Early United States history

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United States historical travel topics:
Indigenous nationsPre-Civil WarCivil WarOld WestIndustrializationPost-war

Contrary to popular belief in Europe and other parts of the world, the United States has existed longer as a nation-state than most other countries in the world.

There have been many historical epochs in the land now governed by the US, starting with the pre-colonial times when Native Americans held sway, the Colonial Era and the American Revolution. This article focuses on the antebellum history; from the first European settlement, until the American Civil War, which started in 1861, before most of the Industrial Revolution, large-scale railroad expansion, and the American colonization of the Old West.


And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.United States Declaration of Independence
  • 1492 — First voyage of Christopher Columbus brings the existence of land to the West to the consciousness of most Europeans
  • 1513 — Saint Augustine, Florida is founded by the Spaniards; today, it is the oldest continuously-occupied Euro-American settlement in what's now the United States
  • 1586 — Attempt to establish a British colony at Roanoke Island, in what would later become North Carolina; this is now known as the "lost colony", and it is possible that the colonists may have joined the local Native American tribe, but no-one really knows why they disappeared without a trace
  • 1607 — Santa Fe founded by the Spaniards in what is now New Mexico; that same year, Jamestown, Virginia was founded, and it was not only the first lasting British colony in the Americas but the first in the world
  • 1620 — Pilgrims found the Plymouth Colony
  • 1625 — Nieuw Amsterdam, now New York City, is founded by the Dutch as part of New Netherland (Dutch: Nieuw-Nederland), which encompassed most of what's now New York State
  • 1626 — Founding of Salem, Massachusetts
  • 1630 — Boston and 10 other Massachusetts settlements founded by Puritans
  • 1670 — Charles Town, now Charleston, South Carolina, is founded and quickly becomes a major port city in British America
  • 1675-1678 — First Indian War
  • 1682 — Philadelphia founded
  • 1688-1697 — Second Indian War
  • 1754-1763 — French and Indian War
  • 1775-1783 — American Revolutionary War
  • 1776 — Declaration of Independence
  • 1803 — Louisiana Purchase, followed by the Lewis and Clark Expedition
  • 1812-1815 — War of 1812 (US against Britain, mostly fought in Canada and the Eastern United States)
  • 1846-1848 — Mexican-American War
  • 1861-1865 — American Civil War


Along the Atlantic coast were the Thirteen Colonies, part of the British Empire. Although much of the buildings have been torn down and replaced by new ones or railways and streets, some old towns, historic buildings and objects still remain, mostly in the following cities:

  •   Plymouth, Massachusetts. The place where the Puritan "Pilgrims" landed in 1620, and the site of the original Thanksgiving holiday. The oldest surviving colony in New England.
  •   Salem, Massachusetts. Among other things, known for the Salem Witch Trials.
  •   Boston, Massachusetts. Much of the prelude to the War of Independence happened here, such as the Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre. The Freedom Trail will be of particular interest to Revolutionary War buffs.
  •   Concord (Massachusetts). One of the first battlefields of the War of Independence has been commemorated with the Minute Man National Historical Park.
  •   Gloucester (Massachusetts). The oldest seaport in the United States.
  •   New York, New York. Originally a Dutch colony, named Nieuw Amsterdam.
  •   Paterson, New Jersey. "The Silk City" was the nation's first planned industrial city.
  •   Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Once the capital of the Union.
  •   Baltimore, Maryland. During the War of 1812, Baltimore resisted a British attack. The battle was inspiration for The Star-Spangled Banner, the American National Anthem.
  •   Annapolis, Maryland. A colonial port city with many preserved buildings.
  •   Washington, D.C.. Founded in 1800, this city contains many artifacts from the Independence era
  •   Allegheny Portage Railroad, Pennsylvania (near Altoona). A railroad, operating 1834 to 1854, which became an early gateway between the Atlantic and the Midwest. Contains the first American railroad tunnel.
  •   Williamsburg, Virginia. Includes the Jamestown settlement, the first British colony to survive in what's now the United States; Colonial Williamsburg; and other preserved relics from the colonial and revolutionary periods.
  •   Hampton, Virginia. The Fort Monroe National Monument.
  •   Charleston, South Carolina. This charming city has a neighborhood with a large number of well-preserved antebellum (that is, pre-Civil War) mansions. Many houses in other parts of town are elegant and of some age, too.
  •   Savannah, Georgia. Founded in 1733. Captured by the British during the Revolutionary War.
  •   Santa Fe, New Mexico (off map). The capital of New Mexico has its Spanish Plaza at its center, featuring the 17th-century Palace of the Governors, with its history museum.
  •   The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas (off map). Considered to be hallowed ground and the Shrine of Texas Liberty, the Alamo is a former mission which was also the site of the Battle of the Alamo (1836). Admission is free, although donations are appreciated. Revenues from an adjacent gift shop fund the historic preservation efforts.
  • Roanoke one of the earliest attempts at a British colony in North America

Indigenous heritage[edit]


See also[edit]

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