Themes in U.S. & World History;
Geographic and Environmental Factors
An example of physical geographic factors that contributed to the development and expansion of the United States are the Appalachian Mountains and the discovery of the Cumberland Gap. The second geographical factor that significantly contributed to the development and expansion of the United States is the major rivers of the Midwest regions such as, “The Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and other rivers knit together the American nation over the course of a century” (River Towns, River Networks, 2012). The early colonists had trouble passing over the Appalachian Mountains due to the extremely difficult environmental conditions that these mountains posed. The early colonists had to endure harsh and brutal surroundings (that they often didn’t survive) in order to be able to reach the other side. “The Appalachian chain is a barrier to east-west travel as it forms a series of alternating ridgelines and valleys[->0] oriented in opposition to any road running east-west” (Wikipedia, 2013). This cross-mountain trek was imperative in order for early settlers to migrate westward and thus expand the United States. As a consequence of the serve conditions, the Appalachian Mountains kept westward expansion from occurring at a faster pace and is actually one of the reasons why colonies developed more rapidly in the east while the west came to be seen as a hostile territory by most colonists. This all changed with the discovery of Cumberland Gap. On the boards of the U.S. states Tennessee[->1], Kentucky[->2], and Virginia[->3] is Cumberland Gap which is a pass through the Appalachian Mountains. The moment colonists discovered the Cumberland Gap turned out to be an essential time in American history. “With the formation of the United States, an important first phase of westward expansion in the late 18th century and early 19th century consisted of the migration of European-descended settlers westward across the mountains into the Ohio Valley through the Cumberland Gap and other mountain passes” (Wikipedia, 2013). Even though the fact that the Cumberland Gap was guarded by Native American tribes when it was first discovered did not deter the westward bound migrants. This pass through the Appalachian Mountains was nonetheless proof that expansion westward was not as difficult as it had been previously and then the floodgates were opened to the migration of the colonists. “It is estimated that between 200,000 and 300,000 migrants passed through the gap on their way into Kentucky[->4] and the Ohio Valley[->5] before 1810” (Wikipedia, 2013). The second environmental or physical geographic factors that contributed to the development or expansion of the United States were the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Although many colonists wanted to go farther west, after finally making it to the other side of the Appalachian Mountains, in order to reach the Pacific Coast, some realized that the mid-west region of the United States represented an intriguing location. The area consisted of valuable nutrient rich lands that could be used in growing large areas of grain and raising of livestock. Concomitantly, colonists were impressed with the fact that they could also utilize the Mississippi and Ohio rivers for transportation of this grown agriculture, for transportation of people, and for food for their tables. The colonists took into account that they could provide basic necessities for numerous individuals and multiple usages by monopolizing the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. “By the 1820s, cotton, grain, pork, and other agricultural products floated down the Mississippi River to the city’s docks. The rise of the steamboat brought trade upriver and opened the Midwest to settlers and goods” (River Towns, River Networks, 2012). Settlers thus expanded long these rivers and built settlements. “The Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and other rivers knit together the American...
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