This essay has a total of 2240 words and 11 pages.
The Lewis and Clark Exploration
Lewis and Clark are two names forever linked. These two names, the last names of
Meriwether and William respectively, are that of two of the greatest explorers in the
history of the United States. With the help of Indians and a group of brave men, the vast
area west of the Mississippi River was the object of their exploration.
Lewis was born to a Virginia planter family in 1774. His father, who had been an officer
in the American Revolution, died when Lewis was five years old, and for a brief time he
lived in Georgia when his mother moved there with her second husband.
After assuming the management of his family's Virginia plantation, Lewis joined the
state militia in 1794 to help put down the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania. He
continued his military career as an officer in the regular army, serving on the frontier in
Ohio and Tennessee, and rising to the rank of captain by 1801, when he accepted an
invitation from President Thomas Jefferson, an old family friend, to serve as his private
Even before the Louisiana Territory was purchased from France, Jefferson was ready to
send an expedition into the frontier. In January of 1803 Congress approved a plan for an
expedition. Jefferson had many reasons for employing the explorers. A boundless
curiosity for botany, zoology, and geography was one of Jefferson’s main reasons. Also
Jefferson wanted to establish communication and some interaction with the Indians.
The purchase of the Louisiana Territory was an entirely unexpected outcome. Robert
Livingston, an ambassador to France, was told to discuss the purchase of the port of New
Orleans from France. After weeks of fruitless efforts to buy the port, Livingston got
lucky. The French, in need of money to wage wars in Europe, offered him the entire
Louisiana Territory. A surprised Livingston purchased the entire territory for fifteen
The Louisiana Purchase affected the expedition greatly. First, the party would be
exploring their own country, a benefit that greatly pleased Lewis. The party was going to
be limited to no more than fifteen men so that it would remain secret from Spain, who
owned the land at the time the expedition was originally planned. Now the party could
be expanded. With a much larger party, a second officer was needed. Lewis chose
William Clark to be that officer.
Clark was born into a Virginia plantation family in 1770, the youngest of six sons and
the youngest brother of George Rogers Clark, the hero of the American Revolution in the
West. When he was fourteen, Clark's family moved to a new plantation in Kentucky, and
he would spend the rest of his life on America's shifting frontier.
Beginning in 1789, Clark served as a militiaman in campaigns against the Indians of the
Ohio Valley. He became an officer in the regular army in 1792, and in 1794 fought in the
battle of Fallen Timbers. Two years later he resigned from the army to manage his
Clark had become a friend of Meriwether Lewis's when they served together at Fort
Greenville, Ohio, in 1795, and quickly accepted his invitation to serve as second officer
of the famed expedition.
In preparation for the journey into the unmarked territory Lewis studied many subjects.
He studied botany, zoology, geography, and the use of navigational instruments that
would be needed along the way. Most importantly, he studied medicine. Studying with
Dr. Benjamin Rush, Lewis learned how to treat common illnesses that he would
encounter on the journey. Clark also studied many of the same subjects as Lewis
including extensive research on cartography. This was helpful because Clark made the
majority of the maps.
Purchasing supplies was an especially difficult task because it was unknown to Lewis
what would be needed in the unexplored land. Medicines, several tools, rope, guns,
ammunition, blankets, clothes, kettle, cups, pens paper, and canned soup were some of
the many things purchased for the trip. The canned soups were doubly useful because
when finished the cans were melted into bullets. For transportation up the Missouri a
keelboat was made.
The characteristics looked for in the people volunteering to be apart of the expedition
were strong, unmarried men with hunting, blacksmith, or carpentry backgrounds. Many
of the men were from the military to protect the party from Indian attacks. The men
would be paid ten dollars a month plus clothing and subsistence. When the expedition
returned they would be granted immediate discharge. The men would also receive a
portion of land equal to that given to officers in the Revolutionary war.
After waiting out winter in St. Louis the expedition finally began. On May 14, 1804, the
Corps of Discovery, as they were called, a group of men totaling 41 and one dog, Lewis’s
dog, Seaman, began on the Missouri River. The journey began badly. The keelboat was
poorly packed and handled even worse causing the boat to almost tip. Also on the first
leg of the journey to the Mandan villages many men became sick, two men deserted, and
one man died.
Sergeant Floyd was the man who died and the only man to die on the expedition He died
of appendicitis, which could not have been treated at that time anyhow. The death put the
group in low spirits but they traveled on after having a funeral and burying the body
peacefully with a cedar post for a grave.
The Corps met the Oto and Missouri tribes, who were kind and offered no resistance to
the expedition, at the mouth of the Platte River around Omaha, Nebraska. The Sioux,
however, were not so accepting. There were many tense situations between the Teton
Sioux and the Corps. Clark and the chief of the Teton engaged in shouting matches
about which nation was better and on several occasions shots were almost fired.
Indian councils were held with each encountered group, some groups more pleased than
others. The typical council involved an exchanging of gifts, speeches given, Lewis firing
a gun to impress the Indians, and a medal with Jefferson’s likeness etched being given to
the tribes. Each tribe was amazed or disappointed with the gifts. The Arikara and
Hidatsa tribes met along the Missouri River on the way to the Mandan Villages were two
tribes pleased by the council. These two tribes were peaceful and did nothing to harm
The Mandan Villages in present day North Dakota were reached in October of 1804.
The Mandan were extremely helpful to expedition. A fort was given to the Corps as a
place to spend the upcoming winter, information on the upcoming land, and supplies for
the next leg of the journey were also supplied.
Perhaps the most important thing coming from the Mandan Villages was the addition of
the Charbonneau family to
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