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Bill Thayer

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History of the United States:
The Frontier Period

This orientation page collects, for convenience' sake, the main resources onsite covering the history of the United States between the Revolutionary War and the War between the States, as well as any other items, even much later, dealing with the independent nation's (mostly westward) expansion. There may be other relevant resources — even important ones, if I am remiss in updating this page — on my American & Military History page. Material on the earlier colonial period is collected on its own page.


[image ALT: A montage of five portraits of 18c gentlemen, the central of which is larger: Goerge Washington surrounded by John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton.]

[ 11/17/07: 229 printed pages
presented in 11 webpages; unillustrated ]

Washington and His Colleagues is a fairly straightforward account of the two-term presidency of George Washington by Henry Jones Ford: the United States were new then, and so was everything about their government; and yet they had to face Arab piracy, the destabilizing designs of France — and the rights of the several States, which the author, a Hamiltonian, seems to put in the same bag as the other two.


[image ALT: A graphic pattern of sharply oblique spikes. It is a graphic variation on the 18c arms of Baltimore.]

[ 71 printed pages, presented in 8 webpages ]

When some of the citizens of Baltimore, including the editors of an important newspaper and several generals with impeccable Revolutionary War credentials, protested the recently declared War of 1812, others, feeling themselves to be better patriots, went on a murderous rampage: the Great Baltimore Riot of 1812 became an ever-topical example of how not to face pacifism. Here is the report of it in a contemporaneous pamphlet.


[image ALT: zzz. It is a portrait of the Revolutionary War-period American general James Wilkinson.]

[ 3/12/06: about 150 pages of print presented in 9 webpages ]

General James Wilkinson (1757‑1825), deeply involved in the frontier history of Kentucky, Louisiana, and Texas, was one of the most conniving traitors this country ever saw; or then again, maybe not at all. Two diametrically opposite viewpoints: his great-grandson squares off against a respected historian.


[image ALT: A woodcut of a small house, ground-floor, upper floor and a pair of chimneys.]

[ 245 printed pages
presented in 15 webpages, with 3 maps ]

Arthur Preston Whitaker's book, The Spanish-American Frontier: 1783‑1795, subtitled The Westward Movement and the Spanish Retreat in the Mississippi Valley, is a clear, readable, detailed exposition of its subject, from the backwoods of Kentucky and the stillborn state of Franklin to Natchez and New Orleans and diplomatic manoeuvres in European capitals.


[image ALT: A woodcut of a flag bearing a single five-pointed star in the center of an otherwise blank field. It is the flag of the Republic of West Florida and serves as the icon on my site for Stanley Clisby Arthur's book, 'The Story of the West Florida Rebellion'.]

[ 158 pages of print, 4 maps, 8 decorative engravings ]

One of the very few published books entirely devoted to the Republic of West Florida — and a rather hard book to find, too — is onsite in full: Stanley Clisby Arthur's The Story of the West Florida Rebellion. Not the best written nor proofread, and not often citing its sources, it's still a thorough account of the events of 1810, with the additional merit of some interesting and even amusing background items, but more importantly, substantial excerpts of the primary sources themselves, including the complete Ordinance of August 28th, in some ways the equivalent of a Constitution, running to 18 pages of even finer print than the rest of the book.


[image ALT: A woodcut of a small house, ground-floor, upper floor and a pair of chimneys.]

[ 327 printed pages
presented in 14 webpages, with 3 maps, 3 engravings ]

Illinois in 1818: a very good book by Solon J. Buck that served as the introductory volume to the Centennial History of Illinois. It covers the pioneer history, the land and economy of what would become the state of Illinois, its various territorial governments, and its pathway to statehood.


[image ALT: An engraving of the head of a bearded man. It is a portrait of the Louisiana historian Charles Gayarré.]

[ 693 printed pages ]

Charles Gayarré's History of Louisiana, written over a span of years from 1846 to 1864, provides in‑depth coverage of the early life of the state and territory; Volume 4 covers Louisiana as an American territory and state.


[image ALT: A circular arc of 40- to 50‑story steel and glass skyscrapers fronting on a small river, with somewhat smaller buildings in the background and to the viewer's left; and in the foreground, coming from the right of the photo, a train already halfway across the photo and about to move out of it to our left and toward us. It is a passenger train against the backdrop of downtown Chicago. The photograph serves as the icon for the American Railroad History section of my site.]

[ 11/26/09: 2 books — 355 printed pages —
in 20 webpages: 24 photos, 5 maps, 5 other illustrations ]

American Railroad History: a general history of the principal continent-wide railroad systems, and a first-hand account of the building of the transcontinental railway. More on its way, of course.


[image ALT: zzz.]

[ 80 typescript pages, 1 engraving, presented in 6 webpages ]

William Hyde (1818‑1874) was a participant in one of the great pioneer sagas that made this country what we are. His Private Journal records his early days in upstate New York and his conversion to Mormonism, his trek across the continent as a sergeant in the Mormon Battalion of the U. S. Army (which takes up half the work), his missionary endeavors in Australia, and the end of his life, spent building the State of Utah. An interesting account of one of the world's great military marches, it also throws some light on the uneasy and shifting accommodation between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the United States government.


[image ALT: A long straight 2‑lane street, edged with small trees, fading into the distance, with a single car travelling down it away from us. It is an early 20th‑century view of Jenkins, Kentucky.]

[ 4/7/07: about 140 pages of print presented in 60 webpages ]

The History of Jenkins, Kentucky, compiled in 1973 by the local Jaycees, is really a sourcebook rather than a history, but it's a fascinating window into American pioneer life in the twentieth century, a period we're not used to thinking of pioneers still: what happens when a relatively inaccessible part of the country is discovered to have a very major economic resource under its feet.


[image ALT: A close-up of a collection of papers spread out on a table. It is the icon used on this site to represent my American History Notes subsite.]

The American History Notes section of my site is devoted to journal articles on various topics. Among these articles, the following deal with the frontier period:

1778‑1790: The County of Illinois

1779‑1781: Work on the Cumberland Road

1781?‑1826?: Lafitte, the Louisiana Pirate and Patriot

1784‑1785: Journal of the First Kentucky Convention

1793: The Origin of Genet's Projected Attack on Louisiana and the Floridas

1793‑1795: The Efforts of the Democratic Societies of the West to open the Navigation of the Mississippi

1812: The Admission of Louisiana into the Union

1815: Historical Memoir of the War in West Florida and Louisiana

1816‑1896: The Iowa-Missouri Disputed Boundary

1828: Official Mexican Report on the Texas-Louisiana Boundary

1832: The Services of the Menominee in Black Hawk War

1834‑1837: An Illinois Burnt Offering

1835‑1856: The Story of Captain John C. Casey

1846‑1863: The Mormon Settlements in the Missouri Valley

1855‑1856: Walter L. Fleming: The Buford Expedition to Kansas

1855‑1856: The Sharps Rifle Episode in Kansas History

and

The Significance of the Frontier to the Historian of the Catholic Church in the United States

Mule Ear Currency


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Site updated: 11 Sep 10