The Lewis and Clark Expedition

One of the most famous expeditions in United States history is that of Lewis and Clark. After the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson asked his private secretary Captain Meriwether Lewis to lead an expedition to explore the newly acquired land. Lewis asked Lieutenant William Clark to co-lead the mission

Together they lead a team of 45 men called the Corps of Volunteers for Northwest Discovery, to explore and map out a water route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. The journals they kept along the expedition tell us a lot about what they experienced and saw on their journey.

he expedition began in St. Louis on May 14, 1804. They packed rifles, surveying instruments, camping supplies, books on botany, geography, and astronomy, food and trinkets such as beads, paint, knives, ribbons and tobacco to trade with the Indians. They set sail upstream on the Mississippi River in three boats. The large boat was called the “barge” and the smaller boats were called “pirogues”.  

The expedition faced many natural obstacles. The most difficult parts of the journey included the crossing of the Great Falls and The Rocky Mountains. The men had to carry their boats for miles around the Falls. The Rocky Mountains proved to be treacherous to pass, and many of the men faced hunger, dehydration, freezing temperatures and exhaustion. When they finally made it across, they met the Nez Perce Indians who gave them food and water and helped them regain their health

Many Native Americans lived on the land that Lewis and Clark explored. The crew encountered nearly 50 different tribes. Some were friendly to the Corps, but others were hostile. In November of 1804 the Corps crossed paths with a friendly tribe near present day North Dakota and set up camp near their village for the Winter. There, Lewis and Clark met a French-Canadian fur trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau and hired him as an interpreter. His pregnant Native American wife Sacagawea was allowed to join the expedition in hopes that she could help them communicate with other Native Americans. Sacagawea became a great help to the explorers by keeping peace and trading with different tribes and helping them navigate the land.