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who commissioned the lewis and clark expedition in 1804
Lewis and Clark Expedition
(1804–06), U.S. military expedition, led by Capt. Meriwether Lewis and Lieut. William Clark, to explore the Louisiana Purchase and the Pacific Northwest. The expedition was a major chapter in the history of American exploration.
Commissioning and preparation
Expedition from May 14, 1804, to October 16, 1805
Over the duration of the trip, from May 14, 1804, to September 23, 1806, from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Pacific Ocean and back, the Corps of Discovery, as the expedition company was called.
traveled nearly 8,000 miles (13,000 km). The entourage, numbering about four dozen men, covered 10 to 20 miles (16 to 32 km) a day—poling, pushing.
and pulling their 10-ton keelboat and two pirogues (dugout boats) up the Missouri River. Lewis’s iron-framed boat was later assembled and covered with skins near Great Falls .
(in present-day Montana) but had to be abandoned because the seams leaked and there was no pitch to seal them.
The captains and at least five others kept journals. President Jefferson had instructed Lewis to make observations of latitude and longitude .
and to take detailed notes about the soil, climate, animals, plants, and native peoples. Lewis identified 178 plants new to science, including bitterroot, prairie sagebrush, Douglas fir.
and ponderosa pine, as well as 122 animals, such as grizzly bear, prairie dog, and pronghorn antelope. The scientific names Philadelphus lewisii (mock orange), Lewisia rediva (bitterroot), and Clarkia pucella (pink fairy, or ragged robin) are but three examples of the men’s discoveries.
The expedition encountered immense animal herds and ate well, consuming one buffalo, two elk, or four deer per day, supplemented by roots, berries, and fish. They named geographic locations after expedition members, peers, loved ones, and even their dog (Seaman’s Creek).
They experienced dysentery, venereal disease, boils, tick bites, and injuries from prickly pear, yet only one man perished over the course of the journey.
Another primary objective involved diplomacy with Native Americans. The expedition held councils with Indians, in which the corps had military parades, handed out peace medals, flags, and gifts, delivered speeches, promised trade, and requested intertribal peace.
There also was something of a magic show (magnets, compasses, and Lewis’s air gun) and an invitation for Indian representatives to travel to Washington, D.C. Most tribes welcomed trading opportunities and provided the expedition with food.
knowledge, guides, shelter, sex, and entertainment. The Lakota (encountered in South Dakota), however, already had British commercial ties and did not view American competition favourably, especially because it would make their enemies stronger.
Their attempt to prevent the expedition from continuing upstream nearly turned violent, but Chief Black Buffalo’s diplomacy defused the situation.
The expedition arrived
The expedition arrived at the Mandan and Hidatsa villages near present-day Bismarck, North Dakota, and constructed Fort Mandan in which to spend the winter.
The captains prepared maps, artifacts, mineral samples, plant specimens, and papers to send back in the spring. On April 7, 1805, a small crew departed on a St. Louis-bound keelboat laden with boxes of materials for Jefferson that included live magpies and a prairie dog.
Meanwhile, the permanent party proceeded up the Missouri in six canoes and two pirogues. It now consisted of 33 people, including soldiers, civilians, Clark’s slave York, and two newly hired interpreters—a French Canadian, Toussaint Charbonneau.
and his Shoshone wife, Sacagawea, who had given birth to a boy, Jean Baptiste, that February.
The departure scene was described by Lewis in his journal:
On June 2, 1805, the expedition party arrived at a fork in the river. Not knowing which waterway was the principal stream, they sent out reconnaissance parties up both forks.
Although the evidence was not conclusive, the captains believed the south fork to be the major course while everyone else favoured the north. Lewis named the north fork Maria’s River (now Marias River) and instructed the party to continue up the south fork.
This choice proved correct when the expedition arrived at the Great Falls almost two weeks later.
An 18-mile (29-km) portage around the falls was made even more difficult by broken terrain, prickly pear cactus, hailstorms, and numerous grizzly bears. On July 4, 1805.
the party finished the portage and, to celebrate Independence Day, consumed the last of their 120 gallons of alcohol and danced into the night.
Pacific Ocean and return
They finally arrived at the Pacific Ocean in mid-November, with Clark recording in his journal, “Ocian in view! O! the joy.” Fierce storms delayed their progress for nearly a month. The members conducted a democratic vote on where to spend the winter, with even York and Sacagawea casting votes. Near present-day Astoria, Oregon, the corps built Fort Clatsop and endured a wet, miserable winter by journal writing, drying meat, making salt, and traveling to see a beached whale.