The year leading up to the New Madrid earthquakes was packed with events with global implications.
The continent of Europe was embroiled in the Napoleonic wars. Reports from Europe resounded with the clash of vast armies and fleets at sea. Revolutionary movements spreading in the empire of Spain were convulsing the New World. From Texas to Argentina, revolutionaries struggled to gain control of their countries from the decaying Spanish Empire. American newspapers were filled with accounts of revolts springing up across the South American continent and Spanish Mexico.
The United States witnessed conflict on the frontier between Indian tribes and the United States government. This struggle culminated in the Battle of Tippecanoe where United States troops under the command of William Henry Harrison defeated the Indian alliance that had been formed by the charismatic leader Tecumseh. Meanwhile on the Ohio River a steam powered boat, later named the New Orleans, was being constructed at Pittsburgh that would revolutionize travel in the Central United States. The Louisiana Purchase was slowly being settled and organized into smaller territories. Already there was a push to divide the area into Upper and Lower Louisiana to make it easier to administer.
In addition to the turmoil on the continents it seemed that nature was also stirring. In 1811 a comet appeared that was visible until 1812. Flooding occurred in the Mississippi river valley and extreme cold weather gripped the New England area. Storms racked the east coast of the United States and caused massive damage and loss of shipping. In September a partial solar eclipse was visible in the United States. These unusual phenomena probably stirred some to wonder what they portended.
It was in conjunction with all these events that the people of the United States would experience the most unprecedented phenomena of all, a series of earthquakes that would be felt across the broad expanse of the continent.