USII.3a Study Guide
The Reasons for Westward Expansion

The student will demonstrate knowledge of how life changed after the Civil War by

a)       identifying the reasons for westward expansion.

WHITE PRINT - Content outline from VDOE curriculum guide   BLACK  PRINT - Additional information

Why did westward expansion occur?
New opportunities and technological advances led to westward migration following the Civil War.

Reasons for westward expansion:

Opportunities for land ownership  click to enlarge

The Homestead Act of 1862 provided that any adult citizen (or person intending to become a citizen) who headed a family could qualify for a grant of 160 acres of public land by paying a small registration fee and living on the land continuously for five years.
     Technological advances, including the Transcontinental Railroad Railroads could reach interior areas, including places where an inadequate water supply or rough terrain made canals impossible. By 1840, the United States had almost three thousand miles of track; by 1860, a network of thirty thousand miles linked most of the nation's major cities and towns.
     Possibility of wealth created by the discovery of gold and silver California Gold rush of 1849 was followed by new discoveries of gold and silver between 1857 and 1890. Prospectors swarmed to the mines where gold and silver were found.

       click to enlarge
Some people thought that life in the West was filled with adventure. Young men were drawn to the cowboy life.
     A new beginning for former slaves Few of the freed slaves could afford to own land and most worked as sharecroppers, work  not very different from what they did as slaves. Thousands of black families took advantage of the opportunity to become homesteaders on the Plains.

Early view of the Illinois Central Railroad

Copyright 1997 State Historical Society of Wisconsin

Development of the Transcontinental Railroad - Development, 1850-90