Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Explorers of the Americas: Lewis and Clark

Note: Third in a series of fictional journalism accounts of the people who explored America 

Lewis Clark and Sacajawea explore the Louisiana Purchase

October 9, 1806, From Washington D.C.: On May 14, 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out on the first coast-to-coast expedition to travel through the interior and to the western portion of the United States. Their objective was to find an overwater route to reach the Pacific Ocean, while taking note of every new species and specimen found. Many times Lewis would wander off alone taking note of specimens, disregarding any potential danger. One expedition member says that Lewis nearly killed himself - by falling down a cliff - as early as Day Two of the trip.

They also came into contact with many native tribes of the continent. When the two set out, they were given strict orders by President Jefferson to be friendly with them. In the winter of 1804, they stayed with the Mandan tribe to survive the five months of bitter cold. The captains hired a Shoshone interpreter named Sacagawea to help guide them through the land. Along with her infant son, Jean Baptiste (“Little Pomp”) on her back in a papoose, Sacagawea traveled with the expedition. She helped the Captains reach the Pacific by leading them through the land and negotiating with the tribes they came across. Without her help, they would not have been successful.

Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea on the Columbia River
Lewis and Clark on the Columbia River
Charles Marion Russell [US Public domain]
Nearly 17 months after setting out, they reached the Pacific Ocean. After they waited out four more bitter months of winter at Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark started back to St. Louis. With their trail notes to guide their return, this journey was a much shorter six months. When they passed by the Mandan tribe’s village, the pair said their farewells to Sacagawea and Little Pomp. The two arrived back in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 23, 1806. Lewis had described in his journal 107 different plants and 122 animals, which is being sent to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for discussion and study. Clark submitted a map of the land traveled to President Jefferson to be used to guide further expeditions. Both have been appointed governors of new American territories: Lewis in the Louisiana territory, Clark in the Missouri territory.

Map of Lewis and Clark's Track, Across the Western Portion of North America.
by Merriweather Lewis and William Clark
US Public Domain

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