Claiming the American Wilderness

International Rivalry in the Trans-Mississippi West, 1528–1803


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About the Book

In the early sixteenth century, as voyages across the Atlantic became more feasible and consequently more frequent, international competition for possession of the New World intensified. Occupied by numerous Indian tribes, western North America was home to vast natural resources, alleged riches and a fabled waterway that would connect the Mississippi with the Pacific Ocean. Over the next two centuries, Spanish, French, British, Russian and American explorers flocked to the Trans-Mississippi West, competing with each other as well as the native Indian groups for possession of the western half of the continent.
Beginning with the 1528 shipwreck of Spanish conquistador Cabeza de Vaca and ending with the negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, this volume presents a broadly based general survey of the events which took place in the Trans-Mississippi West during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The book focuses on the international rivalries west of the Mississippi and the resulting intense military and commercial competition. Using a unique prismatic rather than chronological approach, the work examines six distinct groups—Native American Indians, Spanish, French, British, Russians and Americans—and the objectives of each with regard to the Trans-Mississippi West. Sources include contemporary journals of explorers such as Lewis and Clark. An epilogue evaluates the success of the respective quests while a brief chronology at the end of the text serves to orient the reader. Appendices address eight related topics including the Lewis and Clark expedition, firearms on the early frontier, and the coming of the horse.

About the Author(s)

Hunt Janin is an American writer living in southwestern France. He has written numerous nonfiction and scholarly books on a range of subjects, including medieval history and cross-cultural studies.

Bibliographic Details

Hunt Janin
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 278
Bibliographic Info: 23 photos, maps, appendices, notes, chronology, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2551-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0879-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      v

Introduction      1

1. The Indians: Coping with the Europeans and Americans      9

2. The Spaniards: Children of the Sun      48

3. The French: Lords of Rivers and Lakes      96

4. The British: From Rupert’s Land to the Pacific      127

5. The Russians: “Soft Gold”—The Richest Fur in the World      157

6. The Americans: To All Points West      165

7. Epilogue: The Six Rivals: A Summing-Up      182

Selected Chronology, 1492–1804      203


1: The Lewis and Clark Expedition      215

2: Mirrors of the Trans-Mississippi West: George Catlin and Karl Bodmer      220

3: The Coming of the Horse      223

4: Firearms on the Early Frontiers      225

5: Protecting Northern New Spain from the Apaches      232

6: A Spanish Requerimiento      233

7: The Treaty of San Ildefonso      234

8: Coureurs de Bois and Voyageurs: The Men and Their Boats      236

Chapter Notes      241

Bibliography      255

Index      265