The year was 1845 and in Germany and other parts of Central Europe, floods brought death and devastation. The Alton Telegraph and Democratic Review (Alton, Illinois) of 31 May 1845Â Â reported on the “Frightful Ravages by Flood Throughout Germany.”
“…The Elbe, the Weser, the Oder, the Danube and their tributaries have over flowed their banks and produced greater desolation than any flood since 1781.–When we bear in mind that the flood of that year was the greatest that had been experienced for a century, or since 1682, we may form some idea of the extent of the calamity….
“…The cause was not an unusual fall of rain, but the sudden melting of immense masses of snow, which the uncommon severity of the winter had caused to accumulate, especially on the mountains in which the rivers of Germany take their rise…
“In many places people had taken refuge in the second stories of their houses, and received supplies of ready-cooked victuals, furnished by their more fortunate fellow citizens, in boats. The Mannheim Journal states that nine milk-women, who were bringing their accustomed supplies to that city were drowned in the Necker.Â
“The valley of the Danube, in Bavaria and Austria had suffered immensely, and that of the Moldau, in Bohemia. At Prague, the streets represented as impassable, and thousands of persons are in the most deplorable condition. In some spots the appearance of steamboats was hailed as that of a delivering angel….”
In Ireland, 1845 brought with it the beginning of another disaster. A fungus–Phytophthora infestans–which had spread to Ireland from North America destroyed the crop of 1845. Much of the Irish population had very little land on which to farm and because produced more food per acre than other crops like wheat, it had become the main staple in the Irish diet. Even in good times, hunger was a problem as there was often a gap between the time that the last of last year’s supply ran out or was no longer edible, and the time when the new crop could be harvested. So when the blight hit in 1845 and again in 1846, the consequences were devastating.
1845 brought national fame to a poet by the name of Edgar Allan Poe with the publication of the well-known poem The Raven in the “New York Mirror.”Â Â
Image: Die Elbe, Hamburg, Deutschland (from LOC Photochrom Print Collection, Germany, Austria, & Switzerland, 1890-1910)