Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark are famously known for their early 1800s expedition to venture westward of the Mississippi River. From May 1804 to September 1806, the two embarked on the American expedition that traveled across the western portion of the United States. Starting in St. Louis, the two-year-long expedition ended when Lewis and Clark reached the Pacific Coast.
History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
In 1803, after the United States acquired much new land from the Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the expedition. The aim was to find a practical route to travel across the western half of the continent. Anxious to be the first to make a presence in the west, President Jefferson quickly sent the explorers on their way before Britain or other major European powers could travel there. Lewis and Clark did not travel alone, however. They were part of the Corps of Discovery, a group of selected U.S. Army volunteers who were under the direction and command of Lewis and Clark.
Other goals of Lewis and Clark’s expedition included studying nature’s bounty, from foreign plants to geography, and establishing trade with different Native American tribes along the route.
The expedition officially began in May of 1804. Lewis, Clark and the other members of the Corps of Discovery met near St. Louis, Missouri to begin their journey. Little did they know that along the way, they would deal with many hardships and trials. These hardships included dangerous waters, harsh weather, hunger, illness, injury and fatigue. The journey was certainly much more difficult than the Corps of Discovery has anticipated before departure.
Thankfully, some Native American tribes that the Corps of Discovery came in contact with along the way were helpful to the group. They provided assistance and supplies, especially during the harsh winter where the Corps of Discovery was severely underprepared. From this Native Groups, the Corps of Discovery took on two more members for the remainder of the expedition: Sacagawea and Touissant Charbonneau. Sacagawea and Touissant Charbonneau helped guide and interpret for the group along the way.
The Pacific Coast
In November of 1805, Lewis, Clark and the Corps of Discovery finally reached the Pacific Coast. When there, they built Fort Clatsop and settled in present-day Oregon during the winter months.
On the journey homeward, Lewis and Clark split up to explore even more land along the way, as well as in hopes to find a faster route home. The journey was dangerous, however, when Lewis and his men came in contact with the Blackfeet Indians who attempted to steal from the Corps of Discovery.
The following month, during a hunting trip, Lewis was shot in the thigh by one of his men. Lewis and his men then met up with Clark at the Missouri River and reached St. Louis together. In total, the expedition of Lewis and Clark was roughly 8,000 miles by boat, on foot and on horseback.
Aftermath of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
The two-year long expedition had great success for Lewis and Clark, as well as for the nation as a whole. To this day, Lewis and Clark are celebrated for the dangerous, long journey they went on and for the findings they brought back for the country.
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