The War and the Westward Movement

NPS Primary Theme: With Federal resources focused on waging the war farther east, both native tribes and the Confederacy attempted to claim (in the Indians’ case, reclaim) lands west of the Mississippi. The Federal government responded with measures (Homestead Act, transcontinental railroad) and military campaigns designed to encourage settlement, solidify Union control of the trans-Mississippi West, and further marginalize the physical and cultural presence of tribes native to the West.

NPS Secondary Theme: The Confederate aspirations to establish a foothold in the West ended with defeat at Glorietta Pass in New Mexico.

NOTE: Please use the comments section below to chronicle your progress with this theme throughout the remaining weeks of the course. Begin by outlining how your group decided to work with the theme (e.g., assigning one theme to one person or dividing themes up between team members) and then outline in detail, at least once each week, the work that you have done toward crafting your three podcast proposals.

9 Responses to The War and the Westward Movement

  1. Amy Platt says:

    With the help of park historians, I have found compelling tangibles for the podcasts–tangibles that have given me a much better understanding of what it meant to push out into an already populated west.
    As I’ve explained before, the challenge in this theme is to first show how very important the West (as a physical landscape to be explored and settled, but also as an idea) was to the country during the Civil War. It was contested land, some of it in a sort of limbo during the fracturing of the federal government, its citizens waiting to see who would win and claim it.
    The second challenge is to tell the story of Manifest Destiny and opportunity in tandem with its necessary parallel narrative–the dispossession of Native peoples. Each narrative MUST inform the other; which is to say, the despair of displaced Native Americans was the result of the hopes and dedicated labor of white settlers. This is a difficult task, particularly since it is not my intent to mitigate the extraordinary efforts of families moving westward with stories of starving and landless Native Americans. Nor do I intend to offset the devastation of entire communities of people with the heroics of homesteaders enduring the hardships of settlement while fulfilling a symbolic national purpose. I don’t want to have to tell two stories, because I believe there is just one (complicated story) to be told.
    So I looked for an intersection of the narratives, and found it mainly in military action. Blake described how the federal government pushed the Indians back ahead of settlement–even during the War when numbers on the battlefield mattered–using both treaties and force. By the time homesteaders populated the land, the Indians were starving and dispossessed–and so the intersection here is through an interesting sort of charity that puts the Indian begging at the door and the homesteader handing over food. The story is more complicated than that, of course, but those moments tell us much about how very important land–the possession of it and freedom to move across it–was to the well-being of communities. Native peoples forced to beg from the new inhabitants of their old land–what does this tell us about cultural, economic, and political exchange in the 1860s?

    For Homestead Park, Blake has guided me to three tangibles: a plow, a child’s marbles, and a photo of skinned buffalos laid out along the prairie (I don’t have this photo yet). The plow places homesteading in a the pre-industrial world, where settling land meant making it grow things, which took hard and constant work. What made that kind of life worthwhile? The marbles are a good way to bridge the time difference: children play in many of the same ways they have always played. And the buffalo skins tell a story of exploitation tied directly to the War: exploitation of natural resources to equip northern factories; and exploitation of the Indians they paid to slaughter them–a payment made necessary by their forced impoverishment by the federal government.

    Greg Shine has led me to two tangibles that will tell this same story of dispossession and settlement in the Northwest (Fort Vancouver). The enlisted men’s infantry hat insignia identifies the soldier, by country and regiment–the life of a volunteer in the Northwest during the Civil War in many ways starts with the uniform. The second tangible is a dictionary of Chinook Jargon. The language represents the complex relationships between tribes and between tribes and Europeans leading up to the war–in the Columbia region, these relationships were marked by cooperative trade. Treaties displacing Native peoples had already been in place by 1861, but most were still being implemented; thousands of people had already traveled the Oregon Trail and more were coming–the dynamics between Indians and white settlers had taken a turn. The environment that led to the publication of a Chinook Jargon dictionary was being undone by the activities of a Civil War-era army.

  2. Amy Platt says:

    Westward Movement

    There are three important narrative threads running through the theme of Westward Movement: land—who owns it, and what political power does it bring? Manifest Destiny—what it means to have a moral mandate to push West and create communities (and the conflation of family virtue and the virtue of patriotism); and race—both the physical reality of settlement and the legislative policies that facilitated it have the dispossession of Native Americans built into them.

    It is apparent that the ideologies and politics that defined the Civil War period were being played out in the West long before hostilities broke out in the East. Congressional balance, the issue of slavery, how land could be settled and incorporated into the Union, race, and federal policies, all determined the physical and political shape of the West in the first half of the nineteenth century. The settlement of the West carried with it its own kind of urgency, primarily because our political system was so tied into the slavery/non-slavery argument. Starting in 1820, complicated by the Compromise of 1850 and the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, and epitomized in 1854 with the passage of the Nebraska-Kansas Act, state formation—the inevitable result of western settlement—was a decidedly political act, and members of Congress watched the progress of territorial governments very anxiously. A lot was at stake—power in Congress, power over economic legislation and policy, power over huge portions of the country’s inhabitants. This conflict, so decidedly about race (in terms of non-white enfranchisement) led to weirdnesses like Oregon’s constitution, which outlawed slavery but excluded all blacks from the living in the state. Oregon’s statehood was held up for two years because the slavery issue worried the Democrats and the exclusion laws outraged the Republicans.

    With all this in mind, the three parks for this theme—Homestead, Fort Vancouver, and Pecos—will help tell this three-fold story of politics, community building, and displacement that took place during the Civil War while most of the bloody battles raged in the eastern half of the country.

    Homestead National Monument

    Tentative theme statement: The creation of the Homestead Act in 1862 was the direct result of the secession of the southern states and the exit of their representatives from Congress. The legislation had been held up by Southern Democrats, anxious over the creation of non-slave holding territories and states, which would sway congressional power to the Republicans and threaten the institution of slavery. The South hoped to gain control of the southern half of the country (and into Mexico, if possible) before encouraging western settlement. The Act was pushed through as the war started, resulting in a great migration of mostly white Americans as they eagerly filed claims of free land in the (legally) unsettled west. The feeling of Manifest Destiny, hope, and self-empowerment no doubt mitigated the hardship of homesteading. As whites moved west, they displaced the native peoples already occupying the land, and the story of displacement, dispossession, and the definition of “sovereignty” runs side by side with that of Manifest Destiny—one story may not be told without the other.

    Tangibles: Freeman homestead (first man to take advantage of the Act); Native American artifacts; letters and accounts of homesteaders.
    Intangibles: ownership, new starts, displacement, anxiety, hardship, survival

    Fort Vancouver

    Tentative theme Statement: Fort Vancouver was the army’s supply center for the Northwest, and consequently served as the temporary home of many army commanders before the Civil War, including Grant and Sheridan. It was also a training center, and many of the men who trained together fought against each other in the war. But the story we should tell is why they were here at all, which has everything to do with the expansion of federal control over western lands, which is really the story of control over native populations. As more people moved west, the federal government built more forts and sent more army units to the territories to facilitate white settlement, using both treaties and force to compel native communities to relinquish their lands and their sovereign control. During the war, the army moved its armies east at the same time the Homestead Act and the devastation of war pushed more settlers west, creating a vacuum, of sorts, which the army filled with volunteer units—soldiers unused to dealing with Native peoples. The heightened conflict and abuse of power that resulted demonstrates the realities of populations struggling over the same land. The federal interest in the land reveals the politics at work—the same politics that helped spark the Civil War raging in the east.

    Tangibles: volunteer insignia, Chinook Jargon dictionary
    Intangibles: settlement, war, home, trade, race, ownership

    Universals: conflict, patriotism, loss

    Pecos (New Mexico)
    Tentative Theme Statement: the Battle of Glorieta Pass is the most western Civil War battle, and it is worth describing the battle from start to finish. Much was at stake. Both the Union and the Confederacy desperately wanted the southwest (Jefferson Davis had a plan to take over the southwest territories and California, both to secure slavery and to access the gold mines), and the native populations wanted to maintain control over their land. The Confederate government considered New Mexico and Arizona its own—it had created the Confederate Arizona Territory in 1862—and so it is significant that the battle over the vast southwest was largely decided on this very particular stretch of land. Significantly, the battle was a Confederate victory, undone by the destruction of its supply train, which forced the Confederate army to retreat permanently. And so the (south) west was won by the Union.
    Tangibles: Uniforms, soldier gear
    Intangibles: war, secession, political power, native involvement, Hispanic volunteers
    Universals: victory, defeat, hunger, homeland, wealth

  3. Amy Platt says:

    Western Movement

    There are three important narrative threads running through the theme of Western Movement: land—who owns it, and what political power does it bring? Manifest Destiny, the satisfaction of staking a claim and building a community form the ground up; and race—both the physical reality of settlement and the legislative policies that facilitated it have the dispossession of Native Americans built into them.

    The settlement of the west in the mid-19th century carried with it its own kind of urgency primarily because our political system was so tied into the slavery/non-slavery argument. Starting in 1820, complicated by the Compromise of 1850 and the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, and epitomized in 1854 with the passage of the Nebraska-Kansas Act, state formation—the inevitable result of western settlement—was a decidedly political act, and members of Congress watched the progress of territorial governments very anxiously. A lot was at stake—power in Congress, power of economic legislation and policy, power over huge portions of the country’s inhabitants. This conflict, so decidedly about race (in terms of non-white enfranchisement) led to weirdnesses like Oregon’s constitution, which outlawed slavery but excluded all blacks from the living in the state. Oregon’s statehood was held up for two years because the slavery issue worried the Democrats and the exclusion laws outraged the Republicans.

    With all this in mind, the three parks for this theme—Homestead, Fort Vancouver, and Pecos—will help tell this three-fold story of politics, community building, and displacement that took place during the Civil War while most of the bloody battles were fought in the eastern half of the country.

    Homestead National Monument

    Theme statement: The creation of the Homestead Act in 1862 was the direct result of the secession of the southern states and the exit of their representatives from Congress. The legislation had been held up by Democrats anxious over the creation of non-slave holding territories and states, which would sway congressional power to the Republicans and threaten the institution of slavery. The South hoped to gain control of the southern half of the country (and into Mexico, if possible) before encouraging western settlement. The Act was pushed through as the war started, resulting in a great migration of mostly white Americans as they eagerly filed claims of free land in the (legally) unsettled west. The feeling of Manifest Destiny, hope, and self-empowerment no doubt mitigated the hardship of homesteading. As whites moved west, they displaced the native peoples already occupying the land, and the story of displacement, dispossession, and the definition of “sovereignty” runs side by side with that of Manifest Destiny—one story may not be told without the other.

    Tangibles: Freeman homestead (first man to take advantage of the Act); Native American artifacts; letters and accounts of homesteaders.
    Intangibles: ownership, new starts, displacement, anxiety, hardship, federal policy for land
    Fort Vancouver

    Theme Statement: Fort Vancouver was the army’s supply center for the Northwest, and consequently served as the temporary home of many army commanders before the Civil War, including Grant and Sheridan. It was also a training center, and many of the men who trained together fought against each other in the war. But the story here is why they were here at all, which has everything to do with the expansion of federal control over western lands, which is really the story of control over native populations. As more people moved west, the federal government built more forts and sent more army units to the territories to facilitate white settlement, using both treaties and force to compel native communities to relinquish their lands and their sovereign control. During the war, the army moved its armies east at the same time the Homestead Act and the devastation of war pushed more settlers west, creating a vacuum, of sorts, which the army filled with volunteer units—soldiers unused to dealing with Native peoples. The heightened conflict and abuse of power that resulted demonstrates the realities of populations struggling over the same land. The federal interest in the land reveals the politics at work—the same politics that helped spark the Civil War raging in the east.

    Tangibles: war artifacts, barracks, Native American artifacts
    Intangibles: settlement, war, home, trade, race, ownership
Tangibles:
The Fort sits on the original site of the post-Oregon Treaty army post (1849), the base for many Civil War military men at various times before the war (Grant, Sheridan, Crook). During the Civil War, army units were recruited in the West and stationed at the Fort (and other forts) to control Native American resistance to the increased white settlement of Indian lands. The Fort is the perfect site to talk about pre-settlement Indian-European relationships in largely peaceful trade, and the transition to deadly conflict during the Civil War and after.
Aside from the reconstructed buildings and other structures, the site holds an extensive archive of archeological and manuscript collections, including army, Native American, and settler items.
    Pecos (New Mexico)
    Theme Statement: the Battle of Glorieta Pass is the most western Civil War battle, and it is worth describing the battle from start to finish. Much was at stake. Both the Union and the Confederacy desperately wanted the southwest (Jefferson Davis had a plan to take over the southwest territories and California, both to secure slavery and to access the gold mines), and the native New Mexicans wanted to maintain control over their land. The Confederate government considered New Mexico and Arizona its own—it had created the Confederate Arizona Territory in 1862—and so it is significant that the battle over the vast southwest was largely decided on this very particular stretch of land. Significantly, the battle was a Confederate victory, undone by the destruction of its supply train, which forced the Confederate army to retreat permanently. And so the (south) west was won by the Union.
    Tangibles: There are few artifacts here, but the place is the thing. Significantly, the park protects Pecos pueblo and mission ruins, which can tie into the effect the war had on Native American populations.
    Intangibles: war, secession, political power, native involvement,

  4. Amy Platt says:

    Fort Vancouver and the Civil War

    Themes: western expansion, dispossession, war, race, occupation

    Civil War people: Grant, Benjamin Alvord, Benjamin Bonneville, Henry C. Hodges, Rufus Ingalls, George McClellan, Augustus V. Kautz, Phil Kearney, Alfred Pleasonton, Joshua W. Sill, George Wright, George B. Crittenden, William Wing Loring, Nathan Wickliffe, Gabriel J. Rains, and George Pickett, Lincoln

    Resources: CCRH page http://www.ccrh.org/images/resources/civil_war_sb_low_res1_final.pdf

    Part One:

    Lead-in: Grant et al stationed at Fort Vancouver. (Lincoln connection?)

    What was the role of the military just prior to the Civil War? What was the West’s attitude toward the war and the soldiers it sent to fight? WHY were the nation’s generals stationed in the Northwest?

    Part Two: 1861. Recruiting volunteers.

    Did the war challenge or reaffirm Manifest Destiny? Did military work conflict with homesteading and gold mining? How were forts maintained and WHY? Did attitudes toward Native Americans change, and how did the purpose of the western armies change with it? (As far as I know, there were no major campaigns during the Civil War against Indians in the Northwest. What was the perceived threat and what were some of the confrontations?)

    Part Three: 1865, post war military

    Native Americans and the continuation of the reservation system. Federal intervention of state affairs. Relationship to Reconstruction? How did ideas about enfranchisement, race, and sovereignty affect Indian policy in the west?

    Robert Walter Johannson, Frontier Politics and the Sectional Conflict: The Pacific Northwest on the Eve of the Civil War. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1955.
    Alvin Josephy, Jr. The Civil War in the American West. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991. Oregon Historical Quarterly Spring 1999 Special Issue: The Civil War in Oregon, Volume 100, no. 1.

  5. Amy Platt says:

    Pecos National Historical Park
    (New Mexico)

    Theme: Confederate territorial expansion to the southwest—Glorieta Pass
    Intangibles: war, secession, Union/Confederate land struggle

    Tangibles:
    Pecos NHP includes the site of the Glorieta Pass battle, “The Gettysburg of the West.” The Confederacy had an ambitious plan to capture both territory and gold after Texas seceded in 1861: raise an army with its new southwestern citizens and capture the lower western states (and California). Lt. Col. Canby (Oregon connection!), stationed in New Mexico, was put on alert and he amassed his own army from the unionist western states. The two armies met several times, with Confederate victories (though the Union held Fort Union), until a final battle in March, 1862, in the Glorietta Pass. The Union army pushed the Confederate army back over the New Mexico border for the duration of the war, ending southern hopes for western expansion.
    There are few artifacts here, but the place is the thing. Significantly, the park protects Pecos pueblo and mission ruins, which can tie into the effect the war had on Native American populations.

    Contact: 505 757-7203

  6. Amy Platt says:

    Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
    (Vancouver, Wash.)

    Theme: Native American dispossession, displacement, and conflict
    Intangibles: settlement, war, home, trade, race, ownership
    Tangibles:
    The Fort sits on the original site of the post-Oregon Treaty army post (1849), the base for many Civil War military men at various times before the war (Grant, Sheridan, Crook). During the Civil War, army units were recruited in the West and stationed at the Fort (and other forts) to control Native American resistance to the increased white settlement of Indian lands. The Fort is the perfect site to talk about pre-settlement Indian-European relationships in largely peaceful trade, and the transition to deadly conflict during the Civil War and after.
    Aside from the reconstructed buildings and other structures, the site holds an extensive archive of archeological and manuscript collections, including army, Native American, and settler items.

    Contact: Greg Shine

  7. Amy Platt says:

    The War and the Westward Movement

    Homestead National Monument of America
    (Beatrice, Nebraska)

    Theme: western settlement (federal interest in)
    Intangibles: settlement, hardship, family, new starts, pioneering, ownership, land rights, Manifest Destiny
    Tangibles:
    Monument itself was built to house the artifacts of mid-19th century homesteading in 1936 on the lands of the first beneficiary of the Homestead Act, Daniel Freeman. Freeman filed his claim just after midnight on January 1, 1863. The Freeman Family Scrapbook is held by the Homestead NM, as are several artifacts of homesteading, including some Native American items that can lead into the second podcast about displacement and dispossession.
    Most people don’t realize that the Homestead Act extended to 1986—the legacy of Civil War Era policies pops up in mysterious places (like Alaska!).

    Contact: 402 228-4231

  8. Pingback: Parks to Illustrate CW150 Themes: A Preliminary List | Interpreting the American Civil War

  9. Amy Platt says:

    Border States

    Themes: Maryland (first tests of secession of border states), Virginia/West Virginia (a state divided), and Missouri (suspension of habeas corpus and the mason-dixon line)

    Antietam: http://www.nps.gov/ancm/index.htm
    It must be included—the bloodiest one-day battle, and it happened in a border state. We can talk about the 1861 incident as a lead-in and how Lincoln dealt with states that threatened to secede, but did not.

    Harper’s Ferry: http://www.nps.gov/hafe/index.htm
    This is a good way to talk about John Brown, the back-and-forth of opposing armies on the same ground for almost 4 years, and the eventual formation of West Virginia in 1862 on the heels of the Emancipation Proclamation. The park is holding events on all of these topics and our podcasts can build on those.

    Wilson’s Creek: http://www.nps.gov/wicr/index.htm
    Missouri is a good place to talk about the extension of the Civil War into the West as states over the Mississippi grappled with slavery. The ghost of John Brown is here, the involvement of Native Americans in the slave culture and in the war can be explored, and the martial law Lincoln imposed on those states still loyal but shaky can be discussed in terms of battles won and lost.

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