The French Settlement
Ste. Genevieve, a French Village on the Mississippi near St. Louis, 1797
The Right of Deposit Withdrawn at New Orleans, October 18, 1802
Although France re-acquired Louisiana in 1800 from Spain, Spanish officials continued to administer the territory. In 1802, the Spanish Intendant of New Orleans withdrew the Right of Deposit to American commerce. The withdrawal of the Right of Deposit, issued on October 18, 1802, meant that American goods brought by flatboats down the Mississippi could not be deposited or stored at the port for later overseas shipment.
The crisis forced President Jefferson to declare that the control of the Mississippi was crucial to the interests of the United States. Jefferson sent diplomatic envoys to Paris with instructions to try to buy New Orleans.
Meanwhile, Napoleon planned new military campaigns to expand French control over Europe. The French consequently found themselves overextended in North America. The strong American reaction to the Spanish Intendant's closure of the Port of New Orleans convinced the French of the futility of retaining the territory. French officials amazed the American envoys by offering to sell not just New Orleans, but all of Louisiana. The United States purchased the territory for the bargain price of fifteen million dollars.
The Transfer of Upper Louisiana to the United States at St. Louis, March 9-10, 1804
Captain Charles De Hault Delassus, the Spanish Commandant at St. Louis, ordered the transfer ceremonies to take place in front of the Government House. French authorities in New Orleans deputized an American, Captain Amos Stoddard, to accept the territory from Spain on behalf of the French Republic. The French flag was raised on March 9.
On March 10, Captain Stoddard conveyed the territory from France to the United States, represented by Meriwether Lewis, and the United States flag was raised. That ceremony formally opened the vast lands of the Trans-Mississippi west to United States expansion.
Fort Union on the Upper Missouri River
By 1825, large numbers of frontiersmen working for fur companies had journeyed into the Upper Missouri territory to trap and trade for furs. The relationship between trappers, traders, and the native tribes became tense and sometimes violent. The United States Army was unable to keep pace with the rapid expansion of the fur trade. The large fur companies realized that they would have to provide for their own protection.
The American Fur Company, headquartered in St. Louis, attempted to control the Upper Missouri. In 1828, John Jacob Astor, the company's owner, ordered a fort to be built on the north bank of the Missouri River, five miles west of the Yellowstone River. The site became a major center for commerce between the traders and the surrounding Indian tribes. Called Fort Union, it was an impenetrable stockade of cottonwood logs with two 30-foot tall stone bastions. Supplies and barter goods brought upriver from St. Louis were exchanged for furs. For over forty years, Fort Union was the most important trading post in the Upper Missouri region.