A Celebration in Name Only

Tuesday, January 1, 1861 – New Years Day

Though the weather was pleasant and sunny, a gray cloud of troubles-to-come hung over Washington. The formal gatherings and celebrations may have given a satin tint to things, but very close to the surface, everything was falling apart.

President Buchanan played his role in the White House festivities, greeting detractors and supporters alike. A few Cabinet members made a showing, as did a few military officers. Many Southerners were bold enough to drop by the White House wearing the blue cockades of Secession in support of South Carolina. Some were even bold enough to be outright rude to the President.

Word had clearly gotten around that the President had wavered more towards the Northern end of things than the Southern. After all, even though he was a Democrat, he was a Pennsylvania man.

Congress, for their part, mostly kept to themselves, attending private parties and saying what very well may have been their last good-byes to comrades.

Today was a holiday. No Cabinet meetings, no sessions of Congress, nothing official occurred.

And speaking of nothing official, the Commissioners from South Carolina, who were now officially made unofficial by President Buchanan’s letter referring to them as “private gentlemen of the highest character” rather than official representatives from the independent State of South Carolina, were busily composing their letter of reply to the President.

This would make its way to Buchanan the next day.1



  1. From Days of Defiance by Maury Klein as well as Allegiance by David Detzer – my go-to books. []
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2 thoughts on “A Celebration in Name Only

  1. Once again a real strength of this site… seeing the little moments in the big ones. I can just imagine a New Year’s party, and the President seeing blue and feeling angry or overwhelmed. It’s hard to imagine now, but he was only the 15th President… I wonder how shaky he saw the Union.

    I know it isn’t possibly to really cover Buchanan here, but I wonder what you thought of the allegations of homosexuality that plagued him. Again it’s hard to consider these things from a modern perspective, but remaining a bachelor all those years and his close male friendships made him a target. I wonder how intensely a bachelor President would be scrutinized today.

    1. Buck is a strange fellow. And, maybe it’s because he’s from Pennsylvania (like me), I have some fondness for him. Sure, he screwed up, but he was our only president!

      As for the homosexuality suspicions, I’m just not sure. Lincoln recently has some tossed his way that were very clearly a misunderstanding of male relations of the 1800s vs. those of today.

      As for Buck, I’m sure the same can be said to an extent, though there’s a bit more evidence that he was.

      I guess it doesn’t matter so much (aside from being an interesting/fun topic). He was a crappy president and being straight or gay wouldn’t have changed that. He was in way over his head. If King (his supposed boyfriend/mate) was really his “Aunt Fancy” or “Mrs. Buchanan,” well then good. At least Ol’ Buck had someone in his life who liked him well enough to stick around.

      So basically, I don’t know, but I hope he was. 🙂

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