Thomas Jefferson, a naturalist and visionary, dreamed that the United States would stretch across the continent from ocean to ocean. The account of how that dream became reality unfolds in the stories of Jefferson and nine other Americans whose adventurous spirits and lust for land pushed the westward boundaries: Andrew Jackson, John “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman, David Crockett, Sam Houston, James K. Polk, Winfield Scott, Kit Carson, Nicholas Trist, and John Quincy Adams. Their tenacity was matched only by that of their enemies: the Mexican army under Santa Anna at the Alamo, the Comanche and Apache Indians, and the forbidding geography itself.
Known also for his powerful fiction (Gap Creek, The Truest Pleasure, Brave Enemies), Morgan uses his skill at characterization to give life to the personalities of these ten Americans without whom the United States might well have ended at the Arkansas border. Their stories—and those of the nameless thousands who risked their lives to settle on the frontier, displacing thousands of Native Americans—form an extraordinary chapter in American history that led directly to the cataclysm of the Civil War.