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Exploration of the Far West | U.S. Elections | War of 1812 | Indian Expulsion

Exploration of the Far West

The Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States, but Americans did not really know what they had bought. In 1804, Thomas Jefferson sent an expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to investigate the new territories. Lewis and Clark's party, with their Shoshone guide Sacajawea, traveled up the Missouri River from St. Louis, reached the Pacific coast and returned with a wealth of information. In 1806, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike led a similar expedition into the southwest. As this map demonstrates, the explorers that traveled the far West encountered rough terrain, harsh weather, disease, and hunger as they followed the waterways of the region. As reports trickled in, it became clear that United States had gained lands inhabited by a diverse combination of Native Americans, animals and plant life. These new areas captured the imagination of the American public. Indeed, in the main foyer of Thomas Jefferson's grand Monticello, visitors were greeted with animal skins, skulls and other artifacts given to him by Lewis and Clark.


How did the voyage of Lewis and Clark help create interest in the western expansion of the United States? What did they find that would draw settlers west? Who did they influence to help the United States pursue a policy of expansion?


Why did the Federalists oppose the Louisiana Purchase and westward expansion in general? Compare and contrast the Federalist and Jeffersonian vision of the future United States? Which vision triumphed in the end?


Compare the extent of geographical knowledge of western North America before and after the journeys of Pike, Lewis and Clark. What new "geographical facts" did they discover? What did they learn about the west? What remained unexplored or unknown by Americans about the west? What misconceptions arose about the areas these three men explored?


The year is 1532. You are an explorer from a nation of your choice who must petition your King or Queen for ships, sailors, settlers, and supplies to mount an expedition to the New World. Write a proposal outlining your route and ultimate destination, the goals of the expedition, and the benefits to the King that will follow from its success. What special licenses or grants do you request in return for leading the expedition? What economic enterprises and communities will your settlers (male, female, free, or slave) create upon arrival? Support your case with specific lessons you might have learned from the reports of earlier voyages to the region.


Many Native American communities experienced a "demographic disaster" after first contact with Europeans. Write a short ethnography - observations of a society's traditional customs and adaptations to change - of either an Aztec or Inca community at two different points in time: ten years before and ten years after European contact. Pay special attention to the effect of disease on political, economic, religious, and social life (birth, adulthood, marriage, and death).

U.S. Elections

Thomas Jefferson won the Presidency in 1800 in what has been called a political revolution for the new Republic. The election was the first in which two parties faced one another in a presidential election, and demonstrated that Americans could peacefully change their government through the electoral process. Jefferson, after narrowly defeating John Adams in the electoral college, pledged in his inaugural address to unite the country, "We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists." The two-party system that was born in this election persists until the present. This interative map details the elections and their results from 1789-2000 including candidates, electoral votes, and popular votes.


The election of Thomas Jefferson brought to power a new political party, the Democratic-Republicans. Was this party a national organization, representing the U.S. as a whole, or sectional party, representing only the South? What evidence is there for each position?


Why did a two-party system arise in the election of 1800? What effect did this system have on American political history? Was this a healthy or unhealthy development for American political life?


Write a diary as an observer from France in the United States during the Election of 1800. What are your views of the election? What do you think the election reveals about American political life? Compare America's peaceful transition to Democratic-Republican rule with political life in post-revolutionary France? How do you explain the differences?

War of 1812

The War of 1812 spanned the North American continent. While the British blockaded the Atlantic Coast, the American navy won acclaim on the Great Lakes. In the Chesapeake, a British expeditionary force embarrassed the United States by burning Washington. In the southwest, Andrew Jackson crushed the Creek Nation in the Mississippi territory and then repelled a British assault against New Orleans. News of Jackson's victory in New Orleans helped crystallize northern opinion against the Federalists.


Why did Britain blockade the areas it did? What impact did they hope to have on the American Army, Navy and economy of the new nation?


What was US strategy in the War of 1812? What was British strategy? What did each side seek to accomplish strategically during the War?


The War of 1812 was primarily fought at sea and on lakes. What factors necessitated naval strategy? What advantages and disadvantages did the United States have in this type of war?


How did Native American involvement in the war shape the future of United States/Native American relations?


You are a soldier in the American Army or a sailor in the Navy. Write a letter home to your family. Choose one battle and describe it. Why are you fighting? What do you hope to gain in the war? How do you feel the war is going?

Indian Expulsion

This interactive map shows the U.S. government's pushing of Native Americans from their tribal lands in the eastern United States to less-settled areas in the west, and the years of conflict that ensued.


Examine the timeline for the 1830s? Which Indian groups were forced to move? Where did they have to settle? What was the climate like in their new homes? What economic prospects did they have?


Follow the course of Indian conflicts through the timeline? Is there a pattern that emerges? Compare this map with the map on mining towns? Do any new patterns emerge?


What strategies did Native Americans try to preserve their lands and cultures? Compare, for example, the strategies of the Cherokee in the East and the Apache or the Sioux further to the west.

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