A Year In History: 1861

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In 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as America’s 16th president. Just weeks later, the newly formed Confederacy attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina, igniting the American Civil War. To fund the conflict, Congress enacted the country’s first income tax. Elsewhere in the world, multiple states on the Italian Peninsula united to form the Kingdom of Italy, while multiple European powers invaded Mexico to collect unpaid debts. Back in Britain, The Times gave readers the first-ever published weather forecast.

March 2

Texas secedes

On March 2, 1861, Texas becomes the seventh state to secede from the Union. The first official move for secession actually came a month earlier, on February 1, when a state convention voted 166 to 8 in favor of the measure. The issue then had to be ratified by a statewide referendum, which was held […]

March 11

Confederate states adopt new constitution

In Montgomery, Alabama, delegates from South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas adopt the Permanent Constitution of the Confederate States of America. The constitution resembled the Constitution of the United States, even repeating much of its language, but was actually more comparable to the Articles of Confederation—the initial post-Revolutionary War U.S. constitution—in its […]

April 12

Civil War begins as Confederate forces fire on Fort Sumter

Four of the bloodiest years in American history begin when Confederate shore batteries under General Pierre G.T. Beauregard open fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861. During the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched more than 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort. On April […]

April 27

President Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War

April 27, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln instructs General Winfield Scott to suspend habeas corpus as necessary to keep vital transport and supply lines clear in Maryland. This action kicks off a legal dispute with the Supreme Court. One month later, on May 25, 1861, John Merryman, a state legislator from Maryland, is arrested for attempting […]

May 28

President Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus is challenged

On May 28, 1861, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of Maryland issues Ex parte Merryman, challenging the authority of President Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. military to suspend the writ of habeas corpus (the legal procedure that prevents the government from holding an individual indefinitely without showing cause) in Maryland. Early in the war, President […]

July 12

Confederacy signs treaties with Choctaw and Chickasaw nations

Special commissioner Albert Pike completes treaties with the members of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, giving the new Confederate States of America several allies in Indian Territory. Some members of the tribes also fought for the Confederacy. A Boston native, Pike went west in 1831 and traveled with fur trappers and traders. He settled in […]