I have a friend who has been given an assignment to write a paper arguing persuasively which river in the world is the "largest". Obviously, some people argue it is the Nile and some, the Amazon (most argue the Nile). However, the professor specified that cultural impact and rhetoric should be used as opposed to actual facts (or in addition to actual facts).
Apparently, this teacher is pretty slick and tricky and seems to enjoy the smart-aleck kinds of answers to things, because when I said, "you see that if I got an assignment like that, I'd write something like that the Mississippi is the biggest".
She got really excited about the idea and ran with it asking me why I would say that and what kinds of arguments would I make. I talked about the "breadbasket" of the country getting its water from it and how the US produces a HUGE amount of the world's grain stores, how it drains 31 of the 50 states and how the French explores the Missippi River Valley quite a bit BECAUSE the river was there. It is also an extremely important fly-way for North American migrating birds.
She said, "Okay, what about history?"
I pointed out Chicago and how it probably wouldn't be the city it is today if not for the canal and locks that connect it to the Illinois river and the Mississippi beyond.
I also know the Miss. was a major dividing line between Illinois, a free state and Missouri a slave state - but I couldn't really say the river played a role in the outcome of the civil war.
So, what role did the river play in the outcome of the Civil War AND What role did it play in expansion into the west (or moderation and delay of expansion into the west?)