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§Of World Interest

August 16th, US President James Buchanan inaugurated the new trans-Atlantic telegraph cable by exchanging greetings with Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. However, a weak signal forced a shutdown of the service in a few weeks.

November 17th, Beginning of the epoch of the Modified Julian Day



continuation of the Second Opium War

The coalition then cruised north to briefly capture the Taku Forts near Tianjin in May, 1858.

Treaties of Tianjin

In June 1858 the first part of the war ended with the Treaties of Tianjin, to which France, Russia, and the United States were parties. These treaties opened eleven more ports to Western trade. The Chinese initially refused to ratify the treaties.

The major points of the treaty were:

1. Britain, France, Russia, and the United States would have the right to establish diplomatic legations (small embassies) in Peking (a closed city at the time) 2. Ten more Chinese ports would be opened for foreign trade, including Niuzhuang, Danshui, Hankou, and Nanjing 3. The right of all foreign vessels including commercial ships to navigate freely on the Yangtze River 4. The right of foreigners to travel in the internal regions of China, which had been formerly banned 5. China was to pay an indemnity to Britain and France in 2 million taels of silver each 6. China was to pay compensation to British merchants in 2 million taels of silver for destruction of their property

Treaty of Aigun

On 28 May 1858, the separate Treaty of Aigun was signed with Russia to revise the Chinese and Russian border as determined by the Nerchinsk Treaty in 1689. Russia gained the left bank of the Amur River, pushing the border back from the Argun River. The treaty gave Russia control over a non-freezing area on the Pacific coast, where Russia founded the city of Vladivostok in 1860.

Continuation of the war

In June 1858, shortly after the Qing Court agreed to the disadvantageous treaties, more hawkish ministers prevailed upon the Xianfeng Emperor to resist encroachment by the West. On 2 June 1858, the Xianfeng Emperor ordered the Mongolian general Sengge Rinchen to guard the Dagu Fort in Tianjin. Sengge Richen reinforced the Dagu Forts with added artillery. He also brought 4,000 Mongolian cavalry from Chahar and Suiyuan.

Attempt to Stop the Flow

In an attempt to lower the price of opium, making it economically unsatisfactory for the British to continue importing opium, grown in India, extensive tracts of land were turned to growing opium poppies. Entire provinces and parts of provinces ceased to grow grain and other staples, diverting their rich river bottoms to the raising of opium. Chinese opium, however, never supplanted Indian opium, being inferior to that raised in the rich valley of the Ganges. The country merely had double quantities of the drug, used straight or blended, to suit the purse or taste of the consumer.


The Ansei Purge was ordered by Ii Naosuke on behalf of the bakufu. The purge was carried out in an effort to quell opposition to trade treaties with the United States, Russia, Great Britain, France and the Netherlands.

August 24 - Death of the feudal lord, Shimazu Nariakira. With his death, famed samurai, Saigō Takamori, fled to Kagoshima, where he was arrested and banished to Amami Ōshima island.



January 14th, Felice Orsini and his accomplices failed to assassinate Napoleon III in Paris but their bombs killed 156 bystanders. Because of the involvement of French émigrés living in Britain, there was a brief anti-British feeling in France, but the emperor refused to support it. Executed on March 13 of the same year by the guillotine.


February 11th, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to St. Bernadette of Lourdes.

§United Kingdom

July 1st, papers by Darwin and Wallace announcing a theory of Evolution by natural selection were read at London's Linnean Society.

British Empire takes over powers & properties of the British East India Company

§North America

§United States

May 19th, Marais des Cygnes massacre perpetrated by pro slavery forces in Bleeding, Kansas. July - Fifty-Niners stream into the Rocky Mountains of the western United States during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush.

July 29th, the United States and Japan signed the Harris Treaty. The treaty followed the 1854 Convention of Kanagawa, which granted coaling right for U.S. ships and allowed for a U.S. Consul in Shimoda. Although Commodore Matthew Perry secured fuel for U.S. ships and protection, he left the important matter of trading rights to Townsend Harris, another U.S. envoy who negotiated with the Tokugawa Shogunate; the treaty is therefore often referred to as the Harris Treaty. It took two years to break down Japanese resistance, but with the threat of looming British demands for similar privileges, the Tokugawa government eventually capitulated.

November 17th, the city of Denver, CO was founded.

Fortress Alcatraz. The island's first garrison at Camp Alcatraz, numbering about 200 soldiers and 11 cannons, arrived at the end of this year

§U.S. Industry

Edwin Drake was hired by the Seneca Oil Company to investigate suspected oil deposits in Titusville, Pennsylvania. James Townsend, President of the Seneca Oil Company, sent Drake to the site in the spring of 1858. The oil company chose the retired railway man partly because he had free use of the rail. Drake decided to drill in the manner of salt well drillers. He purchased a steam engine in Erie, Pennsylvania, to power the drill. The well was dug on an island on the Oil Creek. It took some time for the drillers to get through the layers of gravel. At 16 feet (5 m) the sides of the hole began to collapse. Those helping him began to despair. But not Drake. It was at this point that he devised the idea of a drive pipe. This cast iron pipe consisted of ten foot long joints. The pipe was driven down into the ground. At 32 feet (10 m) they struck bedrock. The drilling tools were now lowered through the pipe and steam was used to drill through the bedrock. The going, however, was slow. Progress was made at the rate of just three feet (1 m) per day. After initial difficulty locating the necessary parts to build the well, which resulted in his well being nicknamed "Drake's Folly," Drake proved successful.

Meanwhile crowds of people began to gather to jeer at the apparently unproductive operation. Drake was also running out of money. Amazingly the Seneca Oil Company had abandoned their man and Drake had to rely on friends to back the enterprise. On August 27 Drake had persevered and his drill bit had reached a total depth of 69.5 feet (21 m). At that point the bit hit a crevice. The men packed up for the day. The next morning Drake’s driller, Billy Smith, looked into the hole in preparation for another day’s work. He was surprised and delighted to see crude oil rising up. Drake was summoned and the oil was brought to the surface with a hand pitcher pump. The oil was collected in a bath tub.

Drake is famous for pioneering a new method for producing oil from the ground. He drilled using piping to prevent borehole collapse, allowing for the drill to penetrate further and further into the ground. Previous methods for collecting oil had been limited. Ground collection of oil consisted of gathering it from where it occurred naturally, such as from oil seeps or shallow holes dug into the ground. Drake tried the latter method initially when looking for oil in Titusville. However, it failed to produce economically viable amounts of oil. Alternative methods of digging large shafts into the ground also failed, as collapse from water seepage almost always occurred. The significant step that Drake took was to drive a thirty two foot iron pipe through the ground into the bedrock below. This allowed Drake to drill inside the pipe, without the hole collapsing from the water seepage. The principle behind this idea is still employed today by many companies drilling for hydrocarbons.


The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 were a series of seven debates between Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, and Stephen A. Douglas, a Democrat, for an Illinois seat in the United States Senate. At the time, U.S. Senators were elected by state legislatures; thus Lincoln and Douglas were campaigning for their respective parties to win control of the legislature. The debates presaged the issues that Lincoln faced in the 1860 Presidential campaign and are remembered partially for the eloquence of both sides. The main issue discussed in all seven debates was slavery.

In agreeing to the debates, Lincoln and Douglas wanted to hold one debate in each of the nine Congressional Districts in Illinois. Since both had already spoken in two -- Springfield and Chicago -- within a day of each other, they decided that their "joint appearances" would be held only in the remaining seven districts.

The debates were held in seven towns in the state of Illinois:

  • Ottawa on August 21,
  • Freeport on August 27,
  • Jonesboro on September 15,
  • Charleston on September 18,
  • Galesburg on October 7,
  • Quincy on October 13, and
  • Alton on October 15.


May 11th, Minnesota was admitted as the 32nd U.S. state.

Utah War

Thomas Kane traveled under the alias "Dr. Osborne" over 3,000+ miles from the East coast to Utah, first by ship to Panama, crossing the isthmus via the newly constructed (1855) Panama Railway, and then taking a second ship to San Francisco. Upon learning that the Sierra passes were blocked for the winter, he immediately took a ship to San Pedro, the unimproved harbor for what is now Los Angeles. He was met there by Mormons who took him overland through San Bernardino and Las Vegas, to Salt Lake City on the strenuous southern branch of the California Trail, arriving in February 1858.

Details of the negotiations between Kane and Young are unfortunately unclear. It seems that Kane successfully convinced Young to accept Buchanan's appointment of Cumming as Territorial governor, although Young had expressed his willingness to accept such terms at the very beginning of the crisis. It is uncertain if Kane was able to convince Young at this time to allow the army into Utah. However, in early March Kane traveled to the Johnston's winter base at Fort Bridger. Although his relationship with Colonel Johnston was poor, he eventually persuaded Governor Cumming to travel to Salt Lake City without his military escort under guarantee of safe conduct. As they descended Echo Canyon to Salt Lake city, Kane and the Mormon militia men successfully fooled Cumming as to the size of the armed contingent lining the canyon, something of which Cumming later complained bitterly. Cumming was courteously received by Young and the Utah citizenry in mid-April, and was shortly installed in his new office. Cumming thereafter became a moderate voice, and opposed the hard-line against the Mormons proposed by Colonel Johnston and other federal officials still at Camp Scott. Kane left Utah Territory for Washington, D.C. in May to report to President Buchanan on the results of his mission.

Despite Thomas Kane's successful mission, tension continued throughout the spring and summer of 1858. Young was willing to support Cumming as governor, but he still feared persecution and violence if the army entered Utah. Indeed, as the snows melted, approximately 3,000 additional U.S. Army reinforcements set out on the westward trails to resupply and strengthen the Army's presence. In Utah, the Nauvoo Legion was bolstered as Mormon communities were asked to supply and equip an additional thousand volunteers to be placed in the over one hundred miles of mountains that separated Camp Scott and Great Salt Lake City. Nevertheless, by the end of the winter Young had decided to enforce his "Sevastopol Policy", a plan to evacuate the Territory and burn it to the ground rather than fight the army openly. Members of the Hudson's Bay Company and the British government feared that the Mormons planned to seek refuge on Vancouver Island off the coast of British Columbia.[48] David Bigler has shown that Young originally intended this evacuation to go northwards towards the Bitterroot Valley in present day Montana. However, the Bannock and Shoshone raid against Fort Limhi in February 1858 blocked this northern retreat.[9] Consequently, at the end of March 1858, settlers in the northern counties of Utah including Salt Lake City boarded up their homes and farms and began to move south, leaving small groups of men and boys behind to burn the settlements if necessary. As early as February 1858, Young had sent parties to explore the White Mountains on what is now the Utah/Nevada border where, he erroneously believed, there were valleys that could comfortably harbor up to 100,000 individuals. Residents of Utah County just south of Salt Lake were asked to build and maintain roads and to help the incoming inhabitants of the northern communities. Mormon Elias Blackburn recorded in his journal, The roads are crowded with the Saints moving south. ...Very busy dealing out provisions to the public hands. I am feeding 100 men, all hard at work.[49] Even after Alfred Cumming was installed as governor in mid-April, the "Move South" continued unabated. The movement may have included the relocation of nearly 30,000 people between March and July. Historians Allen and Leonard write: "It was an extraordinary operation. As the Saints moved south they cached all the stone cut for the Salt Lake Temple and covered the foundations to make it resemble a plowed field. They boxed and carried with them twenty thousand bushels of tithing grain, as well as machinery, equipment, and all the Church records and books. The sight of thirty thousand people moving south was awesome, and the amazed Governor Cumming did all he could to persuade them to return to their homes. Brigham Young replied that if the troops were withdrawn from the territory, the people would stop moving...."


..."Now, therefore I, James Buchanan, President of the United States of America, have thought proper to issue this, my Proclamation, enjoining upon all public officers in the Territory of Utah to be diligent and faithful, to the full extent of the power, in the execution of the laws; commanding all citizens of the United States in the said Territory to aid and assist the officers in the performance of their duties; offering the inhabitants of Utah, who shall submit to the laws, a free pardon for seditions and treasons heretofore by them committed; warning those who shall persist, after notice of this proclamation, in the present rebellion against the United States, that they must expect no further leniency, but look to be rigorously dealt with according to their desserts; and declaring that the military forces now in Utah, and hereafter to be sent there, will not be withdrawn until the inhabitants of that Territory shall manifest a proper sense of the duty which they owe to this government". - James Buchanan April 6, 1858.

At the end of June 1858 the Army troops under General Johnston entered the Salt Lake Valley unhindered. Riding through the still empty streets of Salt Lake City on June 26, an embittered Johnston was heard to say that he would have given "his plantation for a chance to bombard the city for fifteen minutes."[56] Lt. Col. Charles Ferguson Smith stated that he "did not care a damm who heard him; he would like to see every dammed Mormon hung by the neck." Philip St. George Cooke, who had led the Mormon Battalion during the Mexican War, merely bared his head in respect.

In early July, the Mormons from the northern settlements began to return to their homes after it was clear that no more reinforcements were being sent into Utah from either the east or west. Johnston's Army settled in Camp Floyd, in a valley 50 miles southwest of Salt Lake City and separated from Provo (the second-largest city in the territory) by Utah Lake and a small range of mountains. This remote location, neighbor only to a few farms and ranches, was chosen to decrease friction between the troops and the Mormons. The Army and the Mormons continued in a fragile co-existence until the troops left in 1861 when called back east for service in the American Civil War.


May-July - Mahtra War in the Governorate of Estonia, Russian Empire - peasants revolt against serfdom, that was officially abolished in 1816.

§Southeast Asia


The Cochinchina campaign (1858–62), fought between the French and the Spanish on the one side and the Vietnamese on the other, began as a limited punitive campaign and ended as a French war of conquest. The war concluded with the establishment of the French colony of Cochinchina, a development that inaugurated nearly a century of French colonial dominance in Vietnam. A joint French and Spanish expedition landed at Da Nang (Tourane) and captured the town.


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