium prices from railroad companies. Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act creation of agriculture colleges- also known as the "Land Grant Act" becomes law. It donates federal lands to states for the establishment of agricultural and technical colleges. Many state universities can trace their roots to this progressive legislation. Congress passes the first law restricting immigration with the Chinese forbidding American vessels to transport Chinese immigrants to the U.S.
- 1863: The New Mexico and Arizona Territories are organized. West Virginia was part of Virginia until statehood and is the 35th state admitted to the Union by acceptance of the federal government.
- 1864: The Idaho and Montana Territories are organized. Nevada, is the 36th state admitted to the Union at the urging of President Abraham Lincoln. Sherman's March to the Sea left dead livestock, consumed supplies, torn up railroad track and destroyed civilian infrastructure in it’s wake.
- 1865: Abraham Lincoln is sworn in as President for a 2nd term with Andrew Johnson is sworn in as the Vice President of the United States. The Confederate States of America surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, ending the Civil War. The 13th Amendment is passed, abolishing slavery. Abraham Lincoln is assassinated. Andrew Johnson is sworn in as the 17th President of the United States. The Freedmen's Bureau provided assistance to former slaves. Freeman bank records from 1865 to 1874 are available to be searched at Freedman Bank Records. These records are a great source to quickly identify a family group along with their residence. The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned lands, also known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, was responsible for the management and supervision of matters relating to refugees, freedmen, property and land seized or abandoned in the former Confederate States. The purpose of the Bureau being to help freedmen become more self-sufficient.
- 1866: Tennessee is the 1st state to be readmitted to the Union.
- 1867: Although vetoed by President Andrew Johnson, Nebraska became the 37th state admitted to the Union. The United States purchases the Alaska Territory from Russia for $7.2 million. The U.S. annexes the Midway Islands. The National Grange was an agricultural organization developed to help farmers.
- 1868: States began to get readmitted to the Union, they were: Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Wyoming Territory is organized. Andrew Johnson issues an unconditional pardon to all those who participated in the southern rebellion.
- 1869: Ulysses Grant is sworn in as the 18th President of the United States with Schuyler Colfax as Vice President. The Transcontinental Railroad is completed at Promontory Point, Utah. The first Japanese colony on the U.S. mainland, the Wakamatsu colony, was established as a tea and silk farm near Gold Hill, California.
- 1870: Carpetbaggers from the North unprincipled Scalawags from the South converged on the helpless Southern states. States continue to be readmitted to the Union, they are: Virginia, Mississippi, Texas, and Georgia. Colorado is the 38th state admitted to the Union. After three tries Colorado was made a state on August 1, 1876. Chinese laborers arrive in Massachusetts to work in the shoe factories (many as strike breakers), and some have gone south to work on the construction of the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad.
- 1871: Cable car was invented. Chicago fire kills 300 and leaves 90,000 people homeless. A map can be seen of the area burned by clicking here.
- 1873: Ulysses Grant is sworn in as President for a 2nd term with Henry Wilson as Vice President. The Panic of 1873 causes bank foreclosures, business failures, and job loss.
- 1875: First limitations on immigration. Residency permits required of Asians.
- Civil War Genealogy
- Civil War has a large variety of information including Harper's Weekly newspapers from the Civil War.
- Cyndi's list
- General resources of the Civil War.
- Linkpendium lists many helpful websites to track your ancestors at this time.
- Military history online.
- Reconstruction: Primary Source Publications University of Mississippi Libraries
- Poney Express site lists people, places and much more.
- Soldiers and Sailors System
- US Reconstruction Era records help to document ancestor's and link to slavery
- Discover more genealogy resources among Reconstruction Era records
- American Civil War Reconstruction Era and Acts: 1865-1877
- Ella Lonn, William Blair; Desertion during the Civil War Edition: reprint, illustrated. Published by U of Nebraska Press, 1998. ISBN 0803279752, 9780803279759. 251 pages. Worldcat
- Rhodes, James Ford; History of the Civil War, 1861-1865Edition: illustrated. Published by The Macmillan Company, 1917. Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized Mar 1, 2007. 454 pages. Worldcat Full text available at Google Books
- Bradley, Glenn Danford, The story of the pony express: an account of the most remarkable mail service ever in existence, and its place in history. Edition: 4, Published by A.C. McClurg & co., 1913, Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized Aug 24, 2006. 175 pages. Google Books Full text available at Google Books.
- Johnson, Robert Underwood, Clarence Clough Buel; Battles and Leaders of the Civil War ...: Being for the Most Part Contributions by Union and Confederate Officers. Based Upon "The Century War Series." Century Company. Contributor Century Company. Published by Century Co., 1888. Item notes: v. 4. Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized Sep 19, 2008 Worldcat, Full text available at Google Books
- White, Henry Kirke; History of the Union Pacific Railway. Published by University of Chicago Press, 1895. Original from the University of California. Digitized Nov 21, 2007. 129 pages. Page 13. Worldcat Full text is available at Google Books.