Lewis & Clark Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who was Lewis?
A: Meriwether Lewis was born August 18, 1774 near Charlottsville, Virginia. He served in the U.S. Army from 1794-1801 including a brief stint under the command of William Clark. President Thomas Jefferson appointed him his personal secretary as a means of educating and preparing Lewis for the Expedition to explore and document the western half of the continent. He served as co-captain of the Corps of Discovery which was charged with finding the waterway to the Pacific Ocean. After the Expedition, Lewis was appointed Governor of Louisianna Territory. Three short years after the Expedition, he died October 11, 1809 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, although some scholars argue he was murdered. His grave is in what is now Natchez Trace National Parkway, near Hohenwald, Tennessee.
Q: Who was Clark?
A: William Clark was born August 1, 1770 also near Charlottsville, Virginia. He joined the U.S. Army in 1789 and spent most of his time fighting the British and Indians in the Northwest Campaign in present-day Ohio, Indiana, etc. Lewis picked him to join him as co-captain of the Corps of Discovery (although he officially had the rank of 2nd Lieutenant) which was charged with finding the waterway to the Pacific Ocean. He lived for many years in St. Louis, Missouri following the Expedition. He died September 1, 1838 and is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetary in St. Louis.
Q: How many people were part of the Expedition?
A: Research indicates about 50 different people were part of the Expedition at one time or another. Some stayed less than one month others made the entire journey to the Pacific and back. A party of 45 traveled from Wood River to Fort Mandan. A party of 33 made the journey from Fort Mandan to the Pacific and back. The 50 includes Lewis, Clark, Clark's black slave, York, and the Shoshoni wife of Charbonneau (an interpreter), Sacagawea and their newborn son Jean Baptiste. It does not include Lewis' dog, Seaman, a Newfoundland who made the entire trip as well.
Q: When was the Lewis & Clark Expedition?
A: Meriwether Lewis left Washington D.C. on July 5, 1803 gathering information and supplies at Pittsburgh and Harpers Ferry. Lewis and 11 men floated down the Ohio River on keelboats to Clarksville, Indiana, (across the river from Louisville, Kentucky) where he met up with Clark and his recruits from the frontier. They proceeded downriver to Wood River, Illinois above St. Louis on the Mississippi River and established a winter camp.
They officially left "civilization" May 14, 1804 as they pointed their boats up the Missouri River and toward the western skies. By November they reached the villages of the friendly Mandan and Minitari (Hidatsa) Indians near present-day Washburn, North Dakota. They spent the winter here before preparing to cross the Continental Divide.
In April 1805 the keelboat headed downriver back to St. Louis, while the 33 members of the "permanent party" paddled up the Missouri in two pirogues and six dugout canoes. They reached the Great Falls of the Missouri (Great Falls, Montana) in mid-June 1805. They crossed the Continental Divide along the Bitterrot Mountains in late August-early September and continued down the Nez Perce Trail, the Clearwater River, the Snake River and the mighty Columbia River before reaching the Pacific Ocean at Cape Disappointment, Washington in November 1805.
The Corps built Fort Clatsop, near present-day Astoria, Oregon, and wintered there from December 1805-March 1806. They left Fort Clatsop March 23, 1806 and returned along virtualy the same path back to St. Louis on September 23, 1806.
Q: Did anybody die on the journey?
A: Only one man died. Sgt. Charles Floyd died August 20, 1804 of natural causes while the Corps headed up the Missouri River. A monumnet to Sgt. Floyd is at Sioux City, Iowa where he was buried by members of the expedition.
Q: What states did the Expedition travel through?
A: The Lewis and Clark Trail runs through parts of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.
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