ANNUAL EDITIONS: United States History, 10/11
UNIT 1: The New LandUnit Overview
1. America’s First Immigrants, Evan Hadingham, Smithsonian, November 2004
The conventional wisdom used to be that American Indians migrated to the New World via a now-submerged land bridge from Siberia. This view has been challenged by archaeologists who have found the remains of settlements dating at least 1,000 years before this supposed migration took place. What remains controversial is where these early peoples actually came from.
2. 1491, Charles C. Mann, The Atlantic, March 2002
"Before it became the New World," Charles Mann writes, "the Western Hemisphere was vastly more populous and sophisticated than has been thought." He surveys new research that indicates Indians lived in this hemisphere much longer than previously assumed, and that they had a larger impact on the environment. 8
3. A Desperate Trek across America, Andrés Reséndez, American Heritage, Fall 2008
In 1528, a group of Spanish Conquistadors set out from Cuba to seize Florida for the king of Spain. The expedition was devastated by illness, exposure, and enslavement by Indians. This article tells the amazing story of four Spaniards who survived by becoming highly respected medicine men.
4. Brave New World: The Watercolors That John White Produced in 1585 Gave England Its First Startling Glimpse of America, Abigail Tucker, Smithsonian, December 2008
John White’s watercolors were not always precisely accurate, but provided the English with an attractive vision of the New World that helped stimulate emigration.
5. Champlain among the Mohawks, 1609: A Soldier-Humanist Fights a War for Peace in North America, David Hackett Fischer, American Heritage, Spring 2009
American colonial history used to be based on a single narrative: From Jamestown in 1607 to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Fischer offers what he calls a "braided narrative" focusing on the efforts of Samuel de Champlain’s efforts to create a humane French Empire in the New World.
6. The Birth of America: Struggling from One Peril to the Next, the Jamestown Settlers Planted the Seeds of the Nation’s Spirit, Lewis Lord, U.S. News & World Report, January 29—February 5, 2007
"Struggling from One Peril to the next," Lord writes, "the Jamestown settlers planted the seeds of the nation’s spirit." He recounts their struggles with the climate, Indians, disease, and with one another. He also sets the record straight on the legendary Pocahontas.
7. Strangers in a New Land: Henry Hudson’s First American Adventure, Peter C. Mancall, American Heritage, Spring 2009
The Dutch explorer Henry Hudson was the first European to navigate the Hudson River. It was not the "Northwest Passage" to Asia as he hoped, but glowing reports of the lush surrounding countryside helped stir enthusiasm in Holland and England for migration to the "New World." 32
8. Blessed and Bedeviled, Helen Mondloch, The World & I, May 2002
In 2001 the governor of Massachusetts signed a bill exonerating the last five individuals convicted in the Salem Witch trials of 1692. The author of this essay examines the attitudes and beliefs that led to the persecution of at least 150 people.
9. The Real Pirates of the Caribbean, USA Today, January 2009
The 1984 discovery of a sunken pirate ship has yielded a trove of information about piracy in the Caribbean during the early eighteenth century. A little known aspect of this activity is that it offered "black men an opportunity to participate and some achieved leadership positions."
10. Wilderness Ordeal, John F. Ross, American Heritage, Summer 2009
In the midst of the French and Indian War, an English raiding party led by Major Robert Rogers attacked a French outpost near Lake Champlain. Although not a large military operation, it sent a message to Native Americans allied with the French that their patrons could not protect them.UNIT 2: Revolutionary AmericaUnit Overview
11. The Gain from Thomas Paine, David Nash, History Today, June 2009
One of Thomas Paine’s most important pamphlets, Common Sense, appeared in early 1776 and within months had sold 150,000 copies. In it Paine stated that "nothing can settle our affairs more expeditiously than an open and determined declaration of independence." Paine went on to become one of George Washington’s most trusted advisers and wrote a number of influential pamphlets in behalf of independence from the mother country.
12. Benjamin Franklin: Revolutionary Spymaster, Eric Niderost, American History, February 2006
The American colonists desperately needed assistance in their war against the vastly superior British. Niderost shows how Benjamin Franklin, operating behind the scenes, helped to secure French military and economic assistance.
13. Dirty Little Secret, Simon Schama, Smithsonian, May 2006
Many slaves and former slaves fought on the colonists’ side during the American Revolution. Some, however, saw the British more as liberators than as oppressors. Schama views the revolution through the eyes of slaves and tells why numbers of them fought for the crown.
14. God and the Founders, Jon Meacham, Newsweek, April 10, 2006
When members of the first Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in September 1774, a dispute arose over whether the session should be opened with a prayer. Meacham shows how the issue was resolved in a way that acknowledged religion without permitting it to be divisive.
15. The Rocky Road to Revolution, John Ferling, Smithsonian, July 2004
"While most members of Congress sought a negotiated settlement with England," Ferling writes, "independence advocates bided their time." He analyzes the hopes and fears of both sides, and the manner in which the struggle was decided.
16. March on Quebec, Willard Sterne Randall, American Heritage, Fall 2008
In 1775 the Continental Congress authorized an expedition to Canada to protect the frontier against Indian attack and to persuade Canada to join the colonists against Great Britain. The campaign was plagued from the start by poor planning and faulty logistics. Despite heroic efforts on the part of Benedict Arnold, the campaign was an abject failure.
17. A Day to Remember: July 4, 1776, Charles Phillips, American History, August 2006
The Second Continental Congress actually declared American independence on July 2, 1776. Two days later it approved the Declaration of Independence, which was a kind of early-day "press release." Author Charles Phillips analyzes how Thomas Jefferson’s draft statement emerged in its final form.
18. The Baron DeKalb: Plotter or Patriot?, Thomas Fleming, Military History, February/March 2009
In 1777, a retired French army officer named Baron Johann de Kalb was sent to bolster the colonists’ struggle against the despised British. Part of his mission was to help depose General George Washington, whom the French regarded as a weak and ineffectual leader. De Kalb at first agreed with this assessment, but later concluded that Washington was "the only proper person to command the army." The Baron later died of wounds sustained fighting the British.
19. Getting Out: The First Rule of Holes, Stanley Weintraub, Dissent, Winter 2009
Getting into wars is easy, getting out of them far more difficult. Using the example of British efforts to end the conflict with the colonies, Weintraub cites the first rule of holes: When you realize you’re in one, stop digging. His article has significance for today.UNIT 3: National Consolidation and ExpansionUnit Overview
20. Fallen Timbers Broken Alliance, Thomas Fleming, Military History, August/September 2009
Although having ceded the area now known as the Midwest to the United States, Great Britain continued to occupy a number of forts there and used them to foment attacks on settlers. General Anthony Wayne’s victory over the Native Americans at Fallen Timber in 1794 resulted in a new peace treaty with them and British evacuation from the region.
21. The Best of Enemies, Ron Chernow, Time, July 5, 2004
The two most influential members of President George Washington’s first cabinet were Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson’s vision for the United States was a nation of small, independent farmers. Hamilton understood that agriculture would be the nation’s backbone in the foreseeable future, but he also wanted to foster commerce, manufacturing, and financial institutions. Their differences over the proper future of the nation led to a struggle that reverberates to this day.
22. Cliffhanger, John Ferling, Smithsonian, November 2004
Because the Constitution did not provide for the emergence of political parties, Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson tied in the electoral college even though both were Republicans. People at the time feared the possibility of violence and the threat of some states to secede if the issue were not resolved satisfactorily. Ferling analyzes the course of this crisis, including the possibility that Jefferson struck a deal with the Federalists to secure the presidency.
23. The Revolution of 1803, Peter S. Onuf, Wilson Quarterly, Winter 2003
The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 more than doubled the size of the United States, which some Americans already believed was too large. This acquisition had enormous ramifications at the time and changed the course of the nation’s history.
24. Women in the Early Republic, Patricia Cline Cohen, OAH Magazine of History, Winter 2000
Despite the enormous interest in women’s history over the past decades, Patricia Cohen writes, until recently the period 1790 to 1830 has received relatively little attention. Cohen tries to explain the reasons for this neglect and along the way discusses the lives of a number of notable women. 106
25. The Everyday Life of Enslaved People in the Antebellum South, Calvin Schermerhorn, OAH Magazine of History, April 2009
Invention of the cotton gin in the 1790s caused large-scale migration of slaves from the Upper South to cotton growing areas in states such as Mississippi and Alabama. This resulted not only in the forcible separation of many slave families but in even more wretched working conditions for most.
26. Liberty Is Exploitation: The Force of Tradition in Early Manufacturing, Barbara M. Tucker, OAH Magazine of History, May 2005
Manufacturing in the nation’s early years moved from the home to the workshop to the factory. Tucker analyzes this process, which involved the use of Child Labor and Pauper Labor. She focuses on the systems devised by Samuel Slater. The paternalism of these early years gave way to a system within which labor was considered just another cost of production.
27. Play Ball!, Harry Katz, American Heritage, Summer 2009
Contrary to myth, baseball was not invented by Abner Doubleday in 1839. Playing baseball was commonplace at that time, with teams and even leagues. It was not yet, however, a sport played on "elegantly manicured fields bordered by crisp white lines."
28. The Change Agent, Jon Meacham, Newsweek, November 10, 2008
Andrew Jackson usually is remembered as the president who ordered the tragic evacuation of Indians from the southern states. Meacham does not minimize the effects of this act, but argues that Jackson also instituted a number of policies that presaged the modern U.S. presidency.
29. The Inebriated Election of 1840, Jon Grinspan, The American Spectator, October 2008
U.S. presidential candidates frequently have tried to contrast their own "common touch" as contrasted with the alleged "elitism" of their opponents. No one did it better than William Henry Harrison, usually remembered for having dropped dead after only a month in office. "Although important issues were at stake," Grinspan writes, "Harrison’s image as a simple soldier with a taste for down-home, American cider truly excited voters."
30. The Awful March of the Saints, David Roberts, American Heritage, Fall 2008
In 1856 nearly 2000 Mormons began a 1,300-mile trek from the end of the railroad in Iowa to Salt Lake City. This expedition was unusually arduous because the participants pulled or pushed hastily constructed handcarts instead of riding in wagons. Based on an eyewitness account, this article describes the hardships of this journey, which cost more than 200 lives.UNIT 4: The Civil War and ReconstructionUnit Overview
31. The Emancipation Question, Tom Huntington, American Heritage, June 18, 2009
On the eve of the Civil War, a number of influential magazines and newspapers conducted a dialogue over the economic consequences of emancipation. Authors frequently cited the British experience in ending slavery in the British West Indies 25 years earlier.
32. Abolitionist John Doy, Tom Huntington, American Heritage, April 17, 2009
Early in 1859, the abolitionist John Doy led a small expedition of three whites and 13 blacks from Lawrence, Kansas to protect the blacks against kidnapping by slave traders. A few miles outside of town the party was captured by vigilantes and taken to Missouri to be tried for stealing slaves. Doy faced more than 60 years in jail but was freed by a daring jailbreak.
33. There Goes the South, H. W. Brands, American History, April 2009
From his election in 1860 to his inauguration the following March, Abraham Lincoln remained silent as the secessionist movement in the South gained strength. "Only at his inauguration did he muster the will to attack the secessionists head on," Brands writes, "By then it was too late to save the union peacefully."
34. Lincoln and the Constitutional Dilemma of Emancipation, Edna Greene Medford, OAH Magazine of History, January 2007
The Civil War began as a struggle over national union, but ultimately became a conflict over the continued existence of slavery. Author Edna Medford analyzes developments that led to the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln.
35. Steven Hahn Sings the Slaves Triumphant, Interview by Gene Santoro, American History, June 2009
In a recent book Steven Hahn argued that blacks made a much larger contribution to ending slavery than previously recognized. Indeed, he refers to it as "the greatest slave rebellion in modern history." He discusses his views in an interview.
36. A Slave’s Audacious Bid for Freedom, David W. Blight, American Heritage, Fall 2008
After four unsuccessful attempts to escape, for which he was severely punished, Wallace Turnage finally made his way to freedom in 1864. Sometime in the 1880s, Turnage wrote a narrative of his ordeals upon which this article is based.
37. How the West Was Lost, Chris Smallbone, History Today, April 2006
At the beginning of the nineteenth century Americans knew little about the Great Plains, which was referred to as the "Great American Desert" on many maps. The relentless push of white settlers westward displaced Native American tribes from their lands, a process speeded up by the construction of the Union-Pacific and Kansas-Pacific railroads shortly after the Civil War. Countless treaties were made and broken along the way.
38. Creating a Military Image: Lincoln as Commander in Chief, William C. Davis, OAH Magazine of History, January 2009
"Of the many eternal questions that surround Abraham Lincoln," Davis writes, "surely one of the most pertinent must be the matter of how this civilian, unschooled and inexperienced in war, managed to build and then successfully lead the largest military establishment yet seen on the planet." The author examines those characteristics that contributed to Lincoln’s greatness.
39. The American Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction on the World Stage, Edward L. Ayers, OAH Magazine of History, January 2006
The Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction were seminal events in U.S. history. The author argues that the war "has carried a different meaning for every generation of Americans" and "embodied struggles that would confront people on every continent."
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