Discovering with Lewis & Clark
After the Revolutionary War, the United States began to look at the new country and the land adjacent to the former colonies as a possible source of expansion. Because of the curiosity of what the boundaries of the new country was, explorers began to go beyond the country borders to see what was there. Two of the most famous explorers, who made it to the Pacific Ocean, were Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Their expedition of 1803 helped to make future expansion of the country possible.
Meriwether Lewis of Virginia was a noted outdoors-man, who joined the U.S. Army in 1795. He entered the Army as a rank of Lieutenant and served until 1801, when he was appointed to be President Jefferson’s Aide. William Clark also of Virginia was also a soldier and explorer, who joined the militia in 1789 as a 19 year old. Clark remained active in military affairs and worked with Lewis in the Army.
In 1803, as a result of the Louisiana Purchase, President Jefferson was eager to explore the new territory and selected Lewis to lead the Corps of Discovery. Subsequently, Lewis selected Clark to be co-leader of the expedition to the Pacific Northwest. It was universally agreed that if you conducted a background check on Lewis and Clark you would not find any reasons to question the decision to have them lead the exposition. On August 31, 1803, Lewis, Clark and a party of 33 explorers departed from the river Dubois (in Illinois at the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers). The expedition carried provisions that they hoped would help carry them to their final western destination.
The path that Lewis and Clark decided to follow was an educated guess on their part that it would end up at the Pacific Ocean. They chose to follow the Missouri River and connecting waterways up to what is now North Dakota. From there the Corps of Discovery would follow waterways westward to what they hoped would be the Pacific.
The journey to the Pacific took nearly a year and a half, and they ended up going through what are now 11 states. Once the expedition reached the Pacific on November 15, 1805, they needed to establish a winter camp, and built Fort Clatsop in what is now Astoria, Oregon. They stayed through the winter months, and on March 23, 1806, they began the journey back. Following a similar path, they group arrived in St. Louis on September 23, 1806.
During the course of their expedition, Lewis and Clark kept a journal of their experiences. The journals were published and became an important document for future exploration, as it contained maps and details about the new area. The Corp of Discovery met many different Indian nations such as the Sioux, Blackfeet, Shoshone and Crow. The explorers made friends with the Indians and traded some provisions for Indian artifacts. The Indians, including a Shoshone named Sacagawea , were also very helpful to the explorers in finding the route out west.
Throughout the journey, the explorers were exposed to all the new natural elements of the territories. They include animals such as buffalo, beavers, elk, deer and prairie dogs. The expedition also brought back information about the landscape of the new territory, maps, plants, rivers and information on Native American culture.
The Lewis and Clark expedition was one of the most important developments in the growth of our new country. The results of the expedition gave valuable information and insight into the new country, geography of the land, the Indians that inhabited the land and the other resources that were available. This information for used by subsequent generations for westward expansion of the country.