Lewis and Clark expedition

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See also: National Parks and Monuments (table)National Parks and Monuments

National Parks
Name Type1 Location Year authorized Size
acres (hectares)
Acadia NP SE Maine 1919 48,419 (19,603) Mountain and coast scenery.
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Lewis and Clark expedition,

1803–6, U.S. expedition that explored the territory of the Louisiana PurchaseLouisiana Purchase,
1803, American acquisition from France of the formerly Spanish region of Louisiana. Reasons for the Purchase

The revelation in 1801 of the secret agreement of 1800, whereby Spain retroceded Louisiana to France, aroused uneasiness in the United
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 and the country beyond as far as the Pacific Ocean.


Thomas Jefferson had long considered the project of a western expedition, having encouraged John LedyardLedyard, John
, 1751–89, American adventurer, b. Groton, Conn. He studied at Dartmouth for year, but left college to ship as a sailor. In 1776 he joined Capt. James Cook's last expedition.
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 when he proposed such an expedition in the 1780s, and as president he contemplated the matter in earnest and discussed it with his private secretary, Capt. Meriwether LewisLewis, Meriwether,
1774–1809, American explorer, one of the leaders of the Lewis and Clark expedition, b. near Charlottesville, Va. He was a captain in the army and served in a number of campaigns against Native Americans before becoming (1801) secretary to his friend
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. When Congress approved the plan in 1803 and appropriated money for it, Jefferson named Lewis to head it, and Lewis selected William ClarkClark, William,
1770–1838, American explorer, one of the leaders of the Lewis and Clark expedition, b. Caroline co., Va.; brother of George Rogers Clark. He was an army officer (1792–96), serving in a number of engagements with Native Americans.
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 as his associate in command. The purpose was to search out a land route to the Pacific, to strengthen American claims to Oregon territory, and to gather information about the indigenous inhabitants and the country of the Far West. Before the long march was begun, the Louisiana Purchase was made, increasing the need for a survey of the West.

The Expedition

The men were gathered and in the winter of 1803–4 were trained in Illinois across the Mississippi from St. Louis, the starting point. In May, 1804, they set out up the Missouri, and the next winter was spent at the Hidatsa-Mandan villages (near present Bismarck, N.Dak.). In 1805 the hardest part of the journey was made. After reaching the Three Forks of the Missouri River (and naming the three branches after Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin in loyalty to the administration), they followed the Jefferson as far as they could. Then the Shoshone woman SacajaweaSacajawea
, Sacagawea
, or Sakakawea
, c.1788–1812?, Native North American woman who accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition, the only woman in the party.
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, who had accompanied them, helped to obtain horses for them to continue across the high Rockies. They crossed the Continental Divide at Lemhi Pass and went over the Bitterroot Mts. through Lolo Pass. They had reached the land of westward-flowing rivers, and for part of their way they followed the Clearwater River down to the Snake River (long called the Lewis). The Snake took them to the Columbia River and they spent a miserable, rainy winter season in Fort Clatsop, a crude post they built on the Pacific coast.

In the spring they started back across the continent. In July, 1806, the party split for a time in order to explore as much territory as possible. Lewis went with a group down the Marias River, while Clark and most of the men descended the Yellowstone River; they were reunited on the Missouri at the mouth of the Yellowstone on Aug. 12, 1806. The party arrived in St. Louis on Sept. 23, 1806, and were greeted with much acclaim. The route of the expedition is commemorated by a series of sites along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (see National Parks and MonumentsNational Parks and Monuments

National Parks
Name Type1 Location Year authorized Size
acres (hectares)
Acadia NP SE Maine 1919 48,419 (19,603) Mountain and coast scenery.
..... Click the link for more information.
, table).

The importance of the well-planned, well-executed expedition (only one person had been lost) was enormous. Although it was not the first transcontinental crossing in the north (Alexander Mackenzie had preceded them in a remarkable voyage), it opened vast new territories to the United States. Its influence on the history of the West is incalculable. Its results matched the efficiency and capability of its leaders.


Since the journey was under official auspices, many records were kept. The first report of it to be published appeared in a message of President Jefferson in 1806. In 1807 the journal of Patrick Gass appeared; it was several times reissued before The History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark was published (ed. by N. Biddle and P. Allen, 2 vol., 1814; repr. 1966). This appeared in later editions by E. Coues (4 vol., 1893; repr. 1965) and J. B. McMaster (1904). R. G. Thwaites edited a full issue of Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (8 vol., 1904–5; repr. 2001; abridged ed. by B. DeVoto, 1953, repr. 1963) and G. E. Moulton edited a definitive edition of the journals of Lewis, Clark, and members of the Corps of Discovery published as The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (13 vol., 1983–2002, abridged ed. 2003).

There have been many studies and monographs on the expedition. See study by J. Bakeless (1947, repr. 1962). See also Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (ed. by D. D. Jackson, 1962); R. H. Dillon, Meriwether Lewis: A Biography (1968); P. R. Cutright, Lewis and Clark, Pioneering Naturalists (1969); D. S. Lavender, The Way to the Western Sea (1988).

Lewis and Clark Expedition

proved feasibility of overland route to the Pacific. [Am. Hist.: Benét, 583]
References in periodicals archive ?
Bebo who joined the Lewis and Clark Expedition with his "wife,'' Sacagawea, fight to preserve land and ownership of a historic letter -- an heirloom that had been handed down to them by a French midwife named Marie Latour.
Glancy's Stone Heart: A Novel of Sacagawea targets an adult reading public, Bruchac's Sacagawea: The Story of Bird Woman and the Lewis and Clark Expedition originally appeared in Scholastic Press's "Signature" series for young adults twelve years and older, and Badgley Hunsaker's lushly photographed Sacagawea Speaks: Beyond the Shining Mountains with Lewis and Clark is an expensive, oversized coffee-table book that includes a fictionalized history of Sacagawea as well as vivid color photographs.
Written as the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition approached, the book grew out of the tribe's longstanding efforts to preserve its oral traditions and language and draws on extensive work the tribe's culture committee has been doing since the 1970s.
Thomas Jefferson made preparations for the Lewis and Clark expedition even before the Louisiana Purchase was completed.
Some of his mapwork was even used by the Lewis and Clark expedition. Award-winning author Jack Nisbet presents Thompson's story in detail yet fully accessible to lay readers, along with a handful of black-and-white and color illustrations.
His broad range includes the medical exigencies of the Battle of Wounded Knee, mining camps, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and multiple amputations during the Civil War.
In the picture below, Roger Wendlick entertains the AFS conference attendees with a presentation on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which ended at the Pacific Ocean, net far from Portland.
Hint asked Fitzgerald to age the President's face to approximate how he would have looked in 1805, when the Lewis and Clark expedition was under way.
The Lewis and Clark expedition route is followed from the air, accompanied by step-by-step discussion of their route choices and explorations in a fascinating, visually pleasing survey.
Jefferson's Western Explorations: Discoveries Made In Exploring The Missouri, Red River, And Washita presents a historical reproduction of the document delineating President Thomas Jefferson's 1806 "Message from the President", a summary of not only the Lewis and Clark expedition, but of other expeditions of the time.
Mint in 2004, commemorating the bicentennials of two major achievements of Jefferson's presidency--the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition.