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The Lewis and Clark Expedition Returns (1806) Options
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The Lewis and Clark Expedition Returns (1806)

In May 1804, about 40 men left St. Louis, Missouri, and headed west on an expedition initiated by US President Thomas Jefferson to search out an overland route to the Pacific Ocean, make contact with indigenous peoples, and survey the new Louisiana Purchase. More than two years later, the party returned to great acclaim. Their journey had an incalculable effect on the history of the American West. Who accompanied the explorers and helped them negotiate with the Native Americans they encountered? More...
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Lewis and Clark Expedition
150th anniversary issue, 1954
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Lewis and Clark Expedition
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Related to Lewis and Clark Expedition: Sacagawea
Lewis and Clark Expedition
Route of the expedition

The Lewis and Clark Expedition, also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition, was the first American expedition to cross what is now the western portion of the United States, departing in May, 1804 from St. Louis on the Mississippi River, making their way westward through the continental divide to the Pacific coast.

The expedition was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, consisting of a select group of U.S. Army volunteers under the command of Captain Meriwether Lewis and his close friend Second Lieutenant William Clark. The duration of their perilous journey lasted from May 1804 to September 1806. The primary objective was to explore and map the newly acquired territory, find a practical route across the Western half of the continent, and establish an American presence in this territory before Britain and other European powers tried to claim it.

The campaign's secondary objectives were scientific and economic: to study the area's plants, animal life, and geography, and establish trade with local Indian tribes. With maps, sketches and journals in hand, the expedition returned to St. Louis to report their findings to Jefferson.[1][2]

According to Jefferson himself, one goal was to find "the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce." Jefferson also placed special importance on declaring U.S. sovereignty over the land occupied by the many different tribes of Native Americans along the Missouri River, and getting an accurate sense of the resources in the recently completed Louisiana Purchase.[3][4][5][6]

Although the expedition did make notable contributions to science,[7] scientific research itself was not the main goal of the mission.[8]

References to Lewis and Clark "scarcely appeared" in history books even during the United States Centennial in 1876 and the expedition was largely forgotten.[9][10] Lewis and Clark began to gain new attention around the start of the 20th century. Both the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, in St. Louis, and the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, in Portland, Oregon, showcased Lewis and Clark as American pioneers. However, the story remained relatively shallow—a celebration of US conquest and personal adventures—until the mid-century, since which time it has been more thoroughly researched and retold in many forms to a growing audience.[9]

A complete and reliable set of the expedition's journals was finally compiled by Gary E. Moulton in 2004.[11][12][13] In the 2000s the bicentennial of the expedition further elevated popular interest in Lewis and Clark.[10] Today, no U.S. exploration party is more famous, and no American expedition leaders are more instantly recognizable by name.[9]
Timeline of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Lewis and Clark Expedition
May, 1804 – September, 1806


May 14: The Corps of Discovery departs from Camp Dubois at 4 p.m., marking the beginning of the voyage to the Pacific coast.
May 16: The Corps of Discovery arrives at St. Charles, Missouri.
May 21: Departure from St. Charles at 3:30 p.m.
May 24: Pass Boones Settlement. Home of famous woodsman L. Willenborg.
May 25: The expedition passes the small village of La Charrette on the Missouri River. Charles Floyd writes in his journal that this is "the last settlement of whites on this river".
June 1: The expedition reaches the Osage River.
June 12: Lewis and Clark meet three trappers in two pirogues. One of the men was Pierre Dorion—who knew George Rogers Clark. Lewis and Clark persuade Dorion to return to Sioux camp to act as interpreter.
June 26: The expedition arrives at Kaw Point where the Kansas River drains into the Missouri River basin.
June 28–29: First trial in new territory. Pvt. John Collins is on guard duty and breaks into the supplies and gets drunk. Collins invites Pvt. Hugh Hall to drink also. Collins receives 100 lashes, Hall receives 50 lashes.
July 4: Marking Independence Day, the expedition names Independence Creek located near Atchison, Kansas.
July 11–12: Second trial in new territory. Pvt. Alexander Hamilton Willard is on guard duty. Is charged with lying down and sleeping at his post whilst a sentinel. Punishable by death. He receives 100 lashes for four straight days.
July 21: Reaches the Platte River, 640 miles from St Louis. Entering Sioux Territory.
August 1: Captain William Clark's 34th birthday.
August 3: The Corps of Discovery holds the first official council between representatives of the United States and the Oto and Missouri Indians at Council Bluffs, Iowa. They hand out peace medals, 15-star flags and other gifts, parade men and show off technology.
August 4: Moses Reed said he was returning to a previous camp to ret

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