Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Internal Migration in the United States to 1860

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on April 30, 2017

Several weeks back my colleague Pat Young posted a summary table from the 1860 U.S. Census to the Civil War Talk forum, that showed migration patterns within the United States. Pat has a deep interest in the story of immigration to the United States, but that extends to movement patterns within the country, as well. The United States has always been a mobile society, but where people move from- and to isn’t random; it’s driven by larger larger forces, in particular where people perceive the greatest opportunity for themselves.

For each of the states that existed in 1860, Pat’s table listed the leading four other states or territories where native-born citizens were likely to end up. I wondered what that information would look like on a map, so here it is — native states are shown in dark blue, and the states where those people ended up by 1860 is shown in light blue:

It’s clear that internal migration up to 1860 was overwhelmingly from free states to free states, and from slaveholding states to slaveholding states. One outlier in that trend is Missouri, which was a slaveholding state but less so than others, and drew migrants from all over the country.

And of course, California — everybody was going to California. Same as it ever was, y’all.

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12 Responses

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  1. Ken Noe said, on May 1, 2017 at 7:57 am

    I’m fascinated by all those Mainers in Cali.

    • Andy Hall said, on May 1, 2017 at 8:19 am

      Mainers turn up in all sorts of unexpected places. The first captain of the blockade runner Denbigh, one of the most successful runners of the war, was a Mainer.

    • J. B. Richman said, on May 4, 2017 at 9:56 pm

      I’m half Maineiac myself. The three traditional occupations in Maine are seafarers, farmers and lumbermen. Also, people who move out for economic reasons often go to New Hampshire or Massachusetts (as on the map). I have cousins in Connecticut, too. I suspect the Wisconsin-bound emigrants were farmers and lumbermen. The California-bound folks may have been seafarers first and then the other two occupations, plus some folks just looking for adventure.

  2. bob carey said, on May 1, 2017 at 10:11 am

    I notice a couple of things, nobody seemed interested in going to either Florida or the Carolinas. Also do the stats include people in servitude? I mention this because slaves were one of Virginia’s largest exports during the late antebellum era and I assumed that these slaves were sold to people in the deep south and the map doesn,t support this assumption.

    • Andy Hall said, on May 1, 2017 at 10:22 am

      Enslaved persons were not counted in these totals. The census did not collect any detailed information on them, in the large majority of cases not even their names.

      • bob carey said, on May 1, 2017 at 4:05 pm

        Sorry Andy I missed the word citizen in your post. The census only collected numbers on enslaved people to comply with the 3/5’s clause of the Constitution.

        • Andy Hall said, on May 1, 2017 at 5:29 pm

          No worries. In fact, I didn’t use that word specifically to make that distinction.

  3. Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on May 2, 2017 at 9:12 am

    California’s population pattern is interesting in that three out of the four states where people from California ended up by 1860 were Massachusetts, New York and Ohio. I can only guess that that would have been because of former gold miners, or their families, returning home, so to speak.

    • Andy Hall said, on May 2, 2017 at 1:29 pm

      Perhaps family members of returning miners. These are supposed to be migrations of native born Californians, so it wouldn’t be the people who went west sparked by the gold rush. In any event, I suspect the aggregate numbers from California moving back east are much smaller than the numbers from other states.

      • Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on May 3, 2017 at 5:37 pm

        Yes, much smaller, most likely. I suppose they could be the children of miners being sent back east to be educated or reared by family that remained behind.

  4. Patrick Young said, on May 3, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to create these map Andy.

    • Andy Hall said, on May 3, 2017 at 7:33 pm

      It seemed like something that could be seen better than read.


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