The year was 1811 and there was unrest in the world. Europe was embroiled in the Napoleonic WarsÂ and there was tension between the United States and Britain that would later lead to the War of 1812, with one of the major issues being the impressment of American sailors into the British Navy.
Here in the United States, William Henry Harrison led 1,000 men from Vincennes to an Indian village at the junction of the Tippecanoe and Wabash Rivers to put a stop to Tecumseh’sÂ plans for a confederation of Native American nations. The expedition led to the Battle of Tippecanoe, where despite heavy American losses, the troops manage to repel the natives led by Tecumseh’s brother, Tenskwatawa (known as The Prophet). The Indian village was decimated and though not the end of the war with Tecumseh, it was a devastating blow to Tecumseh’s dream of a confederation.
Mother Nature was also uneasy and the New Madrid earthquakes, estimated at around 8.0 on the Richter scale, jolted the Midwest and permanently altered the landscape, creating new lakes and even reversing the flow of the Mississippi River for a time.
This wasn’t the only unusual natural phenomena taking place in 1811. It was also the year of the Great Comet of 1811Â which was visible to the naked eye for nearly nine months.
In the world of transportation, a new steamboat, the New Orleans, left Pittsburgh in 1811 and after a difficult voyage (getting caught in the New Madrid earthquake), would eventually become the first steamboat service on the Mississippi River.
Construction also began on the Cumberland Road, also known as the National Road, between Cumberland, Maryland, and Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia). The route would later extend to Columbus, Ohio, and later Vandalia, Illinois. This would be a primary route for pioneers seeking opportunities in the West.
Technological advances included the creation of the first mechanical printing press in London, which would later be used to print the “London Times.” (Click on the sample clipping from “The Times” of London, 02 November 1811, to read details of the “Ludicrous Effects of the Appearance of a Comet in 1712.”)
1811 would also mark the beginning of the gaslight age, as a street in Freiburg, Germany, and Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, England were lit with gas.