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 far did Lewis and Clark travel each day?
They traveled anywhere from 5 to 20 miles per day – a distance of 14 miles per day was considered adequate – with Clark frequently staying in a boat and Lewis walking along the shore.
How long did it take Lewis and Clark to reach the Pacific Ocean?
Lewis and Clark, along with 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, Missouri, in search of the legendary “Northwest Passage” to the sea.
What happened to Lewis and Clark’s dog?
Seaman, Capt. Lewis’s dog, pursued them, caught one in the river, drowned and killed it, and swam to shore with it,” Clark wrote. Seaman continued to hunt in this manner until he was severely injured by a beaver in mid-May 1805.
What was Lewis and Clark’s salary?
Meriwether Lewis was paid a total of $2,776.22 (including his allowance) for 47 months of service, plus 1,600 acres of land*, while Captain Clark was paid a total of $2,113.74 (including subsistence allowance) for 47 months of service, plus the 1,600 acres of land.
What did Lewis and Clark find on their journey?
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 long did the entire journey take?
In fact, the expedition had to make its way across the vast Bitterroot Mountains, which were already covered in snow in September, on the Lolo Trail, which took 11 days and nearly put the men to sleep.
What was the name of Clark’s dog?
Captain Meriwether Lewis’ four-legged companion, Seaman, a Newfoundland waterdog, is widely regarded as one of the most famous members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Did Lewis and Clark eat prairie dogs?
Two other members of the prairie-dog community that directly rely on prairie dogs for their own survival, the burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) and the black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes), were not encountered during the expedition and were considered fine table fare.
Did Lewis and Clark get along?
Lewis met Clark during the 1790s Northwest Campaigns in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio, where their friendship began. Both considered the other to be their closest friend, and Lewis’ death in 1809 was a devastating blow to Clark.
Who died on the Lewis and Clark expedition?
Sergeant Charles Floyd dies three months into Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s journey, making him the only member of the Corps of Discovery to perish.
Why did Sacagawea help Lewis Clark?
Sacagawea was chosen to accompany Lewis and Clark on their mission, despite the fact that she was pregnant with her first child, because Lewis and Clark believed her knowledge of the Shoshone language would aid them later in their journey.