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LInks to Sites on the Journeys of Lewis and Clark - History

LInks to Sites on the Journeys of Lewis and Clark - History


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America Heads West

On a gloomy December afternoon in 1803, a boat crept along the banks of the Mississippi River and landed at the mouth of the Wood River in what is now the state of Illinois. A group of men climbed out and began to set up camp under a dark canopy of oak trees. Suddenly a violent storm moved in, pelting the area with snow and hail.

The men didn’t turn back though. Instead, they hunkered down and spent the next five months here preparing for the trip they were about to embark on,in which poor weather would be one of the many dangers they’d face.

Among these men were Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, co-leaders of an expedition tasked with exploring land that the United States had recently acquired. Their trip would turn into an epic 8,000-mile-long trek—and the first big step in the United States’ westward expansion.


How to Follow the Footsteps of Lewis and Clark in Pacific County

You could hardly consider a visit to the Long Beach Peninsula complete without mention of Lewis and Clark. For ten days in mid-November of 1805, the Lewis and Clark party, formally known as the Corps of Discovery, explored the Peninsula. Today, you can experience some of the same landmarks the Corps of Discovery came across as well as find monuments commemorating their journey.

Here are five ways to follow in their footsteps during your visit to the Long Beach Peninsula.

1. Visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment State Park.

Follow the Lewis and Clark journey from St. Louis to the Pacific Coast in the interpretive center’s exhibits and theater with a special focus on their experiences in Pacific County. They also have an exhibit detailing the history of Cape Disappointment post-Lewis and Clark. If nothing else, go for the view. This interpretive center sits 200 feet above the confluence of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean and offers a panoramic view.

Before you go: Be sure to get a Discover Pass since this is a Washington State Park. The interpretive center admission fees are $5 for adults, $2.50 for children ages 7-17, and free for children 6 and under.

2. Plan a trip along the Discovery Trail.

Winding between Ilwaco and Long Beach, the Discovery Trail takes you on an 8.5 mile journey through forests and dunes. The trail mirrors part of Clark’s journey along the Peninsula’s coastline. Whether you choose to walk or ride a bike, this is a great way to enjoy the landscape as well as a bit of history. You will find installments, monuments, and sculptures commemorating different parts of Lewis and Clark’s journey along the coastline. These are all based on entries from Clark’s journal.

Before you go: Stop by the Visitors Bureau or email [email protected] to get a free copy of the Discovery Trail Map.

3. Explore Fort Columbia State Park.

The Chinook people called this location home generations before the arrival of Lewis and Clark. Fort Columbia is now one of the few intact coastal defense sites in the United States. Not only is this a great place to learn about the Chinook people, it’s an exciting way to get a taste of the landscape the Corps explored. Chinook Point, a National Historic Landmark located within the park, is noted in Clark’s journal.

Before you go: You will need a Discover Pass. Hours are 6:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m. in the summer and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter.

4.Go to Clark’s Dismal Nitch and enjoy the view.

One mile east of the Astoria-Megler Bridge on Highway 401, you can view the small cove where the Corps of Discovery found itself trapped by an intense storm for five days. Because of the storm, they missed the last trading ship of the season and a chance at supplies before settling in for the winter. Today, Clark’s Dismal Nitch is a much more accommodating place for travelers with public restrooms, picnic tables, and information panels.

Before you go: Bring binoculars and pack a lunch! This is a great spot for views of the Columbia River and the bridge as well as bird watching. You can also view sturgeon and salmon fishing, seals and sea lions, and the occasional whale.

5. Stop by Station Camp where the Corps of Discovery first viewed the Pacific Ocean.

Not only is this the location where Lewis and Clark first viewed the Pacific Ocean, it is also where the Corps of Discovery took the historic vote on their winter encampment. This site has layers of history reaching beyond the ten day period the Corps spent there. Archaeological evidence shows this was once an important Chinook trading village. This small park includes a boardwalk, information panels, replicas of Chinook canoes, and a gorgeous view of the Columbia River.

Before you go: Don’t forget to bring your camera! There are little gems you’ll want to capture like the historic church and gorgeous view.

Visit us at the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau

-Pick up your free copy of the Discovery Trail map as well as the Journey’s End Map to help you find monuments, sculptures, and other historical sites to visit.


Lewis & Clark Trail

A wealth of adventure awaits those brave enough to explore the journey of Lewis and Clark. Begin at the southeastern tip of the state, where the explorers first entered South Dakota, and follow these highlights until the trail ends near the North Dakota border.

Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve

In Lewis and Clark's time, the Missouri River was shallow and unpredictable. Some days, the men spent hours towing the keelboat over sandbars. At Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, you can see one of the last free-flowing segments of the Missouri River. More than seven miles of hiking and biking trails crisscross the preserve, giving visitors a chance to experience the section’s original character. Located near North Sioux City, take the exit 4 off I-29 and follow the signs.

Site of First Election

Following the death of Sgt. Charles Floyd, the captains needed a replacement. A vote was held on August 22, 1804, where Patrick Gass received 19 votes in what is believed to be the first election by U.S. citizens west of the Mississippi. Find the marker in downtown Elk Point that relays the story. Take exit 18 off I-29.

Spirit Mound

Early in their journey, Lewis and Clark met tribes who told them stories of 18-inch devils armed with arrows that inhabit a prairie hill. On August 25, 1804, Lewis and Clark set off on foot to investigate, hiking four hours in the sweltering heat. At the top of this hill, the infamous devils were nowhere to be found. But the explorers did see a herd of buffalo, nearly 800 strong, grazing in the distance. The Spirit Mound Historic Prairie is managed by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks and stands along Highway 19, six miles north of Vermillion.

Lewis and Clark Visitor Center

Built on a bluff overlooking Lewis and Clark Lake, the center offers in-depth information about the expedition, the tribes Lewis and Clark encountered, and the river itself. Pastel-colored cliffs line the shore, providing incredible photo opportunities. The shimmering waters play host to sailors, anglers and water-skiers throughout the summer. The Lewis and Clark Visitor Center is located near Gavins Point Dam, take Highway 52 west from Yankton and then cross the dam.

Lewis and Clark Recreation Area

Located on Lewis and Clark Lake, this popular park offers a full-service marina, sandy beaches, hiking and biking trails, and an archery range. Water enthusiasts come to sail, boat, fish and swim. Options for accommodations include campsites with spectacular views of the lake, cabins and motel rooms. Take Highway 52 west from Yankton.

Native American Scenic Byway

South Dakota's cultural roots unfold as you travel this route through the Great Sioux Nation. The breathtaking trial follows the Missouri River through the lands of the Yankton, Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux Tribes. The Corps of Discovery reported seeing an abundance of wildlife when they passed through this area. Today, your chances of spotting prairie dogs, proghorn and deer are still good. Several Native American tribes also maintain bison and elk herds. Besides the animals, you'll be captivated by the wild, rugged country, much of which remains undeveloped. The route begins on Standing Bear Bridge on Highway 37 near Running Water on the Nebraska border.

Fort Randall Dam

More than 50 years after Lewis and Clark forged a path up the Missouri River, Fort Randall was built along the shores near present-day Pickstown. Today, walk the old fort grounds and view the remains of a chapel the soldiers built. Inquire at the visitor center about tours of the Fort Randall Dam and power plant. The stretch of river below the dam is great for canoeing but remains undeveloped, so plan ahead. Take Highway 281 west from Pickstown.

Lewis and Clark Welcome Center

The Welcome Center along I-90 at Chamberlain affords breathtaking views of Lake Francis Case, a sprawling Missouri River reservoir. Step out onto the two-story balcony to photograph the river and its gentle bluffs. The balcony is shaped like a keelboat, the expedition's primary form of transportation through South Dakota. Exhibits inside the center depict items the explorers brought on their journey and show examples of the wildlife the Corps encountered. Visit the center off I-90 at mile marker 264.

Akta Lakota Museum

While in South Dakota, Lewis and Clark had their first meetings with the Yankton and Teton Sioux. Before the expedition even began, President Jefferson had instructed Meriwether Lewis to make a favorable impression on the tribes of the Sioux Nation because of their immense power. Today, you can learn about Sioux history, heritage and culture at the Akta Lakota Museum on the campus of St. Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain. Take exit 263 off I-90 and go two miles north.

Big Bend of the Missouri

On Sept. 20, 1804, the explorers reached the Big Bend of the Missouri River. It's here that the river makes a huge loop, almost creating a full circle. In his journal entry for the day, Clark reported that the distance of the Narrows, the area between the two ends of the loop, was only 2,000 yards on foot. By water, the same trip was 30 miles. Now, more than two centuries and four dams later, the river still makes that huge loop. Visit the Narrows three miles north of Lower Brule off Highway 10. Stop by West Bend Recreation Area to view the river, fish, boat and camp. It is located 26 miles east and nine miles south of Pierre off Highway 34.

The Bad River

The expedition had its first meeting with the powerful Teton Sioux at the mouth of the Bad River. The two groups smoked a pipe and Lewis delivered a speech. After a tour of the keelboat, Clark returned the Teton chiefs to shore. As the pirogue (a large canoe) was readying to leave, three young Teton grabbed hold of it and wouldn't let go. It was a pivotal moment as both sides drew arms. Thanks to the quick intervention of Chief Black Buffalo, a fight was avoided. The explorers moved to a nearby island, which they named Bad Humored Island. Today, an interpretive sign on La Framboise Island in Pierre offers a description of the day's event. From there you can watch the Bad River pour into the Missouri and imagine that historic meeting of Sept. 25, 1804. A historical marker in Fischers Lilly Park in Fort Pierre commemorates the site of the confrontation.

Cultural Heritage Center

At the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre, the Oyate Tawicoh'an (Ways of the People) exhibit focuses on South Dakota's tribal heritage. Learn about the religious, social and cultural practices of the Yankton and Teton Sioux, the Arikara and other Plains Indian tribes. The exhibit includes an Arikara bullboat just like the one Clark described in his journal on Oct. 9, 1804. Other highlights include a full-size tipi, a rare horse effigy, and striking examples of colorful beadwork and quillwork. The Cultural Heritage Center is built into the side of a Missouri River bluff located north of the State Capitol.

West Whitlock Recreation Area

In October of 1804, the explorers spent several days at an Arikara village. The Arikara were primarily farmers who tended crops such as corn, beans, squash and tobacco. They lived in earth-lodge homes along the upper Missouri River. At West Whitlock Recreation Area near Gettysburg, step inside a full-size replica of an Arikara lodge, just like those Lewis and Clark visited 200 years ago. Made of logs and branches, the lodge’s grass roof blends into the surrounding prairie. Follow the signs from Highway 1804.

Monument to Sacagawea

The only woman to accompany the Corps of Discovery, two different theories surround the death of Sacagawea. While some say she lived to an old age in Wyoming, many historians believe she died at Fort Manuel in present-day South Dakota. Sacagawea's untimely death of a putrid fever came just six years after the expedition ended. A simple monument to this heroic woman overlooks the Missouri River at Mobridge. Take Highway 12 across the river and watch for signs to Sitting Bull's grave, which is near the Sacagawea monument. A replica of Fort Manuel stands near the original fort's location on the river near Kenel.

Legend of the Stone Idols

Lewis and Clark visited north central South Dakota in the fall of 1804. They were told about two stones resembling human figures and a third like a dog near present-day Pollock. In Arikara lore, the idols are a pair of star-crossed lovers forbidden to marry along with a faithful dog who were all turned to stone. The site and a historic marker are located approximately one mile south and two miles west of Pollock.

Additional Resources

There are public and private organizations with additional information about the entire Lewis & Clark Trail. Visit their websites for more information:

The Middle Missouri River Lewis & Clark Network – Lewis and Clark Country website


LInks to Sites on the Journeys of Lewis and Clark - History

A Lewis and Clark Perspective

After the difficult crossing over the Bitterroot Mountains, the Corps of Discovery had left the territory of the United States, lands acquired in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. They were now journeying into territory Britain claimed as part of Canada (until a treaty with the United States in 1846 established the 49th parallel as the boundary separating Canada and the United States). In addition to Britian, Lewis and Clark would soon discover that these were lands that were claimed by other peoples as well, since time immemorial.

What would await the Corps of Discovery?

What sort of relations would be sought and negotiated by Lewis and Clark with those they would encounter?

Who holds the strongest claim to these lands?

On September 20th 1805, William Clark wrote in his journal:

Web Links The following sites offer great information on the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) Trail, the Conflict of 1877, and the Lewis and Clark expedition, along with event calendars, maps and other useful materials.

While there had been initial discussion on whether to attack or assist the Corps of Discovery, the Nimíipuu ultimately extended their hands in friendship to Lewis and Clark. In Twisted Hair's village, the men of the Corps of Discovery were given lodging and fed "buffalo meat, some tried salmon berries and roots in different states," made into a "bread and soup." And they "ate heartily." The Nimíipuu helped Lewis and Clark prepare maps for their journey ahead, showed them how to fashion canoes, accompanied them as guides on their journey down river, and cared for their horses until they returned the following spring. Upon their return in May of 1806, the Corps was again treated with friendship by Broken Arm and the Nimíipuu, as Lewis and Clark awaited their crossing over the Bitterroots. They settled in at Camp Chopunnish, along the Clearwater River near the Heart of the Monster. The Nimíipuu thus provided Lewis and Clark much needed hospitality, allowing the men of the Corps of Discovery to rest after their difficult journeys over the Bitterroot Mountains in 1805 and upon returning up the Columbia River in 1806.

Jefferson
Peace Medal

While their relations with Lewis and Clark and the men of the Corps of Discovery was most amicable and promised future benefit for the Nimíipuu, their meeting on the camas fields of Weippe prairie on September 20th 1805 would also signal for the Nimíipuu the beginning of an unprecedented onslaught of events that would challenge the very foundations of their way of life.

With the coming of the soyaapos to Indian country, the "acquisitions" included the ravages of smallpox and other epidemic diseases would take an immense toll in loss of life, felt as early as the 1780s and continuing through the nineteenth century. In 1811 the first fur traders began settling along the Clearwater River, seeking out their fortune, and soon were replaced by an even greater number of gold seekers. In 1833, missionaries would begin preaching and coercing to "save souls," and bringing with them disillusionment and factionalism that would rip families apart, pitting brother against brother, and undermining traditional ways. Governors and Superintendents of Indian Affairs would, in rather heavy-handed fashion, establish "treaties of peace" in 1855 and 1863. And with these treaties came a curtailing of a people's once unobstructed travel in alignment with the changing seasons. And with the creation of these "reserved lands" or reservations would also come the conflict of 1877 and then defeat, and an undermining of a people's sovereignty. In the 1890s, an allotment act would be unilaterally imposed onto the Nimíipuu, further eroding a land-base so essential to the people.


Contents

One of Thomas Jefferson's goals was to find "the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce." He also placed special importance on declaring US sovereignty over the land occupied by the many different Native American tribes along the Missouri River, and getting an accurate sense of the resources in the recently completed Louisiana Purchase. [3] [4] [5] [6] The expedition made notable contributions to science, [7] but scientific research was not the main goal of the mission. [8]

During the 19th century, references to Lewis and Clark "scarcely appeared" in history books, even during the United States Centennial in 1876, and the expedition was largely forgotten. [9] [10] Lewis and Clark began to gain attention around the start of the 20th century. Both the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis and the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon showcased them as American pioneers. However, the story remained relatively shallow until mid-century as a celebration of US conquest and personal adventures, but more recently the expedition has been more thoroughly researched. [9]

In 2004, a complete and reliable set of the expedition's journals was compiled by Gary E. Moulton. [11] [12] [13] In the 2000s, the bicentennial of the expedition further elevated popular interest in Lewis and Clark. [10] As of 1984, no US exploration party was more famous, and no American expedition leaders are more recognizable by name. [9]

Timeline

The timeline covers the primary events associated with the expedition, from January 1803 through January 1807.

For years, Thomas Jefferson read accounts about the ventures of various explorers in the western frontier, and consequently had a long-held interest in further exploring this mostly unknown region of the continent. In the 1780s, while Minister to France, Jefferson met John Ledyard in Paris and they discussed a possible trip to the Pacific Northwest. [14] [15] Jefferson had also read Captain James Cook's A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (London, 1784), an account of Cook's third voyage, and Le Page du Pratz's The History of Louisiana (London, 1763), all of which greatly influenced his decision to send an expedition. Like Captain Cook, he wished to discover a practical route through the Northwest to the Pacific coast. Alexander Mackenzie had already charted a route in his quest for the Pacific, following Canada's Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean in 1789. Mackenzie and his party were the first to cross America north of Mexico, reaching the Pacific coast in British Columbia in 1793–a dozen years before Lewis and Clark. Mackenzie's accounts in Voyages from Montreal (1801) informed Jefferson of Britain's intent to establish control over the lucrative fur trade of the Columbia River and convinced him of the importance of securing the territory as soon as possible. [16] [17]

Two years into his presidency, Jefferson asked Congress to fund an expedition through the Louisiana territory to the Pacific Ocean. He did not attempt to make a secret of the Lewis and Clark expedition from Spanish, French, and British officials, but rather claimed different reasons for the venture. He used a secret message to ask for funding due to poor relations with the opposition Federalist Party in Congress. [18] [19] [20] [21] Congress subsequently appropriated $2,324 for supplies and food, the appropriation of which was left in Lewis's charge. [22]

In 1803, Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery and named Army Captain Meriwether Lewis its leader, who then invited William Clark to co-lead the expedition with him. [23] Lewis demonstrated remarkable skills and potential as a frontiersman, and Jefferson made efforts to prepare him for the long journey ahead as the expedition was gaining approval and funding. [24] [25] Jefferson explained his choice of Lewis:

It was impossible to find a character who to a complete science in botany, natural history, mineralogy & astronomy, joined the firmness of constitution & character, prudence, habits adapted to the woods & a familiarity with the Indian manners and character, requisite for this undertaking. All the latter qualifications Capt. Lewis has. [26]

In 1803, Jefferson sent Lewis to Philadelphia to study medicinal cures under Benjamin Rush, a physician and humanitarian. He also arranged for Lewis to be further educated by Andrew Ellicott, an astronomer who instructed him in the use of the sextant and other navigational instruments. [27] [28] From Benjamin Smith Barton, Lewis learned how to describe and preserve plant and animal specimens, from Robert Patterson refinements in computing latitude and longitude, while Caspar Wistar covered fossils, and the search for possible living remnants. [29] [30] Lewis, however, was not ignorant of science and had demonstrated a marked capacity to learn, especially with Jefferson as his teacher. At Monticello, Jefferson possessed an enormous library on the subject of the geography of the North American continent, and Lewis had full access to it. He spent time consulting maps and books and conferring with Jefferson. [31]

The keelboat used for the first year of the journey was built near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the summer of 1803 at Lewis's specifications. The boat was completed on August 31 and was immediately loaded with equipment and provisions. Lewis and his crew set sail that afternoon, traveling down the Ohio River to meet up with Clark near Louisville, Kentucky in October 1803 at the Falls of the Ohio. [32] [33] Their goals were to explore the vast territory acquired by the Louisiana Purchase and to establish trade and US sovereignty over the Native Americans along the Missouri River. Jefferson also wanted to establish a US claim of "discovery" to the Pacific Northwest and Oregon territory by documenting an American presence there before European nations could claim the land. [5] [34] [35] [36] According to some historians, Jefferson understood that he would have a better claim of ownership to the Pacific Northwest if the team gathered scientific data on animals and plants. [37] [38] However, his main objectives were centered around finding an all-water route to the Pacific coast and commerce. His instructions to the expedition stated:

The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri River, & such principle stream of it, as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado or any other river may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent for the purpose of commerce. [39]

The US mint prepared special silver medals with a portrait of Jefferson and inscribed with a message of friendship and peace, called Indian Peace Medals. The soldiers were to distribute them to the tribes that they met. The expedition also prepared advanced weapons to display their military firepower. Among these was an Austrian-made .46 caliber Girandoni air rifle, a repeating rifle with a 20-round tubular magazine that was powerful enough to kill a deer. [40] [41] [42] The expedition was prepared with flintlock firearms, knives, blacksmithing supplies, and cartography equipment. They also carried flags, gift bundles, medicine, and other items that they would need for their journey. [40] [41] The route of Lewis and Clark's expedition took them up the Missouri River to its headwaters, then on to the Pacific Ocean via the Columbia River, and it may have been influenced by the purported transcontinental journey of Moncacht-Apé by the same route about a century before. Jefferson had a copy of Le Page's book in his library detailing Moncacht-Apé's itinerary, and Lewis carried a copy with him during the expedition. Le Page's description of Moncacht-Apé's route across the continent neglects to mention the need to cross the Rocky Mountains, and it might be the source of Lewis and Clark's mistaken belief that they could easily carry boats from the Missouri's headwaters to the westward-flowing Columbia. [43]

Departure

The Corps of Discovery departed from Camp Dubois (Camp Wood) at 4 pm on May 14, 1804. Under Clark's command, they traveled up the Missouri River in their keelboat and two pirogues to St. Charles, Missouri where Lewis joined them six days later. The expedition set out the next afternoon, May 21. [44] While accounts vary, it is believed the Corps had as many as 45 members, including the officers, enlisted military personnel, civilian volunteers, and Clark's African-American slave York. [45]

From St. Charles, the expedition followed the Missouri through what is now Kansas City, Missouri, and Omaha, Nebraska. On August 20, 1804, Sergeant Charles Floyd died, apparently from acute appendicitis. He had been among the first to sign up with the Corps of Discovery and was the only member to die during the expedition. He was buried at a bluff by the river, now named after him, [46] in what is now Sioux City, Iowa. His burial site was marked with a cedar post on which was inscribed his name and day of death. 1 mile (2 km) up the river, the expedition camped at a small river which they named Floyd's River. [47] [48] [49] During the final week of August, Lewis and Clark reached the edge of the Great Plains, a place abounding with elk, deer, bison, and beavers.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition established relations with two dozen Indian nations, without whose help the expedition would have risked starvation during the harsh winters or become hopelessly lost in the vast ranges of the Rocky Mountains. [50]

The Americans and the Lakota nation (whom the Americans called Sioux or "Teton-wan Sioux") had problems when they met, and there was a concern the two sides might fight. According to Harry W. Fritz, "All earlier Missouri River travelers had warned of this powerful and aggressive tribe, determined to block free trade on the river. . The Sioux were also expecting a retaliatory raid from the Omaha Indians, to the south. A recent Sioux raid had killed 75 Omaha men, burned 40 lodges, and taken four dozen prisoners." [51] The expedition held talks with the Lakota near the confluence of the Missouri and Bad Rivers in what is now Fort Pierre, South Dakota. [52]

One of their horses disappeared, and they believed the Sioux were responsible. Afterward, the two sides met and there was a disagreement, and the Sioux asked the men to stay or to give more gifts instead before being allowed to pass through their territory. They came close to fighting several times, and both sides finally backed down and the expedition continued on to Arikara territory. Clark wrote they [ clarification needed ] were "warlike" and were the "vilest miscreants of the savage race". [53] [54] [55] [56]

In the winter of 1804–05, the party built Fort Mandan, near present-day Washburn, North Dakota. Just before departing on April 7, 1805, the expedition sent the keelboat back to St. Louis with a sample of specimens, some never seen before east of the Mississippi. [57] One chief asked Lewis and Clark to provide a boat for passage through their national territory. As tensions increased, Lewis and Clark prepared to fight, but the two sides fell back in the end. The Americans quickly continued westward (upriver), and camped for the winter in the Mandan nation's territory.

After the expedition had set up camp, nearby Indians came to visit in fair numbers, some staying all night. For several days, Lewis and Clark met in council with Mandan chiefs. Here they met a French-Canadian fur trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau, and his young Shoshone wife Sacagawea. Charbonneau at this time began to serve as the expedition's translator. Peace was established between the expedition and the Mandan chiefs with the sharing of a Mandan ceremonial pipe. [58] By April 25, Captain Lewis wrote his progress report of the expedition's activities and observations of the Native American nations they have encountered to date: A Statistical view of the Indian nations inhabiting the Territory of Louisiana, which outlined the names of various tribes, their locations, trading practices, and water routes used, among other things. President Jefferson would later present this report to Congress. [59]

They followed the Missouri to its headwaters, and over the Continental Divide at Lemhi Pass. In canoes, they descended the mountains by the Clearwater River, the Snake River, and the Columbia River, past Celilo Falls, and past what is now Portland, Oregon, at the meeting of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. Lewis and Clark used William Robert Broughton's 1792 notes and maps to orient themselves once they reached the lower Columbia River. The sighting of Mount Hood and other stratovolcanos confirmed that the expedition had almost reached the Pacific Ocean. [60]

Pacific Ocean

The expedition sighted the Pacific Ocean for the first time on November 7, 1805, arriving two weeks later. [61] [62] The expedition faced its second bitter winter camped on the north side of the Columbia River, in a storm-wracked area. [61] Lack of food was a major factor. The elk, the party's main source of food, had retreated from their usual haunts into the mountains, and the party was now too poor to purchase enough food from neighboring tribes. [63] On November 24, 1805, the party voted to move their camp to the south side of the Columbia River near modern Astoria, Oregon. Sacagawea, and Clark's slave York, were both allowed to participate in the vote. [64]

On the south side of the Columbia River, 2 miles (3 km) upstream on the west side of the Netul River (now Lewis and Clark River), they constructed Fort Clatsop. [61] They did this not just for shelter and protection, but also to officially establish the American presence there, with the American flag flying over the fort. [54] [65] During the winter at Fort Clatsop, Lewis committed himself to writing. He filled many pages of his journals with valuable knowledge, mostly about botany, because of the abundant growth and forests that covered that part of the continent. [66] The health of the men also became a problem, with many suffering from colds and influenza. [63]

Knowing that maritime fur traders sometimes visited the lower Columbia River, Lewis and Clark repeatedly asked the local Chinooks about trading ships. They learned that Captain Samuel Hill had been there in early 1805. Miscommunication caused Clark to record the name as "Haley". Captain Hill returned in November, 1805, and anchored about 10 miles (16 km) from Fort Clatsop. The Chinook told Hill about Lewis and Clark, but no direct contact was made. [67]

Return trip

Lewis was determined to remain at the fort until April 1, but was still anxious to move out at the earliest opportunity. By March 22, the stormy weather had subsided and the following morning, on March 23, 1806, the journey home began. The Corps began their journey homeward using canoes to ascend the Columbia River, and later by trekking over land. [68] [69]

Before leaving, Clark gave the Chinook a letter to give to the next ship captain to visit, which was the same Captain Hill who had been nearby during the winter. Hill took the letter to Canton and had it forwarded to Thomas Jefferson, who thus received it before Lewis and Clark returned. [67]

They made their way to Camp Chopunnish [note 1] in Idaho, along the north bank of the Clearwater River, where the members of the expedition collected 65 horses in preparation to cross the Bitterroot Mountains, lying between modern-day Idaho and western Montana. However, the range was still covered in snow, which prevented the expedition from making the crossing. On April 11, while the Corps was waiting for the snow to diminish, Lewis's dog, Seaman, was stolen by Native Americans, but was retrieved shortly. Worried that other such acts might follow, Lewis warned the chief that any other wrongdoing or mischievous acts would result in instant death.

On July 3, before crossing the Continental Divide, the Corps split into two teams so Lewis could explore the Marias River. Lewis's group of four met some men from the Blackfeet nation. During the night, the Blackfeet tried to steal their weapons. In the struggle, the soldiers killed two Blackfeet men. Lewis, George Drouillard, and the Field brothers fled over 100 miles (160 kilometres) in a day before they camped again.

Meanwhile, Clark had entered the Crow tribe's territory. In the night, half of Clark's horses disappeared, but not a single Crow had been seen. Lewis and Clark stayed separated until they reached the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers on August 11. As the groups reunited, one of Clark's hunters, Pierre Cruzatte, mistook Lewis for an elk and fired, injuring Lewis in the thigh. [70] Once together, the Corps was able to return home quickly via the Missouri River. They reached St. Louis on September 23, 1806. [71]

Spanish interference

In March 1804, before the expedition began in May, the Spanish in New Mexico learned from General James Wilkinson [note 2] that the Americans were encroaching on territory claimed by Spain. After the Lewis and Clark expedition set off in May, the Spanish sent four armed expeditions of 52 soldiers, mercenaries [ further explanation needed ] , and Native Americans on August 1, 1804 from Santa Fe, New Mexico northward under Pedro Vial and José Jarvet to intercept Lewis and Clark and imprison the entire expedition. They reached the Pawnee settlement on the Platte River in central Nebraska and learned that the expedition had been there many days before. The expedition was covering 70 to 80 miles (110 to 130 km) a day and Vial's attempt to intercept them was unsuccessful. [72] [73]

The Lewis and Clark Expedition gained an understanding of the geography of the Northwest and produced the first accurate maps of the area. During the journey, Lewis and Clark drew about 140 maps. Stephen Ambrose says the expedition "filled in the main outlines" of the area. [74]

The expedition documented natural resources and plants that had been previously unknown to Euro-Americans, though not to the indigenous peoples. [75] Lewis and Clark were the first Americans to cross the Continental Divide, and the first Americans to see Yellowstone, enter into Montana, and produce an official description of these different regions. [76] [77] Their visit to the Pacific Northwest, maps, and proclamations of sovereignty with medals and flags were legal steps needed to claim title to each indigenous nation's lands under the Doctrine of Discovery. [78]

The expedition was sponsored by the American Philosophical Society (APS). [79] Lewis and Clark received some instruction in astronomy, botany, climatology, ethnology, geography, meteorology, mineralogy, ornithology, and zoology. [80] During the expedition, they made contact with over 70 Native American tribes and described more than 200 new plant and animal species. [81]

Jefferson had the expedition declare "sovereignty" and demonstrate their military strength to ensure native tribes would be subordinate to the U.S., as European colonizers did elsewhere. After the expedition, the maps that were produced allowed the further discovery and settlement of this vast territory in the years that followed. [82] [83]

In 1807, Patrick Gass, a private in the U.S. Army, published an account of the journey. He was promoted to sergeant during the course of the expedition. [84] Paul Allen edited a two-volume history of the Lewis and Clark expedition that was published in 1814, in Philadelphia, but without mention of the actual author, banker Nicholas Biddle. [85] [note 3] Even then, the complete report was not made public until more recently. [86] The earliest authorized edition of the Lewis and Clark journals resides in the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library at the University of Montana.

One of the expedition's primary objectives as directed by President Jefferson was to be a surveillance mission that would report back the whereabouts, military strength, lives, activities, and cultures of the various Native American tribes that inhabited the territory newly acquired by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase and the northwest in general. The expedition was to make native people understand that their lands now belonged to the United States and that "their great father" in Washington was now their sovereign. [87] The expedition encountered many different native nations and tribes along the way, many of whom offered their assistance, providing the expedition with their knowledge of the wilderness and with the acquisition of food. The expedition had blank leather-bound journals and ink for the purpose of recording such encounters, as well as for scientific and geological information. They were also provided with various gifts of medals, ribbons, needles, mirrors, and other articles which were intended to ease any tensions when negotiating their passage with the various Indian chiefs whom they would encounter along their way. [88] [89] [90] [91]

Many of the tribes had friendly experiences with British and French fur traders in various isolated encounters along the Missouri and Columbia Rivers, and for the most part the expedition did not encounter hostilities. However, there was a tense confrontation on September 25, 1804 with the Teton-Sioux tribe (also known as the Lakota people, one of the three tribes that comprise the Great Sioux Nation), under chiefs that included Black Buffalo and the Partisan. These chiefs confronted the expedition and demanded tribute from the expedition for their passage over the river. [88] [89] [90] [91] The seven native tribes that comprised the Lakota people controlled a vast inland empire and expected gifts from strangers who wished to navigate their rivers or to pass through their lands. [92] According to Harry W. Fritz, "All earlier Missouri River travelers had warned of this powerful and aggressive tribe, determined to block free trade on the river. . The Sioux were also expecting a retaliatory raid from the Omaha Indians, to the south. A recent Sioux raid had killed 75 Omaha men, burned 40 lodges, and taken four dozen prisoners." [93]

Captain Lewis made his first mistake by offering the Sioux chief gifts first, which insulted and angered the Partisan chief. Communication was difficult, since the expedition's only Sioux language interpreter was Pierre Dorion who had stayed behind with the other party and was also involved with diplomatic affairs with another tribe. Consequently, both chiefs were offered a few gifts, but neither was satisfied and they wanted some gifts for their warriors and tribe. At that point, some of the warriors from the Partisan tribe took hold of their boat and one of the oars. Lewis took a firm stand, ordering a display of force and presenting arms Captain Clark brandished his sword and threatened violent reprisal. Just before the situation erupted into a violent confrontation, Black Buffalo ordered his warriors to back off. [88] [89] [90] [91]

The captains were able to negotiate their passage without further incident with the aid of better gifts and a bottle of whiskey. During the next two days, the expedition made camp not far from Black Buffalo's tribe. Similar incidents occurred when they tried to leave, but trouble was averted with gifts of tobacco. [88] [89] [90] [91]

Observations

As the expedition encountered the various Native American tribes during the course of their journey, they observed and recorded information regarding their lifestyles, customs and the social codes they lived by, as directed by President Jefferson. By western standards, the Native American way of life seemed harsh and unforgiving as witnessed by members of the expedition. After many encounters and camping in close proximity to the Native American nations for extended periods of time during the winter months, they soon learned first hand of their customs and social orders.

One of the primary customs that distinguished Native American cultures from those of the West was that it was customary for the men to take on two or more wives if they were able to provide for them and often took on a wife or wives who were members of the immediate family circle. e.g. men in the Minnetaree [note 4] and Mandan tribes would often take on a sister for a wife. Chastity among women was not held in high regard. Infant daughters were often sold by the father to men who were grown, usually for horses or mules. [ citation needed ]

They learned that women in Sioux nations were often bartered away for horses or other supplies, yet this was not practiced among the Shoshone nation who held their women in higher regard. [94] They witnessed that many of the Native American nations were constantly at war with other tribes, especially the Sioux, who, while remaining generally friendly to the white fur traders, had proudly boasted of and justified the almost complete destruction of the once great Cahokia nation, along with the Missouris, Illinois, Kaskaskia, and Piorias tribes that lived about the countryside adjacent to the upper Mississippi and Missouri rivers. [95]

Sacagawea

On February 11, 1805, a few weeks after her first contact with the expedition, Sacagawea went into labor which was slow and painful, so the Frenchman Charbonneau suggested she be given a potion of rattlesnake's rattle to aid in her delivery. Lewis happened to have some snake's rattle with him. A short time after administering the potion, she delivered a healthy boy who was given the name Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. [96] [97]

When the expedition reached Marias River, on June 16, 1805, Sacagawea became dangerously ill. She was able to find some relief by drinking mineral water from the sulphur spring that fed into the river. [98]

Though she has been discussed in literature frequently, much of the information is exaggeration or fiction. Scholars say she did notice some geographical features, but "Sacagawea . was not the guide for the Expedition, she was important to them as an interpreter and in other ways." [99] The sight of a woman and her infant son would have been reassuring to some indigenous nations, and she played an important role in diplomatic relations by talking to chiefs, easing tensions, and giving the impression of a peaceful mission. [100] [101]

In his writings, Meriwether Lewis presented a somewhat negative view of her, though Clark had a higher regard for her, and provided some support for her children in subsequent years. In the journals, they used the terms "squar" and "savages" to refer to Sacagawea and other indigenous peoples. [102]

The Corps met their objective of reaching the Pacific, mapping and establishing their presence for a legal claim to the land. They established diplomatic relations and trade with at least two dozen indigenous nations. They did not find a continuous waterway to the Pacific Ocean [103] but located an Indian trail that led from the upper end of the Missouri River to the Columbia River which ran to the Pacific Ocean. [104] They gained information about the natural habitat, flora and fauna, bringing back various plant, seed and mineral specimens. They mapped the topography of the land, designating the location of mountain ranges, rivers and the many Native American tribes during the course of their journey. They also learned and recorded much about the language and customs of the Indian tribes they encountered, and brought back many of their artifacts, including bows, clothing and ceremonial robes. [105]

Two months passed after the expedition's end before Jefferson made his first public statement to Congress and others, giving a one-sentence summary about the success of the expedition before getting into the justification for the expenses involved. In the course of their journey, they acquired a knowledge of numerous tribes of Native Americans hitherto unknown they informed themselves of the trade which may be carried on with them, the best channels and positions for it, and they are enabled to give with accuracy the geography of the line they pursued. Back east, the botanical and zoological discoveries drew the intense interest of the American Philosophical Society who requested specimens, various artifacts traded with the Native Americans, and reports on plants and wildlife along with various seeds obtained. Jefferson used seeds from "Missouri hominy corn" along with a number of other unidentified seeds to plant at Monticello which he cultivated and studied. He later reported on the "Indian corn" he had grown as being an "excellent" food source. [106] The expedition helped establish the U.S. presence in the newly acquired territory and beyond and opened the door to further exploration, trade and scientific discoveries. [107]

Lewis and Clark returned from their expedition, bringing with them the Mandan Native American Chief Shehaka from the Upper Missouri to visit the "Great Father" in Washington. After Chief Shehaka's visit, it required multiple attempts and multiple military expeditions to safely return Shehaka to his nation.

In the 1970s, the federal government memorialized the winter assembly encampment, Camp Dubois, as the start of the Lewis and Clark voyage of discovery and in 2019 it recognized Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as the start of the expedition. [108]

Since the expedition, Lewis and Clark have been commemorated and honored over the years on various coins, currency, and commemorative postage stamps, as well as in a number of other capacities.

Lewis and Clark Expedition, 2004
200th Anniversary issue U.S. postage stamp commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Expedition

Lewis and Clark Expedition
150th anniversary issue, 1954

Lewis & Clark were honored (along with the American bison) on the Series of 1901 $10 Legal Tender


About the Trail

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, administered by the National Park Service, is more than 4,900 miles long, traversing sixteen states and many tribal lands, along the historic route of the expedition. Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail was designated by Congress to commemorate the 1804 to 1806 Corps of Discovery expedition through the identification protection interpretation public use and enjoyment and preservation of historic, cultural, and natural resources associated with the expedition and its place in U.S. and tribal history. This epic journey contributed significant scientific knowledge and profound political, social, economic, cultural, and environmental changes to the peoples and landscapes of the North American continent.

The Trail has over 6,600 miles of designated auto tour route which provides visitors access to the historic route through rich recreational, interpretive, and educational opportunities. Many segments of Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail retain landscape characteristics and a sense of place as seen and experienced by the Corps of Discovery. The Trail links contemporary authentic communities and cultures, including tribes whose connections span thousands of years, to historic, vibrant and living landscapes. Whether traveling the entire length of the Trail or a short day trip to a small segment, your travel experience can be greatly enhanced by the amazing possibilities highlighted on this website.


In 1682 René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle went down the Mississippi from the Great Lakes to the Gulf. The French then established a chain of posts along the Mississippi from New Orleans to the Great Lakes. There followed a number of French explorers including Pedro Vial and Pierre Antoine and Paul Mallet , among others. Vial may have preceded Lewis and Clark to Montana. In 1787, he gave a map of the upper Missouri River and locations of "territories transited by Pedro Vial" to Spanish authorities. [ 81 ]

Early in 1792 the American explorer Everything west from North Dakota to the Pacific was unknown to non-natives, except that the Rocky Mountains existed, that the upper Missouri seemed to flow from that direction, and that on the other side of the Rockies the large Columbia River entered the Pacific.

Alexander Mackenzie had crossed North America to the Pacific from Quebec in 1792-93. [ 84 ]


Passages from the Journal of William Clark

William Clark, a soldier and explorer from Caroline County, Virginia, was asked in 1803 by Meriwether Lewis to join in leadership of an expedition to the Pacific Ocean across the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase and Rocky Mountains. He became the primary mapmaker and artist of the endeavor, as well as a gifted diarist. The following are excerpts from his journals:

Sunday May 13, 1804

River Dubois opposet [sic ] the Mouth of the Missourie River

I dispatched an express this morning to Capt. Lewis at St. Louis, all our provisions goods and equipage on Board of a boat of 22 oars, a large Perogue of 71 oars, a second Perogue of 67 oars, Complete with sails &c. Men compd. With Powder Cartridges and 100 balls each, all in health and readiness to set out. Boats and everything Complete, with the necessary stores of provisions & such articles of merchandize as we though ourselves authorized to procure — tho ’ not as much as I think nessy. For the multitude of Indians thro which we just pass on our road across the Continent &c. &c.

20 th August 1804

Sergeant Floyd [Charles Floyd, the only member of Lewis and Clark ’ s expedition to die along the way] much weaker and no better … We set out under a gentle breeze from the S.E. and proceeded on verry well. Sergeant Floyd as bad as he can be no pulse & nothing will Stay a moment on his Stomach or bowels. Passed two islands on the S.S. and at the first Bluff on the S.S. Serj. Floyd Died with a great deal of composure, before his death he Said to me, “ I am going away ” I want you to write me a letter. ” We buried him on the top of the bluff ½ a mile below a small river to which we Gave his name, he was buried with the Honors of War much lamented … . This Man at all times gave us proofs of his firmness and Determined resolution to doe Service to his Countrey and honor to himself after paying all the honor to our Decesed brother we camped in the Mouth of floyds River about 30 yards wide, a butifull evening.

30 th of August 1804

A verry thick fog this morning after preparing some presnts for the Chiefs which we intended to make by giving Meadels, and finishing a Speech which we intended to give them. We sent Mr. Dorion in a Perogue for the Chiefs and Warriers to a Council under an Oak Tree near where we had a flag flying on a high flagstaff at 12 oCLock we met and Cap. L. delivered the Speach & then made one great Chief by giving him a Meadel & some clothes, one 2d chief and three Third chiefs the same way … . The Souex [Sioux] is a Sout bold looking people (the young men handsome) & well made, the greater part of them make use of Bows & arrow. … they do not Shoot So Well as the Northern Indians the Warriers are Verry much deckerated with Paint Porcupine quils and feathers, large leagins and mockersons, all with buffalow roabs of different colors. The Squars wore Peticoats and a white buffalow roabe with the black hare tunred back over their necks and Sholders.

27 th of October Satturday 1804

We set out early came too at the [Mandan Indian] Village on the L.S. this village is situated on an eminance of about 50 feet above the Water in a handsom plain it containes houses in a kind of Picket work, the houses are round and very large containing several families, as also their horses which is tied on one Side of the entrance … . I walked up & Smoked a pipe with the Chiefs of the village they were anxious that I would stay and eat with them, my indisposition prevented my eating which displeased them, untill a full explenation took place, I returned to the boat and Sent 2 Carrots of Tobacco for them to smoke, and proceeded on.

Novr. 7 th Thursday 1805

Great joy in camp we are in view of the Ocian, (in the morning when fog cleared off just below last village of Warkiacum) this great Pacific Octean which we been so long anxious to See. And the roreing or noise made by the waves braking on the rockey Shores (as I suppose) may be heard dinstinctly.

Sunday June 15 th 1806

We passed through bad fallen timber and a high Mountain this evening. From the top of this mountain I had an extensive view of the rocky Mountains to the south and the Columbian plains for a great extent also the SW Mountains and a range of high Mountains which divides the waters of Lewis ’ s & Clarks rivers and seems to termonate nearly a West course. Several high pts. To the N & N.E. covered with Snow. A remarkable high rugd. Mountain in the forks of Lewis ’ s river nearly south and covered with snow. …

Source: Reuben Gold Thwaites, ed., Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition 1804-1806 (New York: Arno, 1969).

prairie dog and two grizzly bear cubs), and Indian artifacts. In early 1805 they set out again, this time accompanied by a Shoshone woman, Sacagawea, who acted as an interpreter and guide. With her help, the team crossed the Rockies to the Snake and Columbia Rivers, which took them to the Pacific Ocean in November 1805. Their hopes to return by ship dashed, the group was forced to retrace its steps the following spring. The successful expedition arrived back in St. Louis in September 1806 with just one fatality. In addition to the volumes of journals, drawings, and notes they brought back, the corps of discovery provided valuable information on the territory ’ s inhabitants (especially the increasingly powerful Sioux). They also returned with guarantees of the richness and promise of the “ empire of liberty ” purchased so cheaply from France.


Contents

One of Thomas Jefferson's goals was to find "the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce." He also placed special importance on declaring US sovereignty over the land occupied by the many different Native American tribes along the Missouri River, and getting an accurate sense of the resources in the recently completed Louisiana Purchase. [3] [4] [5] [6] The expedition made notable contributions to science, [7] but scientific research was not the main goal of the mission. [8]

During the 19th century, references to Lewis and Clark "scarcely appeared" in history books, even during the United States Centennial in 1876, and the expedition was largely forgotten. [9] [10] Lewis and Clark began to gain attention around the start of the 20th century. Both the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis and the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon showcased them as American pioneers. However, the story remained relatively shallow until mid-century as a celebration of US conquest and personal adventures, but more recently the expedition has been more thoroughly researched. [9]

In 2004, a complete and reliable set of the expedition's journals was compiled by Gary E. Moulton. [11] [12] [13] In the 2000s, the bicentennial of the expedition further elevated popular interest in Lewis and Clark. [10] As of 1984, no US exploration party was more famous, and no American expedition leaders are more recognizable by name. [9]

Timeline

The timeline covers the primary events associated with the expedition, from January 1803 through January 1807.

For years, Thomas Jefferson read accounts about the ventures of various explorers in the western frontier, and consequently had a long-held interest in further exploring this mostly unknown region of the continent. In the 1780s, while Minister to France, Jefferson met John Ledyard in Paris and they discussed a possible trip to the Pacific Northwest. [14] [15] Jefferson had also read Captain James Cook's A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (London, 1784), an account of Cook's third voyage, and Le Page du Pratz's The History of Louisiana (London, 1763), all of which greatly influenced his decision to send an expedition. Like Captain Cook, he wished to discover a practical route through the Northwest to the Pacific coast. Alexander Mackenzie had already charted a route in his quest for the Pacific, following Canada's Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean in 1789. Mackenzie and his party were the first to cross America north of Mexico, reaching the Pacific coast in British Columbia in 1793–a dozen years before Lewis and Clark. Mackenzie's accounts in Voyages from Montreal (1801) informed Jefferson of Britain's intent to establish control over the lucrative fur trade of the Columbia River and convinced him of the importance of securing the territory as soon as possible. [16] [17]

Two years into his presidency, Jefferson asked Congress to fund an expedition through the Louisiana territory to the Pacific Ocean. He did not attempt to make a secret of the Lewis and Clark expedition from Spanish, French, and British officials, but rather claimed different reasons for the venture. He used a secret message to ask for funding due to poor relations with the opposition Federalist Party in Congress. [18] [19] [20] [21] Congress subsequently appropriated $2,324 for supplies and food, the appropriation of which was left in Lewis's charge. [22]

In 1803, Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery and named Army Captain Meriwether Lewis its leader, who then invited William Clark to co-lead the expedition with him. [23] Lewis demonstrated remarkable skills and potential as a frontiersman, and Jefferson made efforts to prepare him for the long journey ahead as the expedition was gaining approval and funding. [24] [25] Jefferson explained his choice of Lewis:

It was impossible to find a character who to a complete science in botany, natural history, mineralogy & astronomy, joined the firmness of constitution & character, prudence, habits adapted to the woods & a familiarity with the Indian manners and character, requisite for this undertaking. All the latter qualifications Capt. Lewis has. [26]

In 1803, Jefferson sent Lewis to Philadelphia to study medicinal cures under Benjamin Rush, a physician and humanitarian. He also arranged for Lewis to be further educated by Andrew Ellicott, an astronomer who instructed him in the use of the sextant and other navigational instruments. [27] [28] From Benjamin Smith Barton, Lewis learned how to describe and preserve plant and animal specimens, from Robert Patterson refinements in computing latitude and longitude, while Caspar Wistar covered fossils, and the search for possible living remnants. [29] [30] Lewis, however, was not ignorant of science and had demonstrated a marked capacity to learn, especially with Jefferson as his teacher. At Monticello, Jefferson possessed an enormous library on the subject of the geography of the North American continent, and Lewis had full access to it. He spent time consulting maps and books and conferring with Jefferson. [31]

The keelboat used for the first year of the journey was built near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the summer of 1803 at Lewis's specifications. The boat was completed on August 31 and was immediately loaded with equipment and provisions. Lewis and his crew set sail that afternoon, traveling down the Ohio River to meet up with Clark near Louisville, Kentucky in October 1803 at the Falls of the Ohio. [32] [33] Their goals were to explore the vast territory acquired by the Louisiana Purchase and to establish trade and US sovereignty over the Native Americans along the Missouri River. Jefferson also wanted to establish a US claim of "discovery" to the Pacific Northwest and Oregon territory by documenting an American presence there before European nations could claim the land. [5] [34] [35] [36] According to some historians, Jefferson understood that he would have a better claim of ownership to the Pacific Northwest if the team gathered scientific data on animals and plants. [37] [38] However, his main objectives were centered around finding an all-water route to the Pacific coast and commerce. His instructions to the expedition stated:

The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri River, & such principle stream of it, as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado or any other river may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent for the purpose of commerce. [39]

The US mint prepared special silver medals with a portrait of Jefferson and inscribed with a message of friendship and peace, called Indian Peace Medals. The soldiers were to distribute them to the tribes that they met. The expedition also prepared advanced weapons to display their military firepower. Among these was an Austrian-made .46 caliber Girandoni air rifle, a repeating rifle with a 20-round tubular magazine that was powerful enough to kill a deer. [40] [41] [42] The expedition was prepared with flintlock firearms, knives, blacksmithing supplies, and cartography equipment. They also carried flags, gift bundles, medicine, and other items that they would need for their journey. [40] [41] The route of Lewis and Clark's expedition took them up the Missouri River to its headwaters, then on to the Pacific Ocean via the Columbia River, and it may have been influenced by the purported transcontinental journey of Moncacht-Apé by the same route about a century before. Jefferson had a copy of Le Page's book in his library detailing Moncacht-Apé's itinerary, and Lewis carried a copy with him during the expedition. Le Page's description of Moncacht-Apé's route across the continent neglects to mention the need to cross the Rocky Mountains, and it might be the source of Lewis and Clark's mistaken belief that they could easily carry boats from the Missouri's headwaters to the westward-flowing Columbia. [43]

Departure

The Corps of Discovery departed from Camp Dubois (Camp Wood) at 4 pm on May 14, 1804. Under Clark's command, they traveled up the Missouri River in their keelboat and two pirogues to St. Charles, Missouri where Lewis joined them six days later. The expedition set out the next afternoon, May 21. [44] While accounts vary, it is believed the Corps had as many as 45 members, including the officers, enlisted military personnel, civilian volunteers, and Clark's African-American slave York. [45]

From St. Charles, the expedition followed the Missouri through what is now Kansas City, Missouri, and Omaha, Nebraska. On August 20, 1804, Sergeant Charles Floyd died, apparently from acute appendicitis. He had been among the first to sign up with the Corps of Discovery and was the only member to die during the expedition. He was buried at a bluff by the river, now named after him, [46] in what is now Sioux City, Iowa. His burial site was marked with a cedar post on which was inscribed his name and day of death. 1 mile (2 km) up the river, the expedition camped at a small river which they named Floyd's River. [47] [48] [49] During the final week of August, Lewis and Clark reached the edge of the Great Plains, a place abounding with elk, deer, bison, and beavers.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition established relations with two dozen Indian nations, without whose help the expedition would have risked starvation during the harsh winters or become hopelessly lost in the vast ranges of the Rocky Mountains. [50]

The Americans and the Lakota nation (whom the Americans called Sioux or "Teton-wan Sioux") had problems when they met, and there was a concern the two sides might fight. According to Harry W. Fritz, "All earlier Missouri River travelers had warned of this powerful and aggressive tribe, determined to block free trade on the river. . The Sioux were also expecting a retaliatory raid from the Omaha Indians, to the south. A recent Sioux raid had killed 75 Omaha men, burned 40 lodges, and taken four dozen prisoners." [51] The expedition held talks with the Lakota near the confluence of the Missouri and Bad Rivers in what is now Fort Pierre, South Dakota. [52]

One of their horses disappeared, and they believed the Sioux were responsible. Afterward, the two sides met and there was a disagreement, and the Sioux asked the men to stay or to give more gifts instead before being allowed to pass through their territory. They came close to fighting several times, and both sides finally backed down and the expedition continued on to Arikara territory. Clark wrote they [ clarification needed ] were "warlike" and were the "vilest miscreants of the savage race". [53] [54] [55] [56]

In the winter of 1804–05, the party built Fort Mandan, near present-day Washburn, North Dakota. Just before departing on April 7, 1805, the expedition sent the keelboat back to St. Louis with a sample of specimens, some never seen before east of the Mississippi. [57] One chief asked Lewis and Clark to provide a boat for passage through their national territory. As tensions increased, Lewis and Clark prepared to fight, but the two sides fell back in the end. The Americans quickly continued westward (upriver), and camped for the winter in the Mandan nation's territory.

After the expedition had set up camp, nearby Indians came to visit in fair numbers, some staying all night. For several days, Lewis and Clark met in council with Mandan chiefs. Here they met a French-Canadian fur trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau, and his young Shoshone wife Sacagawea. Charbonneau at this time began to serve as the expedition's translator. Peace was established between the expedition and the Mandan chiefs with the sharing of a Mandan ceremonial pipe. [58] By April 25, Captain Lewis wrote his progress report of the expedition's activities and observations of the Native American nations they have encountered to date: A Statistical view of the Indian nations inhabiting the Territory of Louisiana, which outlined the names of various tribes, their locations, trading practices, and water routes used, among other things. President Jefferson would later present this report to Congress. [59]

They followed the Missouri to its headwaters, and over the Continental Divide at Lemhi Pass. In canoes, they descended the mountains by the Clearwater River, the Snake River, and the Columbia River, past Celilo Falls, and past what is now Portland, Oregon, at the meeting of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. Lewis and Clark used William Robert Broughton's 1792 notes and maps to orient themselves once they reached the lower Columbia River. The sighting of Mount Hood and other stratovolcanos confirmed that the expedition had almost reached the Pacific Ocean. [60]

Pacific Ocean

The expedition sighted the Pacific Ocean for the first time on November 7, 1805, arriving two weeks later. [61] [62] The expedition faced its second bitter winter camped on the north side of the Columbia River, in a storm-wracked area. [61] Lack of food was a major factor. The elk, the party's main source of food, had retreated from their usual haunts into the mountains, and the party was now too poor to purchase enough food from neighboring tribes. [63] On November 24, 1805, the party voted to move their camp to the south side of the Columbia River near modern Astoria, Oregon. Sacagawea, and Clark's slave York, were both allowed to participate in the vote. [64]

On the south side of the Columbia River, 2 miles (3 km) upstream on the west side of the Netul River (now Lewis and Clark River), they constructed Fort Clatsop. [61] They did this not just for shelter and protection, but also to officially establish the American presence there, with the American flag flying over the fort. [54] [65] During the winter at Fort Clatsop, Lewis committed himself to writing. He filled many pages of his journals with valuable knowledge, mostly about botany, because of the abundant growth and forests that covered that part of the continent. [66] The health of the men also became a problem, with many suffering from colds and influenza. [63]

Knowing that maritime fur traders sometimes visited the lower Columbia River, Lewis and Clark repeatedly asked the local Chinooks about trading ships. They learned that Captain Samuel Hill had been there in early 1805. Miscommunication caused Clark to record the name as "Haley". Captain Hill returned in November, 1805, and anchored about 10 miles (16 km) from Fort Clatsop. The Chinook told Hill about Lewis and Clark, but no direct contact was made. [67]

Return trip

Lewis was determined to remain at the fort until April 1, but was still anxious to move out at the earliest opportunity. By March 22, the stormy weather had subsided and the following morning, on March 23, 1806, the journey home began. The Corps began their journey homeward using canoes to ascend the Columbia River, and later by trekking over land. [68] [69]

Before leaving, Clark gave the Chinook a letter to give to the next ship captain to visit, which was the same Captain Hill who had been nearby during the winter. Hill took the letter to Canton and had it forwarded to Thomas Jefferson, who thus received it before Lewis and Clark returned. [67]

They made their way to Camp Chopunnish [note 1] in Idaho, along the north bank of the Clearwater River, where the members of the expedition collected 65 horses in preparation to cross the Bitterroot Mountains, lying between modern-day Idaho and western Montana. However, the range was still covered in snow, which prevented the expedition from making the crossing. On April 11, while the Corps was waiting for the snow to diminish, Lewis's dog, Seaman, was stolen by Native Americans, but was retrieved shortly. Worried that other such acts might follow, Lewis warned the chief that any other wrongdoing or mischievous acts would result in instant death.

On July 3, before crossing the Continental Divide, the Corps split into two teams so Lewis could explore the Marias River. Lewis's group of four met some men from the Blackfeet nation. During the night, the Blackfeet tried to steal their weapons. In the struggle, the soldiers killed two Blackfeet men. Lewis, George Drouillard, and the Field brothers fled over 100 miles (160 kilometres) in a day before they camped again.

Meanwhile, Clark had entered the Crow tribe's territory. In the night, half of Clark's horses disappeared, but not a single Crow had been seen. Lewis and Clark stayed separated until they reached the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers on August 11. As the groups reunited, one of Clark's hunters, Pierre Cruzatte, mistook Lewis for an elk and fired, injuring Lewis in the thigh. [70] Once together, the Corps was able to return home quickly via the Missouri River. They reached St. Louis on September 23, 1806. [71]

Spanish interference

In March 1804, before the expedition began in May, the Spanish in New Mexico learned from General James Wilkinson [note 2] that the Americans were encroaching on territory claimed by Spain. After the Lewis and Clark expedition set off in May, the Spanish sent four armed expeditions of 52 soldiers, mercenaries [ further explanation needed ] , and Native Americans on August 1, 1804 from Santa Fe, New Mexico northward under Pedro Vial and José Jarvet to intercept Lewis and Clark and imprison the entire expedition. They reached the Pawnee settlement on the Platte River in central Nebraska and learned that the expedition had been there many days before. The expedition was covering 70 to 80 miles (110 to 130 km) a day and Vial's attempt to intercept them was unsuccessful. [72] [73]

The Lewis and Clark Expedition gained an understanding of the geography of the Northwest and produced the first accurate maps of the area. During the journey, Lewis and Clark drew about 140 maps. Stephen Ambrose says the expedition "filled in the main outlines" of the area. [74]

The expedition documented natural resources and plants that had been previously unknown to Euro-Americans, though not to the indigenous peoples. [75] Lewis and Clark were the first Americans to cross the Continental Divide, and the first Americans to see Yellowstone, enter into Montana, and produce an official description of these different regions. [76] [77] Their visit to the Pacific Northwest, maps, and proclamations of sovereignty with medals and flags were legal steps needed to claim title to each indigenous nation's lands under the Doctrine of Discovery. [78]

The expedition was sponsored by the American Philosophical Society (APS). [79] Lewis and Clark received some instruction in astronomy, botany, climatology, ethnology, geography, meteorology, mineralogy, ornithology, and zoology. [80] During the expedition, they made contact with over 70 Native American tribes and described more than 200 new plant and animal species. [81]

Jefferson had the expedition declare "sovereignty" and demonstrate their military strength to ensure native tribes would be subordinate to the U.S., as European colonizers did elsewhere. After the expedition, the maps that were produced allowed the further discovery and settlement of this vast territory in the years that followed. [82] [83]

In 1807, Patrick Gass, a private in the U.S. Army, published an account of the journey. He was promoted to sergeant during the course of the expedition. [84] Paul Allen edited a two-volume history of the Lewis and Clark expedition that was published in 1814, in Philadelphia, but without mention of the actual author, banker Nicholas Biddle. [85] [note 3] Even then, the complete report was not made public until more recently. [86] The earliest authorized edition of the Lewis and Clark journals resides in the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library at the University of Montana.

One of the expedition's primary objectives as directed by President Jefferson was to be a surveillance mission that would report back the whereabouts, military strength, lives, activities, and cultures of the various Native American tribes that inhabited the territory newly acquired by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase and the northwest in general. The expedition was to make native people understand that their lands now belonged to the United States and that "their great father" in Washington was now their sovereign. [87] The expedition encountered many different native nations and tribes along the way, many of whom offered their assistance, providing the expedition with their knowledge of the wilderness and with the acquisition of food. The expedition had blank leather-bound journals and ink for the purpose of recording such encounters, as well as for scientific and geological information. They were also provided with various gifts of medals, ribbons, needles, mirrors, and other articles which were intended to ease any tensions when negotiating their passage with the various Indian chiefs whom they would encounter along their way. [88] [89] [90] [91]

Many of the tribes had friendly experiences with British and French fur traders in various isolated encounters along the Missouri and Columbia Rivers, and for the most part the expedition did not encounter hostilities. However, there was a tense confrontation on September 25, 1804 with the Teton-Sioux tribe (also known as the Lakota people, one of the three tribes that comprise the Great Sioux Nation), under chiefs that included Black Buffalo and the Partisan. These chiefs confronted the expedition and demanded tribute from the expedition for their passage over the river. [88] [89] [90] [91] The seven native tribes that comprised the Lakota people controlled a vast inland empire and expected gifts from strangers who wished to navigate their rivers or to pass through their lands. [92] According to Harry W. Fritz, "All earlier Missouri River travelers had warned of this powerful and aggressive tribe, determined to block free trade on the river. . The Sioux were also expecting a retaliatory raid from the Omaha Indians, to the south. A recent Sioux raid had killed 75 Omaha men, burned 40 lodges, and taken four dozen prisoners." [93]

Captain Lewis made his first mistake by offering the Sioux chief gifts first, which insulted and angered the Partisan chief. Communication was difficult, since the expedition's only Sioux language interpreter was Pierre Dorion who had stayed behind with the other party and was also involved with diplomatic affairs with another tribe. Consequently, both chiefs were offered a few gifts, but neither was satisfied and they wanted some gifts for their warriors and tribe. At that point, some of the warriors from the Partisan tribe took hold of their boat and one of the oars. Lewis took a firm stand, ordering a display of force and presenting arms Captain Clark brandished his sword and threatened violent reprisal. Just before the situation erupted into a violent confrontation, Black Buffalo ordered his warriors to back off. [88] [89] [90] [91]

The captains were able to negotiate their passage without further incident with the aid of better gifts and a bottle of whiskey. During the next two days, the expedition made camp not far from Black Buffalo's tribe. Similar incidents occurred when they tried to leave, but trouble was averted with gifts of tobacco. [88] [89] [90] [91]

Observations

As the expedition encountered the various Native American tribes during the course of their journey, they observed and recorded information regarding their lifestyles, customs and the social codes they lived by, as directed by President Jefferson. By western standards, the Native American way of life seemed harsh and unforgiving as witnessed by members of the expedition. After many encounters and camping in close proximity to the Native American nations for extended periods of time during the winter months, they soon learned first hand of their customs and social orders.

One of the primary customs that distinguished Native American cultures from those of the West was that it was customary for the men to take on two or more wives if they were able to provide for them and often took on a wife or wives who were members of the immediate family circle. e.g. men in the Minnetaree [note 4] and Mandan tribes would often take on a sister for a wife. Chastity among women was not held in high regard. Infant daughters were often sold by the father to men who were grown, usually for horses or mules. [ citation needed ]

They learned that women in Sioux nations were often bartered away for horses or other supplies, yet this was not practiced among the Shoshone nation who held their women in higher regard. [94] They witnessed that many of the Native American nations were constantly at war with other tribes, especially the Sioux, who, while remaining generally friendly to the white fur traders, had proudly boasted of and justified the almost complete destruction of the once great Cahokia nation, along with the Missouris, Illinois, Kaskaskia, and Piorias tribes that lived about the countryside adjacent to the upper Mississippi and Missouri rivers. [95]

Sacagawea

On February 11, 1805, a few weeks after her first contact with the expedition, Sacagawea went into labor which was slow and painful, so the Frenchman Charbonneau suggested she be given a potion of rattlesnake's rattle to aid in her delivery. Lewis happened to have some snake's rattle with him. A short time after administering the potion, she delivered a healthy boy who was given the name Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. [96] [97]

When the expedition reached Marias River, on June 16, 1805, Sacagawea became dangerously ill. She was able to find some relief by drinking mineral water from the sulphur spring that fed into the river. [98]

Though she has been discussed in literature frequently, much of the information is exaggeration or fiction. Scholars say she did notice some geographical features, but "Sacagawea . was not the guide for the Expedition, she was important to them as an interpreter and in other ways." [99] The sight of a woman and her infant son would have been reassuring to some indigenous nations, and she played an important role in diplomatic relations by talking to chiefs, easing tensions, and giving the impression of a peaceful mission. [100] [101]

In his writings, Meriwether Lewis presented a somewhat negative view of her, though Clark had a higher regard for her, and provided some support for her children in subsequent years. In the journals, they used the terms "squar" and "savages" to refer to Sacagawea and other indigenous peoples. [102]

The Corps met their objective of reaching the Pacific, mapping and establishing their presence for a legal claim to the land. They established diplomatic relations and trade with at least two dozen indigenous nations. They did not find a continuous waterway to the Pacific Ocean [103] but located an Indian trail that led from the upper end of the Missouri River to the Columbia River which ran to the Pacific Ocean. [104] They gained information about the natural habitat, flora and fauna, bringing back various plant, seed and mineral specimens. They mapped the topography of the land, designating the location of mountain ranges, rivers and the many Native American tribes during the course of their journey. They also learned and recorded much about the language and customs of the Indian tribes they encountered, and brought back many of their artifacts, including bows, clothing and ceremonial robes. [105]

Two months passed after the expedition's end before Jefferson made his first public statement to Congress and others, giving a one-sentence summary about the success of the expedition before getting into the justification for the expenses involved. In the course of their journey, they acquired a knowledge of numerous tribes of Native Americans hitherto unknown they informed themselves of the trade which may be carried on with them, the best channels and positions for it, and they are enabled to give with accuracy the geography of the line they pursued. Back east, the botanical and zoological discoveries drew the intense interest of the American Philosophical Society who requested specimens, various artifacts traded with the Native Americans, and reports on plants and wildlife along with various seeds obtained. Jefferson used seeds from "Missouri hominy corn" along with a number of other unidentified seeds to plant at Monticello which he cultivated and studied. He later reported on the "Indian corn" he had grown as being an "excellent" food source. [106] The expedition helped establish the U.S. presence in the newly acquired territory and beyond and opened the door to further exploration, trade and scientific discoveries. [107]

Lewis and Clark returned from their expedition, bringing with them the Mandan Native American Chief Shehaka from the Upper Missouri to visit the "Great Father" in Washington. After Chief Shehaka's visit, it required multiple attempts and multiple military expeditions to safely return Shehaka to his nation.

In the 1970s, the federal government memorialized the winter assembly encampment, Camp Dubois, as the start of the Lewis and Clark voyage of discovery and in 2019 it recognized Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as the start of the expedition. [108]

Since the expedition, Lewis and Clark have been commemorated and honored over the years on various coins, currency, and commemorative postage stamps, as well as in a number of other capacities.

Lewis and Clark Expedition, 2004
200th Anniversary issue U.S. postage stamp commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Expedition

Lewis and Clark Expedition
150th anniversary issue, 1954

Lewis & Clark were honored (along with the American bison) on the Series of 1901 $10 Legal Tender


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