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Contents:
  1. Expedition from May 14, 1804, to October 16, 1805
  2. Lewis and Clark
  3. Explorers: Lewis and Clark

While examining Indian pictographs on rocks soaring three hundred feet above the Missouri River, he slipped and fell twenty feet before stopping himself. About a year later, in June , incessant rain made the route through the Rockies dangerous and slippery.

Expedition from May 14, 1804, to October 16, 1805

Windsor was prostrate on his stomach with his right arm and leg dangling over the precipice. He was barely holding on with his left arm and foot. Lewis calmly directed Windsor to use his right hand to take his knife out of his belt, dig a hole for his right foot to support himself, and crawl to safety. Foot injuries were particularly common because of rough terrain that was frequently laden with prickly pear cacti.

Lewis and Clark

In his journal entry dated June 3, , Lewis writes:. Those who have remained at camp today have been busily engaged in dressing skins for cloathing, notwithstanding that many of them have their feet so mangled and bruised with the stones and rough ground over which they passed barefoot, that they can scarcely walk or stand; at least it is with great pain they do either. For some days past they were unable to wear their mockersons. The ten-mile portage required eleven days and four trips to transport supplies and boats. While wintering on the west coast, the expedition members sewed pairs of new moccasins to counteract the cold and cacti that they would face on the return journey.

In spite of their preparation the travelers suffered on the trip home. The men routinely used axes, knives, and adzes. Not surprisingly, they occasionally suffered from self-inflicted lacerations. John Potts badly cut his leg on the return journey, and Lewis had difficulty stopping the bleeding until he applied pressure. Horses were indispensable to the men for transportation and as a source of food, but also were associated with accidents.

On the journey home George Gibson fell while mounting his horse and landed on a snag that penetrated two inches into his thigh. Lewis was thrown off the horse backwards and slid forty feet before he grabbed a branch and stopped himself from going further down the steep side of a high hill. A month and a half before his return to St.

He was hunting elk with Peter Cruzatte, a nearsighted private. Lewis describes the incident in his journal:. I was in the act of firing on the Elk a second time when a ball struck my left thye about an inch below my hip joint, missing the bone it passed through the left thye and cut the thickness of the bullet across the hinder part of the right thye; the stroke was very severe. I took off my cloaths and dressed my wounds myself as well as I could, introducing tents of patent lint into the ball holes, the wounds blead considerably but I was hapy to find that it had touched neither bone nor artery.


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Lewis suspected Cruzatte had fired the shot, but Cruzatte did not answer his calls. Lewis then assumed that an Indian had injured him. The expedition members were exposed to extreme weather conditions and wild animals. They suffered cold and frostbite, survived hailstorms, tolerated endless days of rain, and endured blowing sand.

Able to carry only a small portion of the food for their journey, the men were dependent upon their hunting skills and sufficient game.

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Their diet was frequently inadequate in variety or quantity. With temperatures dipping to 45 degrees below zero it is not surprising that a number of the expedition members suffered frostbite during their residence at Fort Mandan, located in present day North Dakota.


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One cold and stormy November day a group led by Lewis searched for game and were stranded on a sand bar. The Ice running against their legs. Their close froze on them. One of them got 1 of his feet frost bit. I have been wet and as cold in every part as I ever was in my life, indeed I was at one time fearfull my feet would freeze in the thin mockersons which I wore. The following month another party was out on the prairie, and both Ordway and Clark note the occurrence of frostbite. Ordway writes that two men had frostbitten feet and another a frostbitten ear.

Clark records that it was one degree below zero. In future years his descendents could be found among the Indian tribes along the path of the expedition. Minnetaree Village in Winter by Karl Bodmer, PD-US, Wikimedia.

Thomas Jefferson, Westward Expansion, and Lewis & Clark - History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration

On June 29, , Clark, Charbonneau , and Sacagawea were in a ravine when they narrowly escaped a violent flash flood. The time spent on the west coast was particularly difficult because of the combination of wet and cold.

Patrick Gass notes that there were only twelve days without rain from November 4, , to March 25, In the spring of the expedition was near the Yellowstone River. Animals were crucial to the success of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Horses were vital for transportation and hauling loads. Deer, buffalo, elk, pheasants, rabbit, prairie dogs, wild turkeys, and beaver were hunted for food and pelts.

Hugh McNeal treed by a bear by Patrick Gass. Grizzly bears were a source of more than one frightening experience. Taking a bear down often required multiple shots with muzzle-loaders that took a minute to prime and fire.

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Explorers: Lewis and Clark

William Bratton shot a bear through the lungs, but it chased him for half a mile before collapsing. Hugh McNeal was sent to inspect a cache on the return journey and was thrown off his horse in front of a grizzly bear. Unable to fire, he clubbed the bear with his gun, climbed a tree, and waited for the bear to leave before retrieving his horse and returning safely to camp. The expedition had to contend with rattlesnakes.

In Montana, John Ordway accidentally grabbed one as he was reaching for a towing line caught in bushes but escaped unharmed. I killed the snake. They traveled up the Missouri to present-day Three Forks, Montana, wisely choosing to follow the western-most tributary, the Jefferson River. This route delivered the explorers to the doorstep of the Shoshone tribe, who were skilled at traversing the great rock mountains with horses.

Once over the Bitterroot Mountains, the Corps of Discovery shaped canoe-like vessels that transported them swiftly downriver to the mouth of the Columbia, where they wintered at Fort Clatsop, on the present-day Oregon side of the river. With journals in hand, Lewis, Clark, and the other members of the Expedition returned to St. Louis by September to report their findings to Jefferson. Along the way, they continued to trade what few goods they still had and set up diplomatic relations with Native American tribes.

Additionally, they recorded their contact and described and at times drew the shape of the landscape and the creatures of this western world that were new to them. In doing so, they fulfilled many of Jefferson's wishes for the Expedition. Along the way, William Clark drew a series of maps that were remarkably detailed, noting and naming rivers and creeks, significant points in the landscape, the shape of river shore, and spots where the Corps spent each night or camped or portaged for longer periods of time.

Later explorers used these maps to further probe the western portion of the continent. The Expedition of the Corps of Discovery shaped a crude route to the waters of the Pacific and marked an initial pathway for the new nation to spread westward from ocean to ocean, fulfilling what many Americans would claim to be their obvious destiny. Over the next two centuries, new Americans and many immigrants would wash across the central and western portions of what would eventually become the contiguous 48 United States.

This wave of settlement would significantly transform virgin forests and grasslands into a landscape of cities, farms, and harvested forests — displacing fauna such as the buffalo and squeezing the Native American tribes who survived onto reservations. Links go to DocsTeach, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives. Agreement to Pay France for the Louisiana Purchase. Students will learn that the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory in and President Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to explore west of the Mississippi River in — though the land was already inhabited and politically complicated.

Students will plot these documents on a historic map of the West.