While there is no doubt that 2020 will go down in history as one of the most stressful years in recent times, with the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the nation and killing more than 340,000 Americans before the year is out, historians believe it could be – and has been – far worse.
Ivy League and Oxbridge university professors have said 2020 ranks only the eighth worst year in US history, behind the peak of the American Civil War in 1862, the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919.
A panel of 28 top historians and historical authors took part in a survey by CBT therapy and self-care app Bloom ranking what they believe were the most stressful years in American history.
‘This year has been incredibly stressful,’ Bloom CEO Leon Mueller told CBS News.
‘We wondered what other years down the ages had tested human resolve as much — or even more.’
Here’s the most stressful years according to the experts:
1. 1862 – The year of the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War
The year 1862 marked a major escalation in the American Civil War and – to historians – the most stressful year in national history.
On September 17, the Battle of Antietam was fought near Sharpsburg, Maryland.
As well as being the first major battle fought in the North it also became known as the bloodiest battle during the entire war.
More than 4,600 people were killed in a single day and 23,000 injured.
It would be three more years before the war finally ended in 1865 when Confederate General Robert E Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S Grant.
The year 1862 marked a major escalation in the American Civil War and – to historians – the most stressful year in national history
2. 1929 – The year of the Wall Street crash
In October 1929, the optimism of the roaring twenties came crashing back down as the stock market crashed.
Stocks plunged dramatically October 24 – Black Thursday – followed by Black Monday on October 28 and Black Tuesday the next day,.
On the latter, investors traded 16 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange in a single day.
Overnight, people lost their life savings and livelihoods and America soon plunged into the Great Depression. It took more than a decade for the economy to recover.
In October 1929, the optimism of the roaring twenties came crashing back down as the stock market crashed. Crowds outside the New York Stock Exchange when it crashed
2. 1838 – The year of the Trail of Tears
Joint second for the worst year in US history was 1838 and the ‘Trail of Tears’.
From the 1830s to 1850s around 100,000 Native Americans were forcibly removed from their land by the US government to area designated ‘Indian Territory’ under the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
In 1838, the Cherokee nation was forced to give up its land east of the Mississippi River after gold was discovered.
Around 15,000 were forced to take the treacherous journey to what is now Oklahoma.
More than 4,000 died en route from hunger, disease or exhaustion.
From the 1830s to 1850s around 100,000 Native Americans were forcibly removed from their land by the US government to area designated ‘Indian Territory’ under the Indian Removal Act
4. 1919 – The year of the Spanish flu
2020 and the coronavirus pandemic has often been compared to the years of 1918 and 1919 and the Spanish flu.
A staggering 675,000 Americans were wiped out by the pandemic.
Worldwide around one-third of the population were infected and 50 million people died.
There were other parallels to 2020 too in terms of calls for racial justice with 1919 facing one of the biggest outbreaks of racist violence against African Americans in American history.
The summer of 1919 became known as Red Summer after more than 200 black people were killed in multiple attacks by white people in cities including Washington and Chicago.
A staggering 675,000 Americans were wiped out by the Spanish flu
5. 1968 – The year of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination
1968 is classed as one of the bloodiest years in American history.
On April 4, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
Two months later, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who was running for president at the time, was also shot and killed.
The nation was also gripped by protests and riots that left 39 dead, more than 2,600 injured and numerous African-American communities destroyed.
Civil rights leader Andrew Young and others stand on the balcony of the Lorraine motel pointing in the direction of the shooter after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who is lying at their feet
6. 1962 – The year of the Cuban Missile Crisis
October 1962 saw the Cuban Missile Crisis where tensions boiled between the US and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear conflict.
At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union installed ballistic missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles from US shores.
President John F Kennedy told the US public about the missiles and warned the US would use military force is necessary, sparking fears of nuclear war.
President Kennedy meets with US Army officials during the Cuban Missile Crisis
7. 2001 – The year of the September 11 terrorist attacks
On the morning of September 11 2001, Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger planes, flying two into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
One plane crashed into the Pentagon and the fourth crashed in Pennsylvania after the passengers overpowered the terrorists before it reached its destination.
A total of 2,977 people were killed in the attacks, marking the single deadliest terrorist attack in global history.
It was also the single deadliest incident for emergency crew members with more than 400 killed trying to save others.
On the morning of September 11 2001, Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger planes, flying two into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City
8. 2020 – The year of the coronavirus pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic started ravaging the nation at the start of the year and, to date, more than 340,000 Americans have died and 19.7 million have been infected.
Aside from the pandemic, America has also been faced with protests nationwide calling for an end to racism and police brutality after multiple cop killings of black men and women.
Then there was one of the most hotly contested presidential elections in US history with Donald Trump still refusing to concede more than a month after Joe Biden won.
The coronavirus pandemic started ravaging the nation at the start of the year and, to date, more than 340,000 Americans have died and 19.7 million have been infected. A body is taken to a refrigerated overflow morgue outside the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn New York City in April
The worst years ever globally:
The worst year of the Black Death which to date is the deadliest pandemic in human history with up to 200 million people killed
The Nazis murdered six million Jews during the Holocaust in World War II.
‘The Year Without A Summer,’ when a volcanic eruption in Indonesia blocked the sun, temperatures in Europe plunged to the coldest on record and nations suffered major food shortages
China’s Ming Dynasty collapsed and was replaced by the Qing dynasty sparking conflict.
In Europe the Thirty Years’ War left up to eight million dead.
5. 410 A.D.
The Sacking of Rome on 24 August 410 AD was the first time in almost 800 years that Rome fell to a foreign enemy.