Lincoln urges farmers to go west, McClellan stalls and a new Rebel commander takes over
3 – Confederate General Joseph Johnston orders troops to evacuate Norfolk, Va. Evacuation is completed May 10, and on May 11, the crew of the CSS Virginia burn the ship because it is too heavy to flee up the James River.
5 – Mexican forces defeat a French army in Puebla, Mexico, in a symbolic victory commemorated with the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo.
8 – Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s troops defeat Federal forces at the Battle of McDowell in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
9 – Union Maj. Gen. David Hunter, commander of the Department of the South, issues an unauthorized order emancipating slaves in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
15 – Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler issues an order to Union troops occupying New Orleans to treat any woman who insults them as a prostitute. Butler’s “Woman’s Order” earns him the sobriquet “Beast of New Orleans.”
President Lincoln signs into law an act creating the Department of Agriculture.
Union Grounds, reputed to be the nation’s first enclosed baseball park, opens in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Confederate forces stop a Union naval advance up the James River to Richmond in the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff.
19 – President Lincoln rescinds Hunter’s emancipation order and calls for gradual liberation of slaves.
20 – To encourage western migration, Lincoln signs the Homestead Act, promising settlers up to 160 acres of land.
31-June 1 – Continuing his Peninsula Campaign, George McClellan meets Confederate troops under Joseph E. Johnston in the Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks). The battle is inconclusive, but Johnston is seriously wounded.
1 – General Robert E. Lee replaces Joseph Johnston as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.
2 – James Andrews, architect of the Great Locomotive Chase in northern Georgia, escapes Swims Jail in Chattanooga, Tenn., but is recaptured the next day. He is hanged June 7 in Atlanta; seven more of his raiders will be hanged June 18.
5 – The United States establishes diplomatic relations with Haiti and Liberia.
12-15 – Sent by Lee to investigate the strength of McClellan’s right flank, Brig. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart famously rides a 100-mile circuit around McClellan’s army, capturing 165 Yankees in the process.
17 – Confederate General Braxton Bragg replaces P.G.T. Beauregard as commander of the Department of the West.
Congress bans slavery in U.S. territories; Lincoln will sign the bill June 19.
25-July 1 – Robert E. Lee forces McClellan to retreat in the series of battles known as the Seven Days’, ending McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign in Virginia.