America has experienced some truly great moments such as the moon landing or Kennedy Inauguration. On the other hand, it has suffered through dark times as well. Several presidents have died in office, the country experienced unprovoked attacks from foreign and domestic enemies, and war has torn the U.S. asunder on more than one occasion. The following is the first installment of the ten worst moments in American history in chronological order.
1. The British burn Washington (August 24, 1814): America and Britain went to war in 1812 over freedom of the seas. The United States was wholly unprepared for the conflict while the British were engaged with Napoleon. By 1814, the British defeated Napoleon and began to ship reinforcements to America. They invaded the Chesapeake region, humiliated the Americans at Bladensburg, and marched on Washington D.C. First Lady Dolley Madison evacuated the White House as cannonballs exploded around her. British soldiers occupied the capitol, held a mock session of congress, and feasted at the White House. Then, they burned Washington D.C. Only the patent office escaped the torch.
2. The Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862): The casualties at the Battle of Shiloh shocked America. The Confederates and Federal armies combined for 24,000 dead, wounded, captured, and missing. This figure may have topped the casualties for the American Revolution, War of 1812, and Mexican War combined. In the end, Ulysses S. Grant’s victory foreshadowed the bloodletting that followed.
3. The Lincoln Assassination (April 14, 1865): The Civil War ended and President Abraham Lincoln’s spirits had improved. He was absolutely giddy on his last day. The weight of the world lifted as the killing ended. Lincoln decided to attend the theater with his wife and Major Henry Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris. John Wilkes Booth murdered Lincoln in the midst of the play as part of a larger conspiracy. The other conspirators failed in their assigned missions. Washington experienced its worst day since the British burned the city. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton assumed control, blocked escape routes out of the city, and launched the manhunt that eventually rounded up the conspirators. Booth died in a Virginia farm while the others hanged. The nation went into deep mourning for the fallen president. Washington D.C. has not experienced another day as dark and confusing.
4. Custer’s Last Stand (June 25-26, 1876): George Armstrong Custer attacked a large contingent of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho at the Little Big Horn. The combined Indian forces decimated his 7th Cavalry. Overall, 268 people under Custer were killed and 55 wounded. The native forces suffered significantly fewer casualties. The defeat shocked Americans and did more to damage Native Americans than any other event. The public turned on the Indians, which meant certain defeat in their struggle for their way of life.
5. Galveston Hurricane (September 8, 1900): A category 4 hurricane struck Galveston, Texas on September 8, 1900. Officials estimate as many as 12,000 died in the storm. By comparison, Hurricane Katrina resulted in slightly fewer than 2,000 deaths. As a result, the Galveston Hurricane is the deadliest in American History.