"Let Slip the Dogs of War!"
A line in the sand is being drawn.  Six more slave states secede from the Union BEFORE president-elect Abraham Lincoln can take his oath of office. The Confederacy of America is established with Jefferson Davis as its President.  Federal properties are seized while President Buchanan  does nothing. Fort Sumter in South Carolina was not seized because it's construction had not been completed due to budget cuts. Only a single Union soldier guarded it gates. Nearby Fort Moultrie was manned but it was not considered a threat since it was poorly positioned. So... late last year, the Union commander at Fort Moultrie, Major Anderson, exercised his contingency orders and took possession of Fort Sumter. And here we are. South Carolina is outraged... because... well... President Buchanan PROMISED! (Don't get me started.) Fort Sumter holds a commanding position over Charleston Harbor, but it needs food and wood for heat! Buchanan sends the Star of the West to resupply, but it is turned away. After Lincoln takes office, he informs the governor that several small supply boats will be landed. He doesn't tell President Davis because THERE IS NO CONFEDERACY! But this is a battle for honor. General Beauregard asks respectfully for Major Anderson's surrender of the Fort. Anderson declines. After 39 hours of bombardment, General Beauregard offers to evacuate the Fort. (NOT SURRENDER.) Honor has been served. Anderson agrees on the condition that his men offer a 100 gun salute to the Union flag. In the midst of the salute, a spark catches a pile of cartridges, killing Private Daniel Hough and Private Edward Galloway, the first casualties of the war. Major Anderson carries away the flag of Fort Sumter. The War between the States has begun.      
Left Brain, Right Brain
A French surgeon, Paul Broca, dissects the brain of a man called Tana. He was called Tana because that was the only sound he could make. He discovers damage to the left side of the brain caused by a cyst. After investigation of people with similar symptoms... that is... an inability to articulate their speech, he sees a trend. Each has damage on the left side of the brain. He concludes that the left side handles verbalization. He also notices that damage to the left side of the brain causes some paralysis of the right side of the body. This is the first anatomical proof of the location of a brain function, and the doctor introduces the idea of a left-side/right-side brain coordination. Obviously their must be come cross-coordination of the two sides. In later years, doctors will notice a problem with the cross-coordination that causes seizures in epilepsy sufferers. Cutting the connections between the left and right brain can reduce these seizures, but it can cause a strange result. Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga noticed that when he put an object into the right hand of such a patient, the patient could name the object and describe it, but when he put the same object into the patient's left hand, he could neither name it nor describe it. Clearly, the cross connections between left and right brain are used and needed.   
The Land of the Free and the First US Income Tax
Yep. It's a flat tax of 3 percent on income over $800 dollars. It is introduced to fund the war effort. The big problem at the beginning of the War between the States is not getting enough volunteers to fight for the Union, but getting enough money to equip the soldiers and feed them properly. Logistics, Logistics, Logistics. By next year it will be replaced by a so-called "progressive income tax" which makes no logical sense. A flax tax is progressive because the more money you make, the more money you pay. Then again, this is government and logic has very little to do with it.
- "One of the greatest perplexities of the government, is to avoid receiving troops faster than it can provide for them. In a word, the people will save their government, if the government itself, will do its part"
- -- Abraham Lincoln on the problem of funding an army.
In Other News
- The Kingdom of Italy begins the unification process. The northern and southern kingdoms formally declare their unity this year, but someone didn't get the memo. They aren't really unified yet, but it is a start. 
- The Pony Express is replaced by the telegraph. The east-west fast mail service has existed for only 19 months, but it's legend will live on. The logo will be appropriated by Wells Fargo, and even the US Postal Service. 
- The Gatling Gun is invented. With the onset of War, the ingenious mind of the American citizen turns to mechanized mayhem. The result? The multi-barrelled gun that will show people how futile war can be. (FYI, it doesn't help at all in that regard.) 
This Year in Wikipedia
Year 1861, Wikipedia.
- Alex Shrugged notes: Kansas is finally admitted to the Union as a free state.
- Alex Shrugged notes: The states of the core Confederacy were South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.
- Alex Shrugged notes: Buchanan is a Northern Democrat
- Alex Shrugged notes: one day after Christmas.
- Alex Shrugged notes: Buchanan actually hadn't promised anything, but his language was ambiguous and mistakes were made.
- Repatriated - definition of repatriated (2016). Retrieved on 31 August 2016. “To restore or return to the country of birth, citizenship, or origin: repatriate war refugees.”
- Confederate States of America - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 31 August 2016. “The Confederate States, officially the Confederate States of America (CSA or C.S.), commonly referred to as the Confederacy, was a confederation of secessionist American states existing from 1861 to 1865. It was originally formed by seven slave states – South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas – in the Lower South region of the United States whose regional economy was mostly dependent upon agriculture, particularly cotton, and a plantation system that relied upon the labor of African-American slaves.”
- Industry and Economy during the Civil War. National Park Service (OFFICIAL SITE) (July 15, 2012). Archived from the original on January 3, 2016. Retrieved on 31 August 2016. “In 1860, the South was still predominantly agricultural, highly dependent upon the sale of staples to a world market. By 1815, cotton was the most valuable export in the United States; by 1840, it was worth more than all other exports combined. But while the southern states produced two-thirds of the world's supply of cotton, the South had little manufacturing capability, about 29 percent of the railroad tracks, and only 13 percent of the nation's banks. The South did experiment with using slave labor in manufacturing, but for the most part it was well satisfied with its agricultural economy.”
- The Ownership of Fort Sumter. Civil War Home (January 13, 2005). Retrieved on 31 August 2016. “This was interpreted by the first congresses to require that when any Federal installation was to be built within the boundaries of the state, the government had to purchase the property (unless it lay within the Public Domain) and the state legislature had to pass a law agreeing to the acquisition of the property. From the earliest days of the Republic, states have proved very agreeable to government installations, both from the money spent locally to build the fort or court-house, as well as the government payroll which would follow.”
- Fort Sumter Detailed Description, Confederate Military History. Civil War Home (February 17, 2002). Retrieved on 31 August 2016. “Fort Sumter, in the very mouth of the harbor, was in an unfinished state and without a garrison. On the night of the 26th of December, 1860, Maj. Robert Anderson dismantled Fort Moultrie and removed his command by boats over to Fort Sumter.”
- The Battle of Fort Sumter Summary & Facts. CivilWar.org (2016). Retrieved on 31 August 2016. “On April 12, 1861, General P.G.T. Beauregard, in command of the Confederate forces around Charleston Harbor, opened fire on the Union garrison holding Fort Sumter. At 2:30pm on April 13 Major Robert Anderson, garrison commander, surrendered the fort and was evacuated the next day.”
- Crisis at Fort Sumter - Aftermath. Tulane University (2004). Retrieved on 31 August 2016. “In one sense, all of the decision making and planning behind the two expeditions was pointless. But such a view unduly minimizes the significance of Lincoln's actions. The Pickens mission decisively secured the fort from hostile forces, assuring a more effective implementation of the Union's blockade of southern ports. Furthermore, Lincoln's decision to send these expeditions influenced Jefferson Davis to initiate the attack on Sumter. While the irony of the Sumter and Pickens expeditions should be fully appreciated, their featured role in the coming of the Civil War still merits recognition.”
- Robert E. Lee’s 'Severest Struggle' - American History Lives at American Heritage. americanheritage.com (2008). Retrieved on 31 August 2016. “In 1861 Robert E. Lee argued that there was no justification for secession (though after the war he would execute mental loop-the-loops to prove that his decision to side with the South has been based on Constitutional principles). In the elaborate mythology surrounding Lee, he has often been portrayed as fighting for beliefs he did not really hold, sometimes heralded as a unionist or an emancipator. His own letters belie this. While maintaining that the founding fathers had never intended disunion, Lee agreed with the secessionists on virtually every other point. He resented the North’s badgering and feared southern impotence at the hands of its majority population.”
- Pinker, Steven. Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language, The. HarperPerennial. ISBN 9780062032522. “"In 1861 the French physician Paul Broca dissected the brain of an aphasic patient who had been nicknamed 'Tana' by hospital workers because that was the only syllable he uttered. Broca discovered a large cyst producing a lesion in Tana's left hemisphere. The next eight cases of aphasia he observed also had left-hemisphere lesions, too many to be attributed to chance. Broca concluded that 'the faculty for articulate language' resides in the left hemisphere. [...] Normal people recognize words more accurately when the words are flashed to the right side of their visual field than when they are flashed to the left, even when the language is Hebrew, which is written from right to left. When different words are presented simultaneously to the two ears, the person can make out the word coming into the right ear better. In some cases of otherwise incurable epilepsy, surgeons disconnect the two cerebral hemispheres by cutting the bundle of fibers running between them. After surgery the patients live completely normal lives, except for a subtlety discovered by the neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga: when the patients are kept still, they can describe events taking place in their right visual field and can name objects in their right hand, but cannot describe events taking place in their left visual field or name objects placed in their left hand (though the right hemisphere can display its awareness of those events by nonverbal means like gesturing and pointing). The left half of their world has been disconnected from their language center."</p>”
- Paul Broca - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 31 August 2016. “He is best known for his research on Broca's area, a region of the frontal lobe that has been named after him. Broca's Area is involved with language. His work revealed that the brains of patients suffering from aphasia contained lesions in a particular part of the cortex, in the left frontal region. This was the first anatomical proof of the localization of brain function.”
- Michael Gazzaniga - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 31 August 2016. “After his surgery, he was brought in again for testing with Gazzaniga in which stimuli such as letters and light bursts were flashed to the left and right visual fields. The stimuli flashed to the right visual field were processed by the brain’s left hemisphere, which contains the language center, so he was able to press a button to indicate he saw the stimulus and could verbally report what he had seen. However, when the stimuli were flashed to the left visual field, and thus the right hemisphere, he would press the button, but could not verbally report having seen anything. When they modified the experiment to have him point to the stimulus that was presented to his left visual field and not have to verbally identify it, he was able to perform this task accurately.”
- Habeas corpus in the United States - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 31 August 2016. “Shortly thereafter, on September 17, 1861, the day the Maryland legislature was to reconvene, Lincoln imprisoned one third of the members of the Maryland General Assembly without charges or hearings in further defiance of the Chief Justice's ruling.”
- Kingdom of Italy - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 15 August 2016. “The Kingdom of Italy was a state founded in 1861 when King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia was proclaimed King of Italy. The state was founded as a result of the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which can be considered its legal predecessor state. In 1943 Italy underwent a regime change, whereby the entire fascist leadership was removed and former dictator Benito Mussolini was imprisoned, and the fascist system of government was eradicated at the local and national level. In the northern areas, where the Germans had control, the fascist system was retained under the name of Italian Social Republic. It was a puppet regime under Mussolini (who had been rescued by the Germans), which was destroyed in 1945. In 1946 Italy voted to abolish the monarchy and elect its head of state, making it a republic.”
- Pony Express - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 30 August 2016. “During its 19 months of operation, it reduced the time for messages to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to about 10 days. From April 3, 1860 to October 1861, it became the West's most direct means of east–west communication before the telegraph was established and was vital for tying the new state of California with the rest of the United States.”
- Gatling gun - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 31 August 2016. “The Gatling gun was designed by the American inventor Dr. Richard J. Gatling in 1861 and patented on November 4, 1862. Gatling wrote that he created it to reduce the size of armies and so reduce the number of deaths by combat and disease, and to show how futile war is.”