Reasons why Americans began moving west after the Civil War.

What did the U.S. government do to encourage these settlers, and what happened to the Indians as a result of this.

The Civil War 1861-1865 is one of the greatest turning points in the American history. After Abraham Lincoln was elected as the first Republican president in 1860, he promised to abolish slavery in all the southern states of the union (Higham, 2013). Lincoln decision angered the northerners who were mainly whites. This meant they could no longer extract and own slaves to work on their farms and industries in the northern and eastern parts of the confederation. The differences that erupted between the free and slave states over the national government’s declaration prohibiting slavery sparked off the infamous Civil War. With the 1776-1783 Revolution creating the United States, the Civil War would determine the kind of a nation the United States would be (West, 2014). The civil war remained to determine whether the nation would be broken into several sovereign states and whether all Americans were born of equal right. In 1865, Lincoln administration was able to bring back the southern states that had seceded from the American Union under an intense mechanism that included fierce exchanges between the military and the southerners. This period marked the end of the civil war, with many Americans moving from the northern and eastern states towards the west. Several reasons were behind this movement (Shaw, 2011).

The 1865 movement of the Americans to the western states came to be called the great movement. This settlers’ movement went on for about 40 years (Shaw, 2011). During this time, the western states were unoccupied, and thus provided a good breeding region for the land-thirsty Americans. The great mines of gold in California had contributed considerably to this movement. Generally, the mining prospects on the west were responsible for most of the American westward expansion. The civil war had caused a lot of agony and economic problems to the American people especially the settlers and thus many people were rushing to the gold mines to get rich quickly. While some people succeeded in acquiring some gold mines in the west, others experienced periods of economic meltdown characterized by high prices. They had to work for long hours for less pay. The people’s desire to own their own lands and estates led to the enactment of the Homestead Act of 1867 (West, 2014). In the gold mines, big companies began to develop with some buying chunks of land initially occupied by farmers. These mining companies needed machinery, equipment, and industrial supplies to operate and thus there was the need for transportation companies. This resulted to the construction of roads and later, railroads were built. One such railroad was the transcontinental railroad that ran across all corners of the nation. At this, many jobs were created and people opted to work in companies to farming and thus sold most of their land (Higham, 2013).

The development of industrial centers and factories in the west generated a great demand for food. Industrialization had caused people to change their lifestyle from farming to work in the newly developed cities. Food, especially meat was in high demand. To satisfy the great meat demands, more and more cattle were needed. Cattle drives led to farming and ranching in areas that had not been occupied by the industries. The aftermath of the American Civil War was characterized by great enmity between the southern blacks and the northern whites. There were many instances of racial segregation against the blacks, who found their way to the north in search for jobs (Shaw, 2011). Most industrialization had taken place in the north and thus when the civil war ended there was a mass movement of people in search for jobs and fortunes. This led them to the north and later to the west. As a result of this, resentment developed between the whites and the blacks. Some cases of conflicts were reported in some areas. Generally, the American Civil War led to great destruction of wealth especially in the southern states. The economy of the region could not be rebuilt in the short-run. The southern inhabitants could not survive the ordeal of broken economy and thus they started moving to areas like California where fortunes were said to be found (Higham, 2013).

The aftermath of the 1861-1865 American Civil War, leading to the great movement shaped the development in the western states. The period 1865-1877 was characterized by great government action towards the reconstruction of the southern states and the western economy (Shaw, 2011). At the time of the great movement, the government saw the economic potential in the west and thus started building on developmental structures that would encourage the settlers to invest more and more. As a result, the national government started opening up the region with telegraph wires and rails. This opened the western farmlands to millions of settlers and their families. Indians occupied much of the lands in the west. With this, the government devised ways that included violating Supreme Court rulings and the Removal Act of 1830 to displace them. In addition, the government embarked on an assault of the Indian community, turning them into American citizens (West, 2014).

The 1861-1865 Civil War was as a result, of the resentment that was growing between the northern whites and the southern blacks over the declaration of slavery free nation, by the Lincoln administration. The aftermath of the war saw hard economic times in the south. This prompted the 1865 great movement of settlers to the west in search for fortunes. The gold mines in California attracted many people who wanted to get rich quickly (Shaw, 2011).

History: The rapid industrialization in the United States

The late 19th century saw a great transformation in all aspects of the United States economy. Factors that included industrialization, immigration, and infrastructural development were the cause of the lucrative economy that the country enjoys today (Davis, 2008). With the great investment opportunities present in the country during this time, there was an influx of immigrants settling in all corners of the nation. The immigrants presented a diversified culture helping in define rapid industrialization that was taking place in the country. Half of the 19th century covers the Progressive Era, the Gilded Age, and the Reconstruction Era in the United States (Mauch & Patel, 2010). The soaring prosperity and rapid economic growth experienced during these periods catapulted the country to becoming the world’s leader in agricultural, industrial, and economic power. On average, the per capita income for non-farming workers rose by about 76 percent during the period spanning from 1866 to 1900. The abolition of slavery in 1865 was a great contribution to the developmental framework that was taking place in the US during this period. With only few reported cases of racial injustices, the then newly elected government ensured equal distribution of resources during the Reconstruction era. The blacks and whites were to be treated equally in all areas. All together, many reasons are attributed to the rapid growth in the United States economy in half of the 19th century (Davis, 2008).

In the late 19th century, most of the regions in the western and northern parts of the US were either not occupied or not fully utilized in terms of agriculture. Therefore, farming lands were available for those were not accommodated in the cities due to the looming industrialization. The great movement is a period that saw big populations of Americans move from the eastern and southern states to the north and western states (Davis, 2008). Cities like California witnessed excessive settlement of people seeking employment. As a result, there was cheap labor for the growing industries. After the 1861-1865 civil war, many American headed to the west whose lands had not been fully opened for economic exploitation. In the west, the native Indians were rebellious of the incoming settlers but were later defeated. During the Reconstruction Era, these Indians were assimilated into the larger groups and used as a further source of cheap labor for the industries and farms. The development of industries created the need for transportation companies that could be used to deliver equipment and supplies. This necessitated the construction of roads and railroads that replaced oxen as the often-used means of transport. The diversified climatic conditions and the availability of water from easily navigable rivers boosted the growth of the United States economy a great deal (Mauch & Patel, 2010).

In the period 1865-1900, the United States gained a lot of power as a result, of the unification of the conflicting states. It therefore gained stronger grounds for expanding its borders to the west thus increasing land for livestock keeping and farming. The western region was greatly endowed with minerals such as gold and silver (Davis, 2008). This further provided resources for industrialization and thus economic growth. The Abraham Lincoln administration elected in 1865 saw the implementation of antislavery laws that promoted democracy in the country. Both blacks and whites were to hold equal representation in government and all business venues. During this time, the government declared a free market economy where it was not to dictate on the type of businesses to be started, their locations, and the way the businesses would be run (Bergman, 2014). This promoted diversity and innovation among the American people about the kind of businesses to operate. These government policies towards the market system came to be called laissez-faire. The laissez-faire policies promoted foreign investment in the country with the government establishing an enabling environment for doing business (Bergman, 2014).

Robbers and barons contributed a great deal to the industrialization of the United States. In any country, all monies are necessary for the growth of the economy. This is regardless of whether the money is stolen or not. At the time of US industrialization, robbery and drug trade was taking roots and thus a lot of money was circulating in the economy (Mauch & Patel, 2010). The robbers and barons’ monies provided heavy capital that was needed for industrialization. The robbers and barons developed ideas that were aimed to creating more and more wealth thus helping the nation develop more. They ventured in almost all sectors of the economy. The Charles Darwin social Darwinism theory promoted a spirit of hard work among the American people. In order to survive, every American knew that he/ she had to work hard to avoid being eliminated by those who proved strong in the industry. The Darwinism theory promoted capitalistic economy where everyone was determined to acquire as much wealth as possible. This further prompted industrialization and growth of the American economy (Mauch & Patel, 2010).

The United States of America rose to the current state of the economy as a result, of factors that developed after the end of the 1861-1865 Civil War leading to the Reconstruction Era. During this period, Americans were hungry for land that they could use to farm and establish companies. California and other regions in the west provided such grounds for rapid industrialization since they were endowed with minerals and favorable farming conditions (Davis, 2008).


Higham, C. L. (2013). The Civil War and the West: The frontier transformed.

West Elliot (2014). The Civil War and Reconstruction in the American West. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Retrieved from, <>.
Shaw, D. (2011). Civil war west. S.l.: Authorhouse.

Davis, S. (2008). The political thought of Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Women’s rights and the American political traditions. New York: New York University Press.

Bergman Jerry (2014). “Darwin’s Influence on Ruthless Laissez-Faire Capitalism.” Institute for Creation Research. Retrieved from, <>.

Mauch, C., & Patel, K. K. (2010). The United States and Germany during the twentieth century: Competition and convergence. Washington, D.C: German Historical Institute.