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Title: Lewis and Clark - Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
Author: Lighton, William R. (William Rheem), 1866-1923
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lewis and Clark - Meriwether Lewis and William Clark" ***

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[Illustration: Wm Clark
               Meriwether Lewis]







The Riverside Press, Cambridge



Transcriber's Note: The symbol "^" in "Miss^ie" is used to indicate
that the letters following it are printed in superscript.


CHAP.                                                         PAGE

   I. CHARACTERISTICS                                            1

  II. THE EXPEDITION                                            15

 III. TERMS OF THE COMMISSION                                   25

  IV. THE START                                                 34

   V. WITH THE SIOUX                                            51

  VI. TO THE FALLS OF THE MISSOURI                              69

 VII. OVER THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE                               82


  IX. WINTER ON THE COAST                                      107

   X. HOMEWARD: IN THE MOUNTAINS                               117

  XI. RECROSSING THE DIVIDE                                    134

 XII. HOME                                                     142

XIII. AFTER LIFE                                               149




In the years 1804, 1805, and 1806, two men commanded an expedition
which explored the wilderness that stretched from the mouth of the
Missouri River to where the Columbia enters the Pacific, and dedicated
to civilization a new empire. Their names were Meriwether Lewis and
William Clark.

As a rule, one who tries to discover and to set down in order the
simple signs that spell the story of a large man's life is confused by
a chaos of data. No such trouble arises in this case. There is great
poverty of fact and circumstance in the records of the private lives of
these men; so careless were they of notoriety, so wholly did they merge
themselves in their work. Anything like ostentation was foreign to
their taste, and to the spirit of their time, which took plain, dutiful
heroism as a matter of course. No one knows any "characteristic
anecdotes" of Meriwether Lewis; and the best stories about Clark are
those preserved in the tribal histories of Western Indians. The
separate identity of the two men is practically lost to all except the
careful reader. Each had his baptismal name, to be sure; but even their
private names are fused, and they are best known to us under the joint
style of Lewis and Clark. In effect they were one and indivisible. For
evidence of their individuality we must look to the labors which they
performed in common.

When, several years after the conclusion of the great expedition, the
manuscript journals were being prepared for publication, the editor
could not find sufficient material out of which to make a memoir of
Captain Lewis, and was forced to appeal to Mr. Jefferson for aid; for
Jefferson had been an early neighbor and friend of the Lewis family,
and later, on becoming President, had made the lad Meriwether his
private secretary, and had afterwards appointed him to direct the
exploration. The sketch written by Mr. Jefferson is, like most of his
papers, appreciative and vital. It is to this document, dated at
Monticello, August 18, 1813, that every biographer must have recourse:--

    "Meriwether Lewis, late governor of Louisiana, was born on the 18th
    of August, 1774, near the town of Charlottesville, in the county of
    Albemarle, in Virginia, of one of the distinguished families of
    that State. John Lewis, one of his father's uncles, was a member of
    the king's council before the Revolution. Another of them, Fielding
    Lewis, married a sister of General Washington. His father, William
    Lewis, was the youngest of five sons of Colonel Robert Lewis of
    Albemarle, the fourth of whom, Charles, was one of the early
    patriots who stepped forward in the commencement of the Revolution,
    and commanded one of the regiments first raised in Virginia, and
    placed on continental establishment.... Nicholas Lewis, the second
    of his father's brothers, commanded a regiment of militia in the
    successful expedition of 1776 against the Cherokee Indians.... This
    member of the family of the Lewises, whose bravery was so usefully
    proved on this occasion, was endeared to all who knew him by his
    inflexible probity, courteous disposition, benevolent heart, and
    engaging modesty and manners. He was the umpire of all the private
    differences of his county,--selected always by both parties. He was
    also the guardian of Meriwether Lewis, of whom we are now to speak,
    and who had lost his father at an early age.

    "He (Meriwether) continued some years under the fostering care of a
    tender mother, of the respectable family of Meriwethers, of the
    same county; and was remarkable, even in infancy, for enterprise,
    boldness, and discretion.

    "When only eight years of age he habitually went out in the dead of
    night, alone with his dogs, into the forest to hunt the raccoon and
    opossum, which, seeking their food in the night, can then only be
    taken. In this exercise, no season or circumstance could obstruct
    his purpose--plunging through the winter's snows and frozen streams
    in pursuit of his object. At thirteen he was put to the Latin
    school, and continued at that until eighteen, when he was returned
    to his mother, and entered on the cares of his farm; having, as
    well as a younger brother, been left by his father with a
    competency for all the correct and comfortable purposes of
    temperate life. His talent for observation, which led him to an
    accurate knowledge of the plants and animals of his own country,
    would have distinguished him as a farmer; but at the age of twenty,
    yielding to the ardor of youth and a passion for more dazzling
    pursuits, he engaged as a volunteer in the body of militia which
    was called out by General Washington, on occasion of the
    discontents produced by the excise taxes in the western parts of
    the United States [the Whiskey Rebellion]; and from that station he
    was removed to the regular service as a lieutenant of the line. At
    twenty-three he was promoted to a captaincy; and, always attracting
    the first attention where punctuality and fidelity were requisite,
    he was appointed paymaster to his regiment."

That is about all that is definitely known of Lewis's family and early
life. It is not much; but it suffices to show that he came of fine,
fearless stock, mettlesome and reliant,--the sort of stock that brings
forth men of action. The invertebrate vanity of blood is kept out of
this story, in accord with the democratic belief of the time that a
strong man's ancestors are what he himself makes them. They may have
done their part well, but it remains for him to put the finishing
touches to their reputation. Given a few sturdy souls, quick and
willing to serve in time of need, and that was enough of family
distinction. Behavior, rather than pedigree, made the Lewis character.

When Captain Lewis was appointed to command the expedition, he had
served Mr. Jefferson for two years as private secretary. Concerning his
fitness for public duties, Mr. Jefferson wrote:--

    "I had now had opportunities of knowing him intimately. Of courage
    undaunted; possessing a firmness and perseverance of purpose which
    nothing but impossibilities could divert from its direction;
    careful as a father of those committed to his charge, yet steady in
    the maintenance of order and discipline; intimate with the Indian
    character, customs, and principles; habituated to the hunting life;
    guarded, by exact observation of the vegetables and animals of his
    own country, against losing time in the description of objects
    already possessed; honest, disinterested, liberal, of sound
    understanding, and a fidelity to truth so scrupulous that whatever
    he should report would be as certain as if seen by ourselves--with
    all these qualifications, as if selected and implanted by Nature in
    one body for this express purpose, I could have no hesitation in
    confiding the enterprise to him. To fill up the measure desired, he
    wanted nothing but a greater familiarity with the technical
    language of the natural sciences, and readiness in the astronomical
    observations necessary for the geography of his route. To acquire
    these, he repaired immediately to Philadelphia, and placed himself
    under the tutorage of the distinguished professors of that place,
    who, with a zeal and emulation enkindled by an ardent devotion to
    science, communicated to him freely the information requisite for
    the purposes of the journey. While attending at Lancaster to the
    fabrication of the arms with which he chose that his men should be
    provided, he had the benefit of daily communication with Mr. Andrew
    Ellicott, whose experience in astronomical observation, and
    practice of it in the woods, enabled him to apprise Captain Lewis
    of the wants and difficulties he would encounter, and of the
    substitutes and resources afforded by a woodland and uninhabited

It is plain that this astute judge of men reposed perfect confidence in
his friend. From January, 1803, when Congress sanctioned the
undertaking, until May, 1804, when the party set out from St. Louis,
the young officer had full charge of the intricate and difficult
details of preparation. It was he who superintended the building of
boats and the making of arms, accoutrements, scientific apparatus, and
all equipment; and, what was of more importance, he selected the men
who were to form his command. That was a nice matter. It would have
been worse than useless to lead a company of fretful dissenters. The
expedition was to be conducted on a military basis; but it was not
ordinary field service; it was a mission for picked men. Much would
depend upon each man's natural aptitude for his task; much more would
depend upon the integrity of the corps as a whole. The consummate
wisdom of Lewis's selection of his aids shines from every page of the
journals. None of the men seemed to need instruction in the cardinal
elements of conduct; each was as sensible of his trust as Lewis
himself. It was in this spirit of the subordinates, rather than in the
absolute authority of the captain, that success was to lie.

To guard against untoward accident, that might thwart the work, Lewis
wished to have a companion in command. This pleased Mr. Jefferson, and
the choice fell upon Captain William Clark.

William Clark was the ninth of a family of ten children. His father was
John Clark, second, who, like his father before him, was a Virginian,
living in King and Queen County. The pioneering spirit was strong in
the family,--the _Wanderlust_, that keeps man's nature fluid and
adaptable. This led John, second, to remove first to Albemarle County,
and later to Caroline County, where William was born on August 1, 1770,
not far from the birthplace of Meriwether Lewis.

When the boy was about fourteen years of age, the family moved once
more, into the dim West, settling at the place now known as Louisville,
in Kentucky. William's elder brother, George Rogers Clark, had preceded
the others, and had built the first fortification against the Indians
at the Falls of the Ohio, around which were clustered a few of the rude
dwellings of the frontiersmen. At this place, amidst the crudest
conditions of the Kentucky border, the lad grew to maturity. That was
not an orderly life; it was rather a continuing state of suspense,
demanding of those who shared in it constant hardihood and fortitude.
For the right-minded man, however, it had incalculable value. Many of
the strongest examples of our national character have been men who owed
the best that was in them to the apparently unkindly circumstances of
their youth. What was denied to Clark in easy opportunity had ample
compensation in the firmness and self-reliance which came from
mastering difficulties.

To read Clark's letters and papers is to discover that his education in
the politer branches of learning was as primitive as the surroundings
of his home. It is plain that the training which prepared him for
manhood was got mostly outside the schoolroom.

Like Lewis, he chose a military career. When he was but eighteen years
of age, he was appointed ensign in the regular army; and two years
later he was made captain of militia in the town of Clarksville, "in
the Territory of the United States North West of the Ohio River." In
1791 he was commissioned as a lieutenant of infantry, under Wayne, and
served afterward as adjutant and quartermaster. Ill health led him to
resign his commission in the army in 1796.

A few months before his resignation he first became acquainted with
Meriwether Lewis, who, as an ensign, was put under his command. Then
began one of those generous and enduring friendships that are all too
rare amongst men. It is not known just what their private relations
were in the mean time; but in 1803, upon Lewis's earnest solicitation,
Captain Clark consented to quit his retirement upon his Kentucky farm
and join in that work which was destined to be but the beginning of his
real usefulness.

He comes to us out of the dark. We must forego intimate knowledge of
his growth, being content with finding him full-grown and ready. No
doubt his service in the army, where he was associated with men of
ability, had helped him to master many details of engineering craft,
which he was to use in his later service. But this was at most
incidental; his strength, his power to serve, was native, not acquired.

That they might share alike in all particulars of rank and
responsibility in the expedition, it was understood that Lewis would
endeavor to procure for Clark a captain's commission. Clark wrote to
Nicholas Biddle (the editor of the journals) in 1811:--

    "On these conditions I agreed to undertake the expedition made my
    arrangements, and set out, and proceeded on with Capt. Lewis to the
    mouth of the Missouri where we remained the winter 1803 made every
    necessary arrangement to set out early in spring 1804 everything
    arranged I waited with some anxiety for the commission which I had
    reason to expect (Capt. of Indioneers [Engineers]) a few days
    before I set out I received a Commission of 2d Lieutenant of
    Artillerist, my feelings on this occasion was as might be expected.
    I wished the expedition suckcess, and from the assurence of Capt.
    Lewis that in every respect my situation command &c. &c. should be
    equal to his; viewing the Commission as mearly calculated to
    authorise punishment to the soldiers if necessary, I proceeded. No
    difficulty took place on our rout relative to this point...."

In the very nature of things, personal difficulty of a petty sort could
not arise. Official rank was as nothing between them. They were capable
and loyal; the morale of their party was ideal; and under their
guidance was wrought out what has been well called our national epic of



For almost twenty years prior to the organization of the Lewis and
Clark expedition, and long before the general public was more than
passively curious upon the subject of Louisiana, Jefferson had
nourished the plan for exploring the Louisiana Territory. In the memoir
above referred to, he wrote:--

"While I resided in Paris, John Ledyard, of Connecticut, arrived there,
well known in the United States for energy of body and mind. He had
accompanied Captain Cook on his voyage to the Pacific Ocean, and
distinguished himself on that voyage by his intrepidity. Being of a
roaming disposition, he was now panting for some new enterprise. His
immediate object at Paris was to engage a mercantile company in the fur
trade of the western coast of America, in which, however, he failed. I
then proposed to him to go by land to Kamchatka, cross in some of the
Russian vessels to Nootka Sound, fall down into the latitude of the
Missouri, and penetrate to and through that to the United States. He
eagerly seized the idea, and only asked to be assured of the permission
of the Russian government."

The consent of the Empress of Russia was obtained, together with an
assurance of protection while the course of travel lay across her
territory; and Ledyard set out. While he was yet two hundred miles from
Kamchatka, winter overtook him, and there he was forced to remain
through many months. In the spring, as he was preparing to go on, he
was put under arrest. The Empress, exercising the inalienable right of
sovereign womanhood, had changed her mind. The reason for this change
is not apparent. There may have been no reason more potent than
international jealousy, which was lively in those days. At any rate,
Ledyard was put into a close carriage and conveyed to Poland, traveling
day and night, without once stopping. He was left in Poland penniless
and broken in body and spirit, and soon afterward died.

Later, in 1792, Jefferson proposed to the American Philosophical
Society that a subscription be raised to engage some one to ascend the
Missouri, cross the mountains, and descend to the Pacific. In order to
preclude alarm to the Indians or to other nations, it was intended that
this expedition should consist of only two persons. Meriwether Lewis,
then eighteen years of age, begged to have this commission, and it was
given him. His one companion was to be a French botanist, André
Michaux. The journey was actually begun, when it was discovered that
Michaux was residing in the United States in the capacity of a spy.
Once again the plan was deferred.

"In 1803," wrote Mr. Jefferson, "the act for establishing trading
houses with the Indian tribes being about to expire, some modifications
of it were recommended to Congress by a confidential message of January
18th, and an extension of its views to the Indians of the Missouri. In
order to prepare the way, the message proposed the sending an exploring
party to trace the Missouri to its source, to cross the Highlands, and
follow the best water communication which offered itself from thence to
the Pacific Ocean. Congress approved the proposition, and voted a sum
of money for carrying it into execution. Captain Lewis, who had then
been near two years with me as private secretary, immediately renewed
his solicitations to have the direction of the party."

Naturally, Mr. Jefferson was strongly inclined to intrust this work to
his friend Lewis. Their official and private relations had been
intimate; Mr. Jefferson had had ample opportunities for testing the
fibre of the young man's character under strain; besides, Lewis's
confidential position had no doubt made him acquainted with the inner
details of the plan, its broader significance, and the political
obstacles to be overcome in carrying it into effect. Aside from his
temperamental disposition for such an enterprise, his public service
had strengthened his grasp of national interests; enthusiasm for
adventure had been supplemented by maturity of judgment in affairs of
state. Altogether, a better man for the place could not have been

To carry out the work of the organized expedition would consist largely
in surmounting physical difficulties; but to organize it and get it
fairly started demanded considerable delicacy of diplomatic
contrivance. The life of the nation, as it sought to expand and take
form, was beset and harassed, north, south, and west, by international
complications growing out of direct contact with unfriendly neighbors.
In that day the United States did not sustain cordial relations with
any of the strong nations of the world. The internal machinery of the
new government was not yet in perfect adjustment; domestic crises were
constantly recurring; permanence of democratic forms and methods was
not by any means assured; the country had not established an
indisputable right to be reckoned with in matters of international
concern. Russia alone, of all the powers, was considered as friendly.
Even in that case, however, there was nothing warmer than watchful
neutrality. Russian and American interests had not yet conflicted.

The British, through the strong trading companies of Canada, were hot
for getting control of the Indian traffic of the Northwest--indeed,
their prestige was already quite firmly fixed, and they were on their
guard against any semblance of encroachment upon that domain of
activity. This condition, coupled with other and acuter differences,
made it highly probable that England would not take kindly to the
expedition, should its object be openly avowed.

Spanish opposition would be even stronger. Spain had but lately
surrendered possession of the Louisiana Territory, whence her agents
had for a long time derived large revenues from the Indian trade, after
the age-long manner she has pursued in dealing with her colonies and
dependencies. Spain still held the Floridas, practically controlling
the commerce of the Gulf and the navigation of the Mississippi; so
that, while the people of the United States asserted the right of dépôt
at New Orleans and the further right of passage of the river throughout
its length, their enjoyment of these rights was precarious. Further,
though the crown had transferred the territory west of the Mississippi,
its subjects had not quit their efforts for supremacy in trade; their
influence long outlived the extinction of territorial rights. Bitterly
hostile to the growth of American ideas, they would certainly do what
they could to oppose the expedition.

It was with France, however, that our government had to deal directly.
In 1800 Napoleon had acquired title to Louisiana, trading with Spain,
giving in exchange the little kingdom of Etruria. But his control of
the territory was more tacit than actual; he was so busily engaged at
home that he found no time to reduce his property to possession; his
dominion west of the Mississippi was never more than potential. War
between France and England was imminent. Napoleon had in America no
adequate means for defending his new domain, which would therefore be
likely to fall into the hands of the British at once upon the outbreak
of war. He was growing anxious to be rid of the load. Jefferson thought
it probable that the territory would one day belong to the United
States,--indeed, negotiations were pending for the transfer when the
"confidential communication" to Congress was written, in January, 1803.
Although the outcome was still problematical, Jefferson considered that
the proper time for discovering what the land held; and this was the
primary purpose of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

For all of these reasons, and more, it was deemed necessary to cover
from general view the real character of the enterprise. The
appropriation by Congress was made for the ostensible and innocent
purpose of "extending the external commerce of the United States." In
his letter to Congress, which was for a long time kept secret, Mr.
Jefferson said that France would regard this as in the nature of a
"literary pursuit," and that whatever distrust she might feel would be
allayed. But, though his ulterior purposes were sought to be concealed,
the powers of France no doubt knew well enough what was in the wind.

It was on June 30, 1803, that Jefferson gave to Captain Lewis detailed
instructions for the conduct of his work. In the meantime (on April
30th), treaties had been signed at Paris, ceding Louisiana to the
United States. That was a distinct triumph for American statecraft. On
the one hand were ranged Napoleon, Talleyrand, and Marbois; on the
other, Jefferson, Livingston, and Monroe. The French were at a
disadvantage; their position was that of holding perishable goods,
which must be sold to avoid catastrophe. Napoleon said, not without
reason, that the government of the United States availed itself of his
distress incident to the impending struggle with England. However that
may be, the territory changed owners for a consideration of

Formal notification of the transfer was not received in Washington
until the early part of July, when active preparations for the
exploration were being made. Its receipt did not alter the character of
the expedition, though many of the international complications were
dissipated. Thereafter the work was purely domestic in most of its



Mr. Jefferson's instructions to the young officer showed his own
farsighted earnestness. Had he who received them been any less in
earnest, the task assigned to him must have seemed appalling. The
primary instruction was to blaze a path, more than four thousand miles
long, through an unstudied wilderness. It was conceived that this could
best be done by following the Missouri to its head waters, crossing
"the Highlands" to the navigable waters of the Columbia, and going down
that river to the Pacific; but this was only conjectural. The map in
the hands of the explorers, the only basis for a preliminary outline of
their route, was drawn partly from hearsay, partly from imagination; it
showed the source of the Missouri to be somewhere in Central
California; it showed nothing of the mighty barrier of the Rocky
Mountains. There was one thin, uncertain line of hills, far to the
west, that might have been the Sierra Nevadas; further than that there
was nothing but a broad interior plain, seamed with rivers. Practically
nothing was known of the difficulties that would be encountered. White
men had ventured for a little way up the Missouri in earlier years, to
carry on a desultory fur-trade with the Indians; but these traders had
been mostly happy-go-lucky Frenchmen, who had taken but little thought
for the morrow. They had no trustworthy information to give that would
be of service to scientific travelers. So far as sure knowledge of it
was concerned, the land was virgin, and Lewis and Clark were to be its

They were directed to explore it in detail. Observations of latitude
and longitude were to be made at all points of particular interest. The
native nations and tribes encountered along the way were to be studied
with care, and record preserved of their names and numbers; the extent
and boundaries of their possessions; their relations with other tribes
and nations; their language, traditions, and monuments; their
occupations, implements, food, clothing, and domestic accommodations;
their diseases and methods of cure; their physical, social, moral, and
religious peculiarities and customs; their ideas and practice of
commerce, and the possibility of extending among them the influences of
civilization,--in short, every circumstance was to be noted which might
render future relations with these people intelligent. Particular
attention was to be given to the state of feeling toward the whites, in
those tribes which had had experience with the traders. Should the
expedition succeed in reaching the Pacific, the conditions of trade
upon the coast were to form a subject of special inquiry. Along the
route full observations were directed to be made concerning the face of
the country,--the contour of the land; the character and course of
streams, their suitability as avenues of commerce, and the means of
communication between them; and also the points best adapted to the
establishment of trading-stations and fortifications. The conditions of
agricultural development were to be noted as fully as might be,--soil,
water-supply, climate, and change of seasons; and also the natural
resources of the country, vegetable, animal, and mineral. Nothing was
to be neglected, knowledge of which might contribute to the success or
security of later enterprise.

"In all your intercourse with the natives," wrote Mr. Jefferson, "treat
them in the most friendly and conciliatory manner which their own
conduct will admit; allay all jealousies as to the object of your
journey; satisfy them of its innocence; make them acquainted with the
position, extent, character, peaceable and commercial dispositions of
the United States; of our wish to be neighborly, friendly, and useful
to them, and of our dispositions to a commercial intercourse with them;
confer with them on the points most convenient as mutual emporiums, and
the articles of most desirable interchange for them and us. If a few of
their influential chiefs, within practicable distance, wish to visit
us, arrange such a visit with them, and furnish them with authority to
call on our officers, on their entering the United States, to have them
conveyed to this place at the public expense. If any of them should
wish to have some of their people brought up with us, and taught such
arts as may be useful to them, we will receive, instruct, and take care
of them."

As it could not be foreseen in what manner the travelers would be
received by the Indians, whether with hospitality or hostility, Captain
Lewis was told to use his own discretion as to persevering with the
enterprise in the face of opposition; and he was also told that should
he succeed in getting through to the Pacific, he might choose his own
means for getting back again,--shipping by way of Cape Horn or the Cape
of Good Hope, if chance offered; or, in the absence of such
opportunity, returning overland. A precious liberty, truly, when read
in the light of the facts! The instructions concluded with this frank

"As you will be without money, clothes, or provisions, you must
endeavor to use the credit of the United States to obtain them; for
which purpose open letters of credit shall be furnished you,
authorizing you to draw on the executive of the United States, or any
of its officers, in any part of the world in which drafts can be
disposed of, and to apply with our recommendations to the consuls,
agents, merchants, or citizens of any nation with which we have
intercourse, assuring them in our name that any aids they may furnish
you shall be honorably repaid, and on demand."

As events transpired, that paragraph was almost ironical. A letter of
credit directed to the Man in the Moon would have served quite as well.

The two redoubtable captains were to be soldiers, sailors, explorers,
geographers, ethnologists, botanists, geologists, chemists, diplomats,
missionaries, financiers, and historians; also cooks, tailors,
shoemakers, hunters, trappers, fishermen, scouts, woodcutters,
boatbuilders, carpenters, priests, and doctors. From the time they left
St. Louis, in May, 1804, until they returned to that place, in
September, 1806, the men were cut off from civilization and all its
aids, and left to work out their own salvation. Not for one moment were
they dismayed; not in a single particular did they fail to accomplish
what had been assigned to them.

The congressional appropriation for the purposes of the expedition was
based upon an estimate made by Captain Lewis himself, which is so
refreshing as to deserve literal quotation:--

    _Recapitulation of an estimate of the sum necessary to carry
    into effect the Miss^ie Expedition_

    Mathematical Instruments                        $ 217
    Arms and accoutrements extraordinary               81
    Camp Ecquipage                                    255
    Medicine and packing                               55
    Means of transportation                           430
    Indian presents                                   696
    Provisions extraordinary                          224
    Materials for making up the various articles
      into portable packs                              55
    For the pay of hunters, guides and interpreters   300
    In silver coin, to defray the expences of
      the party from Nashville to the last
      white settlement on the Missisourie             100
    Contingencies                                      87
    Total                                           $2500

Eighty-seven dollars for the contingencies of a twenty-eight months'
journey of discovery, more than eight thousand miles in length, with a
company of forty-five men, and through a land literally unknown!

Captain Lewis set out from Washington in July, 1803, and was joined by
Captain Clark at Louisville, whence they proceeded to the rendezvous on
the Mississippi, near St. Louis. They intended to embark upon their
course in the autumn; but several delays occurred, of one sort and
another, and the party was not assembled until December. The officers
wished to establish winter quarters at the last white settlement on the
Missouri, a few miles above St. Louis; but the Spanish governor of the
territory had not yet learned of the change in ownership, and would not
suffer them to proceed. This compelled them to remain in the lower camp
until spring. The winter months were not lost, however; they were
passed in drilling and instructing the men in the details of the work
before them, thus greatly increasing their efficiency and no doubt
obviating delays at later times.



As it was first organized, the party consisted of twenty-nine
members,--the two officers, nine young Kentuckians, fourteen soldiers
of the regular army who had volunteered to accompany the expedition,
two French watermen, an interpreter and hunter, and a negro servant of
Captain Clark. At St. Louis there were sixteen additional recruits,--an
Indian hunter and interpreter, and fifteen boatmen, who were to go as
far as the villages of the Mandan Nation. This brought the total to

A broadly inclusive statement must suffice to characterize the
non-commissioned men. They were brave, sturdy, able; amenable to
discipline, yet full of original resource; ideal subordinates, yet
almost every one fitted by nature for command, if occasion should
arise. They proved themselves equal to all emergencies. At least five
of these men kept journals, and no better index to their character need
be asked than that afforded by the manuscript records. If ever there
was temptation to color and adorn a narrative with the stuff that makes
travelers' tales attractive, it was here; yet in none of the journals
is there to be found a departure from plain, simple truth-telling.
Their matter-of-fact tone would render them almost commonplace, if the
reader did not take pains to remember what it all meant. Nowhere is
there anything like posing for effect; the nearest approach to it is in
the initial entry in the diary of that excellent Irishman, Private
Patrick Gass,--and parts of this have been branded as apocryphal, the
interpolation of an enthusiastic editor:--

    "On Monday, 14 of May, 1804, we left our establishment at the mouth
    of the River du Bois, or Wood River, a small river which falls into
    the Mississippi, on the east side, a mile below the Missouri, and
    having crossed the Mississippi proceeded up the Missouri on our
    intended voyage of discovery, under the command of Captain Clarke.
    Captain Lewis was to join us in two or three days on our
    passage.... The expedition was embarked on board a batteau and two
    periogues. The day was showery, and in the evening we encamped on
    the north bank, six miles up the river. Here we had leisure to
    reflect on our situation, and the nature of our engagements: and as
    we had all entered this service as volunteers, to consider how far
    we stood pledged for the success of an expedition which the
    government had projected; and which had been undertaken for the
    benefit and at the expence of the Union: of course of much interest
    and high expectation.

    "The best authenticated accounts informed us that we were to pass
    through a country possessed by numerous, powerful, and warlike
    nations of savages, of gigantic stature, fierce, treacherous, and
    cruel; and particularly hostile to white men. And fame had united
    with tradition in opposing mountains to our course, which human
    enterprize and exertion would attempt in vain to pass. The
    determined and resolute character, however, of the corps, and the
    confidence which pervaded all ranks dispelled every emotion of fear
    and anxiety for the present; while a sense of duty, and of the
    honor which would attend the completion of the object of the
    expedition; a wish to gratify the expectations of the government,
    and of our fellow-citizens, with the feelings which novelty and
    discovery invariably inspire, seemed to insure to us ample support
    in our future toils, suffering, and danger."

In Captain Clark's journal there is nothing of this sort. The opening
entry is a bare memorandum of latitude and longitude, a note as to the
appearance of the river banks, and a statement of the number of miles
covered during the day,--a memorable achievement in modesty.

Of the boats in which the party was embarked, the batteau was a
keel-vessel fifty-five feet in length, carrying a large square sail,
and manned by twenty-two oars. In the bow and stern, ten-foot decks
formed forecastle and cabin; and in the middle part were lockers, whose
tops could be raised to form a line of breastworks along either
gunwale, in case of attack from Indians. The "periogues" were open
boats, manned by six and seven oars. Besides these conveyances for the
men and baggage, horses were led along the banks of the river, to be
used by the hunters in their daily occupations and for service in
emergency. The officers had observed the wise rule of travelers, and
had sought to simplify their equipment to the last degree.

The name of Lower Missouri attached to that part of the river between
its mouth and the entrance of the Platte. Over so much of the route the
expedition passed quietly. A few notes from the journals will suffice
to show the nature of the daily labors.

May 16th the party stopped at the village of St. Charles, a typical
French settlement of the frontier, twenty-one miles above St. Louis;
and under that date occurs this admirable note:--

"The inhabitants, about 450 in number, are chiefly descendants from the
French of Canada. In their manners they unite all the careless gayety
and amiable hospitality of the best times of France. Yet, like most of
their countrymen in America, they are but little qualified for the rude
life of the frontier,--not that they are without talent, for they
possess much natural genius and vivacity; not that they are destitute
of enterprise, for their hunting excursions are long, laborious, and
hazardous; but their exertions are all desultory; their industry is
without system and without perseverance. The surrounding country,
therefore, though rich, is not generally well cultivated; the
inhabitants chiefly subsist by hunting and trade with the Indians, and
confine their culture to gardening, in which they excel."

It would be difficult to find a juster or more accurate
characterization of the French as pioneers. Although in the early days
of settlement along the Mississippi and its tributaries they
outnumbered the people of other nations, they made no deep impression.
They got along admirably while they were sustained by the
tonic-stimulus of excitement and variety; but when that was removed,
they found the conquest of even the richest of lands too dull for their
tastes. Lacking stability of nature, they could not achieve solid
results in prosaic labor. They did not so much as lay a foundation for
the serious builders of after years.

May 22d, in camp on Good Man's River, the party made its first trade
with Indians. Some Kickapoos were engaged to procure provisions; they
brought in four deer, and were given in return two quarts of whiskey,
which they considered ample requital.

"May 25th.... Stopped for the night at the entrance of a creek on the
north side, called by the French La Charette, ten miles from our last
camp, and a little above a small village of the same name. It consists
of seven small houses, and as many poor families, who have fixed
themselves here for the convenience of trade. They form the last
establishment of whites on the Missouri."

La Charette was one of the earliest colonies, and famous as the far
western home of Daniel Boone. There that immortal frontiersman passed
the last years of his life, in the sweet luxury of quiet and freedom;
and there he died in the year 1820.

Throughout those first weeks the journals breathe content. Every man
was abundantly pleased with his work and his lot; game was plentiful,
in great variety; the difficulties to be overcome were no more than
those attending the navigation of a swift and turbulent river, whose
erratic channel was filled with sand-bars and dead timber. The
travelers were enjoying a typical prairie season of the lower
altitudes, which makes an ideal setting for outdoor life. Here and
there they came in contact with friendly bands of Indians; occasionally
they encountered boats upon the river, manned by traders, who were
drifting with the current to St. Louis, bearing the plunder of a
season's traffic. Upon the banks of the stream were many tokens of the
inconstancy of purpose of the border life,--abandoned sites of Indian
villages and deserted fortifications that had been erected by traders
to serve for temporary convenience and protection. Nowhere was there a
sign of the American interpretation of the word "enterprise."

On June 26th they reached the mouth of the Kansas River, now marked by
Kansas City. There they camped for two days; there they fell in with
the Kansas Indians, with whom they held a pacific conference; and there
the hunters met for the first time with buffalo. Forty-three days had
been consumed in crossing what is now the State of Missouri.

July 26th camp was made at the mouth of the Platte River, six hundred
miles from St. Louis, where the town of Plattsmouth, Neb., stands; and
that date marked a radical change in the duties and conduct of the
expedition. The disposition of the Indians of the Lower Missouri was
already pretty well known, so that no time had been spent in
establishing relations with them. They were still mostly unspoiled
savages, to be sure; but they were acquainted with the appearance of
the whites, at least, and their bearing toward traders and colonists
had been for the most part decent. But the situation upon the Upper
Missouri was altogether different. Although the problem might not be
definitely stated, because many of its factors were unknown, it could
be foreseen that a solution would tax the genius of civilization. The
dominant nations of the plains Indians--those whose numerical strength
and war-like character made them feared by their neighbors--had their
domain above the Platte. The Sioux in particular had a mighty
reputation, established by treachery and ferocity in war. Their history
recorded a constant succession of cruel wars, most of which had had no
justification save in arrogance and bloody-mindedness. They did not
want to live at peace; for peace signified to them a state of craven
inanition. The mission of Lewis and Clark was directed pointedly
against that manner of behavior; they were not only to secure
themselves against hostility, but were also to endeavor to reconcile
the warring tribes and nations to one another. That was an undertaking
calling for a high degree of tact and courage.

From a camp a few miles above the Platte, where the party remained for
several days, messengers were sent to the villages of the Pawnees and
Otoes, fifty miles to the westward, bearing gifts, with an invitation
to a council. Through wars and other disasters, the Otoes were then
much reduced in numbers, as in almost every item of the savage code of
efficiency and independence. In their weakened state they had formed an
alliance with the Pawnees,--a primitive adaptation of the idea of a
protectorate. The Pawnees had considerable strength, and they were in
character much above the Indian average, living in permanent villages,
where they sustained themselves by cultivating cornfields and hunting
the buffalo.

After carefully reconnoitring the lower Platte valley and the
surrounding country, the expedition passed onward, traveling slowly to
allow the Indians to overtake them. On the 27th they passed the present
site of Omaha; and on the 30th encamped at a point twelve or fifteen
miles to the north. It was this camp, pitched where the village of
Calhoun, Neb., now stands, that received the name of Council Bluff,
which was later appropriated by an Iowa town. Here, on August 2d,
appeared a small band of Otoes and Missouris, with a Frenchman who
resided among them. Presents were exchanged, and the officers requested
a council upon the following morning.

"August 3d. This morning the Indians, with their six chiefs, were all
assembled under an awning formed with the mainsail, in presence of all
our party, paraded for the occasion. A speech was then made announcing
to them the change in the government, our promise of protection, and
advice as to their future conduct. All the six chiefs replied to our
speech, each in his turn, according to rank. They expressed their joy
at the change in the government; their hopes that we would recommend
them to their Great Father (the President), that they might obtain
trade and necessaries; they wanted arms as well for hunting as for
defense, and asked our mediations between them and the Mahas, with whom
they are now at war. We promised to do so, and wished some of them to
accompany us to that nation, which they declined, for fear of being
killed by them. We then proceeded to distribute our presents. The grand
chief of the nation not being of the party, we sent him a flag, a
medal, and some ornaments for clothing. To the six chiefs who were
present, we gave a medal of the second grade to one Otoe chief and one
Missouri chief; a medal of the third grade to two inferior chiefs of
each nation--the customary mode of recognizing a chief being to place a
medal round his neck, which is considered among his tribe as a proof of
his consideration abroad. Each of these medals was accompanied by a
present of paint, garters, and cloth ornaments of dress; and to these
we added a canister of powder, a bottle of whiskey, and a few presents
to the whole, which appeared to make them perfectly satisfied. The
air-gun, too, was fired, and astonished them greatly...."

This was the first important conference with the natives. If it was not
rich in results, it served at least the temporary purpose of putting
these allied tribes in a good humor by satisfying their sense of their
own dignity. Nothing more was to be expected. It is well to say
outright, as a commentary upon all meetings such as this, that no
council with Indians, however ceremonious or solemn, has results more
permanent than those which attend the purely diplomatic relations of
civilized nations.

In all our intercourse with the Indians, from the very beginning, too
much stress has been laid upon the importance and the binding
obligation of formal pow-wows. We have been unduly conscious of our own
cunning, while undervaluing the craft that is native to all wild
peoples; we have too often lost sight of the one really imperative
element in any compact that is to be effective and enduring,--mutuality
of honorable purpose. Most men, whether civilized or savage, can
appreciate honest motives and behavior; and so can they detect
dishonest wiles and artifices. Lewis and Clark knew well enough what
was before them. The Indians' past experience with the light-minded
French and the evil-minded Spanish adventurers of the border had left a
deep impression; it had made them wary, if not distrustful, of white
men's protestations. This impression was not to be removed by merely
sitting around in a circle and making speeches; it could only be
removed by long and intimate association in the affairs of actual life.
If the whites meant well, they would do well, argued the Indians. To do
well was a matter of time. The most that Lewis and Clark hoped for was
to establish peace with the natives, to prepare the way for confidence
and trust. Meanwhile they knew that they would need to be constantly
upon their guard.

On August 19th one of the non-commissioned officers, Sergeant Charles
Floyd, was taken ill, and on the next day he died. This was the only
death to occur in the party throughout the course of the expedition.

The entries in Captain Clark's journals for those two days are
thoroughly characteristic of him:--

"August 19.... Serjeant loyd is taken verry bad all at once with a
Biliose Chorlick we attempt to reliev him without success as yet, he
gets worse and we are much allarmed at his situation, all attention to

"August 20.... Sergeant Floyd much weaker and no better.... Died with a
great deel of composure, before his death he said to me 'I am going
away I want you to write me a letter.' We buried him on the top of the
bluff one-half mile below a small river to which we gave his name, he
was buried with the Honors of War much lamented, a seeder post with the
Name Sergt. C. Floyd died here 20th August, 1804, was fixed at the head
of his grave--This man at all times gave us proofs of his firmness and
Determined resolution to doe service to his countrey and honor to
himself after paying all the honor to our Decesed brother we camped in
the mouth of floyds river about thirty yards wide, a butifull evening."

Upon the death of Floyd, Private Patrick Gass was made a sergeant,--a
wise choice, determined by the votes of the men.

Besides the death of Floyd, but one other incident occurred in the
twenty-eight months to affect the integrity of the corps. A man had
deserted on August 4th; two weeks later he had been recaptured; and for
the 28th there is this entry in Captain Clark's journal:--

"Proceeded to the trial of Reed, he confessed that he 'deserted & Stold
a public Rifle shot-pouch Powder & Ball' and requested we would be as
favorable to him as we could consistently with our Oathes--which we
were and only sentenced him to run the gantlet four times through the
Party and that each man with 9 switchies should punish him & for him
not to be considered in future as one of the Party."

So stanch were the men in their allegiance, and so trustworthy in the
performance of their duties, that in only one other place in all the
journals is there mention of an act of discipline.



Toward the end of August the party reached the Sioux country. Some of
the tribes of this nation were known to be friendly toward the whites,
while others had acquired a manner overbearing and insolent, inspired
by the inferior numbers of the traders who had visited them in the
past, and by the subservient attitude which these had assumed. From
such tribes there was good reason to anticipate opposition, or even
open hostility. But the specific nature of their mission made the
officers desirous of a personal meeting with all tribes, irrespective
of their past reputation. There is a saying familiar to Western folk:
"Show an Indian that you are afraid of him, and he will give you reason
for fear." The travelers were not afraid. They adopted the custom of
the traders and set fire to the dry grasses of the prairie, intending
that the smoke should notify the Indians of their approach and summon
them to the river. Shortly before this they had encountered upon the
river one Pierre Dorion, a half-breed son of the notable Old Dorion,
whose fame is celebrated in Irving's "Astoria." This man was then on
his way to St. Louis, but was persuaded to return with the expedition
to his home among the Sioux, there to act as interpreter and
intermediary, in which service he proved useful.

Relations with the Sioux began on the 29th of August. The meeting was
attended with elaborate ceremonies. One of the non-commissioned
officers was dispatched with Dorion to a village twelve miles distant
from the camp, taking presents of tobacco, corn, and cooking utensils.
In view of the later history of the Sioux, and because of the intrinsic
charm of the narrative, the story of this encounter is quoted at length
from Mr. Biddle's well-edited version:--

"August 29th.... Sergeant Pryor reported that on reaching their
village, he was met by a party with a buffalo-robe, on which they
desired to carry their visitors,--an honor which they declined,
informing the Indians that they were not the commanders of the boats.
As a great mark of respect, they were then presented with a fat dog,
already cooked, of which they partook heartily, and found it well

"August 30th.... We prepared a speech and some presents, and then sent
for the chiefs and warriors, whom we received, at twelve o'clock, under
a large oak tree, near which the flag of the United States was flying.
Captain Lewis delivered a speech, with the usual advice and counsel for
their future conduct. We acknowledged their chiefs, by giving to the
grand chief a flag, a medal, a certificate, and a string of wampum; to
which we added a chief's coat--that is, a richly laced uniform of the
United States Artillery corps, with a cocked hat and red feather. One
second chief and three inferior ones were made or recognized by medals,
a suitable present of tobacco, and articles of clothing. We smoked the
pipe of peace, and the chiefs retired to a bower formed of bushes by
their young men, where they divided among one another the presents,
smoked, eat, and held a council on the answer which they were to make
us to-morrow. The young people exercised their bows and arrows in
shooting at marks for beads, which we distributed to their best
marksmen. In the evening the whole party danced until a late hour, and,
in the course of their amusement, we threw among them some knives,
tobacco, bells, tape, and binding, with which they were much

"August 31st. In the morning, after breakfast, the chiefs met and sat
down in a row, with pipes of peace highly ornamented; all pointed
toward the seats intended for Captains Lewis and Clark. When they
arrived and were seated, the grand chief, whose Indian name Weucha is
in English Shake Hand, and in French is called Le Liberateur (The
Deliverer), rose and spoke at some length, approving what we had said,
and promising to follow our advice. 'I see before me,' said he, 'my
Great Father's two sons. You see me and the rest of our chiefs and
warriors. We are very poor; we have neither powder, nor ball, nor
knives; and our women and children at the village have no clothes. I
wish that as my brothers have given me a flag and a medal, they would
give something to those poor people, or let them stop and trade with
the first boat which comes up the river. I will bring chiefs of the
Pawnees and Mahas together, and make peace between them; but it is
better that I should do it than my Great Father's sons, for they will
listen to me more readily. I will also take some chiefs to your country
in the Spring; but before that time I cannot leave home. I went
formerly to the English, and they gave me a medal and some clothes;
when I went to the Spanish, they gave me a medal, but nothing to keep
it from my skin; but now you give me a medal and clothes. But still we
are poor; and I wish, brothers, that you would give us something for
our squaws.'

... "They promised to make peace with the Otoes and Missouris, the only
nations with whom they are now at war. All these harangues concluded by
describing the distress of the nation; they begged us to have pity on
them; to send them traders; they wanted powder and ball, and seemed
anxious that we should supply them with some of their Great Father's
milk, the name by which they distinguished ardent spirits."

These were the Yanktons, one of the important tribes of the great Sioux
nation. The Yanktons have always been known to the whites as a people
of distinction, shrewd, artful, good hunters, good fighters, and
altogether quite able to take care of themselves. In their inmost
hearts, they were vain of their prestige amongst their inferior
neighbors; nor did they really acknowledge the superiority of the
whites. Their speeches must be taken as declarations of momentary
policy, and not of fixed principles. Further, they did not express the
thought of the tribe as a whole, but only the inclinations of those
chiefs who were for the time in authority, and whose word was for that
time the tribal law. The bearing of the Yanktons, as of almost every
other Indian tribe, has been modified or altogether changed, time and
again, under the will of successive chiefs.

The attention of the expedition was not wholly engrossed with the
Indians. From day to day the journals are filled with careful and
valuable notes upon the natural history and physical geography of the
land, about which nothing had as yet been written. Under the date of
September 7th there occurs a good description of the prairie-dog; and
on the 17th the antelope of the Western plains was described. Both of
these animals were then unknown to science.

September 25th the party walked close to the edge of catastrophe, when
they met with another tribe of the Sioux,--the Tetons. This was the
first occasion for an exhibition of the fighting temper of the men. In
describing the encounter, Captain Clark's journal is as usual
picturesque and graphic:--

"Envited the Chiefs on board to show them our boat & such curiossities
as was strange to them, we gave them 1/4 a glass of whiskey which they
appeared to be verry fond of, sucked the bottle after it was out & soon
began to be troublesom, one the 2d chief assumeing Drunkness, as a
Cloaki for his rascally intentions. I went with those chiefs (which
left the boat with great reluctiance) to shore with a view of
reconseleing those men to us, as soon as I landed the Perogue three of
their young men seased the cable of the Perogue, the chiefs soldr.
Huged the mast, and the 2d chief was verry insolent both in words &
justures declareing I should not go on, stateing he had not received
presents sufficient from us, his justures were of such a personal
nature I felt myself compeled to Draw my sword, at this motion Capt.
Lewis ordered all under arms in the boat, those with me also showed a
disposition to Defend themselves and me, the grand chief then took hold
of the roap & ordered the young warrers away, I felt myself warm &
spoke in very positive terms. We proceeded about 1 mile & anchored out
off a willow Island placed a guard on shore to protect the Cooks & a
guard in the boat, fastened the Perogues to the boat, I call this
Island Bad Humered Island as we were in a bad humer."

The journals for the next day say:--

"Our conduct yesterday seemed to have inspired the Indians with fear of
us, and as we were desirous of cultivating their acquaintance, we
complied with their wish that we should give them an opportunity of
treating us well, and also suffer their squaws and children to see us
and our boat, which would be perfectly new to them. Accordingly ... we
came to on the south side, where a crowd of men, women and children
were waiting to receive us. Captain Lewis went on shore and remained
several hours; and observing that their disposition was friendly, we
resolved to remain during the night for a dance, which they were
preparing for us."

The two officers were received on shore by ten well-dressed young men,
who took them up in a decorated robe and carried them in state to the
council-house. There the pipe of peace was smoked, a ceremonious
dog-feast was prepared; the chieftains delivered themselves of
speeches, divided between fawning adulation and flamboyant boasting;
and then came a sort of state ball, which continued until midnight. The
next morning the travelers were suffered to proceed.

That was a notable encounter. The Tetons have always been counted among
the most irresponsible villains of their race, treacherous by first
impulse, murderous by strongest inclination, thievish according to
opportunity, combining the effrontery of Italian beggars with the
boldness begotten by their own sanguinary history. Yet this determined
little band faced them in the heart of their own land, and overawed

For many days thereafter, parties of the Tetons appeared from time to
time upon the river banks, following the boats, begging, threatening,
doing everything in their power to harass the advance. No doubt they
had already repented of their brief show of decency, and would have
made an open demonstration had they dared. Through those days the men
generally encamped upon islands or sand-bars in mid-stream, deeming it
wise to avoid further contact with the tribe. It was a decided relief
to get beyond their territory.

On October 10th they reached the land of the Ricaras, a tribe whose
conduct, in all domestic and foreign relations, was in striking
contrast to that of the Sioux, and indeed almost unique. The Ricaras
could not be induced to drink whiskey!

Soon after the arrival at the Ricara villages, one of the privates was
tried by court-martial for some act of insubordination, and was
sentenced to be publicly whipped. The execution of the sentence
"affected the Indian chief very sensibly, for he cried aloud during the
punishment." When the matter was explained to him, "he acknowledged
that examples were necessary, and that he himself had given them by
punishing with death; but his nation never whipped even children from
their birth." Universal sobriety, and compassionate tears from the eyes
of a warrior! Surely, that tribe was curious.

By the last of October the travelers came to the camps of the Mandans
and Minnetarees, 1600 miles from St. Louis; and there, being warned by
the calendar and by cold, they prepared to take up winter quarters.
Their first care was to find a suitable place for building log cabins
and fortifications. With this work the men were engaged until November
20th, when Fort Mandan was completed and occupied.

Meanwhile, the officers had sought to extend acquaintance among the
Indians, and to establish confidence and bring them into sympathy with
the new conditions of government. So far as pledges were concerned,
they were fairly successful; the Indians received them hospitably.

The Mandans had once been a powerful nation, living in numerous
villages down the river; but continued wars with the Sioux, coupled
with sad ravages of the small-pox, had reduced them to an insignificant
number, and compelled them to remove out of easy reach of their
strongest enemies. When Lewis and Clark came upon them, they formed
only a trifling souvenir of their past grandeur; they had then but two
poor villages at this remote site, where they lived in a precarious
hand-to-mouth fashion, having no allies but a small force of
Minnetarees near by.

But Fate had managed the matter very well, no doubt, in depriving these
people of effective strength in war; for at this time the head chief of
the Minnetaree villages was a man who, given opportunity, would have
made the river run red with the blood of his enemies. This was Le
Borgne, a one-eyed old despot, of surpassing cruelty and
bloodthirstiness, whose very name, even in his present position, would
compel a shiver of apprehension. A chief such as he, at the head of
forces matched to his ferocious desires, would have changed the history
of the Upper Missouri. As it was, he spent most of his villainous
instincts for his own private amusement,--occasionally slaughtering one
of his warriors who had given him displeasure, or butchering a couple
of his wives whose society had grown irksome; and between times he
leered with his solitary evil eye upon the traders, contriving ways for
getting whiskey with which to bait his passions. The British traders of
the Hudson Bay and Northwest companies had long before secured a strong
foothold in this territory, and had sought by every means to monopolize
the traffic. The ubiquitous French were there also, domiciled in the
villages, and some of them had taken squaws to wife. With schooling
from such as these, old Le Borgne had cut his wisdom teeth; he had made
himself master of many low tricks and subtleties practiced by white
traders and vagabonds; he was as skillful as the best of them in making
promises, and as skillful as the worst in breaking them. He was a
scamp, and a blackguard.

Lewis and Clark succeeded directly in effecting a treaty of peace
between the Mandans and Ricaras, and among other small tribes of the
region round about; but they were powerless in trying to reconcile
these people to the Sioux, who were the bogie-men of the plains, and
who conducted themselves in every affair of peace or war with the
arrogance of incontestable power. Not death itself could extinguish the
hatred that was felt for them by the weaker tribes, compelled to skulk
and tremble.

Early in November the officers received a visit from two squaws, who
had been taken prisoners by the Mandans, many years before, in a war
with the Snake Indians of the Rocky Mountains. One of these squaws was
named Sacajawea, the "Bird Woman"; she had been but a child at the time
of her capture, when she had been taken to the Mandan villages and
there sold to a Frenchman, known as Chaboneau, who kept her until she
reached womanhood and then married her. She was destined to play a
considerable part in the later work of the expedition, and to lend to
it one of its few elements of true romance.

The winter was passed busily, but for the most part quietly. The men
suffered no serious deprivation. Game was abundant; and one member of
the party, who was a good amateur blacksmith, set up a small forge,
where he turned out a variety of tools, implements, and trinkets, which
were traded to the Indians for corn. Everything went well. The officers
were as busy as the men, and their occupations were varied and vital.

They found difficulty in getting credit for the news they bore that the
government of the United States was to be thereafter in fact as well as
in name the controlling agency in administering the affairs of the
territory and in regulating trade. To make the Indian mind ready to
receive this lesson, it was first necessary to correct the evils bred
by the earlier short-sighted rule of the Spanish, and to uproot a
strong predisposition in favor of the British traders. The Hudson Bay
Company had been in existence since 1670, and the Northwest Company
since 1787; and they were not inclined to surrender their control of
trade without a struggle.

Aside from this task, the two youthful men-of-all-work were continually
engaged in gathering material for a report upon the ethnology of the
Upper Missouri and the plains. They have left to us a remarkably acute
and accurate monograph upon the subject, which shows that they were
even then alive to most of the questions likely to arise in the process
of reducing the land to order. The data thus collected were entered at
length in the journals; and a fair copy of these was made, for
transmittal to Washington in the spring. There were maps to be drawn,
too; and a mass of interesting objects was gathered to illustrate the
natural history of the route. This material had to be cleaned,
prepared, assorted and catalogued, and packed for shipment, to
accompany the report and illuminate its story, so that Mr. Jefferson
might have a full understanding of what had been accomplished during
the first year. The five months spent at Fort Mandan did not drag. The
best part of the winter's work lay in the attitude which was taken in
dealing with the Indians. In every particular of behavior, the
strictest integrity was observed. An Indian is as ready as any one to
recognize genuineness. Before springtime, the Mandans and Minnetarees
knew that they had found friends.

In March the men began boat-building, preparatory to resuming their
journey. The batteau was too cumbrous for use toward the head waters of
the Missouri, and it was to be sent back to St. Louis. To take its
place, canoes were fashioned from green cottonwood planks. Cottonwood
lumber is full of whims and caprices,--bending, twisting, cracking like
brown paper, so as to be wholly unfit for ordinary carpentry; but there
was no other material available. Six canoes were made to hang together
somehow; and in these ramshackle structures, together with the two
periogues, the party covered more than a thousand miles of the roughest
water of the Missouri. Annoyance was to be expected. The boats were
continually splitting, opening at the seams, filling, and swamping, so
that much time was lost in stopping to make repairs and to dry the
water-soaked cargoes. This was merely an inconvenience, not an



On the afternoon of April 7, 1805, winter quarters were abandoned. Of
the original forty-five men two had been lost; but three recruits had
been gained,--Chaboneau, his squaw Sacajawea, and their infant son,
born in February. From Fort Mandan fourteen of the men returned to St.
Louis in the barge, carrying documents, collections, and trophies,
while thirty-two went onward, to be separated from their kind for
almost eighteen months. On this day Captain Lewis wrote in his

"This little fleet altho' not quite so rispectable as those of Columbus
or Capt. Cook, were still viewed by us with as much pleasure as those
deservedly famed adventurers ever beheld theirs; and I dare say with
quite as much anxiety for their safety and preservation. We were now
about to penetrate a country at least two thousand miles in width, on
which the foot of civilized man had never trodden; the good or evil it
had in store for us was for experiment yet to determine, and these
little vessells contained every article by which we were to expect to
subsist or defend ourselves. However as the state of mind in which we
are, generally gives the coloring to events, when the imagination is
suffered to wander into futurity, the picture which now presented
itself to me was a most pleasing one, entertaining as I do the most
confident hope of succeeding in a voyage which had formed a darling
project of mine for the last ten years, I could but esteem this moment
of our departure as among the most happy of my life."

April 26th they came to the mouth of the Yellowstone River, which
enters the Missouri 1888 miles above St. Louis. They had had no
adventure of moment; neither was there cause for immediate anxiety,
save as they observed signs of the Assiniboins. From the tribes with
whom they had talked at winter quarters, they had heard stirring tales
of this cut-throat band, which had inspired the wish to pass unobserved
through their country. This desire was fulfilled. There was no meeting
with the Assiniboins.

Of all the wild creatures of the Western wilderness, the one which
could least be spared from the literature of adventure is the grizzly
bear. Lewis and Clark were the first white men to give an account of
this beast. Many of the Indian lodge-tales to which they had listened
rang with the fame of the grizzly, as a background for the greater fame
of the narrators. As a matter of course, fact and figment were
inextricably blended in these tales; but, while they did not show the
animal as it was, they could not exaggerate its untamable courage, its
ferocity, or its rugged power of endurance. On April 29th, Captain
Lewis, with a party of hunters, proved the truth of all that had been
told him upon these points, and more; and upon many occasions
thereafter, while the party was making its way from the Yellowstone
country to the mountains, there were encounters from which the men
escaped by mere good fortune. The most critical adventures with the
Indians were but child's play in comparison. Despite their boasting,
the Indians would seldom venture to provoke a fight with a grizzly,
except in the most favorable circumstances, and when strength of
numbers inspired them with bravado. Reckless and headlong as wild
elephants, nothing would daunt the grizzlies, once they had set about
fighting; and so hardy were they as often to escape, apparently
unharmed, though their vital parts were riddled with lead.

Until the Rocky Mountains were reached, there was almost no hardship
arising from scarcity of food. Early in May, Captain Lewis wrote that
game of all sorts abounded, being so gentle as to take no alarm of the
hunters. "The male buffalo particularly will hardly give way to us, and
as we approach will merely look at us for a moment, as something new,
and then quietly resume their feeding.... Game is in such plenty that
it has become a mere amusement to supply the party with provisions." In
the months that followed, the men carried a blessed memory of that

As they drew near to the foothills, navigation became more and more
difficult. The river lost the sullen, muddy aspect of its lower course,
where it flowed between low, sandy banks, and took the character of a
mountain stream, walled with rock and filled with dangers. Then it was
that the cottonwood skiffs betrayed their weaknesses. Accidents were of
almost daily occurrence; and on one occasion the boat containing the
instruments and papers was nearly lost. They were then more than two
thousand miles from any place where such a loss could have been
repaired. To go on would have been idle, without means for making
accurate observations; they would have been obliged to turn back. In
the face of this perpetual threat, they had no resource but to take
their chances with luck; with the best they could do, they could not
adequately safeguard themselves against calamity. For the time being,
at least, they were rank fatalists.

On Sunday, May 26th, Captain Lewis left camp on foot, ascended to the
summit of a ridge of hills near the river, and from the height had his
first glimpse of the distant ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This was
about a year and a half before Pike's discovery. The journal entry for
that day comes near to showing emotion:--

"While I viewed these mountains I felt a secret pleasure in thus
finding myself so near the head of the hitherto conceived boundless
Missouri; but when I reflected on the difficulties which this snowey
barrier would most probably throw in my way to the Pacific, and the
sufferings and hardships of myself and party in them, it in some
measure counterballanced the joy I had felt in the first moments in
which I gazed on them; but as I have always held it a crime to
anticipate evils I will believe it a good comfortable road until I am
compelled to believe differently."

Progress grew increasingly hard. Rapids were numerous, over which the
boats could not be urged with oars; so the men were compelled to walk
upon the banks, drawing the craft with tow-lines. These lines were made
mostly of elk-skin, which became softened and rotted by the water and
often broke under the strain, causing many accidents of a trying and
serious nature. The banks were sometimes so rocky and precipitous as to
afford no foothold; then the men took to the water, wading, swimming,
making headway as they could. One extract from the journals will
illustrate the severity of their toil:--

"May 31st [a rainy day]. Obstructions continue, and fatigue the men
excessively. The banks are so slippery in some places, and the mud so
adhesive, that they are unable to wear their moccasins; one fourth of
the time they are obliged to be up to their arm-pits in the cold water,
and sometimes they walk for several hours over the sharp fragments of
rocks which have fallen from the hills. All this, added to the burden
of dragging the heavy canoes, is very painful; yet the men bear it with
great patience and good humour."

On June 3d they came to a point where the river forked; and here, as
the forks were of nearly equal volume, they were in doubt as to their
route. Captain Lewis wrote:--

"On our right decision much of the fate of the expedition depends;
since if, after ascending to the Rocky Mountains or beyond them, we
should find that the river we were following did not come near the
Columbia, and be obliged to return, we should not only be losing the
traveling season, two months of which have already elapsed, but
probably dishearten the men so much as to induce them either to abandon
the enterprise, or yield us a cold obedience, instead of the warm and
zealous support which they have hitherto afforded us.... The fatigues
of the last few days have occasioned some falling off in the appearance
of the men; who, not having been able to wear their moccasins, have had
their feet much bruised and mangled in passing over the stones and
rough ground. They are, however, perfectly cheerful, and have an
undiminished ardor for the expedition."

In order to settle the doubt, the officers took each one branch of the
stream and proceeded to explore it for some distance above the
confluence, to determine its direction. Captain Lewis, ascending the
northern fork, became convinced that it was not the main stream; and to
it he gave the name, which it still bears, of Maria's River. His warmth
of youth speaks in this paragraph:

"I determined to give it a name and in honour of Miss Maria W--d [Maria
Wood, his cousin] called it Maria's River. It is true that the hue of
the waters of this turbulent and troubled stream but illy comport with
the pure celestial virtues and amiable qualifications of that lovely
fair one; but on the other hand it is a noble river; one destined to
become in my opinion an object of contention between the two great
powers of America and Great Britin, with rispect to the adjustment of
the North westwardly boundary of the former; and that it will become
one of the most interesting branches of the Missouri."

Meanwhile, Captain Clark had gone far enough along the southern fork to
satisfy himself that that was the proper course; and when he rejoined
Captain Lewis at the confluence, preparations were made for continuing
the journey. It was then clear that the burdens of the men must be
lightened; accordingly, considerable quantities of merchandise,
ammunition, etc., were buried in the earth, or "cached," after a method
often followed by travelers of the West; care being taken to preserve
the stores against moisture. One of the periogues also was left at this
place, securely hidden.

While this work was going on, Captain Lewis, with several of the men,
proceeded to explore the southern stream more minutely, seeking to
devise means for passing the cañon at the mouth of which the party was
encamped. June 13th he heard in the distance the roar of the Great
Falls of the Missouri; and, after pushing on for several miles, he
stood at the foot of the lower cascade. Relying upon descriptions which
had been given by the Indians at the Mandan villages, he now felt
assured that the right way had been chosen.

He seated himself before the roaring sheet of water, and endeavored to
put a description of it upon paper; but then he added helplessly:--

"After wrighting this imperfect description I again viewed the falls
and was so much disgusted with the imperfect idea which it conveyed of
the scene that I determined to draw my pen across it and begin agin,
but then reflected that I could not perhaps succeed better than penning
the first impressions of the mind; I wished for the pencil of a
Salvator Rosa, or the pen of a Thompson, that I might be enabled to
give to the enlightened world some just idea of this truly magnificent
and sublimely grand object, which has from the commencement of time
been concealed from the view of civilized man; but this was fruitless
and vain. I most sincerely regreted that I had not brought a
chimeeobscura with me by the assistance of which I could have hoped to
have done better but alas this was also out of my reach; I therefore,
with my pen only endeavored to trace some of the stronger features of
this seen by the assistance of which and my recollection aided by some
able pencil I hope still to give to the world some fain idea of an
object which at this moment fills me with such pleasure and

On the next day he went ahead, alone, and discovered that this was but
the first of a long series of cascades, extending for many miles up the
cañon. It was a day of excitement. While returning to rejoin his party,
he suffered his gun to remain for a time unloaded; in this plight he
was surprised by a grizzly bear. Cut off from any other retreat, he was
forced to take to the water, in which he stood to the depth of his
armpits, facing the brute upon the bank and preparing to defend himself
in a hand-to-hand struggle; but, in a manner wholly out of keeping with
his family traditions, the grizzly was content to walk away without
attacking. Proceeding about nightfall, the young officer encountered a
strange beast, probably a wolverine, which showed fight; and a little
later he was charged by three bulls from a herd of buffalo. Upon waking
the next morning, he found a large rattlesnake coiled about the trunk
of the tree beneath which he had slept.



A messenger was sent back to Captain Clark, detailing what had been
discovered, and giving such instructions as would best enable him to
bring up the boats. It is now Captain Clark's turn to bear testimony to
the spirit of the men:--

"June 15th.... Proceeded with great difficulty, in consequence of the
increased rapidity of the current. The channel is constantly obstructed
by rocks and dangerous rapids. During the whole progress, the men are
in the water holding the canoes, and walking on sharp rocks and round
stones, which cut their feet or cause them to fall. Rattlesnakes are so
numerous that the men are constantly on their guard against being
bitten by them; yet they bear the fatigues with the most undiminished

The severest labor was necessary in making a portage of the falls. The
remaining periogue was abandoned, the canoes only being carried on. To
accomplish this, a large cottonwood tree was felled, its trunk being
cut into short sections to serve as wheels for improvised carriages;
the mast of the periogue, cut into lengths, being used as axles. Before
these carriages could be utilized, it was necessary for the men to
carry the canoes and baggage upon their shoulders to the level plains
above the cañon walls, where Captain Clark had marked out with stakes
the easiest path for a portage. This was a trying labor; and the
portage itself was not less laborious. The journal says:--

"Here [on the plains above the river] they all repaired their
moccasins, and put on double soles to protect them from the
prickly-pear, and from the sharp points of earth which have been formed
by the trampling of the buffalo during the late rains. This of itself
is enough to render the portage disagreeable to one who has no burden;
but as the men are loaded as heavily as their strength will permit, the
crossing is really painful. Some are limping with the soreness of their
feet; others are scarcely able to stand for more than a few minutes,
from the heat and fatigue. They are all obliged to halt and rest
frequently; at almost every stopping-place they fall, and most of them
are asleep in an instant; yet no one complains, and they go on with
great cheerfulness."

Notwithstanding this hardship, Lewis's journal entry of June 25th has
this fine bit:--

"Such as were able to shake a foot amused themselves in dancing on the
green to the music of the violin, which Cruzatte plays extremely well."

Captain Lewis had brought along in the baggage a steel skeleton or
framework for a boat, thirty-six feet in length, which he had planned
to use in shallow water. It was to be completed by stretching over the
steel ribs a covering of skins, making the whole water-tight by any
means that might be at hand. This was the place for the experiment.
Much time was spent in collecting and curing skins, which, when fitted
to the frame, were smeared with a composition of tallow, beeswax, and
charcoal. This failed, however. As soon as the mixture dried, it fell
away in flakes, and the vessel was entirely worthless. But Lewis wrote
that "the boat in every other rispect completely answers my most
sanguine expectations"! Then the men were employed for some time in
making "dugout" canoes from cottonwood logs,--a weary labor,
considering the tools they had. Not until July 15th was the long
interruption ended, and the journey resumed.

July 25th Captain Clark, who was in advance of the main party,
discovered the three forks of the Missouri, which were named the
Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers. By the westernmost of these,
the Jefferson, they proceeded, keeping a careful lookout for Indians.

"July 27th [Mr. Biddle's edition of the journals]. We are now very
anxious to see the Snake Indians. After advancing for several hundred
miles into this wild and mountainous country, we may soon expect that
the game will abandon us. With no information of the route, we may be
unable to find a passage across the mountains when we reach the head of
the river--at least, such a pass as will lead us to the Columbia. Even
are we so fortunate as to find a branch of that river, the timber which
we have hitherto seen in these mountains does not promise us any fit to
make canoes, so that our chief dependence is on meeting some tribe from
whom we may procure horses. Our consolation is that this southwest
branch can scarcely head with any other river than the Columbia; and if
any nation of Indians can live in the mountains we are able to endure
as much as they can, and have even better means of procuring

By the first days of August this fear for the scarcity of game had
become a reality; they were getting beyond the summer range of deer and
buffalo, which had been their chief reliance. Through their long season
of toil they had been plentifully fed; but they were now to know the
pains of hunger, and the ills which follow upon a meagre diet. The
hunters were daily reporting increasingly bad luck in the chase; some
days would yield nothing; upon other days the camp would heartily
welcome an owl, an eagle, or a bag of insignificant small birds of any
sort, or even a wolf--anything that had flesh on its bones.

But these deprivations did not one whit abate the zeal for discovery.
About this time they found the Jefferson River to be formed by three
minor streams, to which they gave the names of Philosophy,
Philanthropy, and Wisdom rivers, "in commemoration of those cardinal
virtues which have so eminently marked that deservedly selibrated
character." It is a pity to record that this complimentary intention
was thwarted by time; but Philosophy is now known as Willow Creek,
Wisdom is now the Big Hole, and Philanthropy bears the hard name of
Stinking Water.

Since leaving Fort Mandan, in the preceding April, they had seen no
Indians. They were now somewhat reassured by Sacajawea, the "Bird
Woman," who said that they were nearing the site of her old home with
the Snakes. She was as anxious as they for a meeting with her people,
which she told them must soon occur. But anxiety increased as the days
passed, and on the 9th of August Captain Lewis, accompanied by several
of the men, set out in advance of the rest, "with a resolution to meet
some nation of Indians before they returned, however long they might be
separated from the party."

Three days later the stream, along which their route had lain for so
long, was shrunken to such a width that one of the men was able to
stand with his feet upon opposite banks; and in that posture he thanked
God that he had lived to bestride the Missouri. Within a little time
they drank from the icy spring that gave the rivulet its birth. They
then stood upon the crest of the great Continental Divide, on the
boundary between the present States of Montana and Idaho. They had run
the mighty Missouri to its lair!

As if that were not satisfaction enough for one day, they went forward
for three fourths of a mile, and there "reached a handsome, bold creek
of cold, clear water, running to the westward." Stooping, they drank of
the waters of the Lemhi River, one of the upper branches of the

On the following day, as they were tracing the course of this stream,
they observed two women, a man, and some dogs, stationed upon the
summit of a hill at the distance of a mile. Captain Lewis advanced,
unarmed, displaying a flag. The women retreated at once; and the man,
after waiting until Lewis had approached to within a hundred paces,
also disappeared in the thick brush. After following the trail for a
mile, they came suddenly upon three Indian women. One of these made her
escape; but the others, an old dame and a child, seated themselves upon
the ground and bowed their heads, as though expecting to be put to
death forthwith. Captain Lewis advanced, took the older woman by the
hand and raised her to her feet, at the same time displaying the white
skin of his arm,--for exposure had tanned his face and hands as dark as
those of the natives themselves. He then gave them some trinkets, and
the other woman being recalled, he painted the faces of the three with
vermilion, an act understood by all Indians as signifying pacific
intentions. While he was thus engaged, sixty mounted Shoshone warriors
galloped up, armed and voicing their war-cry, thinking to do battle
with Minnetaree foes, for whom they had mistaken the whites. They were
overjoyed upon discovering the identity of their visitors, saluted them
heartily, smoked with them the pipe of peace, and offered such
entertainment as they had. They were without food, excepting some
indifferent cakes made from service-berries and choke-cherries, dried
in the sun.

To secure the friendly regard of these people, Captain Lewis tried to
induce some of them to return with him to the point where he was to
rejoin Captain Clark and the others, saying that the main party was
bringing merchandise for trade; and he was at last successful in
getting a goodly escort.

When he met with the men of the main party, they were still toiling
heavily up the narrow channel of the Missouri, dragging the canoes.
Sacajawea at once recognized the members of her tribe. A woman of the
band ran forward to meet her, and they embraced with signs of
extravagant joy, for they had been playmates in childhood.

"While Sacajawea was renewing among the women the friendships of former
days," says the journal, "Captain Clark went on, and was received by
Captain Lewis and the chief, who, after the first embraces and
salutations were over, conducted him to a sort of circular tent or
shade of willows. Here he was seated on a white robe, and the chief
immediately tied in his hair six small shells resembling pearls, an
ornament highly valued by these people, who procure them in the course
of trade from the seacoast. The moccasins of the whole party were then
taken off, and after much ceremony the smoking began. After this the
conference was to be opened. Glad of an opportunity of being able to
converse more intelligibly, they sent for Sacajawea, who came into the
tent, sat down, and was beginning to interpret, when in the person of
Cameawait (the chief) she recognized her brother. She instantly jumped
up and ran and embraced him, throwing over him her blanket, and weeping
profusely. The chief was himself moved, though not in the same degree.
After some conversation between them, she resumed her seat and
attempted to interpret for us; but her new situation seemed to
overpower her, and she was frequently interrupted by tears."



Should a water route be taken from the Shoshone villages, it would be
necessary to descend the Lemhi to Salmon River; the Salmon would
conduct them to the Snake, and that to the Columbia. But they were told
that this course was impracticable. The Lemhi flowed in an ungovernable
torrent through wild cañons which the hardiest adventurers from this
tribe had never succeeded in passing. The description given by the
Indians of the land route over the mountains was hardly more
reassuring. The easiest trail to be found would be rough in the
extreme, strewn with rocks; besides, snow would soon fall upon the
heights of the mountains, burying the trail many feet deep, and perhaps
rendering it impassable. The greatest cause for uneasiness lay in the
inevitable scarcity of food. Even should a crossing of the mountains be
effected, the men would be obliged to subsist for many days largely or
wholly upon such roots as they could dig by the way. Of the provisions
brought from St. Louis,--flour and canned stuff,--there remained barely
enough to suffice for ten days' emergency rations; and of course they
could not hope to find game upon the barren mountains, particularly at
that season of the year. They were just entering upon their severest

Captain Clark went ahead to reconnoitre, and found that the Indians had
rather understated the difficulties of the water route. To descend the
Lemhi was entirely out of the question. Clark dispatched a messenger to
Captain Lewis, telling of what he had discovered, and wrote in his
journal (August 24th):--

"The plan I stated to Captain Lewis if he agrees with me we shall adopt
is to precure as many horses (one for each man) if possable and to hire
my present guide who I sent on to him to interegate thro' the Intptr.
and proceed on by land to some navagable part of the Columbia river, or
to the Ocean, depending on what provisions we can Precure by the gun
aded to the small stock we have on hand depending on our horses as the
last resort."

While he was writing so calmly of his plan, he and his men were
suffering from hunger, having only a meagre supply of fish and dried
berries. A day or two later he wrote:--

"These Indians, to whom this life is familiar, seem contented, although
they depend for subsistence on the scanty provisions of the fishery.
But our men, who are used to hardships, but have been accustomed to
have the first wants of Nature regularly supplied, feel very sensibly
their wretched situation; their strength is wasting away; they begin to
express their apprehensions of being without food in a country
perfectly destitute of any means of supporting life, except a few

Horses were purchased from the Shoshones, and the men were employed in
making pack-saddles. As there was no timber to be obtained near by, the
oars were cut up for boards, and these were fastened into form with
thongs of rawhide. With the best provision that could be made, however,
it was apparent that a considerable portion of the baggage must be
cached and left behind. At a time when the needs of the men would be
greatest, they were obliged to provide themselves with least.

The Shoshones were hospitable and kindly folk. Throughout these days of
preparation, the women were engaged in making and repairing moccasins
and clothing for the men, and the fishermen gave to them a good share
of the daily catch. Nor was the kindness all upon the one side. The
white hunters, with their guns, had greater success than the Indians,
who were armed only with bows and arrows and lances. Share and share
alike was the rule in the village. Once when the hunters brought in a
deer, Captain Clark directed that it be given to the women and
children, who were in an extremity of hunger, and himself went
supperless to bed.

One of the older men was induced to accompany them as a guide. By the
middle of September they were deep in the mountains, and also deep in
peril and suffering. The cold had a depressing effect upon the men,
overworked and underfed as they were. For several days they got along
somehow, with a few odds and ends of small game; but on the 14th of
September, Captain Clark's prevision was fulfilled, and they were
reduced to supping upon the flesh of one of their ponies. Then on the
next day,--

"September 15th. Camped near an old snow-bank, some of which was
melted, in the absence of water; and here the party supped on the
remains of the colt killed yesterday. Our only game to-day was two
pheasants; the horses, on which we calculated as a last resource, began
to fail us, for two of them were so poor and worn out with fatigue that
we were obliged to leave them behind.

"September 16th. Three hours before daybreak it began to snow, and
continued all day, so that by evening it was six or eight inches deep.
This covered the track so completely that we were obliged constantly to
halt and examine, lest we should lose the route. In many places we had
nothing to guide us, except the branches of the trees, which, being
low, had been rubbed by the burdens of the Indian horses.... Wet to the
skin, and so cold that we were anxious lest our feet should be frozen,
as we had only thin moccasins to defend them.... We camped on a piece
of low ground, thickly timbered, but scarcely large enough to permit us
to lie level. We had now made thirteen miles. We were all very wet,
cold, and hungry.... Were obliged to kill a second colt for our

Of the stock of portable provisions there remained only a few cans of
soup and about twenty pounds of bear's oil; and there was "no living
creature in these mountains, except a few pheasants, a small species of
gray squirrel, and a blue bird of the vulture kind about the size of a
turtle-dove or jay; even these are difficult to shoot."

Again Captain Clark went ahead. For several days he suffered extremely
from hunger and exposure; but on the 20th he descended into an open
valley, where he came upon a band of Nez Percé Indians, who gave him
food. But after his long abstinence, when he ate a plentiful meal of
fish his stomach revolted, and for several days he was quite ill.

Matters fared badly with Captain Lewis's party, following on Clark's
trail. On the day of Clark's departure, they could not leave their
night's camp until nearly noon, "because, being obliged in the evening
to loosen our horses to enable them to find subsistence, it is always
difficult to collect them in the morning.... We were so fortunate as to
kill a few pheasants and a prairie wolf, which, with the remainder of
the horse, supplied us with one meal, the last of our provisions; our
food for the morrow being wholly dependent on the chance of our guns."
Bearing heavy burdens, and losing much time with the continued straying
of the horses, they made but indifferent progress, and it was not until
the 22d that they reached the Nez Percé village and joined Captain
Clark. Then they, too, almost to a man, suffered severe illness, caused
by the unwonted abundance of food. From the high altitudes and the
scant diet of horseflesh to the lower levels of the valley and a
plentiful diet of fish and camass-root was too great a change.

Two of the men in particular had cause to remember those days. They had
been sent back to find and bring on some of the horses that were lost.
Failing to find the animals, after a long search, they started to
overtake their companions. They had no provisions, nor could they find
game of any kind. Death by starvation was close upon them, when they
found the head of one of the horses that had been killed by their
mates. The head had been thrown aside as worthless; but to these two it
was a veritable godsend. It was at once roasted, and from the flesh and
gristle of the lips, ears, and cheeks they made a meal which saved
their lives.

The Nez Percé villages were situated upon a stream called the
Kooskooskee, or Clearwater, which the Indians said was navigable for
canoes throughout its lower lengths; so, on September 26th, the party
established itself at a point upon the river where a supply of timber
could be had, and began canoe-making. In this they adopted the Indian
method of hollowing large logs into form by means of fire; and in ten
days' time they had made five serviceable boats, and were ready for
departure. Meanwhile, they had relied upon the Indians for a daily
supply of food, and this had made a considerable reduction of their
stock of merchandise for barter. The Nez Percés of that and neighboring
villages kept a large number of dogs, which were used as beasts of
burden and otherwise, but were not eaten. The travelers bought some of
these for food, and found them palatable and nutritious; but this
practice excited the ridicule of the savages, who gave to the whites
the name Dog-Eaters,--an odd reversal of the condition of to-day. The
men were proof against scorn, however, so long as the supply of
dog-meat held out; and when they were ready to embark, they bought as
many dogs as they could carry, to be eaten on the voyage.

There was no reason to complain of the Nez Percés. There was a
noticeable difference, though, between the people of the several
villages. Some were generous and high-minded to a degree rarely equaled
by the members of any race, while others were shrewd tradesmen only.
All seemed worthy of confidence, which was well; for it was necessary
to put confidence in them. The horses that had been bought from the
Shoshones and brought across the mountains had now to be left behind,
and they were surrendered to the care of one of the principal chiefs,
to be kept by him until they should be reclaimed upon the return from
the coast, at some indefinite time in the future. He discharged this
trust with perfect fidelity. Had he failed, the consequences would have
been disastrous.

On October 16th, after a rapid passage of the Kooskooskee, the party
entered the Columbia; and from that point to the Pacific the journey
was without particular adventure, save for the difficulty of passing
numerous rapids and cascades. Indian villages were everywhere upon the
banks; but their people were of a very low order,--very jackals of
humanity; dirty, flea-bitten packs, whose physical and moral
constitutions plainly showed the debilitating effects of unnumbered
generations of fish-eating, purposeless life. Physical and moral
decency usually go hand in hand, even in a state of nature. The
Columbia tribes had no conception of either; they were in the same
condition then as now, mean-spirited, and strangers to all those little
delicacies of behavior that had distinguished the mountain tribes.

The passage of the Narrows, above the Falls of the Columbia, trusting
to their fire-hollowed logs, demanded much daring and self-possession.
Captain Clark wrote:--

"As the portage of our canoes over this high rock would be impossible
with our Strength, and the only danger in passing thro those narrows
was the whorls and swills arriseing from the compression of the water,
and which I thought (as also our principal waterman Peter Crusat) by
good stearing we could pass down safe, accordingly I deturmined to pass
through this place, not with standing the horred appearance of this
agitated gut swelling, boiling & whorling in every direction which from
the top of the rock did not appear as bad as when I was in it; however
we passed safe to the astonishment of the Inds."

At other times they were not so successful in this sort of undertaking.
The canoes were often overset in the swift water, by being caught in
whirlpools or colliding with rocks, causing great inconvenience and
resulting in some serious losses of baggage. And the men were
performing this arduous labor upon a diet of dog-meat, and almost
nothing besides.

No matter what difficulties presented themselves from day to day, the
officers never lost sight of the chief purpose of their toils. The
journals of those days are replete with keen notes upon the country,
its resources, and its people. Soon after passing the Falls, there were
to be seen occasional signs of previous intercourse between the Indians
and the white traders who had visited the coast,--the squaws would
display a bit of colored cloth in their costumes; a few of the men
carried ancient guns, and occasionally one was decorated with a ruinous
old hat or the remains of a sailor's pea-jacket. These poor people had
touched the hem of the garment of civilization, and had felt some of
its meaner virtue pass into them. They showed daily less and less of
barbaric manliness; they were becoming from day to day more vicious,
thievish, and beggarly. The whites had as yet given them nothing worth
having, and had taught them nothing worth knowing. This was but
natural, considering the character of those who had visited the
Columbia region. They were not missionaries nor philanthropists,
actuated by high desires, but traders pure and simple, with no thought
but gain, and no scruples about means. They were not different from the
pioneers of trade in all times and all places.

November 6th there was a meeting with an Indian who spoke a few scrappy
words of English; and on the 7th, a day of rain and fog, the men caught
a far glimpse of the Pacific, ... "that ocean, the object of all our
labors, the reward of all our anxieties. This cheering view exhilarated
the spirits of all the party, who were still more delighted on hearing
the distant roar of the breakers." The following day, as the boats
proceeded upon the waters of the inlet, the waves ran so high that
several of the men were made sea-sick.

After eighteen months of unparalleled perseverance, the westward
journey was done.



They had reached the coast in the dismal rainy season, when all the
life of the region was at the lowest ebb of the year, and when comfort
was hardly to be found. The extreme bitterness of Eastern winters was
wanting; but the bracing tonic effect of honest cold was also denied
them. Through many months they were to suffer from an uninterrupted
downpour of rain, driven before the raw sea-winds, which drenched their
ardor and made work of any sort painful.

For a long time they were unable to make further progress, because of
the persistent storms. Their canoes had not been designed for service
in tempestuous open water; so they were compelled to camp where luck
left them, having no shelter from the weather, sodden through and
through, hungry, cold, many of them ill with a low fever bred by
exposure, and only sustained by the knowledge that they were at last
upon the Pacific shore. The neighboring Indians were practically
amphibious; no stress of weather could hold them in check. They swarmed
about the camp at all times, stealing, begging, worrying the worn
spirits of the men into tatters. Here, for the first time since leaving
St. Louis, it became necessary to abandon conciliatory friendliness,
and to offset the native insolence with sternness. There were no
fights, for the Indians were too low-born to possess fighting courage;
but the necessity for constant alertness was even more trying than open

For a fortnight the men were engaged in getting acquainted with their
surroundings. The hunters made long trips over the hills and along the
coast, and such of the others as could be spared from camp went
tramping about on errands of discovery. The establishment of winter
quarters was perplexing; but on the 24th of November, after a
consultation of the whole party, a site was chosen several miles down
the coast, where timber could be got for building huts, and where, the
hunters said, game was nearest at hand.

To transport the baggage through the rough breakers was a tedious and
dangerous undertaking. The men had to wait with patience for the rare
hours of comparative calm, making headway as they could, and in the
mean time eating and sleeping on the uncovered earth. Sickness
increased, until none of the party was wholly free from it. Although in
the midst of plenty, they were suffering from hunger. The Indians were
besetting them with offers of trade, having large stores of game, fish,
and other provisions; but their cupidity was extreme, and, on account
of the low state of the treasury, which must be conserved against many
months of the future, but few purchases could be made of even the
barest necessities. When their own hunters were unsuccessful, the men
often went empty.

The unintentional irony of Mr. Jefferson's letter of credit now became
apparent. The trading vessels that were used to making yearly visits to
this part of the coast from abroad had gone away for the winter, and no
white face was seen through all those weary months. Considerable
comment has been passed upon the failure of the government to
anticipate this contingency by sending a ship to this point to meet the
travelers and relieve their inevitable distress. This failure could
hardly have been the result of oversight; most probably it arose from
the wish of the government to avoid any appearance of meddling in
international affairs. The Louisiana Territory extended only so far
west as the Rocky Mountains: so, strictly speaking, the expedition had
no defensible right upon the coast under Federal patronage. There might
well have been serious consequences had a vessel under our flag
appeared in those waters, with such a mission. However that may be, the
fact remains that no aid was sent, and the men were thrown entirely
upon their ability to care for themselves. The journals show how they

"November 28th. It is now impossible to proceed with so rough a sea. We
therefore sent several of the men to hunt, and the rest of us remained
during the day in a situation the most cheerless and uncomfortable. On
this little neck of land we are exposed, with a miserable covering
which does not deserve the name of shelter, to the violence of the
winds; all our bedding and stores, as well as our bodies, are
completely wet; our clothes are rotting with constant exposure, and we
have no food except the dried fish brought from the falls. The hunters
all returned hungry and drenched with rain, having seen neither deer
nor elk, and the swan and brant were too shy to be approached."

Day after day they subsisted upon this dried fish, mixed with
sea-water. Captain Clark nearly lost his admirable poise. On the first
day of December he wrote:--

"24 days since we arrived at the _Great Western_ (for I cannot say
Pacific) Ocian as I have not seen one pacific day since my arrival in
this vicinity, and its waters are forming and petially breake with
emence waves on the sands and rockey coasts, tempestous and horiable."

Two days later one of the hunters killed an elk--the first to be
secured on the western side of the mountains; and that was a holiday in
consequence, though the animal was lean and poor enough, and hardly fit
to be eaten.

Curiously, the greatest trial of that life was the absence of real
hazard. Adventure and danger, which make discomfort tolerable to such
men as they, were altogether wanting; in their place was nothing but a
dull, dead level of endurance, an expenditure of time and strength to
no apparent end.

But by the middle of December the site of winter quarters was gained,
and then the log huts began to take form. The men needed this
consolation. Under date of the 14th, the journal says:--

"Notwithstanding that scarcely a man has been dry for many days, the
sick are recovering.... It had been cloudy all day, at night began to
rain, and as we had no cover we were obliged to sit up the greater part
of the night; for as soon as we lay down the rain would come under us
and compel us to rise."

"December 17th. It rained all night, and this morning there was a high
wind; hail as well as rain fell; and on the top of a mountain about ten
miles to the southeast of us we observed some snow. The greater part of
our stores is wet; our leathern tent is so rotten that the slightest
touch makes a rent in it, and it will now scarcely shelter a spot large
enough for our beds. We were all busy in finishing the insides of the
huts. The after part of the day was cool and fair. But this respite was
of very short duration; for all night it continued raining and snowing
alternately, and in the morning, December 18th, we had snow and hail
till twelve o'clock, after which it changed to rain. The air now became
cool and disagreeable, the wind high and unsettled; so that, being
thinly dressed in leather, we were able to do very little on the

"December 20th. A succession of rain and hail during the night. At 10
o'clock it cleared off for a short time, but the rain soon recommenced.
We now covered in four of our huts. Three Indians came in a canoe with
mats, roots, and the berries of the sacacommis. These people proceed
with a dexterity and finesse in their bargains which, if they have not
learned it from their foreign visitors, may show how nearly allied is
the cunning of savages to the little arts of traffic. They begin by
asking double or treble the value of what they have to sell, and lower
their demand in proportion to the greater or less degree of ardor or
knowledge of the purchaser, who, with all his management, is not able
to procure an article for less than its real value, which the Indians
perfectly understand."

"December 24th. The whole stock of meat being now spoiled, our pounded
fish became again our chief dependence. It rained constantly all day,
but we still continued working, and at last moved into our huts."

"December 25th. We were awaked at daylight by a discharge of firearms,
which was followed by a song from the men, as a compliment to us on the
return of Christmas, which we have always been accustomed to observe as
a day of rejoicing. After breakfast we divided our remaining stock of
tobacco, which amounted to twelve carrots, into two parts; one of which
we distributed among such of the men as make use of it, making a
present of a handkerchief to the others. The remainder of the day was
passed in good spirits, though there was nothing in our situation to
excite much gaiety. The rain confined us to the house, and our only
luxuries in honor of the season were some poor elk, a few roots, and
some spoiled pounded fish."

The first of January witnessed the completion of the rude
fortification, which was named Fort Clatsop, in honor of one of the
better of the tribes near by,--a tribe whose members, according to
Captain Clark, "sometimes washed their hands and faces." Then, the
labor of building at an end, life settled into mere routine. The
hunters were constantly engaged. No matter what fortune they had, they
could not abate their industry, for the persistent moisture made it
impossible to keep the meat from spoiling. Other men moved down to the
shore, where they employed themselves in boiling sea-water, to obtain a
supply of salt; and others were busy hobnobbing with the natives,
practicing such wiles as they were masters of, in the effort to obtain
small supplies of edible roots.

The officers were engaged, as at Fort Mandan the previous winter,
bringing up their journals and copying them out, and in collecting data
for a report upon the natural history, ethnology, and trade of the
coast. All were living by chance. Sometimes they had plenty; at other
times they were reduced to extremities. Once they thought themselves
very fortunate in being able to trade for a quantity of whale blubber
which the Indians had taken from a dead carcass washed ashore near by.
Captain Clark wrote that he "thanked providence for driving the whale
to us; and think him much more kind to us than he was to Jonah having
sent this monster to be swallowed by us, in sted of swallowing of us as
jonah's did."



Before the end of January, plans were being formed for the homeward
journey. The men were dressing skins and making them into clothing and
moccasins, and curing such meat as they could get, so as to be able to
vary the fish diet of the Columbia. In February Captain Clark completed
a map of the country between Fort Mandan and Fort Clatsop, and sketched
a plan he had conceived for shortening the route from the mountains
east of the Nez Percé villages to the Falls of the Missouri. His
sagacity in this was marvelous; when it came to the point, his plan was
found to be perfectly practicable, cutting off 580 miles from the most
difficult part of the way. He was a born geographer; indeed, his was a
catholic, a cosmopolitan genius.

The greatest cause for uneasiness now lay in the depleted condition of
the stock of merchandise intended for trade. On March 16th, when
preparations for departure were nearing completion, there is this entry
in the journals:--

"All the small merchandise we possess might be tied up in a couple of
handkerchiefs. The rest of our stock in trade consists of six blue
robes, one scarlet ditto, five robes which we have made out of our
large United States flag, a few old clothes trimmed with ribbons, and
one artillerist's uniform coat and hat, which probably Captain Clark
will never wear again. We have to depend entirely upon this meagre
outfit for the purchase of such horses and provisions as it will be in
our power to obtain,--a scant dependence, indeed, for such a journey as
is before us."

It was hard to persuade the coast Indians to sell the canoes that were
necessary for the first part of the trip. The canoe afforded these
people their chief means for getting a livelihood, and was valued
accordingly. A boat and a woman were, by common consent, placed upon an
equality of value,--certainly not an overestimate of the worth of the
canoe, if one laid aside chivalry and regarded the squaws
dispassionately. When Captain Lewis was compelled to give a half-carrot
of tobacco and a laced coat in exchange for one of the little craft, he
observed that he considered himself defrauded of the coat. No doubt he
had in mind the native scale of values.

"Many reasons had determined us to remain at Fort Clatsop until the
first of April," says the journal entry of March 22d. "Besides the want
of fuel in the Columbian plains, and the impracticability of passing
the mountains before the beginning of June, we were anxious to see some
of the foreign traders, from whom, by means of our ample letters of
credit, we might have recruited our exhausted stores of merchandise.
About the middle of March, however, we had become seriously alarmed for
the want of food; the elk, our chief dependence, had at length deserted
their usual haunts in our neighborhood and retreated to the mountains.
We were too poor to purchase other food from the Indians, so that we
were sometimes reduced, notwithstanding all the exertions of our
hunters, to a single day's provisions in advance. The men, too, whom
the constant rains and confinement had rendered unhealthy, might, we
hoped, be benefited by leaving the coast and resuming the exercise of
travel. We therefore determined to leave Fort Clatsop, ascend the river
slowly, consume the month of March in the woody country, where we hoped
to find subsistence, and in this way reach the plains about the first
of April, before which time it will be impossible to attempt to cross

The next day the canoes were loaded, and in the afternoon the party
took leave of Fort Clatsop.

Though the return along the Columbia was less fraught with danger than
the descent, it was much more toilsome. Going down, the men had taken
large chances in shooting the rapids; but coming back, portage had to
be made of all such places. For this work horses were absolutely
necessary; and to get a few of these from the Indians, who saw their
chance for gain, brought the expedition to a state verging upon
downright bankruptcy. Enough horses were secured, however, to enable
them to pass step by step over the obstructions in their way, until at
last the Great Falls were left behind. From that point they meant to
proceed by land; and as the canoes were of no further use, they were
cut up for firewood, which could not be otherwise obtained on the
treeless plains.

Thus far there had been no adventures of note, except such as grew out
of the ill-nature and rascality of the Indians, who swarmed upon the
banks of the stream, where they were assembled for their annual
salmon-fishing. More than once the officers found it necessary to use
harsh measures, in dealing with cases of theft. In striking contrast to
these experiences was the meeting with the Walla-Wallas, a short
distance above the Falls. These people freely gave to the travelers
from their own scant supply of firewood and food; and the chief
presented to Captain Clark a superb white horse, a kindness which Clark
requited by the gift of his artillerist's sword. After leaving this
hospitable village, the party was overtaken by three young men,
Walla-Wallas, who had come a day's journey in order to restore a steel
trap, inadvertently left behind.

May 5th they came again to the lower villages of the Nez Percés, where
they had stopped in the preceding October to make their dugout canoes.
By this time they were practically destitute of all resources save
those of the mind. To secure food, they were obliged to resort to the
practice of medicine! Luckily, the scheme worked. Their patients were
almost legion; their fame spread like a prairie fire. Nor was this mere
quackery. All of the Indians of the Western slope were more or less
afflicted with rheumatism, inflammation of the eyes, and other ills
incident to an outdoor life in a humid climate; and the two officers,
in the course of preparing themselves for their errand across the
continent, had learned to use some of the simple remedies of the day.
In some cases they gave relief to the sufferers; in others, wrote
Captain Lewis, "we conscientiously abstained from giving them any but
harmless medicines; and as we cannot possibly do harm, our
prescriptions, though unsanctioned by the faculty, may be useful, and
are entitled to some remuneration." They were thus enabled to secure
the day's food, and to provide a little against the morrow. But severe
trials yet remained.

"May 6th [after taking up the trail].... It was now so difficult to
procure anything to eat that our chief dependence was on the horse
which we received yesterday for medicine; but to our great
disappointment he broke the rope by which he was confined, made his
escape, and left us supperless in the rain."

Upon falling in again (on May 8th) with the band of Nez Percés in whose
care they had left their horses in the autumn, they found the animals
to be now much scattered over the plain, where they had been turned out
to graze; but the chief promised to have them collected at once. He
said further that his people had been made aware of the approach of the
travelers, and of their being without provisions, and that he had a few
days before dispatched several of his men to meet them, bearing
supplies; but this relief party had taken another trail, and so missed
a meeting.

This old chief and his people showed themselves to be genuine friends.
After two or three days, when their guests had explained their
situation, and offered to exchange a horse in poor flesh for one that
was fatter and more fit to be eaten, the chief was deeply offended by
this conception of his hospitality, remarking that his tribe had an
abundance of young horses, of which the men might use as many as they
chose; and some of the warriors soon brought up two young and fat
animals, for which they would accept nothing in return.

To hold speech with this tribe was awkward. "In the first place," wrote
Captain Lewis, "we spoke in English to one of our men, who translated
it into French to Chaboneau; he interpreted it to his wife in the
Minnetaree language; she then put it into Shoshone, and a young
Shoshone prisoner explained it to the Chopunnish in their own dialect."
But the common impulses of humanity found expression in more direct
ways, without need for interpretation. Whether as friends or foes, the
Nez Percés have always been celebrated for their generosity; and in
those hard days they seemed to be just in their element. They could not
do enough to show their good will.

The expedition went into camp at a little distance from this village,
waiting for their horses to be assembled, and waiting for the melting
of the mountain snows, which now rendered further progress impossible.
In this camp they remained until June 10, unwilling to impose upon
their hosts, and hence were in sore straits most of the time.

"May 21st. On parceling out the stores, the stock of each man was found
to consist of only one awl and one knitting-pin, one half ounce of
vermilion, two needles, and about a yard of ribbon--a slender means of
bartering for our subsistence; but the men have been so much accustomed
to privations that now neither the want of meat nor the scanty funds of
the party excites the least anxiety among them."

Again they were reduced to a diet of wild roots; but the amiable old
chief discovered their situation, paid them a visit, and informed them
that most of the horses running at large upon the surrounding plain
belonged to the people of his village, insisting that if the party
stood in want of meat, they would use these animals as their own.
Surely the noble Nez Percés deserved better at the hands of our
government than they got in later years. The benefits they were so
ready to confer in time of need were shamelessly forgotten.

June 1st two of the men, who had been sent to trade with the Indians
for a supply of roots, and who carried all that remained of the
merchandise, had the misfortune to lose it in the river. Then, says the
journal, "we created a new fund, by cutting off the buttons from our
clothes and preparing some eye-water and basilicon, to which were added
some phials and small tin boxes in which we had once kept phosphorus.
With this cargo two men set out in the morning to trade, and brought
home three bushels of roots and some bread, which, in our situation,
was as important as the return of an East India ship."

"June 8th.... Several foot-races were run between our men and the
Indians; the latter, who are very active and fond of these races,
proved themselves very expert, and one of them was as fleet as our
swiftest runners. After the races were over, the men divided themselves
into two parties and played prison base, an exercise which we are
desirous of encouraging, before we begin the passage over the
mountains, as several of the men are becoming lazy from inaction."

On the 10th they left this camp and moved eastward, drawing slowly
toward the mountains, and keeping an anxious lookout for hunting
grounds. In this quest they were not successful; all the wild creatures
round about had suffered much in the long winter, and the few they were
able to secure were so much reduced in flesh as to be unfit for food.
They could only push forward. On the 15th they came to the foothills of
the Bitter Root Range; and on the 17th they were well into its heart,
ascending the main ridges. But here they soon discovered the
impossibility of proceeding in their situation. The snow lay everywhere
to a depth of twelve or fifteen feet, completely hiding the trail. To
delay until the snow melted would defeat the intention of getting to
St. Louis before another winter. To go on was to risk losing themselves
altogether. As they stated the question to themselves, frankly, it
seemed like a game of tossing pennies, with Fate imposing the familiar
catch, "Heads, I win; tails, you lose."

"We halted at the sight of this new difficulty," says Captain Lewis.
"... We now found that as the snow bore our horses very well, traveling
was infinitely easier than it was last fall, when the rocks and fallen
timber had so much obstructed our march." But with the best of fortune,
at least five days must be spent in getting through this dreadful
fastness. Unfamiliar as they were with the route, the chances against
getting through at all were tenfold. "During these five days, too, we
have no chance of finding either grass or underwood for our horses, the
snow being so deep. To proceed, therefore, under such circumstances,
would be to hazard our being bewildered in the mountains, and to insure
the loss of our horses; even should we be so fortunate as to escape
with our lives, we might be obliged to abandon our papers and
collections. It was, therefore, decided not to venture any further; to
deposit here all the baggage and provisions for which we had no
immediate use; and, reserving only subsistence for a few days, to
return while our horses were yet strong to some spot where we might
live by hunting, till a guide could be procured to conduct us across
the mountains."

Just at that moment they were almost in despair. The next day two of
the best men turned back to the Nez Percé villages, to endeavor to
procure a guide, while the main party moved down toward the plains,
supporting life meagrely, waiting for something to turn up. They were
quite powerless until help of some kind should come to them.

To their infinite relief, the messengers returned in a few days,
bringing guides, who undertook to conduct the party to the Falls of the
Missouri, for which service they were to be recompensed by two guns.
Under their care a fresh start was made, and by nightfall of the 26th,
passing over a perilous trail, they had found a small bit of ground
from which the snow had melted, leaving exposed a growth of young
grass, where the horses had pasturage for the night.

"June 27th.... From this lofty spot we have a commanding view of the
surrounding mountains, which so completely enclose us that, though we
have once passed them [in the preceding September], we almost despair
of ever escaping from them without the assistance of the Indians....
Our guides traverse this trackless region with a kind of instinctive
sagacity; they never hesitate, they are never embarrassed; and so
undeviating is their step, that wherever the snow has disappeared, for
even a hundred paces, we find the summer road."

On the 29th they descended from the snowy mountains to the main branch
of the Kooskooskee, where they found the body of a deer that had been
left for them by the hunters, who were working in advance,--"a very
seasonable addition to our food; for having neither meat nor oil, we
were reduced to a diet of roots, without salt or any other addition."

The first day of July found them encamped at the mouth of Traveler's
Rest Creek, where all mountain trails converged. It was from this place
that Captain Clark's plan for a shorter route to the Falls of the
Missouri was to be put into execution. But that was not all that lay in
their minds.

"We now formed the following plan of operations: Captain Lewis, with
nine men, is to pursue the most direct route to the Falls of the
Missouri, where three of his party are to be left to prepare carriages
for transporting the baggage and canoes across the portage. With the
remaining six, he will ascend Maria's River to explore the country and
ascertain whether any branch of it reaches as far north as latitude
50°, after which he will descend that river to its mouth. The rest of
the men will accompany Captain Clark to the head of Jefferson River,
which Sergeant Ordway and a party of nine men will descend, with the
canoes and other articles deposited there. Captain Clark's party, which
will then be reduced to ten, will proceed to the Yellowstone, at its
nearest approach to the Three Forks of the Missouri. There he will
build canoes, go down that river with seven of his party, and wait at
its mouth till the rest of the party join him. Sergeant Pryor, with two
others, will then take the horses by land to the Mandans. From that
nation he will go to the British posts on the Assiniboin with a letter
to Mr. Henry, to procure his endeavors to prevail on some of the Sioux
chiefs to accompany him to Washington."

It is hard to understand that indomitable humor. Here they were, just
freed from imminent disaster, worn, half-starved, beggared, yet bobbing
up like corks from the depths, and forthwith making calm preparations
for fresh labors of a grave kind.



By the route made famous as Lewis and Clark's Pass, Captain Lewis's
party on July 7th recrossed the Great Divide that separates the
Atlantic from the Pacific, and upon the next day they again ate of the
flesh of the buffalo. On the 16th they were at the Falls of the
Missouri; and two days later they reached the mouth of Maria's River,
which they were to explore.

Ten days were spent in this exploration, until further progress was
stopped, on the 26th, by an encounter with a band of the dreaded
Minnetarees of Fort de Prairie, who had wrought such havoc among the
Shoshones,--a set of roving outlaws, who held a reign of terror over
all the tribes of the northwestern plains.

Captain Lewis determined to meet these folk as he had met all others.
He held a council with them, smoked the pipe of peace, and endeavored
to explain to them his mission. When night came, whites and Indians
camped together. Lewis knew that he must be on his guard, and had some
of his men remain awake throughout the night; but in the early dawn the
Minnetarees, catching the sentry unawares, stole the guns of the party
and tried to make off with them. A hand-to-hand fight followed. One of
the men, in struggling with an Indian and endeavoring to wrest a stolen
gun from him, killed him by a knife-thrust. The savages then attempted
to drive off the horses; but in this they were thwarted. Being hard
pressed, and one of their number shot by Captain Lewis's pistol, they
were forced to retreat, leaving twelve of their own horses behind. The
whites were the gainers, for they took away four of the captured
animals, while losing but one of their own. The Indians had also lost a
gun, shields, bows and arrows. Most of this stuff was burned; but about
the neck of the dead warrior, whose body remained upon the field,
Captain Lewis left a medal, "so that the Indians might know who we
were." The Minnetarees never forgot or forgave this meeting. For long
years afterward they nursed the thought of revenge, doing what they
could to obstruct settlement of the country.

This encounter made it necessary to stop further exploration of Maria's
River, and to retreat with all speed toward the Missouri, before the
Indians could recover, gather re-enforcements, and offer battle at
greater odds. It was not to be supposed that they would pass by the
shedding of their tribal blood without seeking immediate vengeance. The
explorers had a fair start, however, and after hard riding reached the
banks of the Missouri just in time to meet Sergeant Ordway's party
descending the river with the canoes and baggage that had been
recovered from the resting place on the Jefferson,--a fortunate
occurrence indeed. Reunited, the two parties hurried down the river at
a great rate, the rapid current aiding the oarsmen, and got out of the
way before the Minnetarees appeared.

On August 7th, after a day's cruise of eighty-three miles, they reached
the mouth of the Yellowstone, where they found a note that had been
left by Captain Clark, saying that he would await them a few miles
below. He waited for several days; but then, fearing that Lewis's party
had already passed, he moved forward, and the two commands were not
joined until the 12th.

In the mean time, after the separation at Traveler's Rest Creek,
Captain Clark's party, too, had found a new pass over the Continental
Divide,--a road 164 miles in length, suitable for wagon travel. July
8th they came to the spot upon Jefferson River where the canoes and
merchandise had been buried the summer before. The boats were raised
and loaded, and Sergeant Ordway and his men proceeded with them down
the river, while Captain Clark's party set out overland, with the
horses, to the Yellowstone. On this trip Captain Clark had an efficient
guide in Sacajawea, the "Bird Woman," who brought him to the
Yellowstone on the 15th, at the point where the river issues from the
mountains through its lower cañon. After traveling for four days along
the banks, they halted to build canoes, in which they made the passage
to the Missouri, a distance of eight hundred miles, reaching the
confluence on August 3d. Aside from the knowledge of the Yellowstone
country which was acquired, the only important event of the journey was
the loss of all the horses, which were stolen by prowling bands of
Indians. This was a serious loss; for they were depending upon the
horses for barter with the Mandans, in order to procure a supply of
corn for the journey to St. Louis. But there was no time for mourning.
The men went into camp at a short distance below the mouth of the
Yellowstone, where they occupied themselves, while waiting for Lewis's
party, in hunting and dressing skins, which they meant to offer to the
Mandans in exchange for needed stores.

While they were thus engaged, on the 11th they hailed a canoe passing
up stream, that contained two men who had come from the Illinois
country to hunt upon the Yellowstone. These were the first whites seen
since April 13, 1805, a period of sixteen months. As a matter of course
Clark was famished for news from the United States; but what he got
from the wanderers was not cheerful.

"These two men [who had left the Illinois in the summer of 1804] had
met the boat which we had dispatched from Fort Mandan, on board of
which, they were told, was a Ricara chief on his way to Washington; and
also another party of Yankton chiefs, accompanying Mr. Dorion on a
visit of the same kind. We were sorry to learn that the Mandans and
Minnetarees were at war with the Ricaras, and had killed two of them.
The Assiniboins too are at war with the Mandans. They have, in
consequence, prohibited the Northwestern Company from trading to the
Missouri, and even killed two of their traders near Mouse River; they
are now lying in wait for Mr. McKenzie of the Northwestern Company, who
had been for a long time among the Minnetarees. These appearances are
rather unfavorable to our project of carrying some of the chiefs to the
United States; but we still hope that, by effecting a peace between the
Mandans, Minnetarees, and Ricaras, the views of our government may be

This meant that the solemn treaties of peace concluded at Fort Mandan
amongst the several Indian tribes, under the auspices of the
expedition, had been broken. The news was displeasing, but probably not
wholly unexpected.

August 14th, two days after the reunion of the two parties, they came
again to the home of their acquaintances, the Mandans and the
Minnetarees. They showed these people every consideration; and the
swivel gun, which could not be used on the small boats, was presented
to old Le Borgne, who bore it in state to his lodge, thinking his own
thoughts. One of the Mandan chiefs joined them here for the journey
down the river.

Then occurred another brief conference with the Ricaras, with a renewal
of the old pledges of peace and good will toward all men--excepting the
Sioux. Reckless as they were in making promises, they, like all their
neighbors, weak or strong, would not commit themselves to attempting
conciliation of the Sioux.



After leaving the Ricara villages, the men were possessed by an ardent
longing to get home; and the Missouri, as though it had learned to know
and respect and love them, and could appreciate their ardor, lent them
its best aid. Upon the swift current, and under pleasant skies, the
boats flew onward. Seventy-five or eighty miles a day was a common
achievement; but even that progress did not keep pace with the speed of
their desires. There was nothing more to be accomplished, no reason for
lingering by the way; and there was nothing to be guarded against,
except possible trouble with the Tetons. As the boats passed through
their country, these people appeared in large numbers upon the banks,
shouting invitations to land; but the officers felt safer in refusing
further intercourse. The Tetons were obliged to content themselves with
trotting along upon the shore, keeping abreast of the boats as well as
they were able, crying out taunts and imprecations; and one, more
zealous in his passion, went to the top of a hill and struck the earth
three times with the butt of his gun,--the registration of a mighty
oath against the whites, long since abundantly fulfilled.

Occasionally there was a meeting with a trading party from St. Louis or
elsewhere, with brief exchange of news and gossip; but they were
growing too eager for loitering. On the 9th of September they passed
the mouth of the Platte; and on the 12th they met one of their own men
who had been sent back with the batteau from Fort Mandan, in April,
1805. This man was now returning to the Ricaras, with a message from
President Jefferson, and an independent mission to instruct the Ricaras
in methods of agriculture. A few days later they met with one Captain
McClellan, an old acquaintance of Captain Clark, who told them that the
people of the United States had generally given them up for lost,
though the President still entertained hopes of their return.

"September 20th.... As we moved along rapidly we saw on the banks some
cows feeding, and the whole party almost involuntarily raised a shout
of joy at seeing this image of civilization and domestic life. Soon
after we reached the little French village of La Charette, which we
saluted with a discharge of four guns and three hearty cheers. We
landed, and were received with kindness by the inhabitants.... They
were all equally surprised and pleased at our arrival, for they had
long since abandoned all hopes of ever seeing us return."

The next day they came to the village of St. Charles; and on the 22d
they stopped at a cantonment of United States soldiery, three miles
above the mouth of the Missouri, where they passed the day. The
concluding paragraphs of the journals must be quoted literally from
Captain Clark:--

"September 23rd. Took an early brackfast with Colo Hunt and set out,
descended to the Mississippi and down that river to St. Louis at which
place we arived about 12 o'clock. We suffered the party to fire off
their pieces as a Salute to the Town. We were met by all the village
and received a harty welcom from its inhabitants &c here I found my old
acquaintance Maj W. Christy who had settled in this town in a public
line as a Tavern Keeper. He furnished us with storeroom for our baggage
and we accepted of the invitation of Mr. Peter Choteau and took a room
in his house. We payed a friendly visit to Mr. Auguste Choteau and some
of our old friends this evening. As the post had departed from St.
Louis Capt. Lewis wrote a note to Mr. Hay in Kahoka to detain the post
at that place until 12 tomorrow which was rather later than his usual
time of leaveing it.

"Wednesday 24th of September, 1806. I sleped but little last night
however we rose early and commenced wrighting our letters Capt. Lewis
wrote one to the presidend and I wrote Gov. Harrison and my friends in
Kentucky and sent off George Drewyer with those letters to Kohoka &
delivered them to Mr. Hays &c. We dined with Mr. Chotoux to day and
after dinner went to a store and purchased some clothes, which we gave
to a taylor and derected to be made. Capt. Lewis in opening his trunk
found all his papers wet and some seeds spoiled.

"Thursday 25th of Septr. 1806. had all our skins &c suned and stored
away in a storeroom of Mr. Caddy Choteau, payed some visits of form, to
the gentlemen of St. Louis, in the evening a dinner & Ball.

"Friday 26th of Septr. 1806. a fine morning we commenced wrighting,

That is the last word in the chronicles of the expedition,--modest,
unassuming, matter-of-fact--the word of one who had done a difficult
thing thoroughly and well, and who was at the end, as he had been
throughout, larger than the mere circumstances of his labor. His
companion was of the same stalwart stuff. It is hard to choose between
them in any essential detail of manhood. Nor were the officers much
exalted in temper above the men of their command. When we are
celebrating the heroes of our national life, every name upon the roster
of the Lewis and Clark Expedition deserves to be remembered.

                     *      *      *      *      *

In this brief narrative, we have just touched the hilltops of the
adventures of the expedition. Much of importance has been suggested
indirectly; much has been passed by altogether. Each day's work was
full of value and had a lasting significance.

One thing remains to be said. We must not forget that the undertaking
was not primarily one of adventure; it was an exploration, in the
broadest sense of the word. It was not the mere fact of getting across
the continent and back that gave the work its character, but the
observations that were made by the way. A book of this size would not
contain a bare catalogue of the deeds and discoveries of those
twenty-eight months; nor could any number of volumes do full justice to
their importance. Whoever reads the journals, from whatever point of
view, is amazed by what they reveal. Geographers, ethnologists,
botanists, geologists, Indian traders, and men of affairs, all are of
one mind upon this point. We must wait long before we find the work of
Lewis and Clark equaled.



It would be a pleasant labor, and one well worth the pains, to record
the story of the later years of every one of those valiant souls, from
the highest to the lowest. But that may not be done here. The best
homage that can be rendered to the subordinates is to speak of their
common motive: simple-hearted, unselfish devotion to the interests of
the nation, unstained by ulterior hope of private gain. A bill was
passed by Congress in 1807, granting to the non-commissioned officers
and privates, according to rank, a sum of money equal to double pay for
the period of service, and, in addition, 300 acres of land from the
public domain. But nothing beyond ordinary pay had been definitely
pledged in advance. Clearly it was not the expectation of material
reward which sustained them.

The bill passed by Congress included also a grant of 1500 acres of land
to Captain Lewis, and of 1000 acres to Captain Clark. It is upon record
that Lewis, in the spirit which had regulated all of his relations with
Clark, objected to this discrimination in his favor.

In March, 1804, before the expedition set out, the newly acquired
Louisiana Territory was divided by Congress, the dividing line being
the 33d parallel. The southern portion was named the District of New
Orleans, and the northern, the District of Louisiana; this name being
changed, a year later, to Louisiana Territory.

On March 3d, 1807, Meriwether Lewis was made governor of this
territory, with headquarters at the village of St. Louis; and this
office he held until he died, October 11, 1809, at the age of
thirty-five years.

Although his service in this position was so untimely short, he did
much toward laying a firm foundation for the institutions of lawful and
orderly life. According to Mr. Jefferson, "he found the territory
distracted by feuds and contentions among the officers of the
government, and the people themselves divided by these into factions
and parties. He determined at once to take no side with either, but to
use every endeavor to conciliate and harmonize them. The even-handed
justice he administered to all soon established a respect for his
person and authority, and perseverance and time wore down animosities,
and reunited the citizens again into one family."

In the newly organized society, events rapidly took form. Governor
Lewis, with two others (judges of the court), constituted the
territorial legislature, which concerned itself at once with matters of
development,--providing for the establishment of towns, laying out
roads, etc. In 1808 the laws of Louisiana Territory were collected and
published, under the supervision of the legislature. This was the first
book printed in St. Louis. A post-office was established also in 1808,
and soon afterward the first newspaper appeared. From a mere frontier
trading settlement, whose conduct was regulated by untamed impulses,
St. Louis was being put in the way of its present greatness.

Aside from these purely administrative duties, the governor was further
occupied in endeavoring to secure permanent peace with the Indians, and
to prepare them for receiving the advantages of civilized life. This
was his largest thought, growing naturally out of all that he had seen
and done in the years preceding; and in it he was supported and
inspired by continued association with Captain Clark, who had been
appointed Indian agent for the territory. He had plenty to do; and in
such intervals as could be found, he was preparing for publication the
history of his travels.

The manner of his death is not exactly known. Although several writers
have given their best efforts to erasing what they seem to consider a
blot upon his reputation, the weight of opinion appears to sustain Mr.
Jefferson's statement that he committed suicide while affected by
hypochondria. Mr. Jefferson wrote in his memoir:--

    "Governor Lewis had from early life been subject to hypochondriac
    affections. It was a constitutional disposition in all the nearer
    branches of the family of his name, and was more immediately
    inherited by him from his father. They had not, however, been so
    strong as to give uneasiness to his family. While he lived with me
    in Washington I observed at times sensible depressions of mind;
    but, knowing their constitutional source, I estimated their course
    by what I had seen in the family. During his Western expedition,
    the constant exertion which that required of all the faculties of
    body and mind suspended these distressing affections; but after his
    establishment at St. Louis in sedentary occupations, they returned
    to him with redoubled vigor and began seriously to alarm his
    friends. He was in a paroxysm of one of these when his affairs
    rendered it necessary for him to go to Washington."

He proceeded upon this journey, and was crossing through Tennessee when
death overtook him, at the cabin of a backwoodsman where he had stopped
for the night. Some of the circumstances point to murder, others to
suicide; the truth is conjectural. What does it matter, after all? He
had lived largely; had done a man's work; he has a noble place in

A better fortune was in store for Captain Clark. He was destined for
long and honorable service in public life, and a fair old age.

On the 12th of March, 1807, a few days following Captain Lewis's
appointment as governor of Louisiana Territory, Captain Clark was
commissioned by President Jefferson as brigadier-general of the
territorial militia, and as Indian agent. Dr. Coues says in his
excellent biographical sketch that "in those days this title was not
synonymous with 'thief,' and the position was one of honor, not to be
sought or used for dishonest purposes." Then William Clark was the man
for the place. Throughout his public life there is no stain of any sort
upon his name. With his strong, decisive, straightforward character,
which would not suffer him to yield a jot in his ideas of right and
wrong, he must have excited jealousies and made some enemies; but none
of these had the hardihood to speak against his integrity.

His best work was accomplished as Indian agent. In that position he was
in fact and in name the foster-father of all the tribes who lived in
the territory he had helped to explore. It devolved upon him to
acquaint the Indians with the nature and purposes of our government,
and to bring them into obedience to its laws. More than this, he had a
large task before him in endeavoring to reconcile the traditional
enmities of the tribes one against another. He succeeded well. He got
the confidence of the natives, and kept it; from fearing his power,
most of them came to revere the man. When all is said of the
Indians,--of their savage craft, their obliquity of moral vision, their
unsparing cruelty, and their utter remissness in most matters of
behavior, the fact remains that they know how to appreciate candor and
honor, and will respond to it as well as they are able. They are slow
to believe in wordy protestations: they must have signs more tangible.
They will not trust all men of white complexion merely because they
have found one trustworthy; each man must prove himself and stand for
himself. William Clark gave them a rare exhibition of upright,
downright manliness, and they learned to respect and love him. He was
soon celebrated from St. Louis to the Pacific, and was called by the
name "Red-Head." To this day, old men of the Rocky Mountain tribes
speak of him with fondness, saying that our government has never shown
another like him.

He was a man of iron; his was an iron rule. In that time, Indian
affairs were comparatively free from the modern bureaucratic control;
the agent devised and followed his own plans, unhampered by jealous
superiors. It has been said that Clark's office was that of an
autocrat, a condition too dangerous to be generally tolerated. Clark
was indeed an exception. The most absolute power could be intrusted to
him with implicit confidence that it would not be abused. The Indians
themselves, who were the most directly concerned, did not rebel against
his unbending authority. If he was stern, exacting the utmost, and
holding them to a strict accountability for violations of law, they
knew that his least word of promise was certain of fulfillment. They
did not find his rule too onerous under those conditions. While he held
sway, the Western Indian country was in an unequaled state of order and

Not the least of our debts to Captain Clark lies in the fact that it
was he who brought the journals of the great expedition to public view.
Captain Lewis had not been able to finish this work before his death;
most of the details of arrangement for publication fell to his
surviving companion, with the admirable editorial supervision of
Nicholas Biddle. It is often regretted that editorial revision of the
manuscripts was considered necessary; for what was thus gained
sometimes in clearness and brevity of statement was more than lost in
delicious naïveté. Mr. Biddle did his part thoroughly, sympathetically;
and it was he who succeeded in finding a publisher,--a matter hard to
accomplish in that time, troubled as it was with war and with political
and commercial uncertainty. The authentic history did not appear until
the year 1814.

Meanwhile, Captain Clark had passed to fresh honors. Following the
death of Governor Lewis, Benjamin Howard was appointed as his
successor. In 1812 the name of the territory was changed to Missouri;
and in 1813 Captain Clark was appointed by President Madison as its
governor. After being reappointed by Madison in 1816 and 1817, and by
Monroe in 1820, he surrendered his office upon the admission of
Missouri to statehood, when a governor was elected by vote of the
people. In 1822 he was named by President Monroe to be Superintendent
of Indian Affairs, and this post he held for sixteen years thereafter,
until his death.

He died as a man of his make would wish to die. He was sixty-eight
years of age, but still in harness and able to do his work. He passed
quietly away at the home of his eldest son, Meriwether Lewis Clark, in
St. Louis, on the first day of September, 1838.

_And they took of the fruit of the land in their hands, and brought
it down unto us, and brought us word again, and said, It is a good land
which the Lord our God doth give us._

The Riverside Press
_Electrotyped and printed by H. O. Houghton & Co._
_Cambridge, Mass., U.S.A._

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