During the Texas Rebellion, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's Mexican force of 4,000 troops laid siege to the town of San Antonio, where 200 Texans resisted, retreating to an abandoned mission, the Alamo. After inflicting over 1,500 casualties on Santa Anna's men, the defenders of the Alamo were wiped out on March 6, 1836. The Alamo became a symbol of the Texans' determination to win independence.
The Compromise of 1850 was a major effort at quieting sectional conflict in pre-Civil War American politics. In terms of expansion, its most important clauses were those admitting California to statehood as a free state and dividing the remainder of the Mexican cession after the Mexican War into two sections, New Mexico and Utah, neither of which would be subject to restrictions on slavery.
Passed in 1887, the Dawes Act called for the breakup of the reservations and the treatment of Indians as individuals rather than tribes. It provided for the distribution of 160 acres of farmland or 320 acres of grazing land to any Indian who accepted the act's terms, who would then become a US citizen in 25 years. The act was intended to help the Indians to integrate into white society, but in reality helped to create a class of federally dependent Indians.
The exploits of the Donner Party exemplified the difficulties of the overland journey to the Far West. Led astray by the erred advice of a guidebook, the Donner Party found itself snowbound in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and arrived at its destination in California only after turning to cannibalism.
In efforts to attract American settlers and trade to Texas during the 1820s, the Mexican government gave large land grants to agents called empresarios in return for their efforts to encourage colonization.
The first canal project of the 1820s, the 363-mile Erie Canal was completed in 1825, connecting Buffalo, New York, on the Great Lakes, with Albany, on the Hudson River. The Erie Canal made cost effective shipping possible via waterways from New York City to the West by way of the Great Lakes. The North and Northwest were soon crisscrossed by an extensive canal system which greatly improved domestic transportation and trade.
The Ghost Dance was seen as the final attempt of the Plains Indians to maintain their culture and land. The prophet Wovoka convinced the Sioux that they could only save their land and return to dominance if they performed the Ghost Dance. The dance soon became a reaffirmation of culture and a source of inspiration to renew the struggle against US forces of expansion. This renewed inspiration, however, was crushed before it could get off of the ground.
The Indian Removal Act, passed in 1830, granted President Andrew Jackson funds and authority to remove the Indians by force if necessary. He pursued a determined effort to coerce the Indians into expulsion.
Journalist John L. O'Sullivan coined the phrase "Manifest Destiny" in 1845. He wrote of "our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of our continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty." Manifest Destiny referred to the belief of many Americans that it was the nation's destiny and duty to expand and conquer the West in the name of God, nature, civilization, and progress.
The mission was the main tool in Spanish and Mexican colonization of the Far West. Missions were established all along the California coast and into the interior of Texas and New Mexico. The Franciscan missionaries tried to convert the region's Indians, and built towns around their missions. By 1823, over 20,000 Indians had converted and were living in the missions of California.
Perhaps the most well known of the overland trails to the Far West, the Oregon trail led many settlers to Oregon's Willamette Valley between 1840 and 1848 and was representative of the hardships of overland travel.
Southwestern travelers more often than not used the Santa Fe Trail to move westward. The trail linked St. Louis and Santa Fe, leading to the establishment of strong economic connections between the regions surrounding the endpoints of the trail.
In 1835, federal agents persuaded a pro-removal Cherokee chief to sign the Treaty of New Echota, which ceded all Cherokee land for $5.6 million and free transportation west. Most Cherokees rejected the treaty, but resistance was futile. Between 1835 and 1838 bands of Cherokee Indians moved west of the Mississippi along the so-called Trail of Tears. Between 2,000 and 4,000 of the 16,000 migrating Cherokees died. The Trail of Tears became a symbol for the harsh treatment of the Indians at the hands of the federal government.
On May 10, 1869, the first transcontinental railroad was completed when the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads joined their tracks at Promontory Point, Utah. The railroad rapidly affected the ease of western settlement, shortening the journey from coast to coast, which took six to eight months by wagon, to a mere one week's trip.
The Wilmot proviso was an amendment proposed to an appropriations bill regarding the West, which proposed that slavery be prohibited in all of the Mexican cession other than Texas. The proviso passed the House but stalled in the Senate, where it was the cause of further arguments between northern and southern politicians.
In the case of Worcester v. Georgia, Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Cherokees comprised a "domestic dependent nation" within Georgia and thus deserved protection from harassment. However, the vehemently anti-Indian Andrew Jackson refused to abide by the decision, sneering "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it."
The state banks that had risen up to financially support speculation and expansion had issued notes far in excess of what they could realistically redeem. In reaction to this situation, the Bank of the United States insisted that the state banks redeem all notes that had passed into the hands of the Bank of the US. In order to pay the Bank of the US, the state banks had to demand payment of debts by the farmers of the Midwest. The result was a vast restriction in the amount of circulating money, and a substantial cutback in the amount of credit offered farmers and speculators, dramatically slowing the economy. The Panic of 1819 punctured the land rush and the agricultural boom that had been underway since 1815, and alerted farmers to the need for more effective transportation to distant markets.
As the population of American settlers in Texas had grown, relations with the Mexican government had steadily soured. When, in 1834, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna purged the liberals from the government and began restricting the independence of the Mexican territories, many Texans decided it was time for a clean break. Texan leaders met and declared independence, soon beginning a series of battles that culminated with the April 1836 capture of Santa Anna himself. Though the Texans forced him to sign a treaty declaring Texas independent, the Mexican government never officially recognized the treaty, and the status of Texas remained in question, to be decided by the Mexican War.
After an excited Native American fired a rifle shot in a non-combat situation, US Army troops massacred 300 Indians, including seven children. The massacre was the symbolic final step in the war for the West, and after Wounded Knee the Indians succumbed to the wishes of the federal government, resigning themselves to reservation life.