Lewis and Clark Expedition
Meriwether Lewis was tasked with exploring lands west of the Mississippi River, and his expedition was a huge success, providing new geographic, ecological, and social information about previously uncharted areas of North America.
Who Were Lewis and Clark?
President George Washington commissioned Meriwether Lewis as a lieutenant of infantry, and William Clark joined the Virginia state militia and then the United States Army at the age of 19. They embarked on an epic journey that would shape America’s history seven years later.
Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe negotiated a deal with France to buy the Louisiana Territory for $15 million in 1803. Surveyor John Lewis led an expedition to survey the lands of the so-called Louisiana Purchase.
Preparations for the Lewis and Clark Expedition
Lewis studied medicine, botany, astronomy, and zoology, and enlisted the help of his friend Clark to lead the expedition, which included surveying instruments such as compasses, quadrants, telescopes, sextants, and a chronometer, as well as camping supplies.
The Expedition Begins
Lewis and Clark chose unmarried, healthy men who were good hunters and knew survival skills for their “Corps of Volunteers for Northwest Discovery,” and they ruled the Corps with an iron fist, handing out harsh punishments such as bareback lashing.
Lewis and Clark: Native American Encounters
Around 50 Native American tribes were encountered by Lewis and Clark, who bartered goods and presented the tribe’s leader with a Jefferson Indian Peace Medal. Some Indians had previously met “white men” and were friendly and open to trade, while others were suspicious of Lewis and Clark and their intentions.
While Clark prepared new maps, the Corps spent the next five months hunting, forging, and making canoes, ropes, leather clothing, and moccasins. The men were in good health overall, according to Clark’s journal, with the exception of those suffering from venereal disease.
Sacagawea was kidnapped by Hidatsa Indians at the age of 12 and sold to Charbonneau, where she became an invaluable asset for Lewis and Clark. Sacagawea gave birth to a son named Jean Baptiste on February 11, 1805.
Lewis and Clark Cross the Continental Divide
Many of the party suffered from frostbite, hunger, dehydration, bad weather, and freezing temperatures. On April 7, 1805, Lewis and Clark sent some of their crew and their keelboat back to St. Louis, while the rest of the Corps headed for the Pacific.
Everyone struggled to keep themselves and their supplies dry and fought an ongoing battle with fleas and other insects near present-day Astoria, Oregon.
Lewis and Clark Journey Home
In 1806 Lewis and Clark crossed the Bitterroot Mountains to explore the Missouri River basin, with Lewis’ group exploring the Marias River and Clark’s group traveling south along the Yellowstone River, with the two groups planning to meet in North Dakota where the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers meet.
Near present-day Cut Bank, Montana, Lewis and Clark killed two Blackfeet warriors; the site is now a national monument managed by the US Department of the Interior. In 1806, Lewis carved Pompey’s Pillar on a rock formation near the Yellowstone River in honor of Sacagawea’s son.
Lewis and Clark Expedition Legacy
Lewis died in 1809 of two gunshot wounds, possibly self-inflicted, after traveling more than 8,000 miles and surveying the Louisiana Territory. Despite Lewis’ tragic end, his expedition with Clark remains one of America’s most famous, helping to strengthen America’s claim to the West.
How did Lewis and Clark prepare for their journey?
Lewis knew that exploring the Louisiana Territory would be a difficult task, so he started preparing right away, studying medicine, botany, astronomy, and zoology, as well as looking over existing maps and journals of the area.
What was Lewis doing in preparation for the journey?
Lewis also bought gifts for Native Americans, knowing that gift exchange was an important sign of friendship and allegiance in Indian cultures, so he bought glass beads, mirrors, scissors, thimbles, needles, tobacco, knives, and peace medals in preparation.
In what ways was Lewis and Clark’s journey a success?
The Lewis and Clark Expedition made significant contributions to the imperial struggle for control of North America, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, and strengthened the United States’ claim to what are now the states of Oregon and Washington.
What did Lewis and Clark do on their journey?
Lewis and Clark’s expedition mapped uncharted land, rivers, and mountains, and returned with journals filled with information about Native American tribes and scientific notes about plants and animals they’d never seen before, as well as storiesu2014stories that inspired other Americans to travel west.
What were Jefferson’s three goals for Lewis and Clark’s trip?
Their mission was to explore uncharted territory, establish trade with the indigenous peoples, and assert US sovereignty in the region.
Did Lewis and Clark find the Northwest Passage?
Although Lewis and Clark did not discover a direct Northwest Passage, they did pave the way for thousands of others to settle in the northwest United States in the century that followed.
What plants did Lewis and Clark discover?
Plants: Lewis and Clark’s Scientific Discoveries
- Broad-leaved gum-plant.
- Lance-leaved psoralea.
- Large-flowered clammyweed.
- Missouri milk vetch.
- Few-flowered psoralea
- scurfy pea.
What did Lewis and Clark discover?
However, Lewis and Clark discovered 122 animal species on their 8,000-mile journey from Missouri to the Pacific Ocean and back in 1804-1806, including iconic American animals like the grizzly bear, coyote, prairie dog, and bighorn sheep.
How accurate was Lewis and Clark’s map?
His maps are renowned for their accuracy; in calculating how far they had traveled from Camp River Dubois to the Pacific Ocean, he was only 40 miles off. A contemporary view of the landscape from Lewis Lookout, a short distance from Dillon, Montana.
What did Lewis and Clark spend most of their time doing?
What did Lewis and Clark spend the majority of their time doing? Clark spent most of his time on the keel boat charting the course and making maps, while Lewis spent much of his time ashore studying the rock formations, soil animals, and plants along the way.
What did Lewis and Clark find out did not exist?
Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Volunteers for Northwestern Discovery arrive at the mouth of the Columbia River on November 15, 1805, one year, six months, and one day after leaving St. Louis. By the time they arrived at the ocean, Lewis and Clark already knew the Northwest Passage did not exist.
Why did Thomas Jefferson hire Lewis and Clark?
President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the expedition shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 to explore and map the newly acquired territory, find a practical route across the western half of the continent, and establish an American presence in the territory before European powers attempted to take it over.
What bad things did Lewis and Clark do?
Lewis was shot in the buttocks by an enlisted man who mistook him for an elk on the way back, forcing him to spend a few miserable weeks lying on his stomach in a canoe while the expedition floated down the Missouri River.
What landmarks did Lewis and Clark discover?
The Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the
- Locust Grove, Louisville, Kentucky.
- Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, Clarksville, Indiana.
- Meriwether Lewis Grave Site, Natchez Trace Parkway, Hohenwald, Tennessee.
- Lewis and Clark State Historical Park, Hartford, Illinois.