Timeline
 
 

1856-1861: Campaign & Presidency

 
1856 June 2 - James Buchanan is nominated for president by the Democratic National Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio.
    June - James Buchanan tells supporters gathered at Wheatland that he is “no longer James Buchanan, but the representative of the Cincinnati platform.”  
    June 8 - James Buchanan addresses a committee from the PA Democratic State Convention.  
    June 16 - James Buchanan accepts the Democratic Party's nomination for president.  
Aug. 13 - Free State militia seize the town of Franklin, a pro-slavery strong-hold in the Kansas Territory.
Aug. 19 - Gail Borden is awarded a patent for his process for making evaporated milk.
Aug. 30 - Guerilla warfare rages through the Kansas Territory as the militia attack Osawatomie, Kansas in the continuing dispute over the status of slavery in the territory.
Oct. 7 - Cyrus Chambers of Pennsylvania is awarded a patent for the first practical folding machine, used for books and newspapers.
    Nov. 4 - James Buchanan is elected president.  
Nov. 17 - Fort Buchanan is established as the first military post on land acquired by the US in the Gadsden Purchase.
    Dec. 8 - President-elect Buchanan announces his support for the construction of a Pacific railroad.  
    Dec. 29 - President-elect Buchanan writes, “The great object of my administration will be to arrest, if possible, the agitation of the slavery question at the North, and to destroy sectional parties. Should a kind Providence enable me to succeed in my efforts to restore harmony to the Union, I shall feel that I have not lived in vain.”  
       
1857   Jan. 27 - President-elect Buchanan travels to Washington, DC in order to finalize his cabinet appointments.  
    Feb. - President-elect Buchanan learns of the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision before it is made public.  
    Feb. 3 - President-elect Buchanan returns to Wheatland.  
Feb. 21 - Congress passes an act declaring that foreign coins are no longer legal tender.
    Feb. 25 - President-elect Buchanan announces that he will not accept visitors until after his inauguration, in part because he contracted dysentery while staying at the National Hotel in Washington, DC.  
    Mar. 2 - President-elect Buchanan leaves Lancaster, PA for Washington, D.C.; he stays at the National Hotel, despite concerns that the hotel is still plagued with dysentery.  
    Mar. 4 - President Buchanan is inaugurated as the fifteenth president of the US; his inaugural address condemns slavery agitation, anticipates the Dred Scott decision, supports popular sovereignty in the Territories, and announces his intention to retire at the end of his term.  
    President Buchanan’s White House household includes niece Harriet Lane and nephews James Buchanan Henry and Elliott Eskridge Lane.  
    Mar. 6 - President Buchanan’s cabinet appointments are confirmed by the US Senate; Buchanan's cabinet includes: Lewis Cass, secretary of state; Howell Cobb, secretary of the treasury; John Floyd, secretary of war; Isaac Toucey, secretary of the navy; Aaron Brown, postmaster general; Jacob Thompson, secretary of the interior; Jeremiah Black, attorney general.  
Mar. 6 - The Supreme Court rules, in the Dred Scott Decision, that a slave taken into a free state cannot sue for freedom.
    President Buchanan's administration concludes a treaty with New Grenada.  
    President Buchanan appoints Robert Walker to serve as governor of the Kansas Territory.  
    President Buchanan sends General William Harney and 1,500 troops to Kansas to keep order.  
    Apr. - Elliott Eskridge Lane (nephew of James Buchanan) dies of dysentery contracted at the National Hotel in Washington, DC.  
    May - President Buchanan orders Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston to lead 2,500 soldiers to Utah to maintain order among the Mormons.  
    June 13 - President Buchanan appoints Alfred Cumming to replace Brigham Young as the governor of the Utah Territory.  
    Aug. 15 - President Buchanan writes the “Silliman letter” in defense of his decision to send US troops to protect the Territorial government in Kansas.  
Aug. 28 - Fort Abercrombie is established in North Dakota to protect settlers from the Sioux Indians.
    President Buchanan discusses the purchase of Alaska with Russia's minister, Baron de Stoeckl.  
    Sep. 11 - President Buchanan orders the removal of Brigham Young as governor of Utah.  
Sep. 11 - One hundred twenty immigrants are killed by Indians at the Mountain Meadows Massacre, in Utah.
Sep. 15 - Brigham Young forbids US armed forces to enter the Utah Territory, which is under martial law.
    Oct. - President Buchanan sends Colonel H. L. Martin to Kansas to propose that delegates to the Territory's constitutional convention draft one constitution including slavery and one excluding it.  
Oct. 5 - Kansas elects a legislature banning slavery in the territory.
    President Buchanan asks the British envoy, Sir William Gore, to agree to the abrogation of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty.  
    Dec. 8 - President Buchanan delivers his first annual message to Congress.  
    Dec. 15 - President Buchanan is accused of betrayal by Robert Walker regarding the constitution of Kansas.  
    Dec. - President Buchanan removes Frederick Stanton from the position of acting governor of Kansas; he replaces Stanton with Indian Commissioner James Denver.  
       
1858   President Buchanan’s administration concludes the Cass-Yrisarri treaty with Nicaragua.  
    President Buchanan requests an increase in the number of men in the military.  
    Jan. 7 - President Buchanan delivers a special message to Congress on the arrest of William Walker in Nicaragua.  
    Jan. 11 - President Buchanan submits the constitution of the Territory of Minnesota to Congress.  
    Jan. 12 - President Buchanan names Nathan Clifford as associate justice of the Supreme Court.  
    Feb. 2 - President Buchanan submits the Lecompton Constitution to Congress.  
    Feb. 25 - President Buchanan issues a proclamation abolishing discriminating duties in the case of the Papal States.  
    Apr. 6 - President Buchanan issues a proclamation calling for the use of military force to subdue the Mormon rebellion in Utah.  
Apr. 12 - Michael J. Phelan wins the first US billiards championship at Fireman’s Hall in Detroit.
    May 4 - President Buchanan signs an act admitting Kansas to the Union under the Lecompton Constitution.  
May 11 - Minnesota becomes the 32nd state in the Union.
    June 10 - President Buchanan announces to Congress that order has been restored in Utah.  
June 16 - In a speech accepting the Republican nomination for the Senate, Abraham Lincoln declares, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
July 17 - The Pennsylvania Railroad introduces the first smoking car.
July 20 - The New York All Stars defeat Brooklyn 22-18 in the first baseball game with an admission charge.
    Aug. 16 - President Buchanan sends the first cable message across the Atlantic Ocean, to Queen Victoria of England.  

Aug. 21 - The first in a series of debates between Abraham Lincoln and Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois brings Lincoln into the national spotlight.

Aug. 24 - Camp Floyd is established in the Utah Territory to support US troops sent to keep the peace.
    Oct. 30 - President Buchanan issues a proclamation concerning an expedition against Nicaragua by private US citizens.  
    Dec. 6 - President Buchanan gives his second annual message to Congress.  
       
1859   President Buchanan sends General Winfield Scott to San Juan Island during a dispute between US settlers and the Hudson’s Bay Company.  
    President Buchanan makes a temporary agreement with Great Britain for the joint occupation of San Juan Island.  
    President Buchanan offers Russia $5,000,000 for the purchase of Alaska; Russia declines.  
    President Buchanan reprimands John Floyd for accepting bills for the transport of army supplies before the necessary funds had been appropriated by Congress.  
Feb. 13 - Oregon becomes the 33rd state in the Union.
Feb. 19 - Dan Sickles is acquitted of murder on the grounds of temporary insanity, the first time such a plea succeeded.
    Feb. 24 - President Buchanan vetoes a bill to create land grant colleges.  
    Mar. 14 - President Buchanan appoints Joseph Holt to serve as postmaster general.  
Apr. 4 - The song Dixie, written by Dan D. Emmet, has its first performance, at Mechanics Hall in New York.
    May - President Buchanan tours Baltimore in order to select the location of a new courthouse.  
May 12 - The Vicksburg Commercial Convention urges the reopening of the African slave trade.
    June 10 - President Buchanan criticizes niece Harriet Lane for taking a pleasure ride on the revenue service ship named in her honor.  
June 10 - Peter O’Riley and Patrick McLaughlin discover the Comstock Lode, the richest mining discovery in the US.
June 30 - Charles Blondin becomes the first man to cross over Niagara Falls on a tightrope.
July 1 - Amherst defeats Williams in the first intercollegiate baseball game in the US.
    July 20 - President Buchanan announces in several newspapers that he does not plan to run for reelection.  
Aug. 27 - Edwin L. Drake strikes oil near Titusville, Pennsylvania, the first oil well in the US.
Sep. 1 - The first sleeping car, built by George Pullman, makes its first run.
Sep. 9 - Congress establishes the boundaries of Utah.
Oct. 4 - The Kansas Territory ratifies an antislavery constitution.
Oct. 16 - Abolitionist John Brown and 21 armed men take some 60 hostages and seize the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in what is now West Virginia.
    Oct. 17 - President Buchanan sends Col. Robert E. Lee to Harper's Ferry, Virginia to regain order following John Brown's raid.  
Dec. 2 - Abolitionist John Brown is hanged for murder, conspiracy, and treason.
    Dec. 19 - President Buchanan gives his third annual message to Congress.  
       
1860   President Buchanan receives the McLane-Ocampo Treaty with Mexico.  
    James Buchanan Henry (nephew of James Buchanan) marries.  
    Jan. 24 - President Buchanan submits to the US Senate a Treaty of Transit and Commerce with Mexico.  
    Mar. 28 - President Buchanan submits a protest to the US House regarding the Covode Investigation.  
    President Buchanan sends a circular to Mexico, declaring that the US intends to prevent European intervention in that country.  
Apr. 3 - The Pony Express mail service begins, between Sacramento, California, and St. Joseph, Missouri.
May 10 - Congress passes the Morrill Tariff Bill to regulate imports.
    May 14 - President Buchanan greets the first Japanese delegation to the US.
 
    President Buchanan reprimands John Floyd and transfers Captain Montgomery Meigs due to a conflict regarding construction projects in Washington, D.C.  
    June 22 - President Buchanan submits a letter of vindication to the US House in response to the conclusion of the Covode Investigation.  
June 23 - Congress establishes the Government Printing Office.
    June 27 - President Buchanan is disappointed when the US Senate refuses to ratify a convention establishing a joint commission for the adjudication and payment of claims between Spain and the US.  
    July 9 - President Buchanan announces his support for John Breckinridge in the presidential election.  
    Aug. - President Buchanan goes to Bedford Springs, PA, where he discusses religion with Rev. William M. Paxton of the First Presbyterian Church in New York City; Buchanan expresses his interest in joining the Presbyterian Church after he leaves the White House.  
    President Buchanan encourages PA electors to vote for either Stephen Douglas or John Breckinridge in order to ensure the defeat of Abraham Lincoln.  
    Oct. - President Buchanan hosts the Prince of Wales during the Prince's visit to the US.  
    Oct. 29 - President Buchanan receives a copy of General Winfield Scott’s “Views.”  
Nov. 6 - Abraham Lincoln is elected President of the US.
    Nov. 7 - President Buchanan meets with John Floyd regarding the possibility of attacks on federal forts in Charleston, South Carolina.  
    Nov. 9 - President Buchanan calls a special cabinet meeting to consider South Carolina’s threat to leave the Union.  
    Nov. 10 - President Buchanan and his cabinet discuss Col. J. L. Gardner’s aborted attempt to transfer arms from the Charleston, South Carolina arsenal to Fort Moultrie.  
    Nov. 17 - President Buchanan asks Jeremiah Black for clarification regarding a president’s legal ability to respond to a state’s attempt to secede.  
    Nov. - President Buchanan informs a group of secessionists that he does not believe that states have the right to secede.  
    Nov. - President Buchanan decides to reinforce the forts in Charleston, South Carolina, but John Floyd convinces him to postpone action.  
    Dec. - President Buchanan grants Jacob Thompson permission to act as Mississippi’s agent to North Carolina regarding secession.  
    Dec. 3 - President Buchanan gives his fourth annual message to Congress.  
    Dec. 3 - President Buchanan meets with his cabinet regarding Major Robert Anderson’s request for reinforcements for federal forts in South Carolina.  
    Dec. 8 - President Buchanan meets with members of the US House from South Carolina regarding relations between the federal government and that state.  
    Dec. 8 - President Buchanan receives the resignation of Howell Cobb from the cabinet.  
    Dec. 10 - President Buchanan meets with members of the US House from South Carolina regarding federal forts in Charleston Harbor.  
    Dec. 12 - President Buchanan receives the resignation of Lewis Cass from the cabinet.  
    Dec. 12 - President Buchanan appoints Philip Thomas to serve as secretary of the treasury.  
    Dec. 15 - President Buchanan declines General Winfield Scott’s recommendation to reinforce Fort Moultrie with three hundred men.  
    Dec. 17 - President Buchanan appoints Jeremiah Black to serve as secretary of state and promotes Edwin Stanton to attorney general.  
    Dec. 17 - President Buchanan refuses to allow Lewis Cass to withdraw his resignation from the cabinet.  
Dec. 18 - The Crittenden Compromise is proposed by Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, in a last ditch effort to keep the Southern States from seceding.
    Dec. 20 - President Buchanan is notified of South Carolina's decision to secede from the Union.  
    Dec. 20 - President Buchanan receives a demand from South Carolina's Governor, Francis Pickens, for control of Fort Sumter.  
Dec. 20 - South Carolina becomes the first state to secede from the Union.
    Dec. 21 - President Buchanan revises Major Robert Anderson's orders, instructing him to use “sound military discretion” rather than to defend the Charleston, South Carolina forts “to the last extremity” if attacked.  
    Dec. 22 - President Buchanan learns of a scandal involving the use of Indian bonds to pay War Department debts.  
    Dec. 25 - President Buchanan cancels John Floyd's order to transfer cannons from Pittsburgh to Mississippi and Texas.  
    Dec. 25 - President Buchanan requests that John Floyd resign from the cabinet.  
    Dec. 25 - President Buchanan withdraws support from the Washington Constitution due to the newspaper's support of secession.  
    Dec. 27 - President Buchanan and his cabinet discuss Major Robert Anderson's decision to transfer his troops to Fort Sumter.  
   

Dec. 28 - President Buchanan refuses to recognize commissioners from South Carolina after the state’s secession.

 
    Dec. 28 - President Buchanan learns that South Carolina has taken possession of Fort Moultrie, Castle Pinckney, and the US Customhouse.  
    Dec. 29 - President Buchanan receives the resignation of John Floyd from the cabinet.  
    Dec. 29 - President Buchanan receives a written demand from the South Carolina Commissioners for the withdrawal of federal troops from Charleston Harbor.  
    Dec. 30 - President Buchanan receives a request from General Winfield Scott to send reinforcements to Fort Sumter.  
Dec. 30 - Troops from South Carolina seize the Federal Arsenal at Charleston.
    Dec. 31 - President Buchanan informs the South Carolina Commissioners that he will not remove federal troops from Fort Sumter.  
    Dec. 31 - President Buchanan orders the U.S.S. Brooklyn to take reinforcements to Fort Sumter; he then suspends these orders in anticipation of a response from the South Carolina Commissioners.  
       
1861   Jan. 2 - President Buchanan orders the Star of the West to bring reinforcements to the Federal Garrison at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.  
    Jan. 2 - President Buchanan reads and rejects the response from the South Carolina Commissioners regarding the status of Fort Sumter.  
    Jan. 2 - President Buchanan submits the name of Peter McIntire to the US Senate for the position of customs collector in Charleston, South Carolina.  
    Jan. 5 - President Buchanan cancels orders for the Star of the West to reinforce Fort Sumter, but the ship has already departed from New York.  
Jan. 5 - Alabama state troops take possession of Forts Morgan and Gaines at the entrance to Mobile Bay.
Jan. 6 - Florida troops seize the Federal Arsenal at Apalachicola.
    Jan. 8 - President Buchanan sends Congress a special message concerning relations with South Carolina.  
    Jan. 8 - President Buchanan receives the resignation of Jacob Thompson from the cabinet.  
Jan. 9 - Mississippi secedes from the Union.
Jan. 9 - The Union ship, Star of the West, is fired on by the South Carolina state battery in Charleston Harbor, on its way to resupply the garrison at Fort Sumter.
Jan. 10 - Florida secedes from the Union.
    Jan. 11 - President Buchanan receives the resignation of Philip Thomas from the cabinet.  
    Jan. 11 - President Buchanan appoints John Dix to serve as secretary of the treasury.  
Jan. 11 - Alabama secedes from the Union .
Jan. 14 - Union troops garrison Fort Taylor in Key West, Florida.
    Jan. 18 - President Buchanan appoints Joseph Holt to serve as secretary of war.  
    Jan. 19 - President Buchanan receives a request from southern Senators not to reinforce Fort Sumter in return for a pledge that South Carolina will not attack the fort.  
Jan. 19 - Georgia secedes from the Union.
Jan. 21 - After making farewell speeches, Senators from Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida resign from the US Senate.
    Jan. 22 - President Buchanan informs southern Senators that he will not enter into an agreement not to reinforce Fort Sumter.  
    Jan. 22 - President Buchanan is warned by Jeremiah Black of a possible conspiracy to seize Washington, D.C. in order to prevent Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration.  
    Jan. 24 - President Buchanan is presented with the Virginia Resolutions of Compromise by John Tyler.  
Jan. 24 - Georgia troops seize the Federal Arsenal in Augusta.
Jan. 26 - Louisiana secedes from the Union.
    Jan. 28 - President Buchanan submits the Virginia Resolutions of Compromise to Congress.  
    Jan. 29 - President Buchanan orders US troops not to commit any acts of hostility against Pensacola, Florida unless attacked.  
    Jan. 29 - President Buchanan acknowledges his responsibility for the removal of Major P. G. T. Beauregard from West Point.  
Jan. 29 - Kansas becomes the 34th state in the Union.
    Jan. 31 - President Buchanan receives a demand from Francis Pickens for the right to purchase Fort Sumter.  
Feb. 1 - Texas secedes from the Union.
Feb. 4 - The Confederate States of America is formed in Montgomery, Alabama.
Feb. 4 - The Washington Peace Convention convenes to attempt to preserve the Union.
    Feb. 7 - President Buchanan receives members of the Peace Convention.  
Feb. 7 - The Choctaw Indian Nation declares its allegiance to the Southern States.
    Feb. 9 - President Buchanan is informed by John Tyler that Francis Pickens has submitted the issue of Fort Sumter to the secession convention at Montgomery, Alabama.  
Feb. 16 - Texas state troops seize the Federal Arsenal and Barracks in San Antonio.
Feb. 18 - Jefferson Davis becomes President of the Confederate States of America.
    Feb. 19 - President Buchanan receives a copy of a telegram in which Francis Pickens urges an attack on Fort Sumter.  
    Feb. 20 - President Buchanan is informed by John Tyler that Francis Pickens denies drafting a telegram urging an attack on Fort Sumter.  
Feb. 20 - The Department of the Navy is established by the Confederate States of America.
    Feb. 21 - President Buchanan asks General Winfield Scott to withdraw US troops from the parade celebrating George Washington’s birthday.  
    Feb. 22 - President Buchanan reverses his decision to cancel the parade celebrating George Washington’s birthday.  
    Mar. 1- President Buchanan provides Congress with an explanation for his decision to bring troops to Washington, DC in preparation for Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration.  
Mar. 2 - Congress establishes the Nevada and Dakota Territories.
    Mar. 4 - President Buchanan receives Major Robert Anderson's announcement that he will need 20,000 men to reinforce his position at Fort Sumter.  
    Mar. 4 - President Buchanan and his cabinet write a letter to Abraham Lincoln regarding Major Robert Anderson's need for reinforcements.  
    Mar. 4 - Buchanan rides in the inaugural procession with Abraham Lincoln; he tells Lincoln, “Sir, if you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland, you are a happy man indeed.”  
Mar. 4 - The Confederate flag is adopted in Montgomery, Alabama.
Mar. 4 - Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated President of the US.
    Mar. 5 - James Buchanan and his cabinet meet for the last time.  
Mar. 11 - The Confederate Constitution, declaring sovereignty of states and allowing slavery, passes the Confederate Congress.
Mar. 31 - Texas troops seize Fort Bliss, a Union military outpost.