The Year Was 1866

Freeman Homestead National Monument, Beatrice, NEThe year was 1866 and the United States was in a period of Reconstruction following the Civil War. In April, the Civil Rights Act was passed despite a veto by President Andrew Johnson. The act declared that all non-foreign born persons were citizens and as such, could “without regard to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall have the same right, in every State and Territory in the United States, to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property,  and to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property.” 

Unfortunately it doesn’t go far enough in protecting African Americans, and in Memphis racial violence breaks out in May leaving forty-six African American and two white citizens dead, many more injured, and black schools, churches and homes burned. 

While fighting in the U.S. had ended, across the ocean, trouble was brewing and in June Austria and some German states declared war on Prussia. Following an alliance signed with Prussia, Italy joins the war days later, with an eye towards gaining the territory of Venetia and completing Italian unification. The war ended seven weeks after it began with Prussian victory; Italy did get Venetia eventually through the Treaty of Vienna.

News of the Prussian victory traveled faster than in the past. It was the first news passed along the transatlantic cable, which after two previously unsuccessful tries was completed on 27 July. 

In Finland, following several years of cold and erratic weather that had damaged crops, the summer of 1866 brought heavy rains throughout July and August, flooding low-lying regions and doing further damage. It’s estimated that 150,000 people died as a result of famine that continued until the harvest of 1868.

Drought was the problem in Nebraska, where nine years of dry weather forced many homesteaders to leave the region, moving on to greener pastures.

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5 thoughts on “The Year Was 1866

  1. I like these articles telling of the happenings in certain years and I read them all. I’d love to see an expansion of these to descriptions of the following type: “If you Lived in a Large City in 1850” and perhaps it would tell about homes, food, clothing, entertainment, transportation etc telling of the lifestyles of the wealthy, middleclass and poor. Others topics might be “If you Lived on a Farm in the Midwest in 1880.” I’d love to know more about how my ancestors were living and what their days were like.

  2. Excellent article. I found this information, giving us a feeling of what the year 1866 was like. Thank you.

  3. I find these synopsis of the years helpful and informative. Do they come in a book? These are great. Thank you.

  4. I agree with others who would like to know how our ancestors lived, dressed, their daily activities, food.It is geat to have world affairs and events which so effected immigration as well as emigration. Are years you have already featured available?
    Keep up the good work.

  5. If the year pertains to the year of birth of an ancestor, I print the article and then place it in the memory book for my children. Thanks for sharing these articles.

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