Influence on history
For a century, the Appalachians were a barrier to the westward expansion of the British colonies (or, from a different perspective, a major protection to the Native American tribes living to the west of the mountains). The continuity of the mountain system, the bewildering multiplicity of its succeeding ridges, the tortuous courses and roughness of its transverse passes, a heavy forest, and dense undergrowth all conspired to hold the settlers on the seaward-sloping plateaus and coastal plains. Only by way of the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys, and round about the southern termination of the system were there easy routes to the interior of the country, and these were long closed by powerful Native American tribes such as the Iroquois, Creek, and Cherokee, among others. British expansion was also blocked by Spanish colonies in the south and French activity throughout the interior.
In eastern Pennsylvania the Great Appalachian Valley, or Great Valley, was accessible by reason of a broad gateway between the end of South Mountain and the Highlands, and here between the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers settled many Germans and Moravians, whose descendants even now retain the peculiar patois known as “Pennsylvania Dutch”. These were late comers to the New World forced to the frontier to find cheap land. With their followers of both German and Scots-Irish origin, they worked their way southward and soon occupied all of the Shenandoah Valley, ceded by the Iroquois, and the upper reaches of the Great Valley tributaries of the Tennessee River, ceded by the Cherokee.
By 1755, the obstacle to westward expansion had been thus reduced by half; outposts of the English colonists had penetrated the Allegheny and Cumberland plateaus, threatening French monopoly in the transmontane region, and a conflict became inevitable. Making common cause against the French to determine the control of the Ohio valley, the unsuspected strength of the colonists was revealed, and the successful ending of the French and Indian War extended England’s territory to the Mississippi. To this strength the geographic isolation enforced by the Appalachian mountains had been a prime contributor. The confinement of the colonies between an ocean and a mountain wall led to the fullest occupation of the coastal border of the continent, which was possible under existing conditions of agriculture, conducing to a community of purpose, a political and commercial solidarity, which would not otherwise have been developed. As early as 1700 it was possible to ride from Portland, Maine, to southern Virginia, sleeping each night at some considerable village. In contrast to this complete industrial occupation, the French territory was held by a small and very scattered population, its extent and openness adding materially to the difficulties of a disputed tenure. Bearing the brunt of this contest as they did, the colonies were undergoing preparation for the subsequent struggle with the home government. Unsupported by shipping, the American armies fought toward the sea with the mountains at their back protecting them against British leagued with the Aboriginals. The few settlements beyond the Great Valley were free for self-defence because debarred from general participation in the conflict by reason of their position.
Before the French and Indian War, the Appalachian Mountains lay on the indeterminate boundary between Britain’s colonies along the Atlantic and French areas centered in the Mississippi basin. After the French and Indian War, the Proclamation of 1763 restricted settlement for Great Britain’s thirteen original colonies in North America to east of the summit line of the mountains (except in the northern regions where the Great Lakes formed the boundary). Although the line was adjusted several times to take frontier settlements into account and was impossible to enforce as law, it was strongly resented by backcountry settlers throughout the Appalachians. The Proclamation Line can be seen as one of the grievances which led to the American Revolutionary War. Many frontier settlers held that the defeat of the French opened the land west of the mountains to English settlement, only to find settlement barred by the British King’s proclamation. The backcountry settlers who fought in the Illinois campaign of George Rogers Clark were motivated to secure their settlement of Kentucky.
With the formation of the United States, an important first phase of westward expansion in the late 18th century and early 19th century consisted of the migration of European-descended settlers westward across the mountains into the Ohio Valley through the Cumberland Gap and other mountain passes. The Erie Canal, finished in 1825, formed the first route through the Appalachians that was capable of large amounts of commerce.
Tags: Mount Appalachian
The Appalachian Mountains often called the Appalachians, are a vast system of mountains in eastern North America. Definitions vary on the precise boundaries of the Appalachians. The USGS defines the Appalachian Highlands physiographic division as consisting of thirteen provinces: the Atlantic Coast Uplands, Eastern Newfoundland Atlantic, Maritime Acadian Highlands, Maritime Plain, Notre Dame And Megantic Mountains, Western Newfoundland Mountains, Piedmont, Blue Ridge, Valley and Ridge, Saint Lawrence Valley, Appalachian Plateaus, New England province, and the Adirondack provinces. A common variant definition does not include the Adirondack Mountains, which are often said to have more in common with the Canadian Shield than the Appalachians.
The range is mostly located in the United States but extends into southeastern Canada, forming a zone from 100 to 300 miles (160 to 480 km) wide, running from the island of Newfoundland 1,500 miles (2,400 km) south-westward to central Alabama in the United States (with foothills in northeastern Mississippi). The system is divided into a series of ranges, with the individual mountains averaging around 3,000 ft (900 m). The highest of the group is Mount Mitchell in North Carolina at 6,684 feet (2,037 m), which is the highest point in the United States east of the Mississippi River.
The term Appalachian refers to several different regions associated with the mountain range. Most broadly, it refers to the entire mountain range with its surrounding hills and the dissected plateau region. However, the term is often used more restrictively to refer to regions in the central and southern Appalachian Mountains, usually including areas in the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and North Carolina, as well as sometimes extending as far south as northern Georgia and western South Carolina, as far north as Pennsylvania, and as far west as southern Ohio.
The Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas and Oklahoma were originally part of the Appalachians as well, but were disconnected through geologic history.
While exploring the northern coast of Florida in 1528, the members of the Narváez expedition, including Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, found a Native American town whose name they transcribed as Apalachen [a.paˈla.tʃɛn]. This name and its pronunciation were applied to the Apalachee Native Americans, as well as a nearby body of water, now spelled Apalachee Bay, to the Apalachicola River, Apalachicola Bay, and the Apalachicola Native Americans, and to the city known as Apalachicola, Florida.
The word Apalachen was also applied to an inland mountain range, and through the course of time it became applied to the entire range and its spelling was changed.
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