This article is about the year 1861. For the number, see 1861 (number)
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1861 (MDCCCLXI) was a common year starting on Tuesday (dominical letter F) of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Sunday (dominical letter A) of the Julian calendar, the 1861st year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 861st year of the 2nd millennium, the 61st year of the 19th century, and the 2nd year of the 1860s decade. Note that the Julian day for 1861 is 12 calendar days difference, which continued to be used from 1582 until the complete conversion of the Gregorian calendar was entirely done in 1929.
- January 1
- January 2 – Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia dies and is succeeded by Wilhelm I.
- January 3 – American Civil War: Delaware votes not to secede from the Union.
- January 9 – American Civil War: Mississippi becomes the second state to secede from the Union.
- January 10 – American Civil War: Florida secedes from the Union.
- January 11 – American Civil War: Alabama secedes from the Union.
- January 12 – American Civil War: Major Robert Anderson sends dispatches to Washington.
- January 19 – American Civil War: Georgia secedes from the Union.
- January 21 – American Civil War: Jefferson Davis resigns from the United States Senate.
- January 26 – American Civil War: Louisiana secedes from the Union.
- January 29 – Kansas is admitted as the 34th U.S. state.
- February 1 – American Civil War: Texas secedes from the Union.
- February 4 – American Civil War: In Montgomery, Alabama, the Provisional Confederate States Congress is formed by representatives from the first six break-away states.
- February 8 – American Civil War: The Confederate States of America are formed, comprising the first six break-away States.
- February 9 – American Civil War: Jefferson Davis is elected the Provisional President of the Confederate States of America by the Weed Convention at Montgomery, Alabama.
- February 11
- American Civil War: The U.S. House unanimously passes a resolution guaranteeing non-interference with slavery in any state.
- About 850 convicts at Chatham Dockyard in England take over their prison in a riot.
- February 13 – Italian unification: The Siege of Gaeta, stronghold of the Neapolitan King Francis II, is ended by Piedmontese forces. Francis goes into exile.
- February 18 – American Civil War: In Montgomery, Alabama, Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as the provisional president of the Confederate States of America.
- February 20 – In Britain, storms damage the Crystal Palace and cause the collapse of the steeple of Chichester Cathedral.
- February 23 – President-elect Abraham Lincoln arrives secretly in Washington, D.C. after an assassination attempt in Baltimore.
- February 24 – Battle of Ky Hoa: the French and the Spanish defeat the Vietnamese.
- February 27 – Russian troops fire upon a crowd in Warsaw protesting Russian rule over Poland, killing 5 protesters.
- February 28 – Colorado is organized as a United States territory.
- March 2
- March 3 (February 19 O.S.) – Emancipation reform of 1861: Serfdom is abolished in the Russian Empire.
- March 4
- March 10 – El Hadj Umar Tall seizes the city of Ségou, destroying the Bamana Empire of Mali.
- March 11 – American Civil War: The Constitution of the Confederate States of America is adopted.
- March 13 – Tsushima incident: the Russian corvette Posadnik arrives at Tsushima Island in the Korea Strait, Japan, provoking a reaction from the Japanese Shogunate.
- March 17 – Italian unification: The Kingdom of Italy is proclaimed by the new Parliament, with Victor Emmanuel II of Piedmont-Sardinia becoming its king.
- March 19 – The First Taranaki War ends in New Zealand.
- March 20
- March 21 – Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy, gives the infamous Cornerstone Speech in Savannah, Georgia, in which he declares that slavery is the natural condition of blacks and the foundation of the Confederacy.
- March 28 – Confederate Arizona: convention in present-day Tucson ratified the ordinance of secession of southern part of New Mexico Territory.
- March 30 – Discovery of the chemical elements: Sir William Crookes announces his discovery of thallium.
- April 7 – A population census is taken in the United Kingdom.
- April 12 – The American Civil War begins with the bombardment of Fort Sumter, South Carolina.
- April 13 – American Civil War: Fort Sumter surrenders to Southern forces.
- April 15 – American Civil War: President Abraham Lincoln issues a Proclamation calling for 75,000 men to confront in the South, "combinations too powerful to be suppressed in the ordinary way".
- April 17 – American Civil War: The state of Virginia secedes from the Union.
- April 20 – American Civil War: Robert E. Lee resigns his commission in the United States Army in order to command the forces of the state of Virginia.
- April 24 (N.S.) – Bezdna in Russia is the scene of a peasant uprising; the military open fire and nearly 5000 are killed.
- April 25 – American Civil War: The Union Army arrives in Washington, D.C.
- April 26 – Giovanni Schiaparelli discovers the asteroid 69 Hesperia.
- April 27 – American Civil War:
- May 6 – American Civil War: Arkansas secedes from the Union.
- May 7 – American Civil War: Tennessee secedes from the Union.
- May 8 – American Civil War: Richmond, Virginia is named the capital of the Confederate States of America.
- May 13
- North Star Affair: The British merchant ship North Star leaves Hong Kong for Nagasaki, Japan. Chinese pirates board the vessel, kill an officer, and escape with a large quantity of gold.
- American Civil War: Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom issues a "proclamation of neutrality" which recognizes the breakaway states as having belligerent rights.
- Comet C/1861 J1 (the "Great Comet of 1861") is discovered in Australia.
- May 14 – The Canellas meteorite, an 859 gram chondrite type meteorite, strikes Earth near Barcelona, Spain.
- May 20 – American Civil War: Kentucky proclaims its neutrality which lasts until September 3, when Confederate forces enter the state. North Carolina secedes from the Union.
- May 21 – Russian sailors clash with a group of Japanese samurai and farmers at Tsushima island.
- October 9 – American Civil War: Battle of Santa Rosa Island – Confederate forces are defeated in their effort to take the island.
- October 21 – American Civil War: Battle of Ball's Bluff – Union forces under Colonel Edward Baker are defeated by Confederate troops in the second major battle of the war. Baker, a close friend of Abraham Lincoln, is killed in the fighting.
- October 24 – HMS Warrior, the world's first ocean-going (all) iron-hulled armored battleship, is completed and commissioned into the British Royal Navy.
- October 25 – Toronto Stock Exchange established in Canada.
- October 26 – The Pony Express announces its closure.
- October 28 – American Civil War: The Missouri legislature takes up a bill for Missouri's secession from the Union.
- October 30 – American Civil War: The bill for Missouri's secession from the Union is passed.
- October 31
- The Spanish, French and British governments sign a tripartite agreement to intervene in Mexico, in the hope of recovering unpaid debts.
- The Missouri secession bill is signed by Governor Jackson.
- American Civil War: Citing failing health, Union General Winfield Scott resigns as Commander of the United States Army.
- November 1 – American Civil War: U.S. President Abraham Lincoln appoints George B. McClellan as commander of the Union Army, replacing the aged General Winfield Scott.
- November 2 – American Civil War: Western Department Union General John C. Frémont is relieved of command and replaced by David Hunter.
- November 6 – American Civil War: Jefferson Davis is elected president of the Confederate States of America.
- November 5 – The first Melbourne Cup horse race is held in Melbourne, Australia.
- November 7 – American Civil War: Battle of Belmont – In Belmont, Missouri, Union forces led by General Ulysses S. Grant overrun a Confederate camp but are forced to retreat when Confederate reinforcements arrive.
- November 8 – American Civil War: Trent Affair – The USS San Jacinto stops the United Kingdom mail ship Trent and arrests two Confederate envoys, James Mason and John Slidell, sparking a diplomatic crisis between the U.K. and U.S.
- November 10 – Following the death of Henri Mouhot, his servant Phrai begins shipping his diaries and specimens back to the west; they include accounts of Mouhot's discovery of Angkor Wat.
- November 21 – American Civil War: Confederate President Jefferson Davis appoints Judah Benjamin Secretary of War.
- November 25 – A tenement collapses in the Old Town, Edinburgh killing 35 with 15 survivors.
- November 28 – Acting on the ordinance passed by the Jackson government, the Confederate Congress admits Missouri as the 12th Confederate state.
- December 10
- January 6 – János Zsupánek, Slovene (Prekmurian) poet and writer (d. 1951)
- January 14 – Mehmed VI, Ottoman Sultan (d. 1926)
- January 30 – Charles Martin Loeffler, American composer (d. 1935)
- February 12 – Lou Andreas-Salomé, Russian-born author (d. 1937)
- February 15 – Charles Édouard Guillaume, French physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1938)
- February 17 – Princess Helena, Duchess of Albany, (d. 1922)
- February 26 – King Ferdinand of Bulgaria (d. 1948)
- February 27 – Rudolf Steiner, Austrian philosopher (d. 1925)
- March 12 – József Konkolics, Hungarian Slovene writer (d. 1941)
- April 2 – Iván Persa, Hungarian Slovene writer and Catholic priest (d. 1935)
- April 6 – Stanislas de Guaita, French poet (d. 1897)
- April 8 – Son Byong-hi, Korean independence activist (d. 1922)
- April 15 – Bliss Carman, Canadian poet (d. 1929)
- April 23
- May 7 – Rabindranath Tagore, Indian writer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1941)
- May 11 – Frederick Russell Burnham, American scouter(d. 1947)
- May 14 – Harro Magnussen, German sculptor (d. 1908)
- May 16 – Herman Webster Mudgett, alias H. H. Holmes, American serial killer (d. 1896)
- May 24 – Gerald Strickland, 4th Prime Minister of Malta, 23rd Governor of New South Wales, 15th Governor of Western Australia and 9th Governor of Tasmania (d. 1940)
- June 12 – William Attewell, English cricketer (d. 1927)
- June 19 – Doctor José Rizal, Philippine national hero (d. 1896)
- June 20 – Frederick Hopkins, English biochemist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1947)
- June 22 – Maximilian von Spee, German admiral (d. 1914)
- July 14 – Kate M. Gordon, American suffragette (d. 1932)
- August 7 – Spencer S. Wood, United States Navy rear admiral (d. 1940)
- August 10 – Almroth Wright, British bacteriologist and immunologist (d. 1947)
- September 2 – Henrietta Crosman, American stage & film actress (d. 1944)
- September 10 – Niels Hansen Jacobsen, Danish sculptor and ceramist (d. 1941)
- September 11 – Juhani Aho, Finnish author and journalist (d. 1921)
- September 23
- September 30 – William Wrigley, Jr., U.S. chewing gum industrialist (d. 1932)
- October 4 – Frederic S. Remington, cowboy artist and sculptor (d. 1909)
- October 16
- October 24 – Alexey Kaledin, Russian general (d. 1918)
- October 30 – Antoine Bourdelle, French sculptor (d. 1929)
- November 4 – Dimitrios Ioannou, Greek general (d. 1926)
- November 6 – James Naismith, Canadian inventor of basketball (d. 1939)
- December 4
- December 8 – Georges Méliès, French film director (d. 1938)
- December 10 – Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian explorer, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (d. 1930)
- December 15
- December 16 – Antonio de La Gándara, French painter (d. 1917)
- December 20 – Ivana Kobilca, Slovenian painter (d. 1926)
- July 22 – Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr., Confederate general (b. 1824)
- July 25 – Jonas Furrer, member of the Swiss Federal Council (b. 1805)
- August 12 – Eliphalet Remington, gunsmith and founder of Remington Arms (b. 1793)
- August 17 – Alcée Louis la Branche, American politician (b. 1806)
- August 22 – Xianfeng Emperor, Qing dynasty the 9th emperor (b. 1831)
- August 24 – Pierre Berthier, French geologist (b. 1782)
- October 5 – Antoni Melchior Fijałkowski, Polish bishop (b. 1778)
- October 26 – Edward "Ned" Kendall, American bandleader and instrumentalist (keyed bugle) (b. 1808)
- November 11 – King Pedro V of Portugal (b. 1837)
- December 14 – Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria (b. 1819)
- December 18 – Ernst Anschütz, German teacher, organist, poet, and composer (b. 1780)