On the journey westward, there 50 people that started out on the Lewis and Clark expedition. This group of people were called the Corps of Discovery. The group was assembled and funded by President Thomas Jefferson. One of the captains of the group, Meriwether Lewis, was Jefferson's secretary and was a former U.S. soldier. The other captain was William Clark. Clark was invited by his best friend, Lewis, to join the expedition. In Iowa, the group encountered the Teton Sioux Native American tribe who slept in teepees and hunted buffalos. Another Native American tribe they encountered were the Mandan Native Americans who lived in Earth lodges. They also farmed and traded corn with Lewis and Clark's group. During the winter of 1804, the corps stayed with the Mandan Indians in Fort Mandan. Clark's slave, York, was very useful to the team as well. The team depended on his hunting and fishing skills to survive. Also he was dark skinned which helped the group befriend and communicate with Indians. Another important key player that helped the Corps of Discovery was Sacagawea. Sacagawea was an indian girl who was part of the Shoshone Indian tribe. Her brother, Great Chief Cameahwait, was the leader of the Shoshone people. The Corps found her and her people in 1804 in what is today known as Montana. Sacagawea helped the team to communicate with Indians and create a positive relationship between the team and her people. The Shoshone Indians also gave horses to the corps to help them cross the Rocky Mountains.
Items and Tools Taken
The corps of discovery took many things on their journey westward to help them survive. Peace and Friendship Medals were taken by the group to befriend Native Americans. The chiefs would wear these medals around their necks. The medals were primary made of silver or brass and about 6 inches in diameter. The team also took well equipped Medicine chests that contained more than 20 remedies. The expedition started with 3 boats that all carried clothing, tools, guns, food, and medical supply. The largest boat they traveled in was a keelboat that was 55 feet long with square sails and 22 oars. Also, the corps took many items to trade with Indians such as beads, ribbons, American flags, fish hooks, needles, combs, red face paint, gunpowder, and bullets.
Peace and Friendship Medal
The Route Taken
The corps of discovery were initially sent by President Jefferson to explore the newly purchased Louisiana Territory, and to find a Northwest Passage through America. This passage would be very useful for trade and transportation through the North American Continent. Although they went to find this, the men were never able to find such a passage. The group started at the Missouri River near St. Louis on May 18, 1804 with 50 men and 3 boats. Next, they traveled up the Missouri River through Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Throughout their journey, they met many Indians. In August 17, 1805 they reach the Rocky Mountains and borrowed horses from the Shoshone Indians. After they had crossed the Rocky Mts., they reached there final destination at the Pacific Ocean and Fort Clatsop fro the winter in November 7, 1805. On the journey back in 1806, Lewis and Clark split the group to find a quicker route through the Rocky Mountains. Lewis led one group and Clark led the other. The group met at the Missouri River after crossing the Rocky Mts. Finally, on September 23, 1806 the group returned home. The round trip was a total of 7,700 miles. The journey took 1 year, 5 months, and 24 days to reach the Pacific Ocean. However, the group managed to travel back in only 6 months since they were anxious to tell about their discoveries.
Even though there was many positive experiences on the Lewis and Clark journey, the team faced hardships as well. The team was hit by a violent tornado in Spring of 1804 which damaged some of their supplies. Also, the team faced many mosquitos that Lewis called in his writings "troublesome." Along with this, the men were affected by the disease called Dysentery that is the inflammation of the intestine. The team was affected by this because they drank muddy water from rivers and streams. Another problem the team faced was the Blackfeet Indians. This groups of Indians sought to steal from the corps in the Rocky Mts. in late July 1806. In the conflict, two Blackfeet Indians were killed and some supplies were stolen from the corps. Later in the Rocky Mountains, Lewis was shot in the thigh by one of his own men during a hunt. Even though he was injured, Lewis survived the journey back.
Plant and Animals Discovered
There were many new species of plants and animals that Lewis and Clark's men discovered on their journey westward. In June 5, 1805, Lewis discovered the Sage Grouse which is a brown bird that forages the ground and mainly eats sagebrush and other plants and insects. The team also saw many pelicans, prairie dogs, and buffalo in the summer of 1804. These animals didn't live near the eastern coast, so they were a brand new species to the Corps of Discovery. Lewis estimated in his writings that he saw at least 3,000 buffalo. The plant the Purple Prairie Clover was discovered which is a Missouri native prairie clover that generally grows in open glades. Another plant discovered was Snakeweed which is a flowering plant in the daisy family that blooms in the fall. Buffalo berry was also found and it is a thorny, small shrub that produces berries.
Throughout their journey west, Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery made accomplishments that affected the United States. One accomplishment the the team made was that they created a trails for settlers to follow. Many people in the United States had not seen the land that lay to the west in the Louisiana Territory since the territory was just newly discovered. By following the Corps of Discovery's trails, the people were able to feel more at ease when traveling west. The team also was able to map out the Louisiana Territory. As they traveled, the team was able to gather information from the landscape and the people that were living there. They drew 140 maps and collected 30 maps from Native Americans, Traders, and Fur Trappers. As well as this, the group was able to set up some trade with the Native Americans. Finally, the team also proved that the Northwest Passage through the United States did not exist.
- ISBN: 98-0-7613-5226-6
- ISBN: 157572744-7