Lewis and Clark Expedition Written by: Maya Eiben

Key Players

Many people journeyed with Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their expedition. These people had different specialties that could assist Lewis and Clark whilst on the expedition; these specialists included: Sergeants, interpreters, U. S. soldiers, boatmen, and commanders. Some of the key players include Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, York, Sacagawea and Sergeant Patrick Gass.

Meriwether Lewis

Meriwether Lewis: He was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, on August 18, 1774. Growing up there, Lewis became fond of the wilderness as a child, which would set a pathway to his expedition he would embark on later in his life. At the age of twenty, Meriwether Lewis joined the militia. Soon after, he joined the U. S. Army in 1794, and in 1800, Lewis became a captain in the army, then he served as paymaster of the First Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army. Later, in 1801, President Jefferson appointed Lewis as his secretary. Previous to being his secretary, Lewis was Jefferson's protege, so the two had bonds with one another. President Jefferson then directed Lewis to be the leader of the expedition and Lewis appointed William Clark to serve with him in the expedition. During the expedition, Lewis was considered the naturalist, for he collected the flora and fauna to take with them, and he was trusted with the job of presenting the Native American leader with gifts in order to make peace with them.

William Clark

William Clark: He was born in Virginia (near Lewis and Jefferson) on August 1, 1770. While growing up, he was taught about the wilderness and natural history by his older brother, George. When he was nineteen years old, he joined the Kentucky Militia, but like Lewis, he enlisted in the U. S. Army and became a lieutenant. In the year of 1795, Clark was promoted to the rank of captain. He and Lewis met while serving in the military, which later led to Lewis inviting Clark to be a co-commander on the expedition. While on the expedition, Clark was known as the cartographer, or the map maker. He included important new information, and conversations between several traders and Indians they encountered. He measured distances, mapped geological features, and made many important maps between landmarks, and those about the flora and fauna species they had encountered.

York: York was a black slave to William Clark. He had been passed down from John Clark (William Clark's father) to William, and York was his life-long slave companion. Because of this relationship, Clark brought York when he was invited to the expedition and York served astonishingly. During the expedition, he did as he was told and aided the expedition by doing his duties. York was seen as very physically able, having strength. He was also the hunter within the expedition group. He kept the group safe, and even saved Sacagawea, her son, and her husband's life during a storm.

Sacagawea: She was a Shoshone Native American whom was married to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trader, after being sold to him when she was young. When the Corps of Discovery came to the Hidatsa-Mandan village, they met Charbonneau and Sacagawea. She soon gave birth to her son, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau. After that, Charbonneau and Sacagawea became the interpreters for the Corps of Discovery -- Charbonneau speaking French and Sacagawea with the Native Americans. She also contributed to the expedition by gathering edible plants, berries and digging up roots for food or medicine. She also had relations with the Shoshone chief, who turned out to be her brother. This allowed the Corps of Discovery to purchase horses from the Shoshone, which let them have easier travel. As an interpreter, she could make peace with other tribes who were hostile, because she was a woman accompanied by a baby, which was usually perceived as not being part of a hostile group. In addition to being the interpreter, Sacagawea was a guide, for she was able to remember Shoshone trails from when she was a child that proved to be useful in many situations.

Patrick Gass: He was born in Pennsylvania on June 12, 1771. He decided to join the U. S. Army in 1789, then was promoted to sergeant. He was serving under Captain Russell Bissell when he was invited by Lewis to join the Corps of Discovery expedition. He was taken so that he would replace the fallen Sergeant Charles Floyd. He was a carpenter, so he assisted in building Camp Dubois, Fort Mandan, and Fort Clatsop while on the expedition. He was also chosen to lead the eighteen mile journey down to the Missouri River waterfalls with the remaining men, after Lewis and Clark had decided to travel back in three different groups.

Expedition Accomplishments

Even though Lewis and Clark had originally embarked on this expedition to find a Northwest Passage, they ended up with many accomplishments. After their journey across the country from Missouri to the Pacific Ocean, Lewis and Clark had mapped the route of their expedition. Along the way, they also made many good relations with the Western Indians they came across-- such as the Shoshone Tribe, Mandan Tribe, Hidatsa Tribe, Clatsop Tribe and many more. Finally, once the expedition was over and Lewis and Clark returned, they brought back information about the West, its people, and the new plant and animal species they discovered. In the end, Lewis and Clark didn't find the Northwest Passage they were searching for, yet they returned with many important accomplishments that greatly impact the information about the West we have today.


Along their journey, Lewis and Clark faced many hardships. To start off, Lewis and Clark came across many Native American tribes along the expedition; some of these tribes were peaceful and some were not. So, instead of making peace like they had wanted (they would make peace by presenting the Chief with a medal, flag, red coats, cocked hats with feathers, goods and tobacco), they also had to face the hostile tribes. Even before the land segment of the expedition began, the Corp of Discovery had several difficulties when sailing. The currents they sailed on could be too strong, they would sail into rapids, or waterfalls, which could lead to individuals drowning, or the ship would get set off course. Not only that, but sometimes their food sources could become scarce. This could happen because grizzly bears or other animals would raid their camp, or the game there wouldn't be apparent.

Plant & Animal Species Discovered

When on their expedition, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark journeyed across unknown land, and because of this, Lewis and Clark discovered many new plant and animal species. Occasionally, they gathered samples of furs, plants and birds to take back from their journey. Several of the plant and animal species are listed below.

  • Bigleaf Maple - Acer macrophyllum
  • Description: It has the largest leaves of all maple trees, the tree starts from small to big with rounded crown and spreading branches.
  • Height: It can grow from 30-70 feet tall.
  • Diameter: It can grow 1-2.5 feet.
  • Flowers: The flowers are long and yellow, and can be fragrant.
  • Habitat: They generally appear in stream banks moist canyon soil in Southern California to Southwestern British Colombia.
  • Needle and Thread Grass - Stipa comata
  • Description: It has cylindrical flowering stems, barely woody, it's hollow between its joints, it has clusters of flowers and its leaves are mostly basal.
  • Fruit: Grain
  • Habitat: It is mostly found in temperate regions, such as tropical areas.
  • Coyote - Canis latrans
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Lifespan: Up to fourteen years
  • Size: (Head-to-body) 32-37 inches; (tail) 16 inches
  • Weight: 20-50 pounds
  • Habitat: Originally in open prairies and deserts, they can now be found in mountains and forests.
  • Sea Otter - Enhydra lutris
  • Diet: Carnivore
  • Lifespan: Up to twenty-three years
  • Size: Four feet
  • Weight: 65 pounds
  • Habitat: They live along the coasts of the Pacific Ocean in North America and the coast of Asia.

Route of the Expedition

  • They left from St. Louis Missouri in May 1804.
  • They headed north and west up the Missouri River in boats.
  • By the fall of 184, they had reached the territory of Mandan Sioux in North Dakota. Clark and Lewis were welcomed by the Native Americans there -- the Hidatsa -- and they spent their winter with them as allies.
  • They built a fort there near present-day Bismarck, North Dakota.
  • In spring 1805, the explorers reached Montana.
  • There they began their trek on land, abandoning their boats.
  • They crossed broad, high prairies.
  • The Shoshone Indians provided food and information of routes to the Corps of Discovery.
  • They crossed the Bitterroot Range of the Rocky Mountains in Idaho.
  • Lewis and Clark traveled down to the network of rivers that lead to the Pacific.
  • They traveled by canoe from the Clearwater River to the Snake River, and then to the Colombia River.
  • Lewis and Clark followed the Colombia River westward to the Pacific Ocean.
  • They built winter quarters near Astoria, Oregon.
  • The quarters were called Fort Clatsop, after the Native Americans in that region.
  • Lewis gathered samples of furs, plants and birds to take back from the journey.
  • During the expedition, Lewis recorded observations on Native Americans -- he wasn’t impressed with Clatsop compared to the more civilized Mandan and Shoshone tribes.
  • In Spring of 1806, Lewis and Clark embarked to return back to the East.
  • When they reached Montana, Lewis and Clark separated.
  • Lewis went to the Marias River in North Montana and Clark went to the Yellowstone River in South Montana on the way back.

Items and Tools Taken on the Journey

In order to be prepared for an expedition, Lewis and Clark had to take items and tools in order to map, study and survive the journey. They brought along many items, such as a surveyor's compass, telescope, thermometers, plotting instruments, handsaws, hatchets, a chronometer, two sextants and many more tools.

Lewis and Clark's compass

Compass: A compass is used for navigating. It has a compass rose that shows North, East, South and West, and it's always pointed North so that a person can navigate by following the point in the direction they wish to follow.

Chronometer: A chronometer is used for navigation purposes. It can be used with astronomical observations to determine longitude.


Sextant: A sextant is used for measuring distances between objects with an angle. It has a 60⁰ arc with a tool for sighting purposes.

Works Cited

For more information about the expedition of Lewis and Clark, visit these websites used below.


Created with images by skeeze - "coyote wildlife nature" • minicooper93402 - "OMG otter"

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.