Road to War Timeline

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May 1846 — United States declared war against Mexico. The United States and Mexico disagreed over the border between the two countries. The U.S. claimed the Rio Grande was the southern boundary of Texas, and Mexico claimed the border was at the Nueces River, about 150 miles to the north. The U. S. had annexed Texas in 1845, nine years after Texas had broken away from Mexico and declared itself the “Lone Star Republic.” Mexico had never recognized Texas as a separate territory. Furthermore, Mexico had refused the United States offer to buy the territories that are now New Mexico and California.

August 1846 — Wilmot Proviso introduced. Congressman David Wilmot of Pennsylvania proposed amendment to appropriation bill that forbid slavery in any territory gained from Mexico. Although the bill did not pass, it outraged Southerners who believed it their right to carry slavery into the new territories.

March 1848 — U.S. Senate ratified Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, officially ending American-Mexican War.

October 1849 — Mississippi Convention met in Jackson to discuss slavery in the territories. Delegates asked state leaders for prompt action should the Wilmot Proviso or other legislation like it be passed. Slaveholders were also encouraged to migrate to the southwest, and a call was made for a convention of delegates from all southern states to be held in Nashville in June 1850.

November 1849 — California applied for admission to Union as a free state.

November 1849 — John A. Quitman elected governor of Mississippi. His inaugural address the following January focused on need to maintain state sovereignty.

January 1850 — Henry Clay introduced legislation known as “Compromise of 1850.”

June 1850 — Nashville Convention. Mississippi Judge William L. Sharkey named president of convention. A wait-and-see attitude adopted by Southern delegates. Delegates did pass resolution that favored extension of 1820 Missouri Compromise 36º 30’ line all the way to Pacific Ocean. Convention adjourned to follow events in Congress.

September 1850 — Omnibus Bill Passed (Compromise of 1850). California admitted as a free state, Texas boundary finally established, territories of New Mexico and Utah organized without restrictions on slavery, a stronger fugitive slave law was passed, and the slave trade was ended in the District of Columbia.

September 1851 — Mississippi Union Party, recently formed, won majority of delegates for state convention.

November 1851 — Mississippi gubernatorial election. Unionist candidate Henry S. Foote defeated Jefferson Davis after John A. Quitman withdrew from contest.

March 1852 — Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin published.

November 1852 — Franklin Pierce (Democrat) elected president.

August 1853 to April 1855 — John A. Quitman’s “Filibustering Activities.” Quitman involved in liberation movement in Cuba in hopes of eventually bringing area under United States control as a future slave state.

February 1854 — Republican Party founded.

May 1854 — Kansas-Nebraska Act Passed. Legislation established Kansas and Nebraska territories and left question of slavery up to “popular sovereignty,” which meant the people of the territory, not the federal Congress, would decide the issue of slavery. This act repealed old Missouri Compromise Line of 1820 and ended the two-party system of the time as it completed the destruction of the Whig Party by splitting its northern and southern wings. “Bleeding Kansas” began shortly afterward as hundreds of pro-slavery and antislavery advocates moved into the area, which led to wholesale violence.

October 1854 — Ostend Manifesto-Memorandum signed by three United States diplomats (Pierre Soulé, John Mason, and James Buchanan) in Belgium that discussed the United States taking Cuba from Spain. This action was seen as another southern attempt to gain more slave states.

November 1856 — James Buchanan (Democrat) elected president. John C. Fremont, Republican Party candidate, made a strong showing.

March 1857 — Dred Scott Decision. A Missouri slave sued for his freedom on grounds that when his master took him north into territory made free by the Missouri Compromise, that he then became a free man. U.S. Supreme Court, with southern majority, ruled that Scott was not a citizen and not eligible to sue, and more importantly, that Congress had no power to prevent slavery in the territories, thereby declaring the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional.

August to October 1858 — Lincoln/Douglas Debates. Republican Abraham Lincoln challenged Democrat Stephen Douglas for Senate seat in Illinois. Lincoln lost the election, but the debates brought him into the national spotlight, which opened the door for his nomination for president in 1860.

October 1859 — John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Brown hoped to start slave rebellion. The raid failed and Brown was captured, tried, and hung. Brown became martyr in antislavery North while South became more fearful of slave revolts.

April 1860 — Democratic Convention in Charleston, South Carolina. Democratic Party split when southern delegates walked out due to sectional differences on the party platform. Two candidates eventually run on Democratic ticket, Stephen Douglas from Illinois, and John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky. Split of party almost guaranteed Republican victory.

November 1860 — Republican Abraham Lincoln elected president.

December 20, 1860 — South Carolina became first state to secede from Union.

January 9, 1861— Mississippi passed ordinance of secession and became second state to leave Union.

February 1861 — Mississippi joined six other states in Montgomery, Alabama, for establishment of Confederacy; Jefferson Davis chosen as president.

April 12, 1861 — Confederate forces fired on federal garrison at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, harbor. The American Civil War began.