Westward expansion in the mid-19th century, the West drew increasing numbers of American settlers despite the hardships of the journey and the difficult living conditions that waited for them at their journey’s end.
Thus Americans were immediately sized on the phrase ” Manifest Destiny”- believing that United State’s destiny is manifest, inevitable, to expand to the Pacific Ocean and into Mexican territory. Various factors in the United States in the early 1800’s caused the nation to become grabbed with the Western Expansion. First, there were geographical and psychological issues. After Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which had doubled the United States’ size, Americans explored this huge territory in limited numbers. Then the fever of expansion swept through the country; Americans believed that their movement westward and southward was destined and ordained by God. Also, the economic factors influenced the country taking in part in Manifest Destiny.
In this period of time, Americans were thirst for the land. Americans wanted to claim land for farming and land speculation because it was an important step toward prosperity. Moreover, the Panic of 1930 with its disastrous consequences convinced many Americans to attempt a fresh start in the West. Also the Santa Fe traders and fur traders of Mountain advertised the West land to the Americans in the East. Furthermore, the opportunity to trade with Asia increased with the transportation revolution and the Oregon Trail because they opened several important harbors for trading.
Learning all these good deals about the West, many Americans left their homeland for a new start in the West. During the West movement of the 1830s and 1840s, there were many conflicts that American settlers faced. The first problem settlers had to solve was relations with the Native Americans. As the numbers of American settlers grew, the life of Native Americans was greatly affected. The Native Americans tried to maintain their cultural traditions and peace with white settlers, but they were often forced to move out of their homeland.
Then came the Black Hawk War, which was the Native Americans’ rebellion against the United States in Illinois and Wisconsin Territory. After the failure of this rebellion, Native Americans were forced to abandon their lands and move to reservations even with the Fort Laramie Treaty, which promised peace between Native Americans and white settlers. Secondly, the wagon life on the trails west was not an easy task to lead. The wagon itself was very small that many pioneers often were forced to lighten their loads by leaving treasured possessions along the trail. The people often traveled in groups or parties.
There were several trails to the west; the most famous ones are Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon trail, as well as the National Road. On the Santa Fe Trail, people traveled in organized groups of up to a hundred wagons. At night, they formed a square with their wagon creating a corral for horses, mules, and oxen. This square was also to protect the people from the attacks of Native Americans or wild animals. The Methodist missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman initiated the Oregon Trail in 1836.
This journey took at least months even if all went well. There was often natural interference such as thunderstorms and buffalo herds, which stopped the wagons for weeks to even months. Also, there were many diseases spreading among the travelers. Fever, diarrhea, cholera were common among people which were incurable at that time. These diseases were extremely contagious because people often shared the same water which may had been contaminated.
It was not uncommon to leave the sick person along the side of the road to get on with their plan. By 1844, there were about 5000 Americans had arrived in Oregon territory and were farming in its green and fertile soil. However, not all the travelers made to their final destination. There were many tragic cases of a wagon traveling where the parties were lost on the way, ran out food, or got attacked by Native Indians.
The most well-known tragedy was that of the Donner Party. The Donner Party was the group of people from Springfield, Illinois, who headed for the large land of California. Donner Party took Hastings’ book, which was titled the Emigrant’s Guide, and decided to follow the.