America – The Story of Us: Westward! (video notes) I. Louisiana Purchase


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America – The Story of Us: Westward! (video notes)

I. Louisiana Purchase = 500 million acres at $0.03/acre; doubles size of U.S.

A. Lewis and Clark – 1804

1. greatest challenge – crossing the Rocky Mountains

a. after 2 weeks starvation sets in (eat horses)

1. owe lives and journals to Sacagawea

2. 300 species of wildlife identified

3. triggers a rush west

II. Route to the West uncovered route to beaver (for pelts; expensive)

A. number in millions; nearly extinct in Europe

B. new iron traps make them easier to catch

C. 300 trappers in Rockies by 1823; 1 in 5 won’t survive

1. Jedediah Smith most successful trapper; helps open area to more settlement

1. 100,000 grizzlies roamed the Rockies; almost killed Smith

2. American “rugged individualism”

2. trails become settler paths

a. many Americans follow in his tracks

III. May 1846 – 1,000s moving West (many different groups)

A. Trails west – pioneers

1. 10 pairs of boots; 16 km per day for 6 months

a. half are children; 1/5 of women are pregnant

b. families save for average of 5 years, risking everything

c. wagon and oxen = minimum of $5,000 (back then)

1. carries everything

2. water captured, dung of oxen = fuel for burning; need money for tolls to pay Natives

d. 20,000 die; 10 graves for every 1.5 km

2. Donner Party

a. wife thought everything was going okay

b. husband knows Sierra Nevada mountains will be a problem

c. in Utah, Donner leads a splinter group off of the main party (a bad decision; info that it was a

shortcut was wrong)

1. supplies become low

2. broken axle forces stop to make repairs (1.5 meters of snow falls; drifts of snow soon

20 meters deep)

a. will be stranded for 5 months

1. eat all food in 3 weeks

2. kill and eat pack animals

3. then bones, dirt, twigs

4. eventually cannibalism (they eat each other)

a. eat first person Christmas of 1846

b. Donner’s body found with brain gone; wife’s body never


c. some survivors found

IV. Problems with Mexico (Texas)

A. American settlers overwhelm Mexicans in Texas (10:1 ratio)

B. Alamo (1836) – Americans wanting independence fight and are massacred, including Davy Crockett

1. a turning point

a. by 1848, a war with Mexico brought California and Texas into U.S. as territories

V. Gold found in Sierra Nevada (1848)

A. news of gold discovery spreads to all parts of world

1. 100,000 people arrive within 1 year

a. hand panning replaced by sluice boxes (technology)

1. prices for supplies explode

b. lawlessness; rough times; gold rush over in 6 years

2. 300,000 came, only 1 out of 100 strike it rich

a. many people become wealthy being merchants and landowners; California is created

VI. The Continued Transformation of the West

A. Settlers often live in single-room log cabins

1. make everything on their own

B. life expectancy ½ of what it is today

C. the man in the video is Abraham Lincoln

D. forests cleared by families at a rate of 5 acres per year; creates farmland

E. Major Flaw – settlers cannot seem to imagine a place for Native Americans

1. forced relocation of Native Americans to reservations (lasts for over 100 years)

2. Trail of Tears

F. Mississippi River

1. only trade route that allows the settlers to send out their products for sale

2. Abraham Lincoln does this at 19 years old

a. must walk home after getting to New Orleans

b. sees steamboat

3. steamboat shrunk distance in the 1800’s just as the airplane would do the same in the 1900’s

1. can travel 8 times the distance with 8 times the cargo than a flat raft could

a. dangerous – more than half explode

2. production triples every decade

3. leads to explosion of settlement of the Midwest and it the economic heartland

G. in 4 generations, the U.S. population has spread from a tiny strip of colonies on the east coast to being a

continental powerhouse

1. Jefferson thought it would take 1,000 generations


Primary Source:

From Jedediah Smith’s Journal : Second Expedition to California
13 Jul 1827 – 3 Jul 1828
20th I went with the Trappers within a mile of the place where I struck the river on the last Apl. Above that there was no Beaver sign but considerable from the camp up to that place.

I saw some indians on the opposite side of the river but they ran off. The river was quite rapid and the rushing of the water brought fresh to my remembrance the cascades of Mt. Joseph and the unpleasant times I had passed there when surrounded by the snow which continued falling.
My horses freezing, my men discouraged and our utmost exertion necessary to keep from freezing to death. I then thought of the vanity of riches and of all those objects that lead men in the perilous paths of adventure.
It seems that in times like those men return to reason and make the true estimate of things. They throw by the gaudy baubles of ambition and embrace the solid comforts of domestic life. But a few days of rest makes the sailor forget the storm and embark again on the perilous Ocean and I suppose that like him I would soon become weary of rest

1. What are some of the notable things Smith describes in this entry?

2. Based on this reading, how would you describe Smith’s personality?


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