The 1811 to 1812 New Madrid earthquakes released the
most seismic energy of any known event in the continental United States.
More energy was released than in any one earthquake in California. The
only larger event in North America was the Great Alaska earthquake of
The New Madrid earthquakes caused great
destruction in the Central United States. The earthquakes devastated
large areas of the Central United States. Fault movement caused the
course of the Mississippi River to change. In other areas the ground was
broken and uplifted more than 30 feet. Cracks in the ground opened up
that were "too wide for a horse to jump". Homes and other
buildings up to hundreds of miles away, were totally destroyed. An
eyewitness account of the earthquakes by Eliza Bryan, a settler who
lived in the area, tells a story of destruction.
woodcut showing damage during the 1812 New Madrid earthquake.