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.
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.
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 American politics.
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.