On this day: News in 1864

The cover of The Illustrated London News from the 26th of November, 1864.

The main story is about the reelection of US President Abraham Lincoln. Less than half a year later the President was assassinated.



On this day: the Black Thursday Bushfires

William Strutt, Black Thursday, February 6th (detail), 1864. Australian Art. Bushfires.

As depicted by English-born artist William Strutt in 1864.

One of the worst bushfire disasters in recorded Australian history, the Black Thursday fires took place on the 6th of February, 1851, in the colony of Victoria.

Severe drought in 1850 helped to create the conditions ideal for bushfires. An estimated maximum temperature of 47 °C and strong winds on the day of the disaster magnified the situation.

It is believed the fire started when two bullock drivers left burning logs unattended.

The disaster claimed the lives of twelve people and many animals, and caused significant damage to the countryside.

On this day: the St-Hilaire train disaster


On the 29th of June, 1864, a train in Quebec, Canada fell through an open swing bridge and into the Richelieu River.

The worst train disaster in Canadian history, it is thought ninety-nine people died in the crash. The majority of people on board were European immigrants.

The investigation placed the blame for the disaster on Grand Trunk Railway, as the train failed to acknowledge stop signals that would have prevented it from falling through the bridge.

When Australian women were accidentally given the vote.

Australian Suffragettes

Australian suffragettes in London in 1911

In the nineteenth century, in the colony of Victoria in Australia, the Electoral Act 1863 was passed. According to the act, “all persons” who owned property were entitled to vote. Though it was not intended to include women in this, there were plenty in the state who did, indeed own property.

In the 1864 elections, some women took advantage of this error and went to the polling stations, where their votes were recorded:

The Argus  , 5 November 1864, p 4. When women in Australia accidentally got the vote.

“At one of the polling booths in the Castlemaine district a novel sight was witnessed. A coach filled with ladies drove up, and the fair occupants alighted and recorded their votes.”
The Argus , 5 November 1864, p 4.

The oversight was quickly fixed, and a new law in 1865 once again took voting rights away from women. However, Australia was very early in granting women full voting rights, in 1902.



On this day: a prisoner of war

Treatment of prisoners of war in the United States during the Civil War was often harsh, with prisons on both sides overcrowded, and with very few resources available. Food was scarce and thousands of people died.

19 May 1864 This is a cropped version of an image of 20-year-old Pvt. Jackson O. Broshears of the 65th Indiana Infantry taken after his release from the Confederate prison at Belle Isle, Va. He lost nearly 80 pounds


This is Private Jackson O. Broshears of Company D, 65th Indiana Infantry, who fought on the Union side. He was a prisoner for a few months and was starved near to death.

US American Civil War Prisoner of War


The documentation of his case is dated the 19th of May, 1864.

On this day: the Great Sheffield Flood

Great_Sheffield_FloodPhotograph of the Old Dale Dyke reservoir embankment, shortly following its collapse in March 1864.

The dam in 1864, shortly after the disaster. X

On the 11th of March, 1864 a dam near Sheffield, England burst its reservoir and caused a flood that killed 244 people. Additionally, more than 600 houses sustained damage or were destroyed.

The Dale Dyke Dam, where the disaster occurred, was rebuilt in 1875.

On this day: the January Uprising began

On the 22nd of January, 1863, people of present-day Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus and Latvia rose up against rule by the Russian Empire. The uprising would result in Russia harshly punishing those captured.

A symbolic painting of the aftermath of the uprising.

On the 22nd of January, 1863, people of present-day Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus and Latvia rose up against rule by the Russian Empire.

The uprising would last into the following year, and would result in Russia harshly punishing those captured.

On this day: the Battle of Nashville

The Battle of Nashville was part of the US Civil War, and took place from the 15th to the 16th of December, 1864. The Union won.

This photograph was taken on the 16th, and shows the Federal outer line:

Battle of Nashville Federal outer line, December 16, 1864.

Picture source.

At least several hundred people were killed. 387 Federal soldiers were killed, and 112 went missing. However, as most Confederate units did not submit a report of the battle, their losses are unknown. It is generally assumed their losses were greater.

On this day: the Great Fire of Brisbane

Great fire in Queen Street, Brisbane 1864.208120_10150119276926342_4420036_n

On the 1st of December, 1864, a fire swept through Brisbane, in the Australian colony of Queensland.

Dozens of homes were lost, alongside banks, hotels and small businesses. The damage was made worse because there was no water supply, and any firefighting services were poorly organised

As much of Brisbane was built from timber, the fire was able to travel fast and destroy many buildings.

During rebuilding, brick and stone became much more popular materials to use.