Stephen F. Austin
The most successful of all Texan empresarios, Stephen Austin became an
influential political leader in Texas. He did not support independence at
first, and his misgivings restrained any major move towards independence among
the Texan people. However, once he threw his support behind the Texas Rebellion
in 1835, it benefited greatly from his leadership and support.
George Armstrong Custer
Custer, a Civil War hero, was dispatched to the hills of South Dakota in 1874.
When gold was discovered in the region, the federal government announced that
Custer's forces would hunt down all Sioux not in reservations after January 31,
1876. Many Sioux refused to comply, and Custer began to mobilize his troops.
At the battle of Little Bighorn, in June 1876, Custer unwisely divided his
troops, and a numerically superior force of Indians wiped out him and all of his
men. This battle, known as "Custer's Last Stand," convinced the army that the
Sioux were a powerful force, after which a war of attrition, rather than direct
confrontation, was begun.
Fulton is credited with the invention of the first effective steamboat, which he
unveiled with his business partner, Robert Livingston, in New York in 1807. The
Steamboat revolutionized river travel because it could move rapidly upstream, a
feat no other type of watercraft could match.
Andrew Jackson was President of the United States from 1829 to 1837, and thus
oversaw much of the nation's expansion. Jackson's most prominent role in
westward expansion was his continuing struggle to eject the Indians East of the
Mississippi from their lands to free up land for American settlers. The Indian
Removal Act of 1830 granted Jackson the funding and authority to accomplish this
goal, which he pursued determinedly throughout his presidency.
James K. Polk
Polk was President of the United States from 1845 to 1849. He oversaw the
annexation of Oregon and of Texas, and is credited with beginning the Mexican
War in earnest.
Polk was a firm believer in
expansion and pursued his goals with vigor. However, many northerners saw him
as an agent of southern will, expanding the nation as part of a plan to extend
slavery into the West.
Tyler became President of the United States in 1841, when William Henry
Harrison died after a month in office. Tyler and
his secretary of state, John Calhoun, a fierce
advocate for slavery, tried by dishonest and manipulative means to gain support
for the annexation of Texas. The treaty they presented to the Senate for
annexation was voted down, but the issue of annexation had risen to the fore of
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
Santa Anna, the president of Mexico, organized a mass purge of Mexican liberals
from his government in 1834. This accomplished, he began to place restrictions
on the governments of the Mexican territories to the North. Fearing tyrannical
rule, Stephen F. Austin and other American settlers in Texas sparked the Texas
Rebellion to win independence. Santa Anna was captured during the rebellion and
forced to sign a treaty giving Texas its independence, and was shortly ousted
from the Mexican government.