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Published on Nov 19, 2013
The expansion of the United States into the territory west of the Mississippi River began with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. It took American colonists a century and a half to expand as far west as the Appalachian Mountains, a few hundred miles from the Atlantic coast. It took another fifty years to push the frontier to the Mississippi River. In the 1830's and 1840's, "Manifest Destiny," the idea that the United States was destined to expand across the entire continent, was used to promote further territorial expansion. Americans began to buy into the inevitability of settling unexplored western frontiers. Between the California Gold Rush and the Civil War, Americans, in growing numbers filled the Mississippi River Valley, the southwest territories, and the new states of Kansas and Nebraska. During the war, gold and silver discoveries drew prospectors—and later settlers—into Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, Idaho, and Montana. But, the most rapid migration occurred after the Civil War.