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Lewis and Clark

by: J. T. Lawson


On February 28, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson had the U. S. Congress appropriate $2,500.00 to fund an expedition to explore the Louisiana Territory and the uncharted west. Jefferson referred to this expedition as the Corps of Discovery.The Corps of Discovery was to be led by Jefferson's secretary, Meriweather Lewis, and William Clark. Both of these individuals held the rank of captain in the U. S. Army. Another expedition was conducted by Zebulon Pike for whom Pike's Peak is named.


Included in the Corps of Discovery were four individuals holding the rank of sergeant, twenty-four individuals having the rank of private, and eight non-military personnel.

For four long years, the Corps of Discovery would travel over 7,700 miles of dangerous lands, rivers, and streams. They would encounter over fifty Indian tribes. They were instructed to explore mountains, rivers, streams, islands, plants, animals, and native individuals living in these areas. They were to survey, draw maps, keep journals and other records to provide President Jefferson with an accurate accounting of this land.


The expedition led by Lewis and Clark brought along such articles as: compasses, quadrants, telescopes, thermometers, sextants, chromometers, cloth, pliers, mosquito curtains, saws, hatchets, 10 1/2 pounds of fish hooks, soap, mirrors, blankets, knapsacks, 288 knives, 15 muzzle-loading rifles, and 176 pounds of gun powder.


The Corps of Discovery's first encounter with an Indian tribe took place in September 1804. From that point, they encountered other Indian tribes including the Oto, Missouri, Teton Sioux, Blacfeet, and Shoshone tribes.


Upon meeting various Indian tribes, Lewis and Clark would explain that the land now belonged to the United States. They would offer the Indians medals and other gifts of friendship.


One of the most outstanding members of the Corps of Discovery was Sacagawea. Sacagawea was the only woman on the expedition. She was a Shoshone Indian who had been captured by the Minnetaree Indians while she was a child. Later, she was sold to Troussaint Charbonneau, a French- Canadian who lived among the Minnetaree in the Dakota Territory for five years. They married in 1804, the same year they were hired by the Corps of Discovery as guides. Sacagawea acted as an interpreter for the explorers. Due to her hard work for the expedition, many myths developed regarding Sacagawea. Her name is mentioned in many history books.

Upon the conclusion of the expedition, Meriweather Lewis was commissioned as the Provisional Governor of the Louisiana Territory. The Lewis and Clark expedition was one of the greatest explorations in history. Through the efforts of the Corps of Discovery, the United States laid claim to the Oregon Territory and the myth was proved wrong regarding the existence of a Northwest Passage.