Westward Expansion

Abolition Movement

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Westward Expansion

Between 1803 and 1853, the United States almost tripled in size. In the early 1800s, the land west of the United States was very undeveloped. Many considered it to be uncivilized and underdeveloped even though it was home to many native peoples, as well as setters from France, Spain, Mexico and other countries. However, the U.S. truley believe it was their Manifest Destiny, obvious fate, to spread the idea of liberty and democracy to this land. They also felt it was their duty to civilize it by bringing in roads, railroads, the telegram, etc. It was at this time that America set out to gain control of this land. In the end, America won but, it took settlement, treaties, and war to achieve their dream.

Louisiana Purchase

America's first opportunity for expansion was the Louisiana Purchase. To learn about the history of the Louisiana Purchase and how the United States final came to acquire this land, read the Louisiana Purchase Handout.

Lewis and Clark's Expedition

In the early 1800s, a number of different expeditions were formed to explore the West (at the time, this was all the land west of the Mississippi River). The most famous expedition was the Lewis and Clark Expedition. This expedition was started because Thomas Jefferson hired Meriwether Lewis to explore the West. It is truly shocking what historians were putting in the textbooks at that time about the West. The American people were told that the purpose of the expedition was to make contact with the Native Americans and to trade with them. However, the real purpose was to find the "Northwest Passage," a water route across North America that would connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. To learn more about the expedition, explore some of the items below:

Notes on the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Map of the Expedition and its Discoveries

Primary Documents from the Expedition:

--Quotes from Lewis and Clark's Journals

--Drawings from Lewis and Clark's Journals

Extra Credit Opportunity

National Geographics has created a wonderful webbased interactive activity for students on the Lewis and Clark Expeditionlocated at This activity will allow you to experience the journey through the West from the point of view of an explorer traveling with Lewis and Clark. If you complete the activity along with the worksheet (National Geographics Internet Activity Worksheet), you will receive 25 extra credit points.

Unit Projects

Lewis and Clark Cartoon

Lewis and Clark Expedition Cartoon Assignment Sheet

Lewis and Clark Cartoon

Student Projects

Lewis and Clark Journal Project

Lewis and Clark Journal Assignment Sheet

Rubric for Grading the Journal Project

Student Projects

Oregon Trail

In the far Northwest, laid a beautiful piece of land known as Oregon Country. Legend told that the land was rich and fertile, so fertile that wheat could grown as tall as a man and turnips were 6 feet around. This land appealed to so many people who were tired of slaving away at dried out, over farmed land in the East. It was so attractive to some that they were willing to journey by foot and wagon in the hot desert heat for 5 months on a trail that was 2,000 miles long. Learn more about this land and the long tedious journey to it check out some of the items below:

Oregon Trail Notes

Animated Map of the Orgeon Trail (Make sure you pay particular attention to the different types of landscape the settlers had to journey through. Think of how difficult it must have been to spend days and sometimes weeks in some of these areas.)

Texas War for Independence

Believe it or not Texas was not always a state in the United States! It was once a region and state in Mexico. It also was it own country at one time. Finally, it became part of the United States in 1845 when it joined the country as the 28th state. To learn about the history of Texas, check out the documents below:

Notes the American Settlement of Texas

Notes on the Texas War for Indpendence

If you are a visual learner, you may want to review the following cartoons. Each cartoon illustrates the two major battles in Texas' war for Independence.

The Battle of the Alamo

The Battle of the San Jacinto River

Mexian American War

After Texas became a part of the United States, tension built between Mexico and the United States. The two countries simply could not decide on where the southern border of Texas was actually located. To learn more about this dispute and its outcome, read the notes provided below.

Notes on the Mexican American War

Mexican American Influences

When the U.S. acquired all of this land in the Southwest from Mexico, we also acquired the people living on that land. Mexicans all of the sudden were thrown into the American culture. As a result, many different things that were part of the Mexican culture were adapted in parts of the U.S. especially in the Southwest. To learn more about these influences, review the items below:

Mexian Influences Handout

Samples of Mexican Music:

--Corrido (ballad)

--Mariachi Band

--Serenades (Love Songs)


Even today we can find things in our own community that derived from the Mexican culture. In my own city, I have taken several photos of things that I believed have traces of the Mexican culture. Take a few minutes to view my photo album. You are also required to go around your own community and take photos of things that you feel have traces of the Mexican culture. Bring your photos to class to share with your classmates. If you get a really good photo, I will add them to this website so everyone can view them.