1859-1860 Key Dates
December 2 1859 Friday
John Brown’s Execution
Virginia. On October 16-18 1859, the Abolitionist John Brown led an armed group of twelve white and five black men to seize the US Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. Local militia blocked his escape and within a day he and four survivors were taken prisoners by a company of US Marines led by US Colonel Robert Edward Lee. The marines killed ten insurrectionists in their assault. After a trial, the State of Virginia hanged John Brown at Charlestown for committing treason against the state. Northern sympathisers and abolitionists regarded him as a martyr to the cause.
April 23 1860 Monday
Start of the Democratic Party National Convention
South Carolina. The National Convention of the Democratic Party convened at Charleston for the purpose of nominating the Presidential candidate. A pro-slavery platform was rejected and the Cincinnati platform of 1856 was adopted. Fierce dissension arose in regard to the question of congressional protection of slavery in the territories.
May 3 1860 Thursday
South Carolina. After eleven days of discussion, the Democratic convention adjourned without selecting a presidential ticket candidate. Delegates from eight Southern states withdrew and organised another convention in Charleston because they could not accept the pro-slavery plank in the Cincinnati platform. The Northern or pro-Stephen A Douglas wing of the Convention adjourned to reassemble at Baltimore, Maryland, on 18th June 1860. The Southern delegates remained in conference for one more day.
May 4 1860 Friday
South Carolina. The Southern delegates of the Democratic Party met in Charleston and decided to meet again on 11th June 1860 in Richmond, Virginia, with the aim of selecting an alternative candidate to Stephen A Douglas.
May 9 1860 Wednesday
Constitutional Union Party Convention
Maryland. The Constitutional Union party (formerly the Whig-American Party or “Know-Nothing” Party), met in Baltimore to nominate John Bell from of Tennessee and Edward Everett of Massachusetts for President and Vice-President, respectively. They condemned sectionalism and stood for the US Constitution and Union, while evading the slavery issue.
May 16 1860 Wednesday
Illinois. The Republican convention met in Chicago. The favourite candidate, Senator William H Seward, failed to receive the presidential nomination because of his extreme position on slavery.
May 18 1860 Friday
Republican Party nominates Abraham Lincoln for President
Illinois. At the National Convention of the Republican Party in Chicago, the more moderate Abraham Lincoln of Illinois and Hannibal Hamlin of Maine won the nomination for President and Vice-President, respectively on the third ballot. Their platform emphasised economic improvement and the Wilmot Proviso. They also pronounced in favour of congressional prohibition of slavery in the territories.
June 11 1860 Monday
South Carolina. Southern delegates of the Democratic Party met in Charleston.
June 18 1860 Monday
Maryland. The Democratic convention reconvened in Baltimore.
June 21 1860 Thursday
USA. The US Signal Corps was established under US Maj Albert James Myer (to operate from 27 June 1860. This was the first corps of officers to be established in any national army whose sole specific mission was communications.
June 22 1860 Friday
Maryland. Anti-Stephen Douglas delegates (the “Deep South” delegates) withdrew again from the Democratic convention.
June 23 1860 Saturday
Northern Democratic Party nominates Stephen A Douglas for President
Maryland. The regular or Northern delegates at the Democratic Convention in Baltimore nominated Stephen A Douglas of Illinois and Benjamin Fitzpatrick for President and Vice-President, respectively. Fitzpatrick declined and Herschel V Johnson of Georgia was nominated later. The convention declared the question of slavery in the territories was to be decided by the people of the territories or the US Supreme Court.
June 28 1860 Thursday
Southern Democratic Party nominates John C Breckinridge for President
Virginia. At their meeting in Richmond, Southern Democrats nominated John Cabell Breckinridge from Kentucky and Joseph Lane of Oregon for President and Vice-President, respectively. Their platform emphasised the non-exclusion of slavery from the territories and judged that neither Congress nor a territorial legislature had to right to prohibit slavery in a territory and that the Federal government had a duty to protect slavery when necessary. This brought the total number of presidential candidates to four in the 1860 election.
November 1 1860 Thursday
USA. The United States Navy announced plans to convert seven sailing ships into modern steam warships at a cost of $3,064,000.
Florida. Lt Thomas A Craven USN, commanding US Naval Forces at Key West, notified Secretary of the Navy Isaac Toucey that he had moved to prevent the seizure of Forts Taylor and Jefferson. Craven defended Fort Jefferson in USS Mohawk and Lt Fabius Stanly USN of USS Wyandotte held Fort Taylor. This enabled the Union to retain the vital Key West posts, which dominated maritime commerce in the Gulf of Mexico
November 6 1860 Tuesday
US Presidential Election – Abraham Lincoln Elected President
USA. The Republican ticket received 1,866,452 votes and 180 electoral votes in 17 of the 33 states. The Northern Democratic ticket of Stephen A Douglas, Illinois, and Herschel V Johnson, Georgia, received 1,376,957 votes, and only 12 electoral votes. The Southern Democratic ticket of John Cabell Breckinridge, Kentucky, and Joseph Lane, Oregon, received 849,781 votes and 72 electoral votes from 11 of the 15 slave states. The Constitutional Unionist Party’s John Bell, Tennessee, and Edward Everett, Massachusetts, received 588,879 votes and 39 electoral votes.
USA. Abraham Lincoln, who had declared “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free” was elected the 16th President of the United States, and the first ever from the Republican Party. He received 180 of 303 possible electoral votes and 39 per cent of the popular vote.
South Carolina. The South Carolina state legislature met to choose Presidential electors and voted for John Cabell Breckinridge and Joseph Lane for President and Vice-President, respectively. Governor William H Gist recommended in his message that in the event of Abraham Lincoln’s election to the presidency, a convention of the people of the state be immediately held to consider and determine for themselves the mode and measure of redress. He expressed the opinion that the only alternative left was the “secession of South Carolina from the United States Union.”
November 7 1860 Wednesday
South Carolina. United States officials resigned in Charleston.
November 8 1860 Thursday
Georgia. The Georgia state legislature met to discuss secession.
November 9 1860 Friday
USA. Senators James Chesnut Jr and James H Hammond, of South Carolina, resigned from the US Senate.
November 10 1860 Saturday
South Carolina. South Carolina called a secession convention to meet on 17th December 1860, with delegates to be elected. South Carolina’s James Chesnut, a moderate, resigned from the US Senate and was followed by colleague James H Hammond.
November 13 1860 Tuesday
South Carolina. Francis W Pickens was elected Governor of South Carolina.
South Carolina. The South Carolina state legislature voted to raise 10,000 volunteers to defend the state.
November 15 1860 Thursday
Florida Lieutenant Thomas A Craven USN, commanding US Naval Forces at Key West, moved to prevent the seizure of Forts Taylor and Jefferson. Craven led USS Mohawk to defend Fort Jefferson and Lieutenant Fabius Stanly USN in USS Wyandotte held Fort Taylor. This far-sighted action enabled the Union to retain the vital Key West posts, which offered a base to command the maritime commerce and traffic of the Gulf of Mexico.
South Carolina. Major Robert Anderson assumed command of the US Army garrison at Charleston.
November 17 1860 Saturday
South Carolina. South Carolina unanimously adopted an Ordinance of Secession
November 18 1860 Sunday
Georgia. The Georgia convention called for, and the legislature appropriated, $1,000,000 to arm the State.
November 20 1860 Tuesday
North Carolina. The North Carolina state legislature met. Governor John W Ellis recommended that the legislature invite a conference of the southern states, or failing in that, to send one or more delegates to the neighbouring states so as to secure concert of action. He recommended a thorough reorganization of the militia, and the enrolment of all persons between 18 and 45 years, and the organisation of a corps of 10,000 men.
November 21 1860 Wednesday
South Carolina. South Carolina appointed Robert W Barnwell and James L Orr as Commissioners to proceed to Washington to negotiate for the possession of US government property within the state’s limits. Commissioners appointed to visit other slaveholding states. A Southern Congress was also proposed.
November 23 1860 Friday
South Carolina. Major Robert Anderson requested supplies and reinforcements for the US garrison at Charleston.
November 24 1860 Saturday
South Carolina. South Carolina’s Representatives in the US Congress were withdrawn. Governor Pickens issued a proclamation announcing the repeal on 20 December 1860 of the Ordinance of 23 May 1788, and “the dissolution of the union between the State of South Carolina and other States under the name of the United States of America,” and proclaimed to the world “that the State of South Carolina is, as she has a right to be, a separate, sovereign, free and independent State, and, as such, has a right to levy war, or covenants, and to do all acts whatsoever that rightfully appertain to a free and independent State.”
November 26 1860 Monday
Florida. The Florida state legislature met. Florida Governor M S Perry recommended immediate secession.
Mississippi. The Mississippi state legislature met and set 20 December 1860 as the date for elections for the Mississippi Convention, which would meet on 7 January 1861. Mississippi Commissioners were appointed to other slaveholding states to secure “their co-operation in effecting measures for their common defence and safety.”
South Carolina. Evacuation of Fort Moultrie in Charleston Harbour
November 27 1860 Tuesday
Maryland. Governor Thomas H Hicks declined to call a special session of the Maryland legislature, in response to a request for such a convening from Thomas G Pratt, Sprigg Harwood, J R Franklin, N H Green, Llewellyn Boyle and J Pinkney.
South Carolina. Evacuation of the US Army garrison from Fort Moultrie in Charleston Harbour
November 28 1860 Wednesday
South Carolina. Major Robert Anderson, having received no reply, again requested reinforcements and supplies for his US garrison at Charleston.
December 1 1860 Saturday
Florida. The Florida state legislature met and passed a bill calling for a State Convention, in order to discuss the question of secession.
South Carolina Major Robert Anderson renewed his plea for a third time for supplies for the US garrison at Fort Sumter.
December 3 1860 Monday
USA. US President James Buchanan argued against the right of secession but expressed doubt about whether Congress had the constitutional right to make war upon a State.
District of Columbia. The Second Session of the 36th Congress opened.
Georgia. The Georgia state legislature adopted resolutions proposing a Conference of the Southern States at Atlanta, Georgia, to be held on 20 February 1861.
December 4 1860 Tuesday
USA. In his annual State of the Union message to Congress, US President James Buchanan declared secession to be an unconstitutional act, but he stated that the US government did not have the power to force any state to remain in the Union.
December 6 1860 Thursday
USA. The US House of Representatives named a special Select Committee of Thirty-three to discuss the issues of the day and take measures to ensure the perpetuity of the Union.
December 8 1860 Saturday
USA. US Secretary of the Treasury, Thomas Howell Cobb from Georgia, resigned because he felt that “Secession of my state was imminent.”
December 9 1860 Sunday
North Carolina. The state’s Joint Committee on US Relations agreed to report a Convention Bill.
South Carolina. US President James Buchanan assured the South Carolina congressmen that he would not attempt to reinforce the Federal garrisons in the Charleston forts without first consulting them.
December 10 1860 Monday
USA. Thomas Howell Cobb resigned as Secretary of the Treasury. John A Dix of New York was named as his successor.
USA. The US Congress appointed a “Committee of Thirty-Tree” to investigate the State of the Union.
Louisiana. The Louisiana state legislature met to consider secession.
December 11 1860 Tuesday
Louisiana. The Louisiana Convention was called to meet on 23 January 1861
December 12 1860 Wednesday
USA. US President James Buchanan appointed Philip F Thomas, of Maryland, as US Secretary of the Treasury.
District of Columbia. Major-General Winfield Scott, General-in-Chief of the US Army, arrived in Washington to confer with President James Buchanan.
Kentucky. Governor Beriah Magoffin declined offers of help from the Indiana State militia to quell servile insurrections in Kentucky.
Louisiana. The state of Louisiana received Commissioners from Mississippi. The Governor of Louisiana was instructed to communicate with the Governors of other southern States.
December 13 1860 Thursday
CSA. Seven Southern US Senators and twenty-three Representatives urged secession and the creation of a Southern Confederacy.
December 14 1860 Friday
USA. US Secretary of State Lewis Cass, from Michigan, resigned because of US President James Buchanan’s failure to reinforce the US Army garrison of Major Robert Anderson at Charleston Harbour, South Carolina.
Georgia. The Georgia state legislature asked South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida to appoint delegates to a convention to establish a Southern Confederacy.
December 17 1860 Monday
USA. US Attorney General Jeremiah S Black resigned to become US Secretary of State.
North Carolina. The North Carolina state legislature debated a bill appropriating $300,000 to arm the state’s forces.
South Carolina. The State Convention met at Columbia and adjourned its session to Charleston.
December 18 1860 Tuesday
Crittenden Compromise Proposed
USA. Senator John J Crittenden proposed a Compromise on the floor of the US Senate, proposing six amendments to the United States Constitution which protected the future status of slavery.
North Carolina. The North Carolina state senate passed the Appropriation Bill debated the previous day.
December 19 1860 Wednesday
Maryland. Governor Thomas H Hicks replied to A H Handy, Commissioner from Mississippi, declining to accept the plans for secession.
December 20 1860 Thursday
South Carolina Seceded
USA. US President James Buchanan appointed Edwin M Stanton as US Attorney General.
USA. US Vice-President John C Breckinridge referred the Crittenden Compromise to the Committee of Thirteen.
Maryland. William H Collins of Baltimore issued an address to the people of Maryland in favour of the Union.
North Carolina. North Carolina received Commissioners from Alabama and Mississippi.
South Carolina. The state of South Carolina seceded from the Union. A special convention passed the ordinance of secession by a unanimous vote of 169 members. The ordinance declared that the ratification of the Constitution of the United States in 1788 was “repealed and the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and the others states, under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved.”
December 22 1860 Saturday
USA. US President Abraham Lincoln’s opposition to the Crittenden Compromise protecting slavery in the territories was made public.
North Carolina. The North Carolina Senate Bill to arm the State failed to pass the North Carolina House.
December 23 1860 Sunday
USA. A large embezzlement of the Indian Trust Funds was discovered, under the charge of Jacob Thompson, Secretary of the Department of the Interior.
December 24 1860 Monday
USA. The US Senate’s Committee of Thirteen rejected the Crittenden Compromise.
USA. The South Carolina Representatives resigned from the US Congress.
December 25 1860 Tuesday
Pennsylvania. A public gathering in Pittsburgh prevented the removal of ordnance from the Alleghany Arsenal to destinations in the South.
December 26 1860 Wednesday
South Carolina. Under the cover of darkness, Major Robert Anderson spiked the guns of Fort Moultrie and secretly withdrew all US forces from Fort Moultrie and other forts on the mainland to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbour, leaving the outlying works to be occupied by South Carolina state forces. Many forts had been constructed in the harbour in recent decades, including Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie. Fort Moultrie was the oldest and was the headquarters of the garrison. It had been designed as a gun platform for defending the harbour and its defences against land-based attacks were feeble. Charleston newspapers commented that sand dunes had grown up against the walls in such a way that the wall could easily be scaled. When the garrison began clearing away the dunes, the papers objected. Fort Sumter, by contrast, dominated the entrance to Charleston Harbor and was expected to be one of the strongest fortresses in the world once its construction was completed;. By the autumn of 1860, the construction work was nearly done but the fortress was garrisoned by a single soldier serving as a lighthouse keeper. Its location on a sandbar prevented the sort of land assault to which Fort Moultrie was vulnerable. Although Anderson secured Fort Sumter and the garrison, its island location made them dependent on seaborne reinforcements and supplies. The South Carolina authorities placed picket ships to observe the movements of the troops and threatened violence when forty rifles were later transferred to one of the harbour forts from the US arsenal in the city. Anderson’s force comprised 85 men of Companies E and H, 1st US Artillery.
December 27 1860 Thursday
District of Columbia. Three commissioners from South Carolina (Barnwell, Orr and Adams) arrived in Washington to negotiate the process of secession with the Federal government.
South Carolina. In Charleston harbour, Fort Moultrie and Fort Castle Pinckney were seized by South Carolina State troops. Captain N L Coste USRS surrendered the revenue cutter and schooner William Aiken to the state authorities.
December 28 1860 Friday
South Carolina. The South Carolina state flag was raised over the customs house and post office in Charleston.
December 29 1860 Saturday
USA. US Secretary of War John Buchanan Floyd, Virginia, resigned because US President James Buchanan had declined “to withdraw the garrison from the harbour of Charleston altogether” after the transfer of Major Robert Anderson’s command from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter.
December 30 1860 Sunday
South Carolina. The US Arsenal, Post Office, and Custom’s House at Charleston were seized by South Carolina State troops. The Arsenal contained over 70,000 stand of arms and other military stores.
December 31 1860 Monday
USA. US Postmaster General Joseph Holt was put in temporary charge of the US War Department following the resignation of John Buchanan Floyd.
USA. The US Senate’s Committee of Thirty-Three reported its failure to reach an agreement on the Crittenden Compromise.
Maryland. Mississippi Commissioner A H Handy addressed the citizens of Baltimore in favour of disunion.
South Carolina. US President James Buchanan ordered US reinforcements to be sent to Major Robert Anderson at Fort Sumter.