American History and Genealogy Project

General Description of the United States

The United States of America occupy the middle division of North America, and are bounded north by British and Russian America; east by New Brunswick and the Atlantic ocean; south by the Gulf of Mexico, Texas, and Mexico; and west by the Pacific ocean. It lies between 25° and 54° of north latitude, and between 66° 50' and 125° west longitude from Greenwich; or between 9° 35' east, and 48° 20' west longitude from Washington. Its greatest length is 3,000 miles, and its greatest breadth is 1,700 miles, containing about 2,300,000 square miles. It has a frontier line of about 10,000 miles; a sea coast of 3,600; and a lake coast of 1,200 miles. It contains about one twentieth of the habitable land of the whole earth. The population in 1790 was 3,929,328; in 1800, 5,309,758; in 1810, 7,239,903; in 1820, 9,638,166; in 1830, 12,856,165; in 1840, 17,062,666; of which 2,487,113 were slaves. Employed in agriculture. 3,717,756; in commerce, 117,575; in manufactures and trades, 791,545; navigating the ocean, 56,025; navigating rivers, lakes, canals, &c, 33,067; in mining, 15,203; learned professions, 65,236.

The territory of the United States is divided into 26 states and three territories, each of which has a separate government, and the District of Columbia. The following is a list of the states, which are divided into the northern or eastern, the middle, the southern, and the western, their population in 1840, and their capitals.

Northern or Eastern States. Maine, 501,793, Augusta; New Hampshire, 284,574, Concord; Vermont, 292,948, Montpelier; Massachusetts, 737,699, Boston; Rhode Island, 108,830, Newport and Providence; Connecticut, 309,978, Hartford and New Haven.

Middle States. New York, 2,428,921, Albany; New Jersey, 373,306, Trenton; Pennsylvania, 1,724,033, Harrisburg; Delaware, 78,085, Dover; Maryland, 469,232, Annapolis.

Southern States. Virginia, 1,239,797, Richmond; North Carolina, 763,419, Raleigh; South Carolina, 594,398, Columbia; Georgia, 691,392, Milledgeville; Alabama, 590,756, Tuscaloosa; Mississippi, 375,651, Jackson; Louisiana, 352,411, New Orleans.

Western States. Ohio, 1,519,467, Columbus; Kentucky, 779,828, Frankfort; Tennessee, 829,210, Nashville; Michigan, 212,267, Detroit; Indiana, 685,866, Indianapolis; Illinois, 476,183, Springfield; Missouri, 383,702, Jefferson City; Arkansas, 97,574, Little Rock.

Territories. District of Columbia, 43,712, Washington; Florida, 54,477, Tallahassee; Wisconsin, 30,945, Madison; Iowa, 43,112, Iowa City.

Washington, on the Potomac River, in the District of Columbia, is the capital of the United States, and became such in the year 1800.

The country has every variety of surface and of soil. It has two principal, and a number of les-ser ranges of mountains. The two principal are the Alleghany and the Rocky mountains. The Alleghany mountains commence in the south, in Alabama, and run in a northeast direction, generally in a number of separate ridges, with a breadth of from 60 to 120 miles, and at a distance from the sea coast of from 250 to 80 miles, and terminate in the Catskill mountains, on the west of Hudson River. The general height of the Alleghany range is about 2,000 or 3,000 feet above the level of the ocean, but not more than one half of this above the level of their base. The highest peak in this range is Black mountain, in the west part of North Carolina, which is 6,476 feet Round Top, the highest peak of the Catskill mountains, is 3,804 feet.

The Rocky mountains may be regarded as a part of the great chain of the Cordilleras, and extend from Mexico to 70° north latitude, running at an average distance of 600 miles from the Pacific, and with a general height of about 9,000 feet, though some peaks are much higher. Some have estimated them from 20 to 25,000 feet.

The Green mountains commence near New Haven, in Connecticut, and run north through this state, Massachusetts, and Vermont, to Canada. Mansfield Mountain, the highest peak, in a town of the same name, in Vermont, is 4,280 feet high.

The White Mountains in New Hampshire are very elevated, the highest peak, Mount Washington, being 6,128 feet high. West of Lake Champlain, in the state of New York, are some high mountains, the highest peak of which, Mount Marcy, is 5,460 feet.

The waters west of the Rocky Mountains generally flow into the Pacific, though north of the United States, Unjigah, or Peace River, passes this great barrier, and enters the Northern Ocean. The Mississippi, with its great tributaries, drains the country between the Rocky and Alleghany mountains, excepting a few of an inferior class, which flow into the great northern lakes. East of the Alleghanies, the rivers flow into the Atlantic Ocean. A great portion of the vast valley of the Mississippi is level, or moderately uneven. The surface of the Eastern, or New England states, is hilly or mountainous. The Atlantic coast south of Long Island, to the distance generally of 100 miles from the ocean, is a sandy plain, but little elevated above the level of the ocean. But back of this, the country is hilly, until it rises into mountains.

The soil of New England, with the exception of the valley of the Connecticut River, is generally rocky and rough, though in some parts fertile, better adapted to grazing than to grain. The low country on the Atlantic coast has a light and rather barren soil, excepting on the margins of the rivers; but the hilly country back of this is fertile. The soil, generally, in the valley of the Mississippi, is fertile. But toward the Rocky Mountains, the country is barren; though the extensive prairies are adapted to grazing, as is proved by the vast herds of buffaloes which have found subsistence there. The soil west of the Rocky Mountains is in some parts fertile, but generally but moderately productive.

Beef, pork, butter, and cheese are the principal productions of the Eastern states; though grains of various kinds are raised for home consumption. Wheat is the staple of the Middle states. In the northern portion of the Southern states, wheat and tobacco are chiefly cultivated; and further smith, cotton, rice, and sugar. Throughout the United States, Indian corn, an indigenous grain, is extensively cultivated, and forms a most important crop. (For the Agricultural statistics, see the particular states.)

Among the minerals, iron ore, coal, limestone, and salt are exceedingly abundant. The lead region in Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa, is probably the finest in the world. Gold is found to a considerable extent in Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia; and marble and gypsum are very extensive.

Extending, as the United States does, through 20 degrees of latitude, differing greatly in different parts in the elevation of its surface, it must, of course, have a great variety of climate. In the northern part, it is subject to great extremes of heat and cold, but the climate is generally healthy. In the southern portion, along the Atlantic coast, and the Gulf of Mexico, the climate from July to November is unhealthy. The elevated portion of the country is generally healthy The Western states, with the exception of some low and marshy portions have a fine and salubrious climate.

There are many large and extensively navigable rivers, furnishing an immensity of water power for mills and manufactories, and great facilities for navigation and commerce. The following are the principal rivers which flow into the Atlantic, with about their length in miles: Penobscot, 250; Kennebec, 200; Androscoggin, 170; Saco, 160; Merrimac, 200; Connecticut, 410; Hudson. 324; Delaware, 300; Susquehanna, 450; Potomac, 500; James, 500; Roanoke, 400; Cape Fear, 350; Pedee, 450; Santee, 450; Savannah, 500; Altamaha, 400; St. Johns, 300. The following rivers flow into the Gulf of Mexico: Appalachicola, 500; Alabama, 600; Tombigbee, 450; Mississippi 3,000. The following are tributaries of the Mississippi: Red river, 1,500, Arkansas. 1,15©; White river, 1,200; Missouri, 3,180; Kansas, 1,100; Platte, 1,600; Osage, 500; Yellowstone, 1,100; Ohio, 1,350; Illinois, 500; Des Moines, 800; Tennessee, 900; Cumberland, 600; Wabash, 500. The following rivers are west of the Rocky mountains: Columbia, 1,500; Multnomah, 900; Lewis's, 900; Clarke's, 600. The above, include their remote sources.

The two largest lakes which lie wholly in the United States are Michigan, 330 miles long and 60 broad; and Champlain, 120 miles long and 15 broad. But the great lakes Superior, 380 miles long, and 130 broad; Huron, 240 by 150; Erie, 240 by 60; and Ontario, 190 by 55, are one half in the United States, the boundary passing through the middle of them. There are many smaller lakes, for an account of which, see the particular states.

The Gulf of Mexico, on the south of the United States, is a large branch of the Atlantic Ocean, which receives the waters from the great Mississippi valley The Chesapeake, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Penobscot are the largest bays. The principal sounds are Long Island, Albemarle, and Pamlico. The principal capes are Cape Ann, Cod, May, Henlopen, Charles, Henry, Hatteras, Lookout, Fear, and Sable.

Among the principal harbors, proceeding from north to south, are Portland, Portsmouth, Boston, Newport, New London, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk, Charleston, Savannah, Mo-bile, and New Orleans.

Table of Contents

Source: A Complete Descriptive And Statistical Gazetteer Of The United States Of America, By Daniel Haskel, A. M and J. Calvin Smith, Published By Sherman & Smith, 1843

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