When was the bleakest period of American history?

There’s a lot being said about the current turbulent economic climate, but I’m fairly sure that anyone with a knowledge of history will agree that comparatively speaking, times aren’t that hard.

So I ask the question, when was the outlook bleakest for the United Stages, the period when the future looked most uncertain? For the purposes of the question we’ll define American history to mean from the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 up until the present day.

The strongest candidates for me would be; The initial Revolution, the Burning of Washington during the War of 1812, the Civil War and Great Depression.

Your chosen candidates are sound, Mr. Kobayashi, but a little too broad. I would perhaps choose historical points, rather than periods. We are (and always are) at a historical point. Our present historical point is jittery, but not really bleak.

I would choose the bleakest point as 1863, just after the battle of Chancellorsville in the Civil War. Picture it, the southern states have seceded, and thousands upon thousands are dead on both sides, and the Union just can’t seem to win a major battle. There is a growing Copperhead movement in the north that says just let the south go, godammit. The re-election of Abraham Lincoln seems unlikely, and anyway there’s no way any country would hold an election during Civil War. His opposition candidate is George McClellan who would give up the fight for the Union. Will Lincoln call off the election, and become a true tyrant?
Grant has had some successes in the West, but that seems trifling when the country’s true center is in the east. If the Confederacy succeeds, it will set a terrible precedent. Anytime a state is disatisfied with the federal government, it can just declare itself independant. The United States will become the Tangle of Teeny Squabbling Republics. So much for Manifest Destiny. Too bad for the enslaved.

Another low point was the Bonus Army March of 1932 and its violent dispersal by the army. This was in the depth of a depression with an ineffectual president and the US army was attacking and killing its own veterans. At the time the future of US democracy must have looked very bleak.

1968 must have been very scary as well. MLK and RFK were assasinated, there was chaos at the Democratic conventions and the Vietnam war was raging

I’m going to go out on a limb and say any time prior to 1865. It is hard to not have a bleak outlook on the future when you’re a slave being used and treated like livestock.

If the question is about the US as a whole, and not a mistreated subset, I’m going to have to agree with Miss Cats. The civil war in general was a terrible time to be an American. The entire world was falling apart and 600,000 people were killed in the span of only 4 years.

I’d say right before the Battle of Trenton. Washington’s Army was already at the brink of destruction. “The Crisis” managed to convince some to stay with the fight, but if Washington hadn’t been able to deliver an overwhelming victory soon, we’d all be spelling color “colour.”

I agree, much more detail to be had there; perhaps the title should be “What was the bleakest point in American history?”

Another good one is during Washington’s second term, the Fake War with France. No allies, the Terror in Europe, and France trying to destabilize the fledgling government, while recruting armies to invade Florida. Not to mention the looming war with England, and both France and England taking our sailors and ships.

The War of 1812, when the capital was burned down and over run seems as low as it ever got.

I like this one.

In July of that year, there were also conscription riots that broke out in New York that killed 1000+ people. So, pretty bleak. Although the Union won at Gettysburg just a few weeks before.

So maybe a little uptick between Chancellorsville at Gettysburg (although did most people know about it? Or celebrate it? I’d be curious to know) and then another wallop to the groin with the conscription riots in mid-July. Not a very appealing three-month period.

I second 1776, just before Trenton. And then it was still real iffy at many points thereafter, including when Benedict Arnold sold out.

While I’ll buy the American Civil War in general as the nadir of the nation’s prospects of survival I’d be inclined to shove the particular low point back from the spring of 1863 to the summer of 1864. Grant’s overland campaign (Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg) had generated horrendous casualties in two months of contentious fighting but the Army of Northern Virginia was undefeated and still stood between The Army of the Potomac and Richmond, Sherman was stalled in front of Atlanta and taking terrible losses, there was a fair chance Lincoln would lose the election to George McClellan, Napoleon III still was agitating for a combined French and British intervention and France had established a puppet state in Mexico and had ambitions toward the Southwest. Until Hood destroyed the Army of Tennessee in unnecessary and impulsive attacks on Sherman the odds were against the survival of the Union.