1868 was a leap year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar).
- January 3 - Meiji Emperor declares "Meiji Restoration", his own restoration to full power, against the supporters of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
- January 10 - Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu declares emperor's declaration "illegal" and attacks Kyoto. Pro-Emperor forces drive his troops away. Shogun surrenders in May.
- February 16 - In New York City the Jolly Corks organization is renamed the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE).
- February 24 - The first parade to have floats occurs at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana.
- February 24 - After Andrew Johnson tried to dismiss United States Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, he becomes the first President of the United States to be impeached by the United States House of Representatives. Johnson would later be acquitted by the United States Senate.
- March 5 - A court of impeachment is organized in the United States Senate to hear charges against President Andrew Johnson.
- March 23 - The University of California is founded in Oakland, California when the Organic Act is signed into California law.
- March 24 - Metropolitan Life Insurance Company is formed.
- May 16 - President Andrew Johnson is acquitted during his impeachment trial, by one vote in the United States Senate.
- May 30 - Memorial Day is observed in the United States for the first time (it was proclaimed on May 5 by General John Logan).
- July 25 - Wyoming becomes a United States territory.
- July 28 - The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution is adopted guaranteeing African Americans full citizenship and all persons in the United States due process of law.
- late September - Queen Isabella II of Spain effectively deposed and goes into exile; she will formally abdicate June 25, 1870.
- November - Ulysses S. Grant defeats Horatio Seymour in the U.S. presidential election.
- November 2 - New Zealand officially adopted a nationally observed standard time, and was perhaps the first country to do so.
- December 25 - US President Andrew Johnson grants unconditional pardon to all Civil War rebels.
- November 27 - Indian Wars: Battle of Washita River - In the early morning, United States Army Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer leads an attack on a band of peaceful Cheyenne living on reservation land with Chief Black Kettle, killing 103 Cheyenne (later regarded as the first substantial US victory in the war).
- January 9 - S.P.L. Sørensen - Danish chemist
- February 10 - William Allen White, journalist (d. 1944)
- February 23 - W.E.B. DuBois, civil rights leader (d. 1963)
- March 25 - William Lockwood, Surrey fast bowler (d. 1932)
- March 28 - Maxim Gorky, author (d. 1936)
- April 10 - George Arliss, actor (d. 1946)
- May 6 - Nicholas II of Russia (d. 1918)
- May 6 - Gaston Leroux, writer (d. 1927)
- May 29 - Abdul Mejid II, later last Caliph of the Ottoman Empire (d. 1944)
- June 18 - Georges Lacombe, French artist (d. 1916)
- July 12 - Stefan George, German poet (d. 1933)
- July 14 - Gertrude Bell, archaeologist, writer, spy and administrator known as the "Uncrowned Queen of Iraq" (d. 1926)
- August 26 - Charles Stewart, Premier of Alberta (d. 1946).
- September 1 - Henri Bourassa, French-Canadian politician and publisher (d. 1952).
- October 18 - Ernst Didring, Swedish writer (d. 1931)
- November 8 - Felix Hausdorff, German mathematician (d. 1942)
- November 9 - Leila Marie Koerber, later known as Marie Dressler, Canadian actress (d. 1934).
- November 24 - Scott Joplin, musician and composer (d. 1917).
- February 11 - Léon Foucault, French astronomer (b. 1819)
- February 29 - King Ludwig I of Bavaria (b. 1786)
- March 4 - Jesse Chisholm, American Old West pioneer (b. 1805)
- March 28 - James Thomas Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, British military leader
- April - Isami Kondo, Bearu Chief of Shinsengumi
- April 3 - Franz Berwald, composer
- April 7 - Thomas D'Arcy McGee, Irish-Canadian journalist and politician (assassinated)
- May 7 - Henry Peter Brougham, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain
- May 23 - Kit Carson, American trapper, scout, and Indian agent
- June 1 - James Buchanan, President of the United States
- June 22 - Heber C. Kimball, Mormon church leader (b. 1801)
- October 17 - Laura Secord, Canadian patriot, distinguished for her activities in the British-American War
- November 13 - Gioacchino Rossini, Italian composer
- November 15 - James Mayer Rothschild, banker
- December 6 - August Schleicher, German linguist
- Charles Thomas Longley, Archbishop of Canterbury (b. 1794)
- August Ferdinand Möbius, German mathematician and theoretical astronomer (b. 1790)
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