The history of the U.S.A.



American colonial history
American West
American Civil War
American Revolution

 


Exercises
1. Questions about the colonial history
2. Questions about the Civil War & a gap-filling exercise
3. Questions about the American Revolution


American colonial history

In 1498 the explorer Christopher Columbus became the first European to set foot on mainland America. He had arrived in South America, but was convinced that he had reached the Indies. This explains why the native peoples of South, Central and later North America were called 'Indians' by the European invaders. Today, they and their descendants are known more accurately as Native Americans.
Conquering South America
Spain had paid for Columbus's voyage and it lost no time in following up his exploration of the Caribbean. Within a few years colonies were set up, and by 1501 the first African slaves were working in Santo Domingo. A mainland colony was established on the Isthmus of Panama, and its governor, the conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa, saw the Pacific Ocean and claimed it for Spain. A Portuguese expedition reached the Brazilian coast north of Rio de Janeiro in 1500. And in 1519 the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailed into the Pacific Ocean through the strait (a narrow passage of water connecting two seas) which has since been known as the Magellan Strait.
The Aztec empire in Mexico was conquered by an adventurous Spanish lawyer and farmer, Hernán Cortés, with an army of only 550 men. Cortés was helped by the fact that his white face and black beard made the Aztecs think he was their god Quetzalcoatl, returned to them. The Inca empire of Peru was conquered by even fewer men, just 180 led by Francisco Pizarro.
The conquistadores (conquerors) were inspired by a greed for gold, of which there was plenty in America, and a desire to bring the benefits of Christianity to the Native American people. Gold and silver in plenty were looted and shipped to Spain, even though some of the treasure ships were captured by privateers (who were a bit like pirates) such as Sir Francis Drake.
Spanish and Portuguese rivalry
Spain and Portugal were rivals for the new lands that were opening up for colonization. So in 1493 Pope Alexander VI drew a line on the map called the Line of Demarcation. Spain was to have all the lands to the west of it, Portugal all the lands to the east. By the Treaty of Tordesillas, a year later, the line was moved westward, which gave Portugal the right to the area that is now Brazil. The Spanish held the rest of the continent.
The Spanish empire
At its height in the 16th and 17th centuries Spain's empire included half of South America, all of Central America and the Caribbean, and much of California, Texas, Florida and other parts of North America. In the Pacific the many islands of the Philippines were named after the Spanish king Philip II. The empire was ruled from Madrid, through viceroys.
Many of the conquistadores married local Native American girls. A class structure grew up. Those with all Spanish ancestors owned most of the wealth and had all the power. Those of mixed race often had small farms or were traders. The poorest of all were the Native Americans and African slaves.
North America
During the 16th century Spaniards settled in Florida and other southern parts of what is now the United States and the French were establishing settlements in Canada and along the Mississippi River valley.
Almost 100 years later some English adventurers began settling along the eastern coast. Dutch and Swedish settlers also formed small colonies there.
The 13 colonies
The first permanent English settlement in North America was by 100 men at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. The Jamestown settlers were sent out by a company of London merchants. They had to hack clearings out of the forests, try to grow crops and build their own houses. Many died from starvation, disease and attacks by Native Americans, who resented the ‘white man’ taking their land.
The company sent out more men and supplies, and later some ‘young and handsome’ girls as wives for the men. The settlement flourished after the women arrived. The Jamestown settlers made a living by growing tobacco for sale to Britain.
The second colony, Plymouth Colony, which became part of Massachusetts, was established by a band of Puritan farmers and craftspeople and their families. They called themselves ‘Pilgrims’ because they were seeking a place where they could follow their religion without persecution. The Plymouth Colony flourished when Native American farmers taught them how to grow corn (maize).
By 1733 Britain ruled 13 colonies which ran along the eastern coast of North America.
Settlers' lives
The first settlers built their houses of wood, of which there was plenty. They made roofs of thatch, and later of shingles (thin sheets of hardwood). The first chimneys were of stone, but later the colonists made bricks.
Colonists in the North had to make most of their furniture and clothing. They spun thread, wove cloth, made candles from fat or beeswax, tanned leather and made their own shoes. Life was often hard. But they were free, and they had plenty of land to grow their crops.
The wealthy colonists, from aristocratic English families, tended to settle farther south, where they had good farmland. They imported black Africans to work the land for them. At first the blacks, like many white servants, were indentured (bound to serve for a number of years).
But the Africans were regarded as inferior, and by 1660 blacks shipped over in appalling conditions were made to work without pay as long as they lived. Slavery had begun. The rich landowners created a new aristocracy. They lived in big mansions and bought fine furniture and clothes from England.
In the North the land was less good and the climate harsher. Although most people farmed, some turned to fishing, trade and industry. Many were Quakers, Puritans and other Protestants who led sober, hard-working lives.
A rich land
By 1760 the colonies were growing prosperous. Immigrants had flocked in, lured by the prospect of owning land and making a new life for themselves. Most were from the British Isles, including a great many Scots and Irish. Others migrated from Germany, the Netherlands and France, escaping from poverty or religious and political persecution in Europe.
The northern colonies, forming New England, were most like Britain. The southern colonies contained huge estates, the plantations, where black slaves toiled in the heat of the Sun to grow cotton and tobacco.
Towns and cities grew up, but the majority of people still lived on the land. Stage coaches ran along well-kept dirt roads. A postal service was operating, and there were several newspapers. Schools were set up, although many children were taught at home. There were six colleges for male students. British laws applied in all the colonies, but each colony had a governor, and a legislature to pass local laws. For many people, particularly new settlers and those in the outskirts of the colonies, life remained hard and primitive.
Wars of independence
The unequal wealth of the people in South American colonies led the citizens to rebel. The Wars of Independence began there in 1809. At first they failed, but from 1816 onward they were successful everywhere. Mexico and the countries of Central America won independence in 1821.
Two men were outstanding among the South American leaders. José de San Martín liberated Argentina, Chile and Peru, helped by the Chilean general Bernardo O'Higgins. In the north Simón Bolívar won freedom for four countries: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, and took over Peru from San Martín.
By 1825 Spain ruled only Cuba and Puerto Rico, plus Guam and the Philippines in the Pacific. Those were lost in 1898, in a war with the USA.
There was no fighting in Portugal's South American colony, Brazil. In 1825 Portugal recognized Brazil as an independent empire. In 1889 the emperor left Brazil to seek refuge in Europe, leaving the Brazilians free to form a republic.
In North America the colonists struggled for their independence from Britain during the years of the American Revolution (1775–1783), which is also known as the American War of Independence. Americans, aided by France, Spain and the Netherlands, finally gained their freedom as the United States of America on 15 April 1783.

(taken from "Oxford Children`s Encyclopedia", OUP 96)

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American West

When the 13 American colonies gained their independence in 1783, their frontier of settlement ran along the Appalachian mountains. Almost immediately, however, a strong westward movement of settlers began, stretching the frontier as far west as the Mississippi River. Then, with the United States' purchase of Louisiana (all the territory between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains) from France in 1803, the frontier rolled forward again, and never really stopped until it reached the Pacific ocean.
Moving westwards
There were several waves of settlers who moved westwards from about 1800 onwards. First there were the fur traders, and then came the gold prospectors. Many of the gold miners found nothing, but the great gold strike in California in 1848 was followed by a ‘gold rush’ to the West.
The army moved west to control the Native Americans whose lands and livestock the settlers and pioneers were taking, and the missionaries came to convert the Native Americans. After them came the ranchers who began grazing huge herds of cattle on the open range of the Great Plains and, later, driving them to rail depots for shipment east. This was the period of the romantic Wild West, of cowboys and gun law. Lastly, the farmers came, and settled and fenced off the open range. Some found the dry and rocky lands of the West impossible to farm without irrigation water, and headed back eastwards.
The USA further extended its territory when Texas joined the Union, and victory in a war with Mexico added all the land between Texas and California. The rail network grew and in 1869 the first transcontinental line was completed.
Although the US federal government has sold or given away the bulk of its huge western estate, it still owns enough of it, in the National Parks, to set standards and today it keeps tight control of some of the most threatened, and most beautiful, areas.

(taken from "Oxford Children`s Encyclopedia", OUP 96)

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American Civil War

The American Civil War divided the young American nation. It caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and a great deal of grief and hardship. It split friends and families. Fathers and sons and brothers fought on opposite sides. The war lasted for four years, from April 1861 to April 1865.
The start of the war
Slavery was a major cause of the war. Before the war began there were 33 states in the United States. In the 18 Northern states all the people, black and white, were free by 1861. But in the 15 Southern states black people were slaves.
The parents and grandparents of the slaves had been brought across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to work on farms. Some of the farms were very big and were known as plantations. People in the South depended on their slaves to work on the plantations and wanted to extend slavery to new territories in the west. People in the North had factories as well as farms, but did not own slaves. Many Northerners believed that slavery was evil. In 1860 they helped to elect Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States. Southerners thought that he was a threat to their way of life, and as a result, seven Southern states, led by South Carolina, withdrew from the Union and formed their own nation, the Confederate States of America. Four more states withdrew later. Maryland and Kentucky, border states which possessed many slaves in 1861, never joined the South, however. The Northern states fought to maintain the Union and to free the slaves.
Early battles
In July 1861 the Confederates won the first big battle of the Civil War. It took place near a small river in Virginia called Bull Run. The next year both sides won several battles, but both lost many men killed or wounded.
Early in 1863 the Southern armies, under their general Robert E. Lee, seemed to be winning the war. Lee invaded the Northern states with an army of 75,000 men. In July he met an army of 90,000 men at the little town of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.
The two armies fought for three days. Lee lost 20,000 men killed or wounded. He had to retreat. The battle was a turning point in the war. The Confederates no longer had the strength to attack the North. It was all they could do to defend their own territory.
The end of the war
As the war went on the Northern armies became stronger and the Southern armies became weaker. The Northern armies were led by two generals, Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman. Grant attacked from the north, while Sherman marched in from the west.
Sherman's troops burned or destroyed everything in their path: crops, houses, factories and railways. This ruthless campaign made it impossible for the South to carry on the fight. Lee surrendered to Grant in a private house in the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on 9 April 1865. A few days later President Lincoln was assassinated in Washington, DC.
In time, all the Southern states rejoined the Union. But people in the South remained bitter for many years.

(taken from "Oxford Children`s Encyclopedia", OUP 96)

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American Revolution

In the 18th century Britain ruled thirteen colonies along the eastern coast of North America. But although each of the colonies had its own local government, Britain made all the major decisions from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. In particular, the British taxed the colonists to pay for their defence against the French, who also had colonies in North America. The colonists wanted to make their own decisions. They objected to being taxed when they were not represented in the British Parliament. Eventually they rebelled.
The start of the war
On the night of 18 April 1775, British troops went to seize a stock of arms held by the colonists at Concord, Massachusetts. They were met at Lexington, on the way there, by an armed militia (a colonial defence force). A shot was fired, and war began.
The colonists organized their militias into an army, under the command of an experienced soldier, General George Washington. The British won the first major battle, at Bunker Hill near Boston, Massachusetts, but suffered such heavy losses that they had to withdraw from Boston.
The years of struggle
For over a year the colonists struggled on. They then decided that they could never make peace with Britain, and so on 4 July 1776 all thirteen colonies declared themselves independent.
In the bitter cold winter of 1777–1778 the main American army under Washington nearly starved in its camp at Valley Forge, near Philadelphia. Meanwhile in the summer of 1777 a British army under General John Burgoyne began a major attack southward from Canada. He expected to be joined by other British troops. But he was surrounded by a larger American force under General Horatio Gates, and had to surrender at Saratoga.
The defeat led the British government to offer the rebels semi-independent status. But it also induced the French to join in the war on the side of the Americans. With French aid, the Americans had a better chance of winning the war.
The final campaigns
In 1779 Spain joined in the war on the American side, and in 1780 the Netherlands also joined in. The British had to fight a war on several fronts, especially at sea.
There were no more major campaigns in the North, because neither side was strong enough to mount them. In the Southern colonies, the British won victories at Charleston and Camden and seemed to be in a powerful position. Then the main British army was besieged at the port of Yorktown, in Virginia, by a larger American force on land and a French fleet at sea. On 19 October 1781, the British commander, Lord Cornwallis, surrendered.
This surrender convinced the British they could no longer win, and peace talks began in 1782. Peace was signed in Paris on 15 April 1783, giving the new United States of America their independence.

(taken from "Oxford Children`s Encyclopedia", OUP 96)

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Exercises

Can you answer Mareen`s questions about the colonial history?

1. Where had Christopher Columbus arrived in 1498?
2. Who had paid for Columbus`s voyage?
3. By 1501 the first slaves were working in Santo Domingo. Where were they from?
4. When did a Portuguese expedition reach the Brazilian coast?
5. Who conquered the Aztec empire in Mexico?
6. What were Spain and Portugal for the new lands that were opening for colonization?
7. Which lands did Spain and Portugal have?
8. Who did many of the conquistadors marry?
9. When did English adventurours begin settling along the eastern coast?

And here are Irina`s questions about the Civil War!

1. How long did American Civil war last?
2. How many states were in the United States before the war began?
3. In how many states were all the people, black and white, free by 1861?
4. What can you say about the farms the slaves had to work on?
5. Who helped to elect Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States?

6. What happened in July 1861?
7. How many men were in the army Robert E. Lee met at Gettysburg?
8. By how many generals were the Northern armies led?
9. What did Grant do, while Sherman marched in from the west?
10. Where did Lee surrender to Grant?
11. When did he surrender?
12. What happened to President Lincoln a few days later?

Fill in the missing words!

The parents and grandparents of the _______ had been brought across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to work on ________. Some of the farms were very big and were known as plantations. People in the South depended on their slaves to _______ on the plantations and wanted to extend slavery to new territories in the west. People in the North had _______ as well as farms, but did not own slaves. Many Northerners _______ that slavery was evil. In 1860 they helped to elect Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States. _______ thought that he was a threat to their way of life, and as a _______, seven Southern states, led by South Carolina, withdrew from the _______ and formed their own nation, the Confederate States of America. Four more _______ withdrew later. Maryland and Kentucky, border states which possessed many slaves in 1861, never _______ the South, however. The Northern states fought to maintain the Union and to free the slaves.

 

Questions about the American Revolution (Irina)

1. When did Britain rule thirteen colonies along the eastern coast of North
America?
2. Where did Britain make all the major decisions?

3. Who had colonies in North America, too?
4. What did the colonists want to make?
5. Where did they want to be represented?
6. Who won the first major battle?
7. Where did they won this battle?

8. When did all thirteen colonies declare themselves independent?


mareen + irina

Mareen and Irina

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