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1861 (MDCCCLXI) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Sunday 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. As of the start of 1861, the Gregorian calendar was 12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.
- 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, being admitted as a free 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 seven break-away states.
- February 8 – American Civil War: The Confederate States of America are formed, comprising the first seven 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 19 – Alexander II, Czar of Russian Empire, made a law against the serfdom.
- 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, Russia is the scene of a peasant uprising; the military open fire and about 90 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
- May 14 – The Canellas meteorite, an 859 gram chondrite type meteorite, strikes Earth near Barcelona, Spain.
- May 20 – American Civil War:
- May 21 – Russian sailors clash with a group of Japanese samurai and farmers, at Tsushima island.
- May 23 – American Civil War: The state of Virginia's ordinance of secession from the United States is ratified in a referendum held on May 23, 1861.
- May 29 – The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce is established.
- June 9 – The Règlement Organique: With the approval of European powers, the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate is established as a semi-autonomous sub-division separate from the Sidon Eyalet. An Ottoman Armenian, Davud Pasha, is appointed Mutasarrıf by the Ottoman Sultan.
- June 15 – Benito Juárez is formally elected President of Mexico; he temporarily stops the payments of foreign debt.
- June 22 – Tooley Street fire starts and takes the life of James Braidwood first director of the London Fire Brigade.
- June 25 – Abdülmecid I, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (1839–1861) dies and is succeeded by Abdülaziz (1861–1876).
- August 5
- August 10 – American Civil War: The first major battle west of the Mississippi River, the Battle of Wilson's Creek, is fought, with a Confederate victory.
- August 15 – First description of Archaeopteryx, based on a feather found in Bavaria; in September the first complete identified skeleton is found near Langenaltheim in Germany.
- August 19 – Weisshorn, the fifth highest summit in the Alps, is first ascended.
- August 20–22 – The first modern Welsh National Eisteddfod takes place in Aberdare.
- August 27 – Martin Doyle's is the last execution in Britain for attempted murder.
- September 3 – American Civil War: Confederate General Leonidas Polk invades neutral Kentucky, prompting the state legislature to ask for Union assistance.
- September 6 – American Civil War: Forces under Union General Ulysses S. Grant bloodlessly capture Paducah, Kentucky, which gives the Union control of the mouth of the Tennessee River.
- September 17; Argentine Civil War: Battle of Pavón: Victory of Buenos Aires over the Argentine Confederation, and the re-unification of Argentina.
- 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 also 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 – The Toronto Stock Exchange is established in Canada.
- October 26 – The Pony Express American transcontinental mail service 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
- November 1 – American Civil War: U.S. President Abraham Lincoln appoints George B. McClellan as commander of the Union Army, replacing 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 (in his first combat leadership role) 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 19 – American Civil War: Battle of Round Mountain in Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma).
- 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 (Scotland), 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
- December 21 - Medal of Honor: Public Resolution 82, containing a provision for a Navy Medal of Valor, is signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln.
беларуская (тарашкевіца): 1861
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: 1861