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Westward Expansion was a series of events that lead people in not only moving west, but also the expansion of the United States. Manifest destiny played a huge part in this movement.
Manifest destiny is when people believe that it was God’s will for the United States to stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. They often used the expression “sea to shining sea”. These people had plans, big plans. They were willing to risk their lives for these opportunities that a new life would bring them. This journey was really difficult, but with some planning and hard work along the way, it was possible to survive.
People started moving west for many different reasons. Some of those reasons are being more land, gold, wanting to become rich, advances in our everyday lives, or even just the belief in Manifest Destiny. Farmers mostly moved for the land, because it was good for farming and there was plenty of it to go around. It was super crowded in the East with so many people immigrating, everyone wanted to move and have more land of their own. With more land, more people could be farmers, making them richer. Also, there was lots of gold being found in the west that lots of people wanted. Other people moved because they knew there would be more advances. With new people and new ideas, lots of transportation advances were made. Things like the steamboat, the steam locomotive, railroads, and even just simple trails.
There were also some people that heavily believed in Manifest Destiny, or even the people that wanted to start fresh. With all these opportunities for greater things, millions of people took the chance. Although there were many good things coming once you move west, you have to make it there first.
Many people died along the way, and there were many reasons. Most of the people that traveled west were lacking supplies. The majority of people didn’t take enough food and water to last them before they could get more or they didn’t bring extra supplies to fix their wagon if they had problems. Without food or bullets, and without a wagon not moving, you’re guaranteed going to die.
In addition to these, there are also many other reasons people died. While traveling, you run into bad weather, natural barriers, or even the Native Americans. Bad weather can vary, ranging from heavy rain, to snow and extreme cold temperatures. The heavy rain can damage your supplies and the extreme temperatures can leave you with diseases and lack of warmth. In addition to disease, they also got sick from bad food or contaminated water.
There are also natural barriers like mountains that are extremely hard to get through. Another major problem were the Native Americans. They didn’t like people moving into their land, so they often killed people traveling. Another major role in people dying, is their livestock dying. The oxen could also catch diseases and die. Without your oxen, your wagon is not moving, eventually leading to your death. But why didn’t people move sooner?
Well the answer is because we didn’t always have all this land. So the real question is how did we get all this land? Many purchases were held to get all the land we have today. The Louisiana Purchase, Mexican Cession, Gadsden Purchase, Texas becoming a state, and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo all played important roles in the United States gaining all this land.
The Louisiana Purchase was a huge chunk of land that Thomas Jefferson purchased from the French in 1803. He bought around 530 million acres for 15 million dollars and it doubled the size of the United States.
The Mexican Cession was a section of present day United States land that Mexico owned then. Mexico agreed to give up this piece of land in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
The Gadsden purchase was an agreement in 1853 to buy a strip of land from Mexico. This strip of land was bought for 10 million dollars. The last land gain that I’m going to mention is when Texas becomes a state.
In 1845, the Texans fought Mexico to become free and independent. Texas is a larger state, so this added some land to the United States. Without these movements, we would not be where we are today, with the land we have today. There were many different trails and paths that led West. These trails include the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon Fur Trade, and many more.
The Oregon Trail was the first major trail, and it was formed by traders and fur trappers from about 1811-1840. The trail could only be traveled by horseback or foot. The Oregon Trail stretched from Missouri to Washington, and most pioneers started moving west on the Oregon Trail around 1843. Every 1 in 10 that traveled this trail ended up dying from something.
The Santa Fe Trail was an 800 mile route that was established by William Becknell. It stretched from Missouri to Santa Fe Mexico. Many people traveled this trail to move west, but it was also became an international trade route. The Oregon Fur Trade was fur traders that basically followed Lewis and Clark’s trail to the Rockies. They developed relationships with the Native Americans, and discovered a 10 mile pass through the mountains. This helped many people pass through the hardest part of their journey: going through the mountains. In conclusion, many people decided to move west, due to many different reasons. Manifest Destiny played a huge role in people moving west as well as many other factors.
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