What Happened in 1860s in American History?

The 1860s was a pivotal decade in American history. It was a time of great change and upheaval, marked by the Civil War and the emancipation of millions of enslaved Africans. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key events and developments that occurred during this tumultuous period.

The Civil War

One of the defining events of the 1860s was undoubtedly the Civil War. This conflict, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, pitted the Confederate States of America against the Union. The war had its roots in long-standing tensions between the North and South over issues such as slavery and states’ rights.

The Union ultimately emerged victorious, but not before hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their lives. The war had a profound impact on American society, leading to widespread destruction and economic devastation in many parts of the country.

Emancipation Proclamation

Another significant event of the 1860s was President Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. This executive order declared that all slaves in rebel-held territory were to be freed.

While it did not immediately end slavery across the entire country, it was a major step towards that goal. The Emancipation Proclamation helped to galvanize support for the Union cause among African Americans, many of whom went on to serve in the Union army during the war.

Reconstruction Era

After the end of the Civil War, America entered into a period known as Reconstruction. During this time, efforts were made to rebuild and reunite the country in the aftermath of years of conflict.

One key aspect of Reconstruction was efforts to extend civil rights and voting privileges to African Americans. While progress was made on these fronts, Reconstruction ultimately proved to be short-lived, as white supremacist groups and policies worked to roll back many of the gains made during this period.

Transcontinental Railroad

While much of the 1860s was marked by conflict and turmoil, there were also significant developments in transportation and infrastructure during this time. One such development was the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869.

This massive undertaking involved the construction of a rail line stretching from coast to coast, connecting the eastern and western regions of the country. The completion of the transcontinental railroad had a major impact on commerce and travel in America, helping to open up new markets and opportunities for growth.


The 1860s was a decade of great change and tumult in American history. From the Civil War to emancipation to Reconstruction, this period saw significant developments that would shape American society for years to come. While it was a difficult time, it was also a time of progress and growth, as America worked to overcome its divisions and build a more perfect union.