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 many miles did Lewis and Clark travel in a 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 cross the Great Falls?
The Lewis and Clark expedition spent more than a month portaging around a series of Missouri River waterfalls, during which time they encountered a bear, a mountain cat, and three buffalo, and several members of the expedition became ill, including Sacajawea.
How did Lewis and Clark decide to spend the winter?
The expedition overwhelmingly decided to follow the advice of the local Indians and investigate the possibility of spending the winter on the southern bank of the river. Lewis, however, decided to scout the area first, leaving Clark and the rest of the group behind.
What struggles did Lewis and Clark face at Lolo Pass?
u201cSeveral horses slipped and rolled down steep hills, which hurt them greatly,u201d Clark wrote. u201cThe one carrying my desk and small trunk turned over and rolled down a mountain for 40 yards, lodged against a tree, and broke the desk.u201d
What waterfall did Lewis and Clark discover?
Meriwether Lewis and four men arrive at the Great Falls of the Missouri River ahead of the main body of the expedition, confirming that the explorers are on the right track.
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.
What did Clark and Lewis discover?
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.
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.
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.
Why did they build Fort Clatsop?
By Christmas Eve, the men had completed a small log fortress, which they named Fort Clatsop in honor of the local Indian tribe. The men struggled to stay dry, and their damp furs and hides rotted and became vermin-infested, and nearly everyone suffered from persistent colds and rheumatism.
What tribe did Lewis and Clark spent their first winter with?
Lewis and Clark planned to spend the winter north of Bismarck, North Dakota, near long-established Mandan and Hidatsa villages populated by large numbers of Mandan and Hidatsa tribes.
What was true about Lewis and Clark’s return journey?
After spending the winter there, the explorers set out on their long journey back to St. Louis, arriving on September 23, 1806, after a two-and-a-half-year journey, with a wealth of information about the largely unexplored region and valuable U.S. claims to Oregon Territory.