I am always interested in what was happening around the world during any particular year. For this post I chose to look at 1863. In the United States, the Civil War was 1861-1865 and Americans tend to concentrate completely on that when looking at history for that period.

But there were other things happening around the world, and even other things happening in the U.S.

United States

  • The first homestead was claimed in Nebraska under 1862 Homestead Act.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
  • Even during the Civil War, the Indian Wars were still taking place, including the Bear River Massacre in Idaho.
  • Samuel Clemens first used pen name “Mark Twain”.
  • The Arizona Territory and Idaho Territory were created/established.
  • The first wartime conscription law in the U.S. went into effect. Anti-draft mobs in New York City lynched blacks in response.
  • President Lincoln designated the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving.
  • President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg address.
  • West Virginia became the 35th state.

Other fighting around the world

Battle of Miechow during January Uprising 1863. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
  • The January Uprising, an unsuccessful Polish rebellion against Russian rule. The Russians had a significant numerical and technological advantage over the guerrilla insurgents, but the uprising, which also involved issues of class and wealth, into 1864. In the end, the Russians tightened their control and exacted cruel reprisals.
  • A series of conflicts known as the New Zealand Wars, between the Colonial British government and the Maori, stretched from 1845 through 1872.
  • The Franco-Mexican war took place in Mexico from 1861 to 1867. In 1863 Mexico City was captured by French troops.
  • In Japan, they were fighting for control of the Shimonoseki Straits against Great Britain, France, The Netherlands and the U.S.
  • The British were also fighting Japan in the Anglo-Satsuma War.


  • A storm ravages The Netherlands coastal regions.
  • An avalanche in southern Switzerland kills 29. In the same canton a few days later the weight of snow atop a church causes it to collapse, killing 47.
  • The HMS Orpheus sinks off the coast of New Zealand, killing 189.
  • A fire ravages the Jesuit Church of La Compana in Santiago, Chile, killing 2,000-3,000.

Other interesting stuff

Winged Victory of Samothrace (2nd Century, B.C.E) (Discovered in 1863) Paris, Louvre
Musée du Louvre, Paris. Photo by Rodney via Wikimedia Commons.
  • The Football Association starts in England, standardizing the rules of soccer.
  • Linoleum is patented in the United Kingdom.
  • Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria is born. His death by assassination in 1914 sparked the events that led to World War I.
  • Lots of railways either started construction or opened in the U.S. and Europe, including the opening of the first section of the London Underground.
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross, formed to improve medical conditions on battlefields, was created by a resolution signed by 16 countries. The meetings were held in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • A statue of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, was discovered and is now in the Musée du Louvre in Paris . Titled Winged Victory of Samothrace, the statue was 8 feet tall and was created c. 200-190 BCE.

I hope something (or several somethings) on this list sound interesting enough that you will dig a little deeper. Does anything on the list really surprise you or make you want to dig into some further research?