Historic regions of the United States

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Map showing North American Territorial Boundaries leading up to the American Revolution and the founding of the United States: British claims are indicated in red and pink, while Spanish claims are in orange and yellow.

This is a list of historic regions of the United States.

Colonial era (before 1776)

Early map showing claims and grant boundaries. Some colonies seen here are: Nova Scotia, First Province of Maine, Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, New Netherland, New Sweden, and Lord Baltimore's Land (Maryland)
New World settlements of The Netherlands, collectively called New Netherland
The Massachusetts Bay Colony
French settlements and forts in the so-called Illinois Country, 1763, which encompassed parts of the modern day states of Illinois, Missouri, Indiana and Kentucky)
Vandalia was the name of a proposed British colony in North America. The colony was to be located south of the Ohio River, primarily in what is now the U.S. states of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky
A proposal for the creation of Westsylvania was largely deterred by the Revolutionary War

The Thirteen Colonies

Pre-Revolutionary War regions

{* -indicates failed legal entities}

New England region

Mid-Atlantic region

Southern region

Southwestern region


Colonies settled but unrecognized

National Atlas map of United States territorial acquisitions

Colonies proposed but unrealized

Seward's Folly. The controversial purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 turned out to be a great deal for the U.S. when the area proved to contain a treasure trove of natural resources.

Independent entities later wholly admitted to the union

Regions purchased from foreign powers

The Oregon Country. The dispute over Oregon, between Britain and the U.S., led to an uneasy, "parallel" governing of the territory for almost 30 years.

Regions annexed from or ceded by foreign powers

The Republic of West Florida would cut across three modern day states

Native regions ceded to, ceded or purchased

Progression of the Indian Territory separation from the Arkansaw Territory, 1819–1836
Indiana lands acquired through treaties

Interstate, territory, or the federal cessions

The first State Cessions. The 13 original states ceded their western claims to the federal government, allowing for the creation of the country's first western territories and states.

The following are state cessions made in the building of the U.S.

Former organized territories

The Northwest Territory was a large and (at times) ill-defined territory ceded by Great Britain to the U.S. at the end of the Revolutionary War. British troops still occupied parts of the area well past 1800.
United States territorial expansion since 1803, by William R. Shepherd (1923)
Census Bureau map depicting territorial acquisitions and effective dates of statehood

The following is a list of the 31 organized U.S. territories that have become states, in the order of the date organized.

Internal land of the United States

Internal United States land grants, cessions, districts, departments, claims and settlements
The Ohio Country indicating battle sites between settlers and Native American Tribes, 1775–1794

The following are land grants, cessions, defined districts (official or otherwise) or named settlements made within an area that was already part of a state of the Union or U.S. territory that did not involve international treaties or Native American cessions or land purchases.





New York

Selected tract purchases of western New York State


Map of the Ohio Lands


Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory, along with No Man's Land (also known as the Oklahoma Panhandle). The division of the two territories is shown with a heavy purple line. Together, these three areas would become the State of Oklahoma in 1907.

Indian Reserves


Pennsylvania land purchases from Native Americans.

U.S. mainland military districts/departments

These entities were sometimes the only governmental authority in the listed areas, although they often co-existed with civil governments in scarcely populated states and territories. Civilian administered "military" tracts, districts, departments, etc., will be listed elsewhere.

Central United States

  • Department of the Northwest (1862–1865) Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska[2]
    • District of Minnesota (1862–1865)
    • District of Wisconsin (1862–1865)
    • District of Iowa (1862–1865)
    • District of Dakota (1862–1866)
    • District of Montana (1864–1866)
  • Department of the Missouri (1861–1865) Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, part of Kentucky, and later Kansas; re-configured in 1865 as part of the Division of the Missouri.
  • Division of the Missouri (1865–1891).
    • Department of Dakota (1866–1911) Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and parts of Idaho, South Dakota and the Yellowstone portion of Wyoming.
    • Department of the Missouri (1865–1891) Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Indian Territory, and Territory of Oklahoma.
    • Department of the Platte (1866–1898) Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Dakota Territory, Utah Territory, Wyoming (except Yellowstone), and a portion of Idaho.
    • Department of Texas (1871–1880) (originally part of the Department of the Gulf) Texas after 1865.
  • Department of New Mexico (1854–65) New Mexico Territory; previously part of the District of California and the Department of the West.

Pacific area

  • Pacific Division (1848–1853) lands won in the Mexican–American War; became the original Department of the Pacific in 1853.
    • Military Department 10 (1848–1851) California.
    • Military Department 11 (1848–1851) Oregon Territory.
  • Department of the Pacific (1853–1858; and 1861–1865); separated into the Department of California and the Department of Oregon in 1858.

During the Civil War the Department of the Pacific had six subordinate military districts:

The Department of California (1858–1861) comprised the southern part of the Department of the Pacific: California, Nevada, and southern part of Oregon Territory; merged into the Department of the Pacific as the District of California.

The Department of Oregon (1858–1861) comprised the northern part of the Department of the Pacific: Washington Territory and Oregon Territory.

  • Military Division of the Pacific (1865–1891).
    • Department of Alaska (1868–1884) became the civilian-ruled District of Alaska.
    • Department of Arizona (1865–1891) Arizona Territory; included New Mexico Territory after 1885.
    • Department of the Columbia (1865–1891) Oregon, Washington Territory, part of Idaho Territory, and Alaska after 1870.
      • District of Oregon (1865–1867) Washington Territory, Oregon Territory and Idaho Territory.
    • New Department of California (1865–1891) California, Nevada Territory, Arizona Territory, and part of New Mexico Territory.

The south

Post-Civil War Military Districts were set up to aid in the repatriation process of the southern states during "Reconstruction".
  • Department of the Gulf (1862–1865; created by the U.S. for the Civil War) Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas.
  • Trans-Mississippi (or Trans-Mississippi Department; CSA) (1862–1865) Formerly "Military Dept. 2"; Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), Kansas, and Louisiana west of the Mississippi River.

The west

Retroceded possessions and overseas territories

The Panama Canal Zone was once a territory of the United States.

U.S. military overseas regions

Functioning but non-sanctioned territories

These "territories" had actual, functioning governments (recognized or not):

Civil War-related

Animated Map of Secession and Repatriation of the Confederacy, 1860–1870. (Click on map to begin animation)
Competing Union and Confederate claims in Arizona and New Mexico (1861–1865). The 1863 date reflects the establishment of the U.S. Arizona Territory.

Functioning governments created as a result of the attempted secession of the Confederacy. Some were enclaves within opposing territories:

These were regions disassociated from neighboring areas due to opposing views:

Proclaimed but non-extant entities

The failed State of Lincoln, with its proposed 1868 boundaries

These entities have been proclaimed (or have existed de facto) in the past, but have never had an elected, recognized, or functioning government:

Proposed but non-existent entities

The proposed State of Superior. The red areas show the counties of the Upper Peninsula that are generally accepted as being part of the proposed state. The pink areas show the counties of the "expanded" proposal.

Failed proposals

These are failed state or territorial proposals actually brought to either a congressional, legislative or popular vote; but which never became a functioning entity:

Proposals never voted on

These are failed state or territorial proposals whose establishment proposals never were voted on, or never made it out of committee:

Native American-related proposed regions

  • Aztlán (a future reincarnation of a defunct, mythical Aztec Empire to be "re"-established in lands now found in the Southwestern U.S., a central theme in Chicano political activism.)
  • Comancheria, area inhabited and intermittently controlled by the Comanche and their allies.
  • Dinétah, the claimed original Navajo homeland
  • Republic of Lakotah, the proposed Sioux upper Midwestern mega-state.
  • Lenapehoking, would be named for the Delaware or Lenilenape Indians.

Regional nicknames

The four United States Census Bureau Regions separated by color, with the Nine Census Divisions further delineated by shading.


Belts are loosely defined sub-regions found throughout the United States:

See also


  1. "Luisiana". Artifacts.org. Retrieved 2012-09-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Heidler, David Stephen; Heidler, Jeanne T.; Coles, David J.; Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History; W. W. Norton & Company; New York; 2000; p. 590.

External links