MAY 14 = Lewis and Clark Begin…..

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“Rained the fore part of the day. I determined to go as far as St. Charles, a French village seven leagues up the Missouri, and wait at that place until Captain Lewis could finish the business which he was obliged to attend to at St. Louis,, and join me by land from that place (24 miles). I calculated that if any alterations in the loading of the vessels or other changes were necessary, they might be made at St. Charles.”

– Captain William Clark, May 14, 1804

So begins one of the earliest entries in the Journals of Lewis and Clark.  It was on this day, May 14 in 1804 that Captains Lewis (above left) and Clark (above right) began their truly epic journey across the entire western part of our country along with 33 men who constituted their group called “the Corps of Discovery.”

Thomas Jefferson and the Louisiana Territory

President Thomas Jefferson had effectively doubled the size of the United States with his “Louisiana Purchase” in 1803.  So he prevailed upon his own private secretary, Merriweather Lewis to lead a band of intrepid explorers on a journey of exploration of this vast, and largely un-explored chunk of the North American continent to basically see what was there.  Officially the Corps was to explore the area and map

its topography, its features (rivers, mountains, etc.), to note the flora and the fauna to be found growing there, as well as the wildlife, and also to find out and (hopefully) make friends with whatever indigenous tribes they found along the way.  But what Jefferson was really hoping to find was a water route across the continent. So with 33 men in his group, and with Captain Clark helping him to organize the whole thing, Lewis traveled to St. Louis to set things up, leaving Capt. Clark to actually begin the journey. Here is part of Clark’s journal entry for the day before:

“Boats and everything complete, with the necessary stores of provisions and such articles of merchandise as we thought ourselves authorized to procure – though not as much as I think necessary for the multitude of Indians through which we must pass on our road across the continent.”

–  Captain Clark, River Dubois opposite the mouth of the Missouri River, 13 May 1804

They were indeed about to travel on foot, horseback, and boat ALL the way across the unknown interior of the continent which was the brand new country, the United States of America, and other than some educated guess work, they had no idea what they were going to find.  And they certainly did not know what sort of people they would find along the way, let alone whether they would turn out to be friendly to these strange new visitors to their world. So naturally Clark was concerned about what they would do when they met them. What they would find, and whom shall be the subject of future “Today in History” postings.  For today though, Clark made a late start, but a start nevertheless:

“I set out at 4 o’clock, P.M., in the presence of many of the neighboring inhabitants and proceeded under a gentle breeze up the Missouri to the upper point of the first island, 4 miles, and camped on the island.”  

– Captain Clark, 14 May 1804

Sources:

“The Journals of Lewis and Clark” by Merriwether Lewis and William Clark, Shamrock Eden Publishing. Kindle Edition

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_and_Clark_Expedition

 

 

 

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