Today I started reading Denise Von Glahn's The Sounds of Place: Music and the American Cultural Landscape which discusses the Hudson River School of painters as an example of art successfully inspired by geography. Coincidentally, Kyle Gann has also just mentioned the Hudson River School of painters in a post about American romanticism. Both point out how 19th-century American painters, although educated in Europe, managed to develop a truly worthwhile aesthetic, unlike 19th-century American composers.
Gann emphasizes the dearth of early American compositional success:
Insofar as one can judge from available recordings, I have only found three pre-1890 American orchestra works of any notable interest: The Ornithological Combat of Kings (1836) by Anthony Philip Heinrich (1781-1861), the Niagara Symphony (1854, though it doesn't seem to have been performed before the current decade) by William Henry Fry (1813-1864), and Night in the Tropics (1861) by Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869).
And The Sounds of Place has a chapter illuminated with works by Heinrich and Fry (and George Frederick Bristow).