Study Notes

The American West (c1835-c1895): Western Expansion


Last updated 15 Jul 2024

In 1848, the USA won a war against Mexico. This victory gave the USA huge new territories in the west of America. Furthermore, the USA had also gained the territories of Texas and Oregon Country in 1845 and 1846 respectively.

Prior to these victories, Indian Territory was in the west of America, and US territory was in the east of America. This meant there was no need for white Americans to cross the permanent Indian frontier. However, the expansion of the US into these new territories meant that Indian Territory was now directly in the middle of US territory.

This was problematic as the US government wanted white settlers to move into the new Western territories. It was expensive and time consuming to travel to the new western territory by sea, so whites needed to be able to travel through Indian Territory. The US army was used to ensure the safety of white travellers. It forced Plains Indians to move away from travel routes (trails) and ensured they did not attack any white settlers.

This marked a change in US policy. Previously, President Jackson had promised that whites would be prohibited from ever entering Indian Territory. Due to the Westward expansion in the late 1840’s, whites were now able to cross the ‘permanent’ frontier in order to reach the new land.

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