29 January 1861

Kansas is admitted as the 34th state of the USA.


On this day in 1861, Kansas is admitted to the Union as free state. It was the 34th state tojoin the Union. The struggle between pro- and anti-slave forces in Kansas was a major factor in the eruption of the Civil War.

In 1854, Kansas and Nebraska were organized as territories with popular sovereignty (popular vote) to decide the issue of slavery. There was really no debate over the issue in Nebraska, as the territory was filled with settlers from the Midwest, where there was no slavery. In Kansas, the situation was much different. Although most of the settlers were anti-slave or abolitionists, there were many pro-slave Missourians lurking just over the border. When residents in the territory voted on the issue, many fraudulent votes were cast from Missouri. This triggered the massive violence that earned the area the name “Bleeding Kansas.” Both sides committed atrocities, and the fighting over the issue of slavery was a preview of the Civil War.

Kansas remained one of the most important political questions throughout the 1850s. Each side drafted constitutions, but the anti-slave faction eventually gained the upper hand. Kansas entered the Union as a free state; however,the conflict over slaveryinthe statecontinued into the Civil War. Kansas was the scene of some of the most brutal acts of violence during the war. One extreme example was the sacking of Lawrence in 1863, when pro-slave forces murdered nearly 200 men and burned the anti-slave town.

10 January 1861

During the American Civil War, Florida secedes from the Union.

Florida joined the Confederate States of America at the beginning of the Civil War, as third of the original seven states to secede from the Union, following Lincoln’s 1860 election. With the smallest population, nearly half of them slaves, Florida could only send 15,000 troops to the Confederate States Army. Its chief importance was in food-supply to the south, and support for blockade-runners, with its long coastline full of inlets, hard to patrol.

On the outbreak of war, the Confederates seized many of the state’s army camps, though the Union retained control of the main seaports. But there was little fighting in Florida, the only major conflict being the Battle of Olustee near Lake City in February 1864. However, wartime conditions made it easier for slaves to escape, and many of them became useful informers to Union commanders. As southern morale suffered, deserters from both sides took refuge in Florida, often attacking Confederate units and looting farms. Tallahassee became the second-last Confederate state capital to fall to the Union army. In May 1865, Federal control was re-established, slavery abolished, and the state governor John Milton shot himself, rather than submit to Union occupation.

26 October 1861

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The Pony Express stop its operations.

The Pony Express was a mail service delivering messages, newspapers, mail, and small packages from St. Joseph, Missouri, across the Great Plains, over the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada to Sacramento, California, by horseback, using a series of relay stations.

In 1860, mail contractor Ben Holladay joined forces with the Russell, Majors, and Waddell freight company to create a mail-carrying operation that would be faster and more efficient than the stagecoaches. Holladay then put a call out for small, brave young men that could ride a horse well. He bought 500 of the fastest horses he could find and hired 80 daring riders.

The rides were dangerous, but the pay was good – $25 a week, or the equivalent of over $4,600 in wages today. These were the Pony Express riders. The men, usually younger than 18 years old, were expected to cover 75 miles a day in spite of inclement weather and Indian attacks. Picking up a rested horse at each stop, they rode non-stop, day and night, rain or shine.

This adventurous service came to an end just 18 months after that first ride. On October 24, 1861, the Western Union Telegraph Company completed the first transcontinental telegraph line in Salt Lake City. This accomplishment ushered in a new age of communications in the U.S. It also marked the end of the Pony Express two days later, on October 26.