United States History



John Tyler">
Roger TaneyFormer U.S. attorney general and Secretary of Treasury but more famously Chief Justice of the United States who, among other things, wrote the Dred Scott Decision. He died in 1864 and was replaced by Salmon P. Chase. An outspoken champion of states' rights, he nonetheless espoused the theory of dual federalism, which propounds that the national and state governments are equal sovereigns, each with its own sphere of supremacy.
Zachary Taylor12th president of the United States. He became president despite never having held a political office. He was a Mexican War hero, having won great victories at the Battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista. He ran for president on the Whig ticket and won mainly because he refused to comment on such troublesome issues of the day as slavery and Popular Sovereignty. Among the major things that occurred while he was in office was the debates over the Compromise of 1850. He was in office only a year before he died.
Tea Act1773 Act that gave a monopoly on tea sales to the East India Company. In other words, American colonists could buy no tea unless it came from that company. Why? Well, the East Indian Company wasn't doing so well, and the British wanted to give it some more business. The Tea Act lowered the price on this East India tea so much that it was way below tea from other suppliers. But the American colonists saw this law as yet another means of "taxation without representation" because it meant that they couldn't buy tea from anyone else (including other colonial merchants) without spending a lot more money. Their response was to refuse to unload the tea from the ships. This was the situation in Boston that led to the Boston Tea Party.
TecumsehShawnee chief who fought alongside his brother, the Shawnee Prophet, in trying to stop American settlement in the Old Northwest. In 1811, he went to visit the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek tribes, to enlist their support against American expansion. Tecumseh left his brother in charge and told him not to attack nearby American forces. The Shawnee Prophet ignored his brother's warnings and attacked Americans at Prophet's Town, near Tippecanoe Creek. The American forces, under Indiana Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison, fought back. This was later called the Battle of Tippecanoe. Tecumseh then joined the British side in the War of 1812. He fought in several battles, ending with the Battle of the Thames, in which he was killed.
Battle of the ThamesAmerican victory on October 5, 1813, toward the end of the War of 1812. At Moraviantown, in Ontario, Canada, American forces under the command of General William Henry Harrison defeated a combined British-Native American force that was retreating from the Lake Erie area after Oliver Hazard Perry's victory there. The force also included the Shawnee leader Tecumseh, who was killed in the battle.
Battle of TippecanoeBattle between Native Americans and Americans that made a hero out of William Henry Harrison (who took the nickname "Tippecanoe"). In 1811, Shawnee chief Tecumseh went to visit the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek tribes, to enlist their support against American expansion. Tecumseh left his brother, the Shawnee Prophet, in charge and told him not to attack nearby American forces. The Shawnee Prophet ignored his brother's warnings and attacked the Americans anyway, near Tippecanoe Creek. The American forces, under Indiana Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison, fought back. They burned Prophet's Town, the Shawnee's chief village, for good measure. The battle wasn't really a victory for either side, but it made Harrison a hero.
Tom ThumbFirst steam locomotive built and tested in the United States. Peter Cooper built the Tom Thumb for the new Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Cooper wanted the railroad to use machines instead of horses for power. To prove his point, Cooper offered to race the Tom Thumb against a horse. On August 28, 1830, the Tom Thumb rolled along a track, pulling a wagonload of people. Alongside the engine ran a horse. Faster and faster they both went, until the Tom Thumb lost a part and slowed down. The horse won, but B&O officials were convinced of the power and the promise of the locomotive.
Townshend ActsSeries of 1767 laws named for Charles Townshend, British Chancellor of the Exchequer (Treasurer). These laws placed new taxes on glass, lead, paints, paper, and tea. Colonial reaction to these taxes was the same as to the Sugar Act and Stamp Act, and Britain eventually repealed all the taxes except the one on tea. In response to the sometimes violent protests by the American colonists, Great Britain sent more troops to the colonies.
Trail of TearsMovement of Cherokee from Georgia to Oklahoma. Backed by the federal government and President Andrew Jackson's desire, American troops forced hundreds of Cherokee to leave their homes in Georgia and move to the "Indian Territory" of Oklahoma. The Cherokee had been given to permission by the Supreme Court in 1835. However, a small group of Cherokee agreed to a treaty with the United States that allowed for the their removal. In 1838, about 7,000 American troops moved in and began the forced removal. The journey was hard, and many Cherokee suffered or even died. Many cried. That's why this journey is called the "Trail of Tears."
Treaty of 1846Treaty between the United States and Great Britain that set the boundary of the Oregon Territory.
Treaty of GhentTreaty that officially ended the War of 1812. Negotiators for America included John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay. Great Britain agreed to give up claims to the Northwest Territory, and both countries promised to work toward ending the slave trade. The treaty was signed in Ghent, Belgium, on December 24, 1814. However, the slowness of communications prevented word of peace getting to the armies in and around New Orleans. American forces under Andrew Jackson won the Battle of New Orleans anyway.
Treaty of Paris 1763Treaty that officially ended the French and Indian War. The British gained control over the area west of the 13 British Colonies to the Mississippi River. The French agreed to no longer support any colonies in North America, including all of Canada. Since Spain had joined the war on the side of the French, the Spanish were also forced to give up their claim to Florida. The area of North America to the north and east of the Mississippi River was now under British rule. But the Spanish still held their territory west of the Mississippi River and in Central and South America.
Treaty of Paris 1783Treaty that officially ended the Revolutionary War on September 3, 1783. It was signed in Paris by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay. Under the terms of the treaty, Britain recognized the independent nation of the United States of America. Britain agreed to remove all of its troops from the new nation. The treaty also set new borders for the United States, including all land from the Great Lakes on the north to Florida on the south, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. The United States agreed to allow British troops still in America to leave and also agreed to pay all existing debts owed to Great Britain. The United States also agreed not to persecute loyalists still in America and allow those that left America to return.
Battle of TrentonFamous American victory that began with "Washington Crossing the Delaware." Actually, the whole army crossed the Delaware River, which was frozen in places, on Christmas night, 1776, from Pennsylvania to the outskirts of Trenton, New Jersey. There, the Americans surprised a drunken Hessian force that celebrated the holiday a little too much. The battle lasted about 45 minutes and resulted in 900 Hessian prisoners. The Americans then marched on Princeton and won there, too. They were smashing victories for the weary Americans, and they were also an opportunity to gain some badly needed guns and ammunition.
Harriet Tubman"Moses" of the Underground Railroad, she was an escaped slave herself and helped to bring to safety thousands of runaways.
John TylerTenth president. He became president when William Henry Harrison died in office (1841). He began his political career in the House of Representatives, representing Georgia. He later served as governor of Georgia and then as a Senator. He voted against the Missouri Compromise. He was a member of the Whig Party. He was a strong supporter of states' rights, and he angered Henry Clay and other Whig leaders by vetoing several key bills that would have given the federal government more power. He served one term as president. As the country moved toward war, Tyler tried to help with compromise efforts; he would not, however, give up his support of states' rights. When he died in 1862, he was a member of the Confederate House of Representatives.
Uncle Tom's Cabin1852 novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe that showed to much of the nation that did not know how evil slavery could be.
Underground RailroadOrganization to take slaves to freedom in the North. "Conductors" included Harriet Tubman and many Quakers, who believed that slavery was evil and must be opposed. From 1830 to 1860, the Underground Railroad transported more than 50,000 people to safety.
Valley ForgePennsylvania encampment occupied by the American army from December 1777 to June 1778. The winter was particularly harsh, and the army was short on food, clothing, and supplies. But they hung on. The leadership of Commander-in-Chief George Washington and Baron von Steuben, the Prussian drill sergeant, kept the soldiers occupied and made them better, tougher soldiers in the end. In June 19, 1778, the army set out for New Jersey, where they fought the British to a stand-still just nine days later, at the Battle of Monmouth. Among the soldiers who were encamped with Washington at Valley Forge were Generals Nathanael Greene and Benedict Arnold; Alexander Hamilton, Washington's personal aide; the Marquis de Lafayette; and a man named John Marshall, who would go on to become the first famous Chief Justice of the United States.
Battle of Vera CruzAmerican forces under General Winfield Scott made the country's first amphibious landing at Vera Cruz, a Mexican coastal city, on March 9, 1847. Before the Mexican Army knew it, 12,000 American troops were on land and marching toward Vera Cruz. They captured the city several days later. From there, it was a short, triumphant march to Mexico City, the capital.
Battle of VicksburgDazzling victory by General Ulysses Grant despite the presence of daunting Confederate gun batteries on the walls surrounding the city overlooking the Mississippi River. Grant tried five different plants (including diverting the Mississippi River itself) before he found one that worked. It was the simplest but riskiest of all: run the gantlet of Confederate gun batteries and land on the eastern shore of the Mississippi right below Vicksburg. From there, Grant set up trenches and settled in for a siege, which proved most effective. In one of the quirks of history, Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, commanding the troops in Vicksburg, surrendered to Grant at almost the same time that General George Pickett was leading his disastrous charge into the Union batteries on Cemetery Ridge.
WampanoagNative American tribe that lived primarily in what is New York. They and their leader, Massasoit, befriended the Pilgrims and made a peace treaty with them.
War HawksMembers of Congress from the South and West who desperately wanted war with Great Britain and with Native Americans, in order to protect the interests of America. The leader of the War Hawks was Henry Clay, who was Speaker of the House in the months leading up to the War of 1812. Another leading War Hawk was John C. Calhoun.
War of 1812American victory over British forces in America and in Canada. Fighting both British and Native American troops in Canada, the U.S., and Florida, the Americans managed to win what some have called the "second war of independence," despite stunning defeats in the north (loss of Fort Detroit) and the symbolic burning of the White House, Capitol, and other government buildings (Battle of Washington). The war had its roots in the Native American conflicts in the Northwest Territory and the British encouragement of those conflicts, as well as the continued British interference with American shipping. The last official battle of the war, the Battle of Baltimore, convinced the British that they didn't have the troops to keep on fighting this war and fighting Napoleon, which they had been doing in Europe for most of the War of 1812 as well. They agreed to peace by signing the Treaty of Ghent. Ironically, commanders for neither side in the South heard of the treaty before the Battle of New Orleans, in January 1815. The American victory put an exclamation point on the overall war victory.
Battle of WashingtonBritish "victory" that resulted in the burning of many U.S. government buildings, including the Capitol, White House, the War Office, and the Treasury building. The British defeated a ragtag force of soldiers and militia at Bladensburg, right outside Washington, and then marched into the capital city. As soon as they set fire to the buildings, they retreated.
George WashingtonFirst president of the United States, he also fought (for the British) in the French and Indian War and was the commanding officer of the victorious American forces in the Revolutionary War. He was named president of the Constitutional Convention. He served two terms as president, during which he invented the Cabinet, his advisers, and tried to calm the bickering between the two new political parties, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. After his second term, Washington retired to his home at Mount Vernon, to live a quiet life with his wife, Martha.
James WattScottish engineer who improved on existing ideas and made a workable steam engine in the last half of the 18th Century. Watt didn't invent the steam engine, but his additions created one that was very practical and that made possible the great leap technological leap forward that was the Industrial Revolution.
Mad Anthony WayneGeneral who found great success during the Revolutionary War and in the Indian Wars that followed. He was in charge of Fort Ticonderoga, then fought alongside George Washington at Brandywine and Germantown. He met with success later in the war and ended up at Yorktown in time for the British surrender. He was a great tactician and a good person for anticipating problems and preventing them from occurring. He was also famous for his great victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers (1794), near present-day Toledo, Ohio, in which he sent a larger Native American force running in retreat. This battle was also significant because the Native Americans who fought there that day retreated to Fort Miami, where they thought they could find British reinforcements. But the British, unwilling to risk another war with the United States, did not help. Wayne got his nickname from a man that he had ordered punished for disobeying orders.
Daniel WebsterFamous lawyer and public speaker who made many speeches in favor of the federal government and the Union. He served in both houses of Congress and then as Secretary of State for Presidents William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, and Millard Fillmore. Webster ran for president in 1836, one of four Whig candidates to run. They split the vote, and Democrat Martin van Buren won. Webster is also famous for the Webster-Hayne Debates, which took place in Congress, and arguably cases in front of the Supreme Court.
Whig PartyOne of the political parties that emerged from the demise of the Democratic-Republican Party. Members of the Whig Party believed in a strong federal government, tariff protection, a strong national bank, and federally sponsored communication projects. All of this together was called the "National System," a focus on the strengthening of the country as a whole through the federal government, rather than through the state governments, as was preferred by the newly formed Democratic Party. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were important early members of the Whig Party.
Whiskey RebellionFirst real test of the new United States Government's authority to enforce federal laws. In Western Pennsylvania, people used a lot of whiskey: both to use up extra corn and as money. The federal government passed a tax on whiskey in 1791. Farmers in western Pennsylvania refused to pay the tax, saying it was like the Stamp Act all over again. Trouble brewed for a couple years until 1794, when farmers assaulted federal tax collectors. President George Washington called out the national militia to put down what came to be called the Whiskey Rebellion. Many people were arrested, but all were later either pardoned or found not guilty.
Eli WhitneyInventor of the cotton gin (1793) and later the process of mass production (1798). This process was used to make rifles. The cotton gin was a hugely successful invention because people didn't have to separate cotton by hand anymore. It also meant that the cotton fiber made from the lint could be produced much faster than ever before. This made cotton into a huge cash crop. However, so many people made their own cotton gins that Whitney made very little money off it.
Battle of the WildernessWoods in Virginia west of Chancellorsville. Grant's goal was to quick march through the Wilderness and attack the flank of Lee's army, forcing the Confederates into a fight in the open. Lee, however, had other ideas. The two armies clashed inside the woods, making artillery and cavalry all but useless. Blinding smoke and fog enveloped the troops for two days (May 5-6, 1864), during which fires killed a good amount of men. Despite heavy losses (17,000 men), Grant refused to turn around. In this respect, it was the turning point of the Civil War in the east.
Wilderness RoadRoad into the Kentucky and Ohio Valleys carved out by Daniel Boone and 30 other frontiersmen in 1775. One of the main areas of this road was the Cumberland Gap.
Wilmot ProvisoProposal brought forward by Pennsylvania Congressman David Wilmot that stipulated that none of the Mexican Cession territory would be allowed to permit slavery. Out of the arguments for this proviso came the Compromise of 1850.
James WolfeBrilliant British general who won the two most different battles of the war, Louisbourg and Quebec. He was second in command to Jeffery Amherst but got the lion's share of the duties in these two battles. Notoriously poor in health, he somehow managed to inspire his troops to victory. Right before the Battle of Quebec, he was shot while inspecting his troops. He stayed the course and led them to victory. He later died from his wounds.
XYZ AffairDiplomatic scandal that almost caused another war, this one between the United States and France. France was, at the time, at war with Great Britain. A treaty between Britain and the U.S. failed to guarantee France the right to ship with the U.S. France sent to the United States three diplomats, thereafter named X, Y, and Z, with outrageous demands. The result was undeclared war between the two countries.
Battle of YorktownAmerican victory that ended the Revolutionary War on October 20, 1781. British General Charles Cornwallis had met defeat in the south, at Cowpens, and his force had been continually weakened, especially by American General Nathanael Greene at Guilford Courthouse. Cornwallis left the Carolinas and proceeded north to Yorktown, Virginia, there to await reinforcements from General Henry Clinton, who was occupied in the north. American forces under Greene and Commander-in-Chief George Washington pursued Cornwallis by land while French ships surrounded the bay of Yorktown. Faced with the prospect of no reinforcements, Cornwallis stood and fought. But the Americans won the battle and the war. At the surrender ceremony, Cornwallis's sword was accepted by General Benjamin Lincoln while a British band played "The World Turned Upside Down." This was the last major battle of the war, although some minor skirmishes took place for the next two years, until the Treaty of Paris ended the war in 1783.
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