As the New Year of 1861 began, South Carolina had seceded from the Union and several Deep South states appeared ready to follow. The only real questions were which state would be next and how many. As the states seceded, the federal property in those states was quickly seized. The Union would only contest the matter at Fort Sumter at Charleston harbor and Fort Pickens in Pensacola. The situations were very similar, but Fort Sumter would be much more volatile, probably due to the difference in temperament between South Carolinians and Floridians.
"The New Year's reception at the White House looked very much the way New Year's receptions always looked. There were flowers and gay music, with well-dressed people moving up to give President Buchanan a smile and a hand-shake, each one repeating the formal 'I wish you a happy New Year, Mister President'; and although the weather was bad, things seemed to be bright enough inside the mansion. But neither the President nor his guests had any illusions about the happiness that 1861 was likely to bring to the people who occupied this building, and Mr. Buchanan looked tired and unhappy, as if he had had about all the strain he could take. Mrs. Roger Pryor, wife of the fire-eating Congressman from Virginia, felt that 'a gloomy foreboding of impending disaster' oppressed everyone, and she reflected unhappily that the familiar social world of the capital was having the last of its old get-togethers. So many people had already left for the far South, so many more would be leaving very soon: no matter what happened, the group that met here on January 1, 1861, would never come together again." -- Bruce Catton, The Coming Fury