Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ken Burns: The West: Episode 2: Empire Upon the Trails

I enjoy the history of the United States, and especially the West.  Of course the story is too broad to put in a series of movies, but the stories told are interesting.  This is the second part of the series directed by Steven Ives and produced by Ken Burns available through Netflix Instant.  It tells the story of the Whitmans in Washington, missionaries to the Cayuse Indians in Washington close to Walla Walla.  They blamed the Dr. Whitman for an outbreak of measles which killed half the tribe.  They decided to kill those in the mission, and the Dr. and his wife were killed, along with a couple of the Sager children.  The Sager family is a sad story.  Both parents died on the trek, leaving the children orphans in a strange land with no family.  They were adopted by the Whitmans, and subject to the massacre. 
This episode also tells the story of Texas and Sam Houston.  There were two episodes, not just one.  The Alamo and also the Battle of Goliad, where over three hundred Texians forces were executed after they had surrendered.  This was as much a rallying call as the Alamo.  This painted Santa Ana as a cruel man.  The Battle of San Jacinto turned the tide and as a result Texas claimed its independence.
The Mormon immigration also presented, with a brief history of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith.  This concludes with the Mormons digging an irrigation ditch and planting potatoes. 
The reprehensible treatment of the Cherokee, and the other Eastern tribes that were removed to the West, and followed The Trail of Tears is also presented.  This is a sad episode in our history supervised by Andrew Jackson.  
The program concludes with a brief explanation of the Mexican American War in California (but was mostly fought in Mexico.)  We do see General Vallejo, but the story of the Bear Flag Revolt is not told very well.  However this fulfilled Polk's goal that the United States extend from one coast to the other.

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