The Great Migration

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 4, 2012

The Great Migration

Between 1805 and 1815, the United States suffered an economic depression. The fall in prices and rise in unemployment came about because the Napoleonic Wars resulted in fewer European buyers for American goods. With no foreign buyers for its cotton, the South was on the point of economic collapse.

With the return of peace in Europe and the northeastern shift from trade to manufacturing, markets opened again and profits soared. The U.S. government offered frontier land grants to veterans to encourage settlement of the West. Between 1815 and 1819, the Great Migration saw record numbers of Americans moving west from New York, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio into Illinois and Indiana. Improved transportation, such as the building of the Cumberland (National) Road, helped make this possible. This paved road, originally a trail blazed by General Edward Braddock in 1755, led westward from Baltimore; by the time it was completed, it stretched all the way to Vandalia, Illinois. The National Road eased the Great Migration, even providing connections with flatboats that allowed settlers to travel down the Ohio River into the Mississippi Valley. It also constituted a trade route on which goods were transported in both directions. Today, the National Road is U.S. Route 40. The Great Migration ended with the Panic of 1819. The former trading posts along the National Road became important manufacturing cities.

US History National Road Great Migration Map

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

The Early 19th Century Practice Test

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