Frontier : the word carries the inevitable scent of the West. But before Custer or Lewis and Clark, before the first Conestoga wagons rumbled across the Plains, it was the East that marked the frontier—the boundary between complex Native cultures and the first colonizing Europeans. Here is the older, wilder, darker history of a time when the land between the Atlantic and the Frontier : the word carries the inevitable scent of the West. Here is the older, wilder, darker history of a time when the land between the Atlantic and the Appalachians was contested ground—when radically different societies adopted and adapted the ways of the other, while struggling for control of what all considered to be their land.
The First Frontier traces two and a half centuries of history through poignant, mostly unheralded personal stories—like that of a Harvard-educated Indian caught up in seventeenth-century civil warfare, a mixed-blood interpreter trying to straddle his white and Native heritage, and a Puritan woman wielding a scalping knife whose bloody deeds still resonate uneasily today. Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. More Details Other Editions 5.
Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The First Frontier , please sign up. Why want it let me read the books? See 1 question about The First Frontier…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. Sort order. Jul 22, Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship rated it it was ok Shelves: nonfiction , 2-stars-and-a-half , united-states , history. I was really interested in reading this history of interactions between Native Americans and Europeans in colonial America, though the relatively small number of ratings gave me pause; American history is a popular topic among nonfiction readers.
As it turns out I should have heeded those reservations. While I did learn some things from this book, it turned out to be a long, unorganized slog. It took me a long time to read because I returned to it only reluctantly, and because of poor organizati I was really interested in reading this history of interactions between Native Americans and Europeans in colonial America, though the relatively small number of ratings gave me pause; American history is a popular topic among nonfiction readers. It took me a long time to read because I returned to it only reluctantly, and because of poor organization did not teach me as much as I was hoping.
This book purports to cover over years of American history, from pre-contact America up through the s or so. Perhaps several centuries are just too much to cover in one book, especially with a large geographic area and large number of groups both European and Native American involved. A lot of history happens in the background; events specific to the colonists, like disputes between colonies and the Salem witch trials, are mentioned only in passing. So I was left with a sense of reading a very incomplete history, and without being given a framework with which to organize all these names and details.
His endnotes are extensive, but are almost entirely limited to instances where he quotes someone directly. But Weidensaul — who as far as I can tell from his bio is an amateur historian — certainly does have a viewpoint; the lack of an organizing principle, a concerted argument, simply makes it harder to pin down, and leaves me wondering why exactly the author wrote this book.
Overall, yes, I learned some things from this book. But it was too tedious and frustrating for me to be likely to recommend. View 1 comment. Jul 27, Holly Weiss rated it it was amazing Shelves: kindle , release , history , non-fiction , to-review. Scott Weidensaul takes us back to the true frontier, The First Frontier , where lands east of the Hudson and Delaware were hotly contested for two centuries before the American Revolution.
People who laid claim to the eastern seaboard came with ambiguous motives from unimaginably different cultures and lands. Although cohabiting the land, they communicated poorly and remained estranged.
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This peerlessly researched book opens our eyes to a violent time in the history of America of which most of us Scott Weidensaul takes us back to the true frontier, The First Frontier , where lands east of the Hudson and Delaware were hotly contested for two centuries before the American Revolution. This peerlessly researched book opens our eyes to a violent time in the history of America of which most of us are uninformed. Part Two describes the 17th century expansion of the American colonies around Chesapeake Bay and New England, resulting in hatred, fear and bloodshed.
Part Three is the story of the farther frontier, the Pennsylvania backcountry, where today a marker proclaiming the site of the first Amish settlement reminds us of the ghosts of that time. Mary Rowlandson was the first female writer to publish in North America. Although at times plodding, this is first-rate storytelling. The fascinating tales of individuals involved in the clash are interwoven with disturbing accounts of violence and war.
The detail in The First Frontier can be daunting to the casual reader. Not for the faint of heart, the book accurately describes the many atrocities of the times. The book is intended to instruct and inform, not to entertain. Copious notes attest to the exhaustive research poured into the book. Highly recommended. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt through Netgalley graciously provided the review copy. Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont View 2 comments. Mar 06, Steven Peterson rated it really liked it. This book is the story Page xiv "that harks back to the days when the East was contested ground--fought over by empires and bled for by people who, regardless of their language, color, or birthplace, saw it as their own and worth dying for.
It is a story of bravery and treachery, a battle over land, efforts at reconciliation--and betrayal. The subtitle speaks to a central theme of the book This book is the story Page xiv "that harks back to the days when the East was contested ground--fought over by empires and bled for by people who, regardless of their language, color, or birthplace, saw it as their own and worth dying for. In the process, the story is humanized. The book also speculates on how native Americans reached the eastern part of the North American continent. The book begins with efforts by Europeans, whether Basque, French, Vikings, and so on to exploit the riches of the Atlantic Coast.
Sometimes, relations with native Americans was positive--and sometimes not. There is the story of English explorers seizing native Americans and spiriting them back to England. One way of addressing the history employed by the author is to follow a set of characters, as they exemplified life on the frontier. The book traces events, often through the acts of these people and others as well such as George Washington.
This is a nice book, exploring the first frontier in North America. Jul 09, Linda rated it it was amazing. Winter quarter I tutored a young man in American history from "discovery" to I learned a few new things and when I saw this book covered much of the same time period, I thought I'd try it out.
Fantastic choice!!! First of all, the writer is a writer. His nonfiction is as smooth to read as fiction usually is. He tells the tale of America's beginnings through the eyes of as many of its participants as he can. Of course, not all events are covered by written sources. However, the earliest exp Winter quarter I tutored a young man in American history from "discovery" to However, the earliest explorers all mentioned how populated the country was - everywhere they went there were native settlements.
Wars and diseases had carried many of them off by time the Pilgrims and others landed which made it seem that the land was uninhabited. Of course, the inevitable clashes came. The settlers did not understand that when the natives "sold" the land, it meant that they basically rented it to them and expected to be "paid" each year for its use. The natives also expected to use it as they always had. They didn't understand the idea of "settlements. And no one attempted to explain it or understand their point of view until it was too late. We do see historic characters in their "before fame" aspects.
Daniel Boone was a teamster during the French and Indian war and that was how he heard about Kentucky. George Washington lead the band of soldiers who actually fired the first shots that resulted in the French and Indian war. Benjamin Franklin is seen as a land speculator although he did not steal from the native owned land. He was also the "author" of the "cartoon" of the snake divided into many parts labeled with the names of the colonies and the legend "Join, or Die. Also interesting to me was the role played by the midwestern natives.
I grew up in Indiana in the city where Little Turtle Miami war chief is buried. I had read the history of that particular time period just after the revolution as settlers felt free to continue their march into what was then the Ohio Territory , but I had never really read anything that connected them to the events that happened before. Something I had forgotten from the tutoring sessions was that Virginia tried to pull a fast one on the rest of the colonies and the settlement of the Ohio territory. As soon as settlers started moving in, Virginia suddenly "remembered" that its royal charter included all the land between its north and south boundaries all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
So it had the right to ban settlers from other colonies. This is a fascinating book. You won't find the declaration of war between Britian and the French during the French and Indian war, but you will see more of the average Joe's view of that war. You briefly see William Penn telling the natives they will be treated as equals, but you see an extended view of his sons plotting, scheming and outright lying to steal land. You'll see the men who served as interpretors, standing between two cultures, many never trusted in either.
You'll see all the Praying Indians Christian suddenly become suspect at times of raids, suspects of both the whites and the natives. You'll learn the origin of the term "red" in referring to natives, and you'll see how much more important religion was in the original relationship between settlers and natives than skin color. Read it. Apr 04, Dale rated it it was ok. I have had Scott Weidensaul's The First Frontier for longer than a year, buried in my legendary pile of books actually, I am more organized than that, they are all in 4 milk crates but when I heard an interview with Wiedensaul on the John Batchelor radio show I was reminded to dig it out.
Weidensaul is to be commended for a very thorough job of researching the history of the relationship between the natives and the European colonists. The records are scant, the spelling is haphazard and so mu I have had Scott Weidensaul's The First Frontier for longer than a year, buried in my legendary pile of books actually, I am more organized than that, they are all in 4 milk crates but when I heard an interview with Wiedensaul on the John Batchelor radio show I was reminded to dig it out.
The records are scant, the spelling is haphazard and so much of it is buried in myth and politics. He starts with the disposition of the American Indian population prior to the arrival of Europeans. The limited history of pre-Colombian contact is discussed with the Vikings and various fishing fleets and the discussion of the similarities of differences of the various American Indians arrayed along the Atlantic coastline is quite interesting. But, as Weidensaul's narrative continues and the colonies become established the book becomes quite repetitive and I found that I had to force myself to plow through what seemed to be an endless list of atrocities from both sides up and down the coast from Maine to Connecticut View all 3 comments.
Jan 17, Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing. For hundreds of years before the thirteen colonies were established, Native Americans and Europeans interacted along the east coast of what is now the United States, and The First Frontier: the Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance in Early America tells that fascinating but for me largely unknown story.
The First Frontier covers some of the same ground as Charles Mann's books and , but with a tight and detailed focus on the tribes, settlements, varied goals and shiftin For hundreds of years before the thirteen colonies were established, Native Americans and Europeans interacted along the east coast of what is now the United States, and The First Frontier: the Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance in Early America tells that fascinating but for me largely unknown story.
The First Frontier covers some of the same ground as Charles Mann's books and , but with a tight and detailed focus on the tribes, settlements, varied goals and shifting allegiances of the Native and European people during the early contact years along the eastern seaboard. After a brief introduction, the book begins before the first Europeans, probably Viking raiders and Basque fishermen, made contact and continues until shortly before the Revolutionary War. At a time when religious wars were being waged across Europe, the settlers saw as many differences between themselves--Lutheran, Catholic, Amish, Pilgrim, Puritan and Quaker--as they did between themselves and the native people, whose complex and rapidly changing cultures varied just as much.
Having spent most of my life on the East Coast this colorful, lively pre-history of the United States was particularly interesting. Dec 15, Chris rated it really liked it. Here are a good collection of stories that present a compiled history of various struggles in early American history. It showcases some interesting characters that are often ignored, and goes deep into the history with what seems to be a pretty balanced view of each civilization and the struggles of each. I found the 17th century stories to be the most fascinating, because these are the stories about which I don't often hear.
Scott brings forth a lot of terrific characters about which I hope I ca Here are a good collection of stories that present a compiled history of various struggles in early American history. Scott brings forth a lot of terrific characters about which I hope I can read more, and these stories and Scott's ability to tell them are some of the best parts about this book. I also found the descriptions of Indian captivity and adoption, the descriptions of the origination of the American peoples, and the description of the early wars to be helpful and clarifying.
There are a few old books on Conrad Weiser out there that also have some good information on his life, but Scott's coverage of his negotiations and work with the six nations here is straightforward and clear. Jul 19, Jo Stafford rated it really liked it. Lenape, Pequot, Yamasee, Narragansett - these are not the names that usually come to mind when we think of Native American nations that resisted white encroachment. But that's because we're used to thinking of the frontier as western, and the nations I mentioned are eastern peoples.
Weidensaul's engagingly written book recounts the history of Native American-European contact in the east - America's first frontier - until just after the end of the French and Indian War. I knew some of this histor Lenape, Pequot, Yamasee, Narragansett - these are not the names that usually come to mind when we think of Native American nations that resisted white encroachment.
I knew some of this history, particularly concerning the Pequot and the Narragansett, but there was much in this book that was new to me. Weidensaul skilfully discusses Native American alliances and diplomacy during a time when European nations competed ferociously for domination of North America. The pressures on Native Americans are explained clearly and sympathetically.
The First Frontier is packed with information and it broadened my understanding of this period of American history and its consequences. View all 4 comments.
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Jul 28, Dale Grauman rated it liked it Shelves: real-books , all. You could probably talk me back up to four stars. It was later lengthened to reach the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville. The Wilderness Road was steep and rough, and it could only be traversed on foot or horseback, but it was the best route for thousands of settlers moving into Kentucky.
In alone, Indians killed over travelers on the Wilderness Road. No Indians lived permanently in Kentucky  but they sent raiding parties to stop the newcomers. One of those intercepted was Abraham Lincoln 's grandfather, who was scalped in near Louisville. The War of marked the final confrontation involving major British and Indian forces fighting to stop American expansion. The British war goal included the creation of an independent Indian state under British auspices in the Midwest. The death in battle of the Indian leader Tecumseh dissolved the coalition of hostile Indian tribes.
In general the frontiersmen battled the Indians with little help from the U. Army or the federal government. To end the War of American diplomats negotiated the Treaty of Ghent , signed in , with Britain. They rejected the British plan to set up an Indian state in U. They explained the American policy toward acquisition of Indian lands:. The United States, while intending never to acquire lands from the Indians otherwise than peaceably, and with their free consent, are fully determined, in that manner, progressively, and in proportion as their growing population may require, to reclaim from the state of nature, and to bring into cultivation every portion of the territory contained within their acknowledged boundaries.
In thus providing for the support of millions of civilized beings, they will not violate any dictate of justice or of humanity; for they will not only give to the few thousand savages scattered over that territory an ample equivalent for any right they may surrender, but will always leave them the possession of lands more than they can cultivate, and more than adequate to their subsistence, comfort, and enjoyment, by cultivation. If this be a spirit of aggrandizement, the undersigned are prepared to admit, in that sense, its existence; but they must deny that it affords the slightest proof of an intention not to respect the boundaries between them and European nations, or of a desire to encroach upon the territories of Great Britain.
As settlers poured in, the frontier districts first became territories, with an elected legislature and a governor appointed by the president. Then when population reached , the territory applied for statehood. In the western frontier had reached the Mississippi River. Louis, Missouri was the largest town on the frontier, the gateway for travel westward, and a principal trading center for Mississippi River traffic and inland commerce but remained under Spanish control until Thomas Jefferson thought of himself as a man of the frontier and was keenly interested in expanding and exploring the West.
France was paid for its sovereignty over the territory in terms of international law. Between and the s, the federal government purchased the actual land from the Indian tribes then in possession of it. Additional sums were paid to the Indians living east of the Mississippi for their lands, as well as payments to Indians living in parts of the west outside the Louisiana Purchase.
Even before the purchase Jefferson was planning expeditions to explore and map the lands. He charged Lewis and Clark to "explore the Missouri River, and such principal stream of it, as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean; whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado or any other river may offer the most direct and practicable communication across the continent for the purposes of commerce".
Entrepreneurs, most notably John Jacob Astor quickly seized the opportunity and expanded fur trading operations into the Pacific Northwest. Astor's " Fort Astoria " later Fort George , at the mouth of the Columbia River, became the first permanent white settlement in that area, although it was not profitable for Astor. He set up the American Fur Company in an attempt to break the hold that the Hudson's Bay Company monopoly had over the region.
By , Astor had taken over independent traders to create a profitable monopoly; he left the business as a multi-millionaire in As the frontier moved west, trappers and hunters moved ahead of settlers, searching out new supplies of beaver and other skins for shipment to Europe. The hunters were the first Europeans in much of the Old West and they formed the first working relationships with the Native Americans in the West. Discovered about , it later became a major route for settlers to Oregon and Washington.
By , however, a new "brigade-rendezvous" system sent company men in "brigades" cross-country on long expeditions, bypassing many tribes. It also encouraged "free trappers" to explore new regions on their own. At the end of the gathering season, the trappers would "rendezvous" and turn in their goods for pay at river ports along the Green River , the Upper Missouri, and the Upper Mississippi.
Louis was the largest of the rendezvous towns. By , however, fashions changed and beaver hats were replaced by silk hats, ending the demand for expensive American furs. The trade in beaver fur virtually ceased by There was wide agreement on the need to settle the new territories quickly, but the debate polarized over the price the government should charge.
The conservatives and Whigs, typified by president John Quincy Adams , wanted a moderated pace that charged the newcomers enough to pay the costs of the federal government. The Democrats, however, tolerated a wild scramble for land at very low prices. The final resolution came in the Homestead Law of , with a moderated pace that gave settlers acres free after they worked on it for five years. The private profit motive dominated the movement westward,  but the Federal Government played a supporting role in securing land through treaties and setting up territorial governments, with governors appointed by the President.
The federal government first acquired western territory through treaties with other nations or native tribes. Then it sent surveyors to map and document the land. Transportation was a key issue and the Army especially the Army Corps of Engineers was given full responsibility for facilitating navigation on the rivers. The steamboat, first used on the Ohio River in , made possible inexpensive travel using the river systems, especially the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and their tributaries.
For example, the Army's steamboat "Western Engineer" of combined a very shallow draft with one of the earliest stern wheels. In —25, Colonel Henry Atkinson developed keelboats with hand-powered paddle wheels. The federal postal system played a crucial role in national expansion. It facilitated expansion into the West by creating an inexpensive, fast, convenient communication system. Letters from early settlers provided information and boosterism to encourage increased migration to the West, helped scattered families stay in touch and provide neutral help, assisted entrepreneurs to find business opportunities, and made possible regular commercial relationships between merchants and the West and wholesalers and factories back east.
The postal service likewise assisted the Army in expanding control over the vast western territories. The widespread circulation of important newspapers by mail, such as the New York Weekly Tribune , facilitated coordination among politicians in different states. The postal service helped integrated established areas with the frontier, creating a spirit of nationalism and providing a necessary infrastructure. The army early on assumed the mission of protecting settlers along the Westward Expansion Trails , a policy that was described by Secretary of War John B.
Floyd in . There was a debate at the time about the best size for the forts with Jefferson Davis , Winfield Scott and Thomas Jesup supporting forts that were larger but fewer in number than Floyd. Floyd's plan was more expensive, but had the support of settlers and the general public who preferred that the military remain as close as possible. The frontier area was vast and even Davis conceded that "concentration would have exposed portions of the frontier to Indian hostilities without any protection whatever.
Government and private enterprise sent many explorers to the West. In —6, Army lieutenant Zebulon Pike — led a party of 20 soldiers to find the head waters of the Mississippi. On his return, Pike sighted the peak in Colorado named after him. In , naturalists Thomas Nuttall — and John Bradbury — traveled up the Missouri River documenting and drawing plant and animal life. Swiss artist Karl Bodmer made compelling landscapes and portraits. He displayed a talent for exploration and a genius at self-promotion that gave him the sobriquet of "Pathmarker of the West" and led him to the presidential nomination of the new Republican Party in He crossed through the Rocky Mountains by five different routes, and mapped parts of Oregon and California.
In —7, he played a role in conquering California. It caught the public imagination and inspired many to head west. Goetzman says it was "monumental in its breadth—a classic of exploring literature". While colleges were springing up across the Northeast, there was little competition on the western frontier for Transylvania University , founded in Lexington, Kentucky, in It boasted of a law school in addition to its undergraduate and a medical programs. Transylvania attracted politically ambitious young men from across the Southwest, including 50 who became United States senators, representatives, 36 governors, and 34 ambassadors, as well as Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy.
The established Eastern churches were slow to meet the needs of the frontier. The Presbyterians and Congregationalists, since they depended on well-educated ministers, were shorthanded in evangelizing the frontier. They set up a Plan of Union of to combine resources on the frontier. The local pioneers responded enthusiastically to these events and, in effect, evolved their own populist religions, especially during the Second Great Awakening — , which featured outdoor camp meetings lasting a week or more and which introduced many people to organized religion for the first time.
One of the largest and most famous camp meetings took place at Cane Ridge, Kentucky in The localistic Baptists set up small independent churches—Baptists abjured centralized authority; each local church was founded on the principle of independence of the local congregation. On the other hand, bishops of the well-organized, centralized Methodists assigned circuit riders to specific areas for several years at a time, then moved them to fresh territory.
Several new denominations were formed, of which the largest was the Disciples of Christ. Historian Mark Wyman calls Wisconsin a "palimpsest" of layer upon layer of peoples and forces, each imprinting permanent influences. He identified these layers as multiple "frontiers" over three centuries: Native American frontier, French frontier, English frontier, fur-trade frontier, mining frontier, and the logging frontier.
Finally the coming of the railroad brought the end of the frontier. Frederick Jackson Turner grew up in Wisconsin during its last frontier stage, and in his travels around the state he could see the layers of social and political development. One of Turner's last students, Merle Curti used in-depth analysis of local Wisconsin history to test Turner's thesis about democracy. Turner's view was that American democracy, "involved widespread participation in the making of decisions affecting the common life, the development of initiative and self-reliance, and equality of economic and cultural opportunity.
It thus also involved Americanization of immigrant. He found that even landless young farmworkers were soon able to obtain their own farms. Free land on the frontier therefore created opportunity and democracy, for both European immigrants as well as old stock Yankees. From the s to the s, pioneers moved into the new lands that stretched from Kentucky to Alabama to Texas.
American History: A New World Clash of Cultures
Most were farmers who moved in family groups. Historian Louis Hacker shows how wasteful the first generation of pioneers was; they were too ignorant to cultivate the land properly and when the natural fertility of virgin land was used up, they sold out and moved west to try again. Hacker describes that in Kentucky about Farms were for sale with from ten to fifty acres cleared, possessing log houses, peach and sometimes apple orchards, enclosed in fences, and having plenty of standing timber for fuel.
The land was sown in wheat and corn, which were the staples, while hemp [for making rope] was being cultivated in increasing quantities in the fertile river bottoms Yet, on the whole, it was an agricultural society without skill or resources. It committed all those sins which characterize a wasteful and ignorant husbandry. Grass seed was not sown for hay and as a result the farm animals had to forage for themselves in the forests; the fields were not permitted to lie in pasturage; a single crop was planted in the soil until the land was exhausted; the manure was not returned to the fields; only a small part of the farm was brought under cultivation, the rest being permitted to stand in timber.
Instruments of cultivation were rude and clumsy and only too few, many of them being made on the farm. It is plain why the American frontier settler was on the move continually. It was, not his fear of a too close contact with the comforts and restraints of a civilized society that stirred him into a ceaseless activity, nor merely the chance of selling out at a profit to the coming wave of settlers; it was his wasting land that drove him on.
Hunger was the goad. The pioneer farmer's ignorance, his inadequate facilities for cultivation, his limited means, of transport necessitated his frequent changes of scene. He could succeed only with virgin soil. Hacker adds that the second wave of settlers reclaimed the land, repaired the damage, and practiced a more sustainable agriculture. Historian Frederick Jackson Turner explored the individualistic world view and values of the first generation:.
What they objected to was arbitrary obstacles, artificial limitations upon the freedom of each member of this frontier folk to work out his own career without fear or favor. What they instinctively opposed was the crystallization of differences, the monopolization of opportunity and the fixing of that monopoly by government or by social customs.
The road must be open. The game must be played according to the rules. There must be no artificial stifling of equality of opportunity, no closed doors to the able, no stopping the free game before it was played to the end. Manifest Destiny was the belief that the United States was pre-ordained to expand from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast.
The concept was expressed during Colonial times, but the term was coined in the s by a popular magazine which editorialized, "the fulfillment of our manifest destiny In the s the Tyler and Polk administrations —49 successfully promoted this nationalistic doctrine. However the Whig Party , which represented business and financial interests, stood opposed to Manifest Destiny. Whig leaders such as Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln called for deepening the society through modernization and urbanization instead of simple horizontal- expansion.
John Quincy Adams , an anti-slavery Whig, felt the Texas annexation in to be "the heaviest calamity that ever befell myself and my country". Mexico became independent of Spain in , and took over Spain's northern possessions stretching from Texas to California. Santa Fe was also the trailhead for the "El Camino Real" the King's Highway , a trade route which carried American manufactured goods southward deep into Mexico and returned silver, furries, and mules northward not to be confused with another "Camino Real" which connected the missions in California.
The Spanish and Mexican governments attracted American settlers to Texas with generous terms. Stephen F. Austin became an "empresario", receiving contracts from the Mexican officials to bring in immigrants. In doing so, he also became the de facto political and military commander of the area. Tensions rose, however, after an abortive attempt to establish the independent nation of Fredonia in William Travis , leading the "war party", advocated for independence from Mexico, while the "peace party" led by Austin attempted to get more autonomy within the current relationship.
When Mexican president Santa Anna shifted alliances and joined the conservative Centralist party, he declared himself dictator and ordered soldiers into Texas to curtail new immigration and unrest. However, immigration continued and 30, Anglos with 3, slaves were settled in Texas by Remember Goliad". The U. Congress declined to annex Texas, stalemated by contentious arguments over slavery and regional power. Thus, the Republic of Texas remained an independent power for nearly a decade before it was annexed as the 28th state in The government of Mexico, however, viewed Texas as a runaway province and asserted its ownership.
Mexico refused to recognize the independence of Texas in , but the U. Mexico threatened war if Texas joined the U. American negotiators were turned away by a Mexican government in turmoil. When the Mexican army killed 16 American soldiers in disputed territory war was at hand. Whigs , such as Congressman Abraham Lincoln denounced the war, but it was quite popular outside New England. The Mexican strategy was defensive; the American strategy was a three pronged offensive, using large numbers of volunteer soldiers.
From the main American base at New Orleans, General Zachary Taylor led forces into northern Mexico, winning a series of battles that ensued. Navy transported General Winfield Scott to Veracruz. He then marched his 12,man force west to Mexico City, winning the final battle at Chapultepec. Talk of acquiring all of Mexico fell away when the army discovered the Mexican political and cultural values were so alien to America's. As the Cincinnati Herald asked, what would the U.
The Gadsden Purchase in added southern Arizona, which was needed for a railroad route to California. In all Mexico ceded half a million square miles 1. Managing the new territories and dealing with the slavery issue caused intense controversy, particularly over the Wilmot Proviso , which would have outlawed slavery in the new territories.
Congress never passed it, but rather temporarily resolved the issue of slavery in the West with the Compromise of California entered the Union in as a free state; the other areas remained territories for many years. The new state grew rapidly as migrants poured into the fertile cotton lands of east Texas. The central area of the state was developed more by subsistence farmers who seldom owned slaves. Texas in its Wild West days attracted men who could shoot straight and possessed the zest for adventure, "for masculine renown, patriotic service, martial glory and meaningful deaths".
In about 10, Californios Hispanics lived in California, primarily on cattle ranches in what is now the Los Angeles area. A few hundred foreigners were scattered in the northern districts, including some Americans. With the outbreak of war with Mexico in the U. Army unit, as well as naval forces, and quickly took control. Thousands of "Forty-Niners" reached California, by sailing around South America or taking a short-cut through disease-ridden Panama , or walked the California trail.
The population soared to over , in , mostly in the gold districts that stretched into the mountains east of San Francisco. Housing in San Francisco was at a premium, and abandoned ships whose crews had headed for the mines were often converted to temporary lodging. In the gold fields themselves living conditions were primitive, though the mild climate proved attractive.
Supplies were expensive and food poor, typical diets consisting mostly of pork, beans, and whiskey. These highly male, transient communities with no established institutions were prone to high levels of violence, drunkenness, profanity, and greed-driven behavior. Without courts or law officers in the mining communities to enforce claims and justice, miners developed their own ad hoc legal system, based on the "mining codes" used in other mining communities abroad.
Frontier Thesis - Wikipedia
Each camp had its own rules and often handed out justice by popular vote, sometimes acting fairly and at times exercising vigilantism—with Indians, Mexicans, and Chinese generally receiving the harshest sentences. The gold rush radically changed the California economy and brought in an array of professionals, including precious metal specialists, merchants, doctors, and attorneys, who added to the population of miners, saloon keepers, gamblers, and prostitutes. A San Francisco newspaper stated, "The whole country Violent bandits often preyed upon the miners, such as the case of Jonathan R.
Davis ' killing of eleven bandits single-handedly. In a few years, nearly all of the independent miners were displaced as mines were purchased and run by mining companies, who then hired low-paid salaried miners. As gold became harder to find and more difficult to extract, individual prospectors gave way to paid work gangs, specialized skills, and mining machinery. Bigger mines, however, caused greater environmental damage.
In the mountains, shaft mining predominated, producing large amounts of waste. Beginning in , at the end of the '49 gold rush, through , hydraulic mining was used. Despite huge profits being made, it fell into the hands of a few capitalists, displaced numerous miners, vast amounts of waste entered river systems, and did heavy ecological damage to the environment. Hydraulic mining ended when public outcry over the destruction of farmlands led to the outlawing of this practice. The mountainous areas of the triangle from New Mexico to California to South Dakota contained hundreds of hard rock mining sites, where prospectors discovered gold, silver, copper and other minerals as well as some soft-rock coal.
Temporary mining camps sprang up overnight; most became ghost towns when the ores were depleted. Prospectors spread out and hunted for gold and silver along the Rockies and in the southwest. The wealth from silver, more than from gold, fueled the maturation of San Francisco in the s and helped the rise of some of its wealthiest families, such as that of George Hearst. They moved in large groups under an experienced wagonmaster, bringing their clothing, farm supplies, weapons, and animals.
These wagon trains followed major rivers, crossed prairies and mountains, and typically ended in Oregon and California. Pioneers generally attempted to complete the journey during a single warm season, usually over the course of six months. By , when the first migrant wagon train was organized in Independence, Missouri , a wagon trail had been cleared to Fort Hall, Idaho. Trails were cleared further and further west, eventually reaching all the way to the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
This network of wagon trails leading to the Pacific Northwest was later called the Oregon Trail. The eastern half of the route was also used by travelers on the California Trail from , Mormon Trail from , and Bozeman Trail from before they turned off to their separate destinations. In the "Wagon Train of ", some to 1, emigrants headed for Oregon; missionary Marcus Whitman led the wagons on the last leg. Some did so because they were discouraged and defeated. Some returned with bags of gold and silver. Most were returning to pick up their families and move them all back west. These "gobacks" were a major source of information and excitement about the wonders and promises—and dangers and disappointments—of the far West.
Not all emigrants made it to their destination. The dangers of the overland route were numerous: snakebites, wagon accidents, violence from other travelers, suicide, malnutrition, stampedes, Indian attacks, a variety of diseases dysentery , typhoid , and cholera were among the most common , exposure, avalanches, etc. One particularly well-known example of the treacherous nature of the journey is the story of the ill-fated Donner Party , which became trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the winter of — in which nearly half of the 90 people traveling with the group died from starvation and exposure, and some resorted to cannibalism to survive.
There were also frequent attacks from bandits and highwaymen , such as the infamous Harpe brothers who patrolled the frontier routes and targeted migrant groups. In Missouri and Illinois, animosity between the Mormon settlers and locals grew, which would mirror those in other states such as Utah years later.
Violence finally erupted on October 24, , when militias from both sides clashed and a mass killing of Mormons in Livingston County occurred 6 days later. A hundred rural Mormon settlements sprang up in what Young called " Deseret ", which he ruled as a theocracy. It later became Utah Territory. Young's Salt Lake City settlement served as the hub of their network, which reached into neighboring territories as well.
The communalism and advanced farming practices of the Mormons enabled them to succeed. The great threat to the Mormons in Utah was the U. The Republican Party swore to destroy polygamy, which it saw as an affront to religious, cultural and moral values of a modern civilization. Confrontations verged on open warfare in the late s as President Buchanan sent in troops.
Although there were no military battles fought, and negotiations led to a stand down, violence still escalated and there were a number of casualties. Finally in the Church leadership announced polygamy was no longer a central tenet, and a compromise was reached, with Utah becoming a state and the Mormons dividing into Republicans and Democrats. The federal government provided subsidies for the development of mail and freight delivery, and by , Congress authorized road improvements and an overland mail service to California. The new commercial wagon trains service primarily hauled freight.
In John Butterfield —69 established a stage service that went from Saint Louis to San Francisco in 24 days along a southern route. William Russell, hoping to get a government contract for more rapid mail delivery service, started the Pony Express in , cutting delivery time to ten days. In Congress passed the Land-Grant Telegraph Act which financed the construction of Western Union's transcontinental telegraph lines. Hiram Sibley , Western Union's head, negotiated exclusive agreements with railroads to run telegraph lines along their right-of-way.
Eight years before the transcontinental railroad opened, the First Transcontinental Telegraph linked Omaha, Nebraska and San Francisco and points in-between on October 24, Constitutionally, Congress could not deal with slavery in the states but it did have jurisdiction in the western territories. California unanimously rejected slavery in and became a free state. New Mexico allowed slavery, but it was rarely seen there. Kansas was off limits to slavery by the Compromise of Free Soil elements feared that if slavery were allowed rich planters would buy up the best lands and work them with gangs of slaves, leaving little opportunity for free white men to own farms.
Few Southern planters were actually interested in Kansas, but the idea that slavery was illegal there implied they had a second-class status that was intolerable to their sense of honor, and seemed to violate the principle of state's rights. With the passage of the extremely controversial Kansas—Nebraska Act in , Congress left the decision up to the voters on the ground in Kansas. Across the North a new major party was formed to fight slavery: the Republican Party , with numerous westerners in leadership positions, most notably Abraham Lincoln of Illinois.
To influence the territorial decision, anti-slavery elements also called "Jayhawkers" or "Free-soilers" financed the migration of politically determined settlers. But pro-slavery advocates fought back with pro-slavery settlers from Missouri. The antislavery forces took over by , as Kansas became a free state. The episode demonstrated that a democratic compromise between North and South over slavery was impossible and served to hasten the Civil War.
Despite its large territory, the trans-Mississippi West had a small population and its wartime story has to a large extent been underplayed in the historiography of the American Civil War. The Confederacy engaged in several important campaigns in the West. However, Kansas, a major area of conflict building up to the war, was the scene of only one battle, at Mine Creek.
But its proximity to Confederate lines enabled pro-Confederate guerrillas, such as Quantrill's Raiders , to attack Union strongholds and massacre the residents. In Texas, citizens voted to join the Confederacy; anti-war Germans were hanged.
Confederate Arizona was created by Arizona citizens who wanted protection against Apache raids after the United States Army units were moved out. The Confederacy then sets its sight to gain control of the New Mexico Territory. General Henry Hopkins Sibley was tasked for the campaign, and together with his New Mexico Army , marched right up the Rio Grande in an attempt to take the mineral wealth of Colorado as well as California.
The First Regiment of Volunteers discovered the rebels, and they immediately warned and joined the Yankees at Fort Union. The Battle of Glorieta Pass soon erupted, and the Union ended the Confederate campaign and the area west of Texas remained in Union hands.
Missouri , a Union state where slavery was legal, became a battleground when the pro-secession governor, against the vote of the legislature, led troops to the federal arsenal at St. Louis ; he was aided by Confederate forces from Arkansas and Louisiana. Louis and all of Missouri for the Union. The state was the scene of numerous raids and guerrilla warfare in the west. Army after established a series of military posts across the frontier, designed to stop warfare among Indian tribes or between Indians and settlers.
Throughout the 19th century, Army officers typically served built their careers in peacekeeper roles moving from fort to fort until retirement. Actual combat experience was uncommon for any one soldier.
A Baffling Murder Case. An Unimaginable Tragedy.
The most dramatic conflict was the Sioux war in Minnesota in , when Dakota tribes systematically attacked German farms in an effort to drive out the settlers. Over a period of several days, Dakota attacks at the Lower Sioux Agency , New Ulm and Hutchinson , slaughtered to white settlers.
The state militia fought back and Lincoln sent in federal troops. The federal government tried Indians for murder, and were convicted and sentenced to death. Lincoln pardoned the majority, but 38 leaders were hanged. The decreased presence of Union troops in the West left behind untrained militias; hostile tribes used the opportunity to attack settlers.
The militia struck back hard, most notably by attacking the winter quarters of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, filled with women and children, at the Sand Creek massacre in eastern Colorado in late Kit Carson and the U. Army in trapped the entire Navajo tribe in New Mexico, where they had been raiding settlers, and put them on a reservation.
The result by was millions of new farms in the Plains states, many operated by new immigrants from Germany and Scandinavia. With the war over and slavery abolished, the federal government focused on improving the governance of the territories. It subdivided several territories, preparing them for statehood, following the precedents set by the Northwest Ordinance of It standardized procedures and the supervision of territorial governments, taking away some local powers, and imposing much "red tape", growing the federal bureaucracy significantly.
Federal involvement in the territories was considerable. In addition to direct subsidies, the federal government maintained military posts, provided safety from Indian attacks, bankrolled treaty obligations, conducted surveys and land sales, built roads, staffed land offices, made harbour improvements, and subsidized overland mail delivery. Territorial citizens came to both decry federal power and local corruption, and at the same time, lament that more federal dollars were not sent their way.
Territorial governors were political appointees and beholden to Washington so they usually governed with a light hand, allowing the legislatures to deal with the local issues. In addition to his role as civil governor, a territorial governor was also a militia commander, a local superintendent of Indian affairs, and the state liaison with federal agencies.
The legislatures, on the other hand, spoke for the local citizens and they were given considerable leeway by the federal government to make local law. These improvements to governance still left plenty of room for profiteering. As Mark Twain wrote while working for his brother, the secretary of Nevada, "The government of my country snubs honest simplicity, but fondles artistic villainy, and I think I might have developed into a very capable pickpocket if I had remained in the public service a year or two. In acquiring, preparing, and distributing public land to private ownership, the federal government generally followed the system set forth by the Land Ordinance of Federal exploration and scientific teams would undertake reconnaissance of the land and determine Native American habitation.
Through treaty, land title would be ceded by the resident tribes. Townships would be formed from the lots and sold at public auction. As part of public policy, the government would award public land to certain groups such as veterans, through the use of "land script". As a counter to land speculators, farmers formed "claims clubs" to enable them to buy larger tracts than the acre 0. In , Congress passed three important bills that transformed the land system. The Homestead Act granted acres 0. The only cost was a modest filing fee. The law was especially important in the settling of the Plains states.
Many took free homestead and others purchased their land from railroads at low rates. The Pacific Railway Acts of provided for the land needed to build the transcontinental railroad. The land given the railroads alternated with government-owned tracts saved for free distribution to homesteaders. Railroads had up to five years to sell or mortgage their land, after tracks were laid, after which unsold land could be purchased by anyone.
Often railroads sold some of their government acquired land to homesteaders immediately to encourage settlement and the growth of markets the railroads would then be able to serve. Nebraska railroads in the s were strong boosters of lands along their routes. They sent agents to Germany and Scandinavia with package deals that included cheap transportation for the family as well as its furniture and farm tools, and they offered long-term credit at low rates.
Boosterism succeeded in attracting adventurous American and European families to Nebraska , helping them purchase land grant parcels on good terms. The selling price depended on such factors as soil quality, water, and distance from the railroad. The Morrill Act of provided land grants to states to begin colleges of agriculture and mechanical arts engineering. Black colleges became eligible for these land grants in The Act succeeded in its goals to open new universities and make farming more scientific and profitable.
In the s government sponsored surveys to chart the remaining unexplored regions of the West, and to plan possible routes for a transcontinental railroad. Regionalism animated debates in Congress regarding the choice of a northern, central or southern route. Engineering requirements for the rail route were an adequate supply of water and wood, and as nearly-level route as possible, given the weak locomotives of the era. In the s, proposals to build a transcontinental failed because of Congressional disputes over slavery.
With the secession of the Confederate states in , the modernizers in the Republican party took over Congress and wanted a line to link to California. Private companies were to build and operate the line. Construction would be done by unskilled laborers who would live in temporary camps along the way.
Immigrants from China and Ireland did most of the construction work. Theodore Judah , the chief engineer of the Central Pacific surveyed the route from San Francisco east. Judah's tireless lobbying efforts in Washington were largely responsible for the passage of the Pacific Railroad Act , which authorized construction of both the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific which built west from Omaha. The line was completed in May Coast-to-coast passenger travel in 8 days now replaced wagon trains or sea voyages that took 6 to 10 months and cost much more.
The road was built with mortgages from New York, Boston and London, backed by land grants. There were no federal cash subsidies, But there was a loan to the Central Pacific that was eventually repaid at six percent interest. The federal government offered land-grants in a checkerboard pattern. The railroad sold every-other square, with the government opening its half to homesteaders. Local and state governments also aided the financing. Most of the manual laborers on the Central Pacific were new arrivals from China. He concludes that senior officials quickly realized the high degree of cleanliness and reliability of the Chinese.
Ong explores whether or not the Chinese Railroad Workers were exploited by the railroad, with whites in the better positions. He finds the railroad set different wage rates for whites and Chinese and used the latter in the more menial and dangerous jobs, such as the handling and the pouring of nitroglycerin. Building the railroad required six main activities: surveying the route, blasting a right of way, building tunnels and bridges, clearing and laying the roadbed, laying the ties and rails, and maintaining and supplying the crews with food and tools. These settlements, the far northern rim of the vast Spanish empire, made up the Spanish frontier of North America.
Their purpose was twofold. Working through missions sprinkled throughout the Spanish arc of influence, priests were to convert native peoples to Catholicism. Soldiers, stationed in military outposts called presidios that typically were situated near the missions, were to guard against European competitors. The Spanish frontier was meant to be a protective barrier shielding the more important parts of the empire to the south, in Mexico and the islands of the Caribbean. The next, French frontier entered North America from a different direction and followed a different pattern.
Early in the 17th century the first permanent French outposts were established at Port Royal in Nova Scotia and Quebec in the valley of the St. Lawrence River. They also had a powerful incentive. In the forests drained by these waterways were countless fur-bearing animals — deer, fox, marten, mink, bear, and above all, beaver — whose pelts brought high prices on the world market. Spurred on by the fur trade, the French built a series of trading and military settlements along the St.
Like the Spanish, they were also moved to convert Native Americans to Catholicism. Priests, especially Jesuits, were assigned to these outposts and also sent to live among the many tribes within the French orbit of influence. By the early 18th century New France included all of eastern Canada and, except for the Atlantic coast, most of what is today the United States east of the Mississippi. In Native Americans the French found both a vast reservoir of souls they believed must be saved and a labor force highly skilled in trapping animals and preparing their skins for market.
As a result, New France was woven together with a system of intricate Indian alliances. Yet another imperial frontier pushed into North America, this time not from Europe but from Asia. Out of Siberia came independent Russian traders, called promyshleniki , who plied the islands and coast of Alaska for sea otters in the midth century, forcing native peoples into service as hunters. After the Russian government granted control of that fur trade to the Russian-American Company in , the firm pushed aggressively down the Pacific coast in search of more animals.
In the company founded an outpost in California, later called Fort Ross a named derived from Russ, or Russian , less than km mi north of San Francisco. By , then, frontiers of three powerful nations were well established in North America. Once the first beachheads were made along the Atlantic coast during the 17th century, the English moved into the interior slowly, in stark contrast to their French rivals to the north, who by the s dominated the Mississippi Valley and were pushing up the Missouri River.
By the s, however, the English frontier was edging over the Appalachian plateaus. This triumph set in motion one of the most spectacular eras of expansion in the history of global frontiers. Ironically, England's victory contributed to problems that soon led to the loss of its colonies. Moreover, the American Revolution gave control of lands beyond the Appalachians to a new nation, the United States, whose western settlements were filled with aggressive, restless, land-hungry pioneers. These became the vanguard of an explosive expansion toward the Pacific.
That expansion played a crucial role in shaping the new nation. By the War of Independence colonists were already moving into Tennessee, Kentucky, and western Pennsylvania.