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19th century USA Historical Chronology
Part 2: 1850 - 1899

(Basic narrative and chronology derived from 1996 The World Almanac)


[pre-1851 | 1850 | 1860 | 1870 | 1880 | 1890]


  • "Uncle Tom's Cabin" against slavery by Harriet Beecher Stowe is published.


  • Republican Party formed at Ripon, Wisconsin on February 28. Opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act which left the issued of slavery to the vote of the settlers.
  • 1854 - The fugitive slave of Charles Suttle of Virginia, Anthony Burns was helped by Anti-Slavery Society in Boston from slave-catchers enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

  • The first railroad train crossed Mississippi on the river's first bridge, Rock Island, Illinois to Davenport, Iowa
  • Yema-po is the remains of a work camp occupied by the overseas Chinese laborers who constructed the San Leandro Reservoir between 1847 and 1875. It includes the location, the excavation, Yema-po and the Chinese in 19th centruy newspapers, the diet, opium use, coins and gambling tokens.

  • John Brown led anti-slavery men against Missourians at Osawatomie, Kansas on August 30.

  • Dred Scott decision by US Supreme Court on March 6 held 6-3 that a slave did not become free when taken into a free state, that Congress could not bar slavery from a territory, and that blacks could not be citizens.

  • First Atlantic cable completed by Cyrus Field on August 5. Cable failed on September 1

  • John Brown with 21 men seized US Armory at Harpers Ferry (Va) on October 16. US Marines captured raiders, killing several. Brown was hanged for treason by Virgina on December 2.
John Brown Chronology | Eyewitness accounts of the raid, capture, and trial ]



Fort Sumter National Historic Park, Charleston, SC - Civil War Begins - April 12, 1861

[ Civil War Timeline Search the Library of Congress Civil War photographs ]

  • 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Regiment
  • Shaw Memorial

  • Seven southern states set up Confederate States of America on February 8 with Jefferson Davis as president. They captured Federal arsenals and forts. Civil War began as Confederates fired on Ft. Sumter in Charleston, SC on April 12. They captured it on April 14.
  • President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers on April 15
  • 11 states had seceded Deep South Secedes
  • Lincoln blockaded southern port on April 19 cutting off vital exports and aid
  • Confederates fight off the Union forces at the first Battle of Bull Run on July 21
  • The first continental telegraph was put in operation

  • The Homestead Act was approved on May 20 granting free family farms to settlers.
  • The Land Grant Act approved on July 7 provided for public land sale to benefit agricultural education. This eventually led to the establishment of state university systems.
  • Union forces were victorious in western campaigns taking New Orleans. Battles in the East were inconclusive.

  • Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1 freeing "all slaves in areas still in rebellion."

  • General Sherman marched through Georgia taking Atlanta on September 1 and Savannah on December 22

  • Robert E. Lee surrendered 27,800 Confederate troops to Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9
  • J.E. Johnston surrendered 31,200 to Sherman at Durham Station, NC on April 18
  • President Lincoln was shot while sitting on a chair on April 14 at Ford's Theater in Washington by John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln died the following morning in Petersen's Boarding House where he had been carried the night before. Booth fled. He was reported dead on April 26. Four co-conspirators were hanged on July 7.
  • The Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery, was ratified on December 6


Buffalo Soldiers on the Western Frontier

  • During 1866 - 1868, Red Cloud leads the successful fight to close off the Bozeman Trail, a pass leading to the gold mines of Montana. The trail crosses over the traditional hunting grounds of the Teton.
  • The Ku Klux Klan formed secretly in the South to terrorize blacks who voted.
  • Congress took control of southern Reconstruction and backed freedmen's rights.

  • Alaska was sold to US by Russia for $7.2 million on March 30 through the efforts of Secretary of State William H. Seward.

  • The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 establishes the Great Sioux Reservation, encompassing most of present-day South Dakota west of the Missouri River, including the Black Hills. The U.S. Government pledges to keep whites out of this territory.


Industrial Revolution
  • Development of the Industrial United States ( 1870 - 1900 ) John D. Rockefeller
  • Big business, mechanized farming, heavy industry (modern corporations)
  • Massive immigration - cultural diversity - new social patterns - conflicts
  • Rise of the American Labor movement
  • Federal Indian Policy

  • The Great Fire destroyed Chicago on October 8 with an estimated loss of $196 million.

  • 1874 - Fort Robinson built along the Bozeman Trail which led through a Sioux hunting ground and was disputed by Chief Red Cloud. After an expedition led by George Custer discovered gold in the Black Hill, a rush of prospectors and settlers were trying to get to Montana gold fields. As more and more whites enter the area, the Indian people defend their homes and way of life.


  • On June 25, Col. George Custer and 264 soldiers of the 7th Calvary attacked a large Indian encampment. Sitting Bull, Gall, Crazy Horse, and several Cheyenne leaders defeat Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Montana. Custer loses his entire command of more than 200 men in the battle.

  • Molly Maguires, Irish terrorist society in Scranton, Pennsylvania mining areas, was broken up.
  • President Hayes sent troops in a violent national railroad strike.

  • December 31, 1879 - Thomas Alva Edison demonstrated the electric light bulb.

  • July 2, 1881 - Charles J. Guiteau shot President James Garfield and the infection caused by unsterile conditions caused Garfield to die.

  • November 18, 1883 - The four standard time zones for the Continental United States were introduced.

  • December 6, 1884 - Washington Monument was completed in Washington, D.C.

  • June 19, 1885 - The Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor.


  • United States declared Oklahoma open to white settlement on April 22. Within 24 hours claims for 2 min. acres were staked by 50,000 settlers.
  • Johnstown, PA flood on May 31 where 2,200 lives were lost.
  • An act by the U.S. Congress in March 1889 splits the Great Sioux Reservation into six smaller reservations. Some of the tribes begin performing the Ghost Dance, a religious ceremony thought to extinguish the whites, return the buffalo, and the former way of life.
  • November 2, 1889 - North Dakota and South Dakota were admitted to the union in November.

  • Sitting Bull is murdered on the Standing Rock Reservation. Following this event, Big Foot and his Mnikowoju band flee to Pine Ridge to seek protection under Red Cloud. More than 250 members of Big Foot's band are massacred by the 7th Cavalry on Dec. 29 at Wounded Knee. The Battle of Wounded Knee, SD is often described as the last major conflict between the U.S. Army and the Great Sioux Nation.
  • Sherman Anti-Trust Act begins the federal effort to curb business monopolies.

  • Homestead, PA strike at Carnegie steel mills - guards, strikers, spectators killed
  • Ellis Island opened as a New York immigration depot

  • Financial panic began leading to a four year depression.

  • September 18, 1895 - Booker T. Washington delivered the "Atlanta Compromise" with his economic views of self-help for blacks and waiting for political equality as opposed to the let's-get-political-equality-now views of W.E.B. DuBois.

  • May 18, 1896 - Supreme Court case Plessy vs. Ferguson approved racial segregation under the "separate but equal" doctrine from an 1890 Louisiana statute.

  • U.S.S. Maine, a battleship, was blown up on February 15 at Havana, Cuba where 260 are killed.
  • United States blockaded Cuba on April 22 in aid of independence forces. United States declared war on Spain on April 24 destroying the Spanish fleet in the Philippines on May 1, taking Guam on June 20.
  • June 10, 1898 - The United States Marines land at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
  • July 1, 1898 - Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders battle Spain for Puerto Rico in the Spanish-American War.
  • Puerto Rico is taken by the United States on July 25 - August 12.
  • Spain agreed on December 10 to cede Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and approved independence for Cuba.
  • US annexed the independent republic of Hawaii.

  • U. S. declares an Open Door Policy to make China an international market.

NEW PUBLICATION AVAILABLE - From Caravels to the Constitution by Marjorie Duby
at Creative Teaching Press.

Content: Blackline masters - Using word searches, hidden messages, analogies, anagrams, and creative puzzles, students will learn about history while they apply critical-thinking skills. This resource provides students with opportunities to organize and analyze information and to draw conclusions. Extension activities promote practical, informative, narrative, and expository writing skills to help meet the standards. 112 pages [LW405 - From Caravels to the Constitution - $13.99]

As of December 4, 2003, you are visitor to view this mid 19th century timeline.
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Last modified: August 30, 2014.
Copyright 1997 - Marjorie Duby. All rights reserved. Comments *.

This website and its contents were compiled and arranged by Marjorie Duby using other websites, almanacs, and chronologies focusing on 19th century American history.
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