Over the course of American history, there have been many events that have had a major impact at the time. Some of these events had such a major impact that they have continued to affect the course of the country’s history. America saw the first man on the moon, a bloody and heartbreaking Civil War, a major terrorist attack on its own soil, and involvement in wars around the world. Below is a list of some of the biggest events in United States history and why they have had such an impact.
Biggest Events in American History
The American Revolution (1775-1781)
America became a country in its own right after battling England for the right to its own sovereignty. King George sought the riches offered by the original colonies and the population had grown increasingly weary and angry with the demand for high taxes. Representatives of the people, now known as the Founding Fathers, signed the Declaration of Independence, sealing the fate of the colonies. Led by General George Washington, the upstart army was able to defeat British forces when it counted, along with the help of England’s long-time enemy, France.
The Louisiana Purchase (1803)
The first major expansion of the United States occurred in 1803 when the government purchased the Louisiana Territory, and area of 828,000 square miles, from France. It was acquired during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson and encompassed a vast territory west of the Mississippi River, including all or part of fifteen states and two Canadian provinces. There were a few expeditions mounted to map the area and see what the country had come into possession of, the most famous being the Louis and Clark expedition of 1804. The Louisiana Purchase began the western expansion of the nation which makes it one of the biggest events in American history.
American Civil War (1861-1865)
In the years leading up to the Civil War, there had been arguments both in favor of and against slavery. The Abolitionist movement had managed to eradicate slavery from the northern states and was attempting to eliminate it from the South, as well as from new states due to the Louisiana Purchase. Many southern states had decided to secede from the Union and establish their own central government in order to keep their slaves. The war began when Confederate troops fired on Ft. Sumter in South Carolina that was held by Northern troops. The war waged until 1865 when General Lee surrendered to the Northern general U.S. Grant on April 9th.
Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (1865)
Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president who presided over the American Civil War and eliminated slavery. Not long after being elected for a second term, President Lincoln attended a play in Washington, DC in April of 1865. Four men—Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, and actor John Wilkes Booth—plotted the assassination, blaming Lincoln for the poverty and hunger that swept the South after the end of the Civil War. The plan also called for the deaths of Vice-President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward, but Booth only shot Lincoln in the back of the head while he sat in his seat at the theater. Booth was later cornered and killed.
World War II (1941-1945)
The Second World War began in 1939, but the United States didn’t get involved until 1941 after the Japanese navy attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. America’s navy was decimated, but the country managed to build it back up as well as build the rest of its military in a boom that lasted until well after the war ended. Americans fought alongside the Allied powers against the Axis led by Hitler’s Germany and saw many battles waged across North Africa, the South Pacific and Europe. The war ended in Europe with the fall of Berlin and in the Pacific when two hydrogen bombs were dropped by the United States onto Japan. The war forever changed the course of foreign policy with the introduction of nuclear weapons, thus WW II would no doubt make to the list of biggest events in American history.
Assassination of John F. Kennedy (1963)
Many conspiracy theories surround the death of America’s 34th president but the official account is that John F. Kennedy was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Oswald reportedly acted alone and had a history of communist and anti-American activity. Oswald was later shot and killed by Jack Ruby, a Dallas businessman, while being escorted from the local police station. The assassination of Kennedy was the end of an era that many consider was one of the most promising times in American history. Vice-President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president on Air Force One as it headed back to Washington, DC.
The Vietnam War (1955-1974)
For years the French and the Vietnamese waged a war against communist forces and in 1955 American president Dwight D. Eisenhower sent the first military advisors to train soldiers of South Vietnam. By 1961 President John Kennedy had sent the first American troops. In 1964 Congress passes a resolution allowing full military involvement in Vietnam. The Tet Offensive of 1968 turned the tide in favor of the communists of North Vietnam and soon America would see multiple troop withdrawals. By 1973 all American troops were withdrawn from the country and in 1974 the last of the American personnel in the country were evacuated during the fall of Saigon. Almost 60,000 Americans were killed during the war in Vietnam and it was the first war in U.S. history that was seen on news broadcasts across the country on a nightly basis.
The Apollo 11 Lunar Landing (1969)
The Cold War space race between the United States and the Soviet Union reached a major turning point on July 20th, 1969 when the lunar module landed on the moon and American astronaut Neil Armstrong first set foot on the lunar surface followed minutes later by astronaut Buzz Aldrin. The landing was watched by millions of people around the world and it is when Armstrong spoke that most famous of lines “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Twelve Americans have walked on the moon while no other country has yet to visit it. This act was not only one of the biggest events in American history, but also one of the biggest events for the mankind.
September 11 Attacks, 2001
On a cloudless Tuesday morning, Islamic terrorists indoctrinated by Osama bin Laden hijacked four planes inside the United States and flew one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., two into the World Trade Center in New York City, and a third crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania that was believed headed originally to either the White House or Capitol Building in Washington. The attacks killed almost three thousand people, completely destroyed the World Trade Center, and began the War on Terror which no doubt is one of the biggest events in American history.
Deciphering the Human Genome (2003)
After years of work, in 2003 scientists had finally deciphered the human genome in its entirety, opening up new possibilities for science and medicine. It laid out the three billion chemical units that make up human DNA and is held in the thousands of genes in twenty-three pairs of chromosomes. This deciphering allows scientists and researchers to understand evolution, hereditary factors, disease and illness, also the growth and development of humans. All of this information is already leading to new therapies, drugs, and treatments for many conditions that were previously untreatable or incurable.
Election of President Barack Obama (2008)
The presidential election of 2008 would prove to be historic for America with the election of the country’s first African-American president. It marked a turning point in America’s long history of slavery and then oppression of minorities and opened a national dialogue on race relations in the country. The Obama administration has made many changes to American policy, both domestic and foreign, which ultimately led to Obama’s re-election in 2012.
The Death of Osama bin Laden (2011)
As the recognized leader of terrorist group Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden for years orchestrated terror attacks around the world, including the attack on America on September 11th, 2001. He was seen as the number one enemy of the United States and the free world, but had many supporters in the Muslim world. His death came on May 1, 2011 at the hands of American Special Forces after years of searching by the country’s intelligence community at a hideout in Pakistan.