FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO
“Four score and seven years ago,” began what many perceive as the best speech in American history, delivered by President Abraham Lincoln in the town cemetery overlooking the fields of Gettysburg. The Gettysburg Address, only 272 words long and taking about two minutes to speak, captured the essence of the Civil War as both sacrifice and inspiration.
PRINCE ALBERT DIES, IN AMERICA WAR BEGINS
Prince Albert dies of typhoid at the age of 42. Queen Victoria is so filled with grief that she does not make a public appearance for 10 years and mourns Albert’s death for the rest of her life.
In America, Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina harbor is bombarded for 34 hours by Confederate forces after the U.S. Army commander failed to evacuate, thus starting the four years of conflict and the U.S. Civil War. The Confederate States of America, formed two months earlier had sought to force federal troops from occupation of its territory. Fort Sumter was captured April 14 when Major Robert Anderson turned the fort over to the Confederacy.
Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln, running on an anti-slavery platform, defeats three opponents in the campaign for the presidency; Democrats Stephen A. Douglas and John C. Breckinridge, and John Bell, Constitutional Union Party, leading to ardent cries of potential rebellion in southern slave states. Although Lincoln won the Electoral College by a large majority, 180 to 123 for all other candidates, the popular vote showed just how split the nation was. Lincoln garnered 1.9 million votes to the 2.8 million spread amongst his opponents. South Carolina responds to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President by being the first southern state to secede from the Union.
“ON THE ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES” IS PUBLISHED
Charles Darwin publishes a book called “On the Origin of the Species.” The book explains Darwin’s scientific theory that all living things evolve over time through a process he calls “natural selection.”
THE CRIMEAN WAR BEGINS
The Crimean War was fought between Russia on one side and England, France, Sardinia, and Turkey on the other side. The war is known for being poorly fought on both sides.
THE GREAT EXHIBITION OPENS
The first of a series of World’s Fairs opens at London’s Crystal Palace and attracts six million visitors in five months. The fairs were held to show the latest discoveries in science and technology.
The first major conflict of the Mexican War occurs north of the Rio Grande River at Palo Alto, Texas when United States troops under the command of Major General Zachary Taylor rout a larger Mexican force. Zachary had been ordered by President Polk to seize disputed Texas land settled by Mexicans. War is declared by the United States against Mexico on May 13, backed by southerners while northern Whigs were in opposition. Ten days later, Mexico declares war back.
THE IRISH POTATO FAMINE BEGINS
A disease kills most of the potato crops in Ireland, leading to massive starvation. Many Irish people died or moved to the United States, looking for a better life.
“A CHRISTMAS CAROL” IS PUBLISHED
“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens is published a week before Christmas. The classic story about Scrooge meeting the ghosts of the Christmas Past, Present, and Future is sold out within six days.
ALEXANDRINA VICTORIA BECOMES QUEEN OF ENGLAND
After King William IV dies, his 18 year-old niece becomes the Queen of England. Queen Victoria’s father had already died and none of her three uncles had any surviving children, meaning she was next in line.