Explain How Violent Was The Old West

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How Violent Was the Old West? As the nineteenth century pressed onward the United states was granted a wealth of opportunity on the Western frontier. The mining of gold and silver caused the population in the west to explode in the mid 1800’s. However, with the start of the Civil War, expansion to the west seemed to stall. The focus of the nation shifted from the West to the South. After the Civil War, though, things seemed to pick up right where they left off. The Homestead Act of 1869 promoted migration to the West in massive numbers. The development of new industries and the charm of being able to start a new life in the West attracted many immigrants from the large Eastern cities in which violence was rampant. Modern films and…show more content…
It is important to realize that this was not at all typical of Western towns. Benton should be considered an extreme case of lawlessness for multiple reasons. First being that the homicide rate for the town was so outrageously high compared to most other western towns. Second being that Benton was a town that had a lifespan of mere months. The town was described as a “temporary terminal of the Union Pacific Railroad.” It was customary for the Union Pacific Railroad to set up small towns that consisted of tents and portable housing for its workers along the railway. By the time that the town died out it hadn’t even been there for half a year (Doc. 4). In the case of Green River City, within a few days of the town’s conception they had already drafted up a set of laws. As a result, Green River City was not nearly as violent as Benton was. In fact, the city exists to this day. This goes to show that with something as simple as a few laws, order can be instilled into a town. Green River City was a genuine testimony to non-violence in the west (Doc.…show more content…
In 1871, congress passed legislation that forbade any further treaties with the Plains Indians. This effectively ended any hope for peaceful relations with the Indians. Over the next twenty five years the United States would fight the Plains-Indian War. Many generals who had participated in the Civil War used total war tactics against the Indians. They burned entire villages and by 1882 had nearly caused the wild buffalo to go extinct (Doc. 6). The Massacre at Wounded Knee was particularly brutal. Over one hundred Sioux men, women, and children were slaughtered at the battle. There were usually limited American casualties during battles with the Indians. Of the 106,000 men who fought in the Indian wars, there was only 1,000 American casualties (Doc. 7). There were a few instances in which the Americans severely underestimated the Indians. Custer’s Last Stand at Little Bighorn resulted in Custer and his men being ambushed by Indians (Doc. 10). This was one of the few instances where the Americans suffered a considerable amount of casualties. The U.S. Government was able to carry out their atrocities by dehumanizing the Plains Indians. Many whites thought of them as beasts and romanticized their slaughter (Doc. 9). While the Plains Indians War was a black mark on the history of the West, it was focused on a very specific region of the west. It is for that reason that the rest of the old West cannot be

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