Timeline and Interesting Facts about the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Lewis and Clark Expedition Facts | Route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition by Victor van Werkhooven

What the Lewis and Clark Expedition did in the early 19th century was that it allowed the United States to map out the entire Louisiana Territory. In addition to its numerous political and military benefits, it shone light on the vast resources that territory possessed.

The following are 15 very interesting facts about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. But first, here is a quick look at the timeline of major events during the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Timeline and Major Events

August 31, 1803: The keelboat that the explorers used in the first year was constructed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

October 1803: At the Falls of the Ohio, Lewis’ men met up with Clark’s men. The expedition team proceeded from St. Charles to present-day places such as Kansas City, Missouri, and Omaha, Nebraska.

August 20, 1804: The expedition team loses Sergeant Charles Floyd due to an acute appendicitis. Towards the end of August, the team had arrived at the edge of the Great Plains, a place rich with deer, elk and bison.

Winter of 1804/05: The team builds Fort Mandan located near Washburn, North Dakota.

May 14, 1804:  Clark’s team of explorers set off at around sunset. They made way from Camp Dubois and went up the Missouri River in a keelboat. About a week into their journey, the co-leader of the expedition, Meriwether Lewis, met up with them at St. Charles, Missouri.

1805: Lewis and Clark get acquainted with Toussaint Charbonneau and his Shoshone wife Sacagawea. Charbonneau was a French-Canadian hunter and fur trapper. He and his wife served as the expedition’s translator when interacting with the natives. Owing to couple’s help, the expedition was able to avoid a deadly confrontation with the Mandan nation. From the Snake River, the team proceeded to the Celilo Falls.

Lewis and Clark Expedition Facts | Sergeant Floyd Monument, Sioux City, Iowa, USA.

November, 1805: Before arriving at the Pacific Ocean, the team had gone through a several mountain ranges, passing areas in present-day Portland, Oregon. Towards the latter part of November 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition successfully arrived at the coast line of the Pacific Ocean.

Did you know that it took the Lewis and Clark Expedition 18 months to reach the Pacific Ocean?

November 24, 1805: The expedition moved the camp to the south side of the Columbia River. The team also constructed Fort Clatsop on the south side of the Columbia River. Shortly after the construction, the expedition flew American flag over the fort.

March 23, 1806: Journey back home begins. The expedition used canoes to go up the Columbia River.

April 11, 1806: Lewis’ dog, Seaman, temporarily gets stolen by the Natives. It is, however, returned later, avoiding any row with the natives.

July 3, 1806: Lewis and a few of the explorers explore the Marias River. Lewis’ men engage the Blackfeet nation after they were found trying to steal the expedition’s weapons. Two men from the Blackfeet nation were killed by the Captain Lewis’ men, forcing Lewis and his crew to flee the area.

September 23, 1806: Lewis and Clark Expedition team arrive back home at St. Louis, Missouri.

Visit this link to view a very interactive map that details the journey of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Major Facts about the Lewis and Clark Expedition

The 1803 Expedition led by Commanders Lewis and Clark

  • US President Thomas Jefferson’s curiosity about the unknown regions of the continent is believed to have been born around the 1780s when he served as ambassador to France. Many historians also state that the President was influenced by Captain James Cook’s A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (London, 1784).
  • The feat accomplished by the Lewis and Clark Expedition slightly fell into obscurity for the greater part of the 19th century. It only started to pick acclaim starting in the early 20th century. For example there was the Louisiana Purchase Exposition organized in 1904 at St. Louis, Missouri. The following year, at Portland, Oregon, the nation witnessed the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. In the 21st century, the history of the expedition was kept alive partly due to the extensive compilation done by Gary E. Moulton.
  • Owing to the vast area that the expedition covered, and also due to the massive resources that were uncovered, there is hardly any American expedition (or explorer) in recent history that can hold a candle to the one embarked upon by William Clark and Meriwether Lewis.
  • Captain Lewis’ interim report, A Statistical view of the Indian nations inhabiting the Territory of Louisiana, was submitted to then US President Thomas Jefferson in April 1805. The president then submitted the report to Congress.
  • Some Indian tribes proved quite a handful for the explorers. However, there were a number of Indian nations that lent the team a lot of help, including providing food and assistance in navigating through the unfamiliar region.
  • Lewis and Clark were the first Americans to cross the Continental Divide at Lemhi Pass. Additionally, they hold the record of being the first Americans to descend from the mountains to Clearwater River. They were also the first Americans to see Yellowstone and enter into Montana.
  • Much of the memory of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was kept alive using currency, postage stamps, US Navy vessels, geographic locations, and a college to honor their achievement.
  • In making the decision to move camp to the south side of the Columbia River, the expedition allowed Sacagawea (Sacajawea) and Clark’s slave York to vote. This was probably the first time where a woman and a slave was allowed to vote in the United States.

    Lewis and Clark Expedition

    Captain Lewis’ Journal entry

  • Pierre Cruzatte, a hunter in Clark’s team, mistakenly fired at Captain Lewis. The captain sustained a non-threatening injury in the thigh region.
  • The American Philosophical Society sponsored the expedition. In exchange, the society benefited greatly from the scientific data that was compiled by the expedition team. Inclusive of that data was over 200 new plant and animal species that was cataloged.
  • In the course of the expedition, the team is believed to have interacted with over 70 Native American tribes (examples are the Nez Perce, Mandans, Shoshones, and the Sioux). This allowed Commanders Lewis and Clark to provide a comprehensive report on everything about the Native American tribes, from their cultures, military strength, lifestyles, customs, and social codes.
  • Lewis’ rattlesnake’s rattle was what aided Sacagawea when she was in labor in February 1805. The child was called Jean Bapiste Charbonneau. The child’s education was later sponsored by Captain Clark. Jean went on to make a good life for himself, travelling and fur trading. He even became a mayor once.
  • The common gifts that the expedition gave out to the Natives included medals, ribbons, needles, mirrors, whiskey, and tobacco. In exchange, the Native Americans lent their assistance, food, and knowledge of the route and wilderness to Lewis and Clark.
  • The Lewis and Clark Expedition was an amazing accomplishment for the United States in the sense that it helped support the Manifest Destiny and Thomas Jefferson’s Empire of Liberty dreams. However, this triumph came at the expense of the Native Americans in the west of the country. By venturing into the Natives’ lands, the United States had unwittingly introduced communicable diseases to a very pristine culture. Those havocs went on to irreversibly damage the population and livelihood of Native Americans in the region.

Read More: The Trail of Tears Story, Death Count and Facts

  • Captains Lewis and Clark received invaluable help from a Shoshone woman called Sacajawea. Many historians and scholars have claimed that without the help of Sacajawea, the expedition’s fortunes might have been a very dire one. Sacajawea and her French-Canadian fur trading husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, offered enormous support to the expedition group.
  • Sacajawea, in her mid-teens at the time as well as pregnant, accompanied the expedition for a great chunk of the journey. The sight of an expectant mother to a large extent helped keep potential hostiles from disturbing the expedition’s mission.

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