Lewis And Clark Essay, Research Paper
Lewis & Clark
In this country s great history, there have been many important expeditions, discoveries, and wonders. One of the most famous and important expeditions in this country s history is that of Lewis and Clark. Within their great journey, the two men met countless obstacles, met many new and intriguing cultures, and saw some of the most incredible land that God had ever made.
After the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to lead an expedition on a journey to explore the headwaters of the Missouri River and find an overland route to the Pacific Ocean by way of the Columbia River. By August 31, 1803, Lewis and his party where under way down the Ohio River to meet up with Clark and his group. Together, their group, known as the Corps of Discovery, departed from Camp DuBois near Wood River, Illinois, on May 14, 1804, and proceeded up the Missouri River using a keelboat and two pirogues (Steffen 42).
By late fall, the party reached the Knife River Indian Villages near present day Washburn, North Dakota. There they built Fort Nandan and spent a productive winter gathering information about the Indian tribes and the lands to the west. Also at this time, they recruited two interpreters, the Frenchman, Toussaint Charbonneau, and his Shoshoni wife, Sacagawea (Ambrose 187). In the spring of 1805, the party continued up the Missouri River in the pirogues with their new friends. On April 26, 1805 the party came across an unexpected landmark. About 465 miles upstream from the mouth of the Yellowstone, they arrived at a major fork in the Missouri River. Now, the most important and significant question was asked Which one of these rivers was the real Missouri Rivers? The group was split on their decision of the correct river. In order to remedy this situation the two captains sent patrols up each river. Clark headed up the left fork and found that it ran swift and to the southwest. Lewis, however, went up the right fork and found that this river headed to far northward, this river will later be known as the Marias River. Both captains headed back with their news. With confidence, the group chose the correct way and continued on their epic journey. Their first major obstacle had been overcome Ronda 129-130).
On June 10, 1805 the group arrived at the Great Falls of the Missouri. Expecting an easy one-day portage, the group was amazed to discover four more waterfalls in their path. This discovery brought about the realization that the most direct portage was eighteen miles long. For the next month the group was pummeled by storms of wind, rain and hail, tortured by prickly pear cactus, plagued by rattlesnakes and mosquitoes, and menaced by the grizzly bears. Their large pirogue was too heavy to be portaged so it was left behind. This was acceptable because Lewis had designed and brought along a portable strap-iron framework for a boat that could be covered with animal hides and sealed with pin pitch. Unfortunately, there were no pine trees in the White Bear Islands. After a week of hewing two new canoes, the group got under way again on July 15. They were less than one hundred miles upstream from the Marias River, which they had left on June 12 (GORP 1-2).
For days the travelers saw no sign of any Indian life. However, on the morning of August 13, 1805, Lewis encountered three Shoshoni women at the headwaters of the Columbia River. They happily led Lewis and his group to their village to meet their chief, Cameahwait. Amazing, Cameahwait and Sacagawea were brother and sister. Cameahwait, Lewis, and Clark talked much about the journey, and Cameahwait advised the men that any further water travel down the Lemhi and Salmon was impossible. With the advise of Cameahwait, the expedition soon headed off with twenty-nine new horse and several Shoshoni guides to help them through this uncharted region (Ambrose 268-273).
By September 1, the group was faced with the most exhausting and debilitating segment of their journey; passing through the Bitterroot Mountains to the Clearwater River. By this time the men were hungry, in low spirits, and quite tired; the team was right on the breaking point. Lewis and Clark new that the group had to split in two separate teams, each taking one of the two known routes through the mountains. Clark and six hunters would take the high ground to hurry along and gather provisions to send back to the other group. Lewis and his team had the most difficult route to follow. Their eleven-day passage through the mountains pushed the men through bitter cold, early snow, and near starvation. Finally the group reached the summit at Weippe Prairie, a thousand feet about the Clearwater River (Ambrose 288-293). Here they came upon Clark s men and a band of friendly Nez Perce Indians. The Nez Perce were kind enough to take the helplessly weak and hungry men in and feed them. The group had traveled an amazing one hundred and sixty miles in only eleven days. With the conditions that these men face, it was clear to see that the group once again surpassed a most difficult challenge (Ronda, 236).
Throughout the next couple of months, the group along with several Shoshoni guides will continue to travel down the Columbia River in search of the great Pacific Ocean. The team and the Indian guides had several small problems with stealing among the group, but they were quickly overcome as the team continued to approach the ocean. On November 5, 1805, the group met with its first coastal canoe piloted by an unknown group of Indians. The following day, the group encountered another one of these great canoes; they knew that they were getting close. That evening the group slept at an unsuitable, rock campground, but by morning, all were happy again. That afternoon a shout went up, and Clark scribbled his immortal line, Ocian in view! O! the joy. , in his field notes (Ambrose, 305).
After two and a half years, the group had finally crossed the great continent and reached the Pacific Ocean. For the next five months, the group would continue to travel along the coastline. During this period, they met with neighboring Indian tribes and collected more samples for their trip home. Of the Indians that they encountered, the Clatsop were the friendliest and the most eager to trade. The group quickly began construction of their winter camp beside the lands of the Clatsop (around the northwest corner of present day Oregon). By December 30, the fort was completed and was appropriately named Fort Clatsop. The team would remain in this fort until the preparations for the return trip was completed (Ambrose 313 321).
Lewis had March 20, 1806 marked as their day of departure, but do to a violent storm, the group was delayed until the twenty-third. The group now took off on their four thousand mile trip back home. Although the trip was still going to be difficult, they were now setting off on a trip that had been traveled, and they could travel with a little more confidence and ease this time. On September 23, 1806, the team will arrive in St. Louis, completing their eight thousand mile trip (Ambrose 395).
Although much of this incredible journey was not discussed, it is easily seen that this expedition had a great impact upon the American society of that time. Due to Lewis and Clark s detailed maps; hundreds of American citizens confidently crossed the continent in search of the beautiful lands that Lewis and Clark s journals described to them. I believe that without these two intelligent and brave men, the expedition would have suffered greatly and could have possibly failed all together, and that we all owe these men and their team much gratitude.
Ambrose, Stephen E. Undaunted Courage. Simon & Schuster: New York.
GORP. Lewis and Clark Trail. Internet. Greer Consulting Services. 20 April 2000
Ronda, James P. Lewis and Clark Among the Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press,
Steffen, Jerome O. William Clark Jeffersonian Man on the Frontier. University of Oklahoma
Press: Norman, 1977.