THE LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION Essay, Research Paper
Quite possibly one of the most important purchases in the
history of The United States was the one in which Thomas
Jefferson enabled the size of the country to double. The
territory was the Louisiana Territory, the 820,000 square mile
piece of land was bought for 15 million dollars which equaled
out to about three cents an acre.
The United States originally only wanted to buy the port of
New Orleans. Thomas Jefferson wanted to buy this because there
was a risk that the half million Americans living west of the
Appalachian would secede from the Union. Purchasing the port
would keep them from seceding because they would then have a
port that they could easily use to get to the ocean. The
people in that region had been using the port until the Spanish
stopped letting them use it. This posed a serious problem
because then the only way to get goods to the ocean was over
the Appalachian Mountains, and there were few roads that
crossed the mountains. By adding the land west of the
Mississippi the United States had the potential to become a
very powerful nation.
Jefferson learned that France had just obtained the
Louisiana Territory from Spain. He proceeded to send James
Monroe and the ambassador to France, Robert Livingston to the
current leader of France Napoleon Bonapart. Napoleon needed
money for the upcoming war with Britain, realizing that he had
little hope for an empire in America any time soon he declared
that the united States could have the port if it bought the
entire territory. Jefferson quickly passed the treaty through
congress and although there doubts about the purchase on April
30, 1803 the United States doubled it?s size.
Jefferson had been planning to map out and explore the west
for two decades. Before even acquiring the land Jefferson had
been planning a small trip to explore the land he was so
captivated by. His personal library had more books on the land
than any other place. However many of the descriptions of the
land were simply made up in the minds of people that had never
been there in there lives. Maps of the land were also based on
little or no actual facts from the land. Many showed the Rocky
Mountains as smaller than the Appalachians. So in 1803
Jefferson proposed to congress that an ?intelligent officer
with ten or twelve chosen men … might explore the whole line,
even to the Western Ocean.? Thomas Jefferson?s reasons for the
expidition were not just for science he also saw that
commercial growth in the west would be a key to the United
States growing a stronghold on the region.
Jefferson?s proposed expedition would travel through unknown
lands that were owned by the two most poweful nations, France
and Britan with Spain in possesion in the land to the south
west. Spansh officials administering the region for France had
turned down Jefferson?s request to explore the region. None the
less Jefferson sent his request to Congress. To make his
request more tempting he asked for only $2,500 to fund the trip
but in acctuality it cost $38,722. So on Feburary 28,1803
Jefferson?s request was approved. Jefferson appointed
Meriwether Louis in charge of the expedition.
When the Louisiana purchase was announced on july 3, just
two days before Lewis was to set out to Pittsburgh to buy
supplies and hire men, the semi-covert mission through foreign
land was turned into a daring survey into newly aquired
American land. To ensure that Louis could buy every thing he
needed Jefferson gave a signed page that gave the ?faith of the
United States? to reimburse anyone for any goods or services
needed by Louis. Before leaving Louis had Albert Gallatin (a
map collector) make a map that showed North America from the
Mississippi to the Pacific. The only points on the map were
the mouth of the Columbia river, St. Louis and the Missouri
river up to the Mandan Villages. The rest were to be Filled
out by Lewis and Clark.
On the trip the group encountered many different Native
American tribes, one of wich was the Teton Sioux. These native
americans were a war-like tribe, they were known for being a
powerful and aggresive tribe that controlled all traffic
through there section of the Missouri River. When they stopped
passing merchants they would demand many gifts as a toll, or
they would resort to a more violent approach. When Lewis and
Clark arrived, the Teton Sioux veiwed them and America as a
threat to there control of the trade area. At the first
council held between the Tetons and the expedition the
expedition followed there normal routine of marching and firing
there guns. This did not impress the Tetons and an armed
conflict nearly erupted. The cheif However calmed things down.
In his journal Clark wrote that the tetons were thin, small and
ill-looking. The men dressed as Indians are steryotypically
depicted with hawk feathers on there heads and robes on there
bodies, the women wore robes and buffalo skins.
Another tribe that the expedition met were the Mandans.
Some of the Mandans political caracteristics are similar to
modern-day communism. To the Mandans the village was the
centerof activity be it ceremonial, political or economic. In
the village each household worked together as a collective to
better each thing part of the collective such as families and
the village itself.
In the fall many different types of people came to the
Mandan village to trade. At these trades Europeans and many
differnt tribes were in attendence. The Mandans traded there
corn for a variety of items. When the expedition arrived the
Mandans were very hospitible they allowed the Corps to stay
across the river for the winter and supplied them with food.
At one point during the winter when the food supplie became low
the Mandans were accompanied by members of the Corps on a
buffalo hunt. In return Clark performed medical services for
the tribe. The tribe was also mezmerized by the color of
York?s ( Clark?s slave ) skin.
The Corps of Discovery did not make the entire trip without
help from Native Americans. One Native American that played a
large part in helping the expedition was Sacagawea. The Corps
met her when they hired the french fur trapper Toussaint
Charbonneau to be a guide. Sacagawea was of much help when the
Corp met the Shoshone tribe. Sacagawea was the brother of the
tribes leader. At one meeting when Sacagawea was present she
recognized Cameahwait. Sacagawea was Shoshone but was
Kidnapped by the Hidatsas when she was a child. It was with
Sacagawea?s help that the Corps was able to get the horses and
guide they needed to make the trip across the Bitterroot
The Corp got help from many tribes as well. As mentioned
the Shoshone helped by providing horses and a guide through the
Mountains. The Mandan Indians helped by giving the expedition
food through out the winter while the Corps stayed with them.
The Nez Perce gave the Corps food and let them say near them
during the winter of 1805. Without the help of the Indians
mentioned and others the Corp of discovery would almost
certainly not have survived or completed there journey.
One of the purposes of the Corps of discovery was to study
the land animals that lived on this land. One animal that was
new to the people was the grizzly bear, the Hidatsas warned the
expedition about this fierce animal. A few days later the
Corps met up with a grizzly bear and they shot and killed it.
That night Lewis wrote in his journal that for a wel trained
man with a gun the grizzly bear was not something to fear. A
few days later they ran into another bear and could not kill
it, it chased them into the river. Some other new animals that
the Corps met with were the buffalo, jackrabbit and praire dog.
They were so interested by the praire dog that they spent a few
days trying to capture one and when they finally did they sent
it back to Jefferson alive.
To travel on the rivers they used a specialy built keel
boat that was constructed in Pittsburgh. When going against
the flow they traveled in a way that resembles the gondolas of
Vennice italy. They would take poles that reached the river
bottom and walk from the front of the boat to the back. They
also sailed, rowed and even waded in the water and pulled the
boat. To cross mountains they put there gear on horses. They
crossed the Rockies at the Bitterroot Mountains, on a trail
used by the Shoshone.
The Corps of Discovery found several interesting geographic
features. They saw the towering falls of missouri. They also
saw the Rocky Mountains which were almost ten thousand feet
higher than the Appalachians. They also saw a high sandstone
peak that Clark named Pompy?s tower after Sacagawea?s son. In
conclusion the Lewis and Clark Expedition was a great succes,
it acheived many feats and opened the door to a new era of
Works Sighted Page
Lewis and Clark Page.PBS. 28 Feb 2000
Appleby, Brinkley, and McPherson. The American Journey Building
a Nation. New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill, 2000
?Lewis and Clark Expedition.? Compton?s Encyclopedia. 1989 ed.