ALAN V. BRICELAND
Colonial Englishmen are generally considered to have been less adventurous explorers of the North American interior than their French and Spanish rivals. Historian John Bartlet Brebner devoted only thirty-six pages of his four-hundred-page, 1933 study The Explorers of North America, 1492-1806 to British exploration in what has become the United States. Names such as Soto, Coronado, Champlain, and La Salle are well known, but with the exception of John Smith, the names of the important English explorers are virtually unknown.
Because the great Appalachian chain, the mountains the Indians called the Endless Mountains, impeded the way west for all but one of the seventeenth-century English colonies, the English appear to have lagged behind their rivals in the speed with which they explored the interior. Nonetheless, between 1607 and 1804, colonial Englishmen undertook a number of remarkable journeys of discovery. Within a week of the landing of the first colonists at Jamestown, the process of exploration was set in motion. Steadily over the next two centuries, the English expanded their knowledge of their New World. By the end of 1607, they understood little more than what could be seen from a boat in Virginia's James River. By 1804, Anglo-Americans had viewed and mapped almost the entirety of North America east of the Mississippi River and, north of Saint Louis, even farther west.
English exploration did not proceed at a steady pace but moved in fits and starts. Most of the eastern portion of the United States was successfully explored in the seventeenth century. By 1700, virtually all of the important routes of travel east of the Appalachians, generally river valleys, had been visited, mapped, and assessed by the colonials. In addition, most of the Deep South and the great river systems of what was viewed as the West--the Ohio, the Tennessee, and the Mississippi--had been visited by