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Last Best Hope of Earth

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Mississippi River

The Siege of Vicksburg

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Grant at Vicksburg. By: Mort Künstler.

In the western theater of war, Ulysses S. Grant had set his sights on a goal early in his campaigning: Vicksburg, a town hugging the Mississippi River on the border of Louisiana and Mississippi. Taking the city would not only secure the Mississippi River; taking it would give the Union a lasso around the Confederacy. Just as spring of 1863 was getting underway, Grant had drawn up a plan to take the town and tighten the Union grip on the Confederacy. Continue reading “The Siege of Vicksburg”

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Grant’s Taking of Fort Henry

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The Bombardment and Capture of Fort Henry, Tenn. By: Granger.

In early 1862, heartened by his troops’ performance at the Battle of Belmont, Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant had determined that he was capable of making inroads into the Confederacy. Securing the network of rivers feeding into the Mississippi River as well as the Mississippi itself would hinder the Confederacy’s mobility and economy, and accomplishing this objective would bring him into two states that did not officially join the Confederacy but parts of which were Confederate-controlled: Kentucky and Tennessee. Bordering those states, on the banks of the Tennessee River, Grant saw a Confederate fort ripe for the plucking: Fort Henry. Continue reading “Grant’s Taking of Fort Henry”

The Battle of Belmont

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Painting of the Battle of Belmont.

When fighting erupted between Confederate and Union forces in Mississippi County, Missouri, few could have expected that one man, a newly-promoted Brigadier General, would emerge from obscurity and tragedy and begin his upward trajectory to the heights of American myth and legend. Nonetheless, at the end of the Battle of Belmont, that man—Ulysses S. Grant—had secured himself admiration from his commanders and established a brand of warfare that would later elevate him up the ranks and define the Union’s conduct of the war. Continue reading “The Battle of Belmont”

The Anaconda Plan

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General Winfield Scott and his Staff Officers.

Although George McClellan succeeded Winfield Scott as general in chief of the Union army in late 1861, Scott had already set a plan in motion that would, in one form or another, last the duration of the war. It was a plan that would be a factor in constricting the Confederate economy, choking the Confederacy into a defensive posture from which it would be impossible to escape. Continue reading “The Anaconda Plan”

Protecting the Native Americans

by Charles King Bird
Secretary of War John Calhoun. By: Charles Bird King.

President John Quincy Adams and his administration faced a serious challenge in dealing with the Native Americans.

Continue reading “Protecting the Native Americans”

The Missouri Compromise

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James Tallmadge.

By 1819, the area west of the Mississippi River, known as the Missouri Territory, had obtained a population qualifying it to be admitted to the Union. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1819-1848, 147. The only requirement to be admitted was that an enabling act be presented to Congress “authorizing Missouri voters to elect a convention to draft a state constitution.” Id. That bill was proposed, but Representative James Tallmadge proposed an amendment prohibiting further “importation of slavery” and “all children of slaves born after Missouri’s admission to the Union should become free at the age of twenty-five.” Id. This provoked great “consternation in the House of Representatives.” Id. citing Annals of Congress, 15th Cong., 2nd sess., 1170.

Continue reading “The Missouri Compromise”

The Beginning of Oppression

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Tenskwatawa. By: Charles Bird King.

For centuries prior to the War of 1812, the Native Americans were able to manipulate the British, French, Spanish, and Americans to sustain themselves. After the War of 1812, the entirety of the land east of the Mississippi River was owned by America, effectively ended the Native Americans’ strategy. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 74.

Continue reading “The Beginning of Oppression”

America in 1815: The Native Americans

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The Last of the Mohicans. By: Thomas Cole.

By 1815, the Native Americans had been pushed mostly out of the New England area and into territories just east of the Mississippi River and the entirety of the territory west of the Mississippi River. The Native Americans were a significant obstacle to expanding American territory.

Continue reading “America in 1815: The Native Americans”

The Louisiana Controversy

A map portraying the Louisiana Purchase’s territory.

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 added approximately 823,000 square miles to the United States’ territory. At that time, Thomas Jefferson favored the purchase, as it protected America from the threat of France or Britain invading the United States, particularly through New Orleans. Gordon Wood, Empire of Liberty, 369. The acquisition also would force the territory of Florida, owned by Spain then, to join the United States, which it of course eventually did.

A majority of Americans saw the Louisiana Purchase as a momentous occasion for America, in that it ended the struggle for control of the Mississippi River but it also allowed America to gain independence from the European powers of France and Britain. Id.

Fisher Ames, a Representative of Massachusetts from 1789-1797, declared that the Louisiana Purchase was “a great waste, a wilderness unpeopled with any beings except wolves and wandering Indians.” He explained that it was a waste by stating: “We are to spend money of which we have too little for land of which we already have too much.” Id. He saw it as instead a way for “Imperial Virginia to move its slaveholding population westward to gain influence. Id. at 370.

Even Alexander Hamilton favored the purchase, but expressed his reservations as to its effect on the United States as a whole: Could it be made “an integral part of the United States,” or would it merely be a colony of America? Id.

Certainly, very few modern Americans would now question the wisdom and the investment of the Louisiana Purchase, for territorial purposes alone. The short term security benefits are long forgotten, as the European powers who then threatened the United States are now its strongest allies.

Nonetheless, these views by Fisher Ames and Alexander Hamilton show that even the most popular and beneficial decisions by presidents are not without dissent. Now, sometimes analysts and commentators are tempted to speculate that there was a moment in American history where a presidents’ actions were widely appreciated and admired and free of dissent.

While that may occasionally be true, even with the Louisiana Purchase, that added so much territory for settlers to use and security for the existing states, there was dissent.

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