Little Bits of History

Go West

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 31, 2012

Lewis and Clark Expedition map

August 31, 1803:  Meriwether Lewis leaves Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Lewis and Clark’s expedition officially ran from 1804-1806 and they were tasked with reaching the Pacific Ocean and finding out exactly what the young nation had purchased from France. Lewis, a US Army Captain, and William Clark were both from Virginia and veterans of the Ohio wars with the natives. They were in search of a path from the East Coast to the West and hopefully would be able to find the always dreamed of Northwest Passage – a water route across North America.

President Jefferson had long held a dream of exploring this vast region between the two shores and with the purchase of the land from France, his dream could come true. The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 brought 828,000 square miles of territory under US control. The treaty was signed on April 30 and almost immediately there were plans to explore the region as well as let the Indians living there know the Americans were now in charge. The President chose two men to lead the Corp of Discovery. Lewis left to prepare for their journey making the trip from Pittsburgh (then called the Gateway to the West) to Camp Debois – a distance of about 600 miles – and met up with Clark so they could start planning their trip.

The items brought from Pittsburgh were specially struck silver medals bearing the image of President Jefferson and a message of peace and friendship. These were to be given to natives along the way and were called Indian Peace Medals. They also brought an air rifle along that was powerful enough to kill a deer. This display of military power was also to let those along the route know of American might. Other arms were also brought along as were flags, cartography equipment, gift bundles and medicines. The discovery mission was more than simple discovery.

They left camp to begin their journey on May 14, 1804. The mission suffered one casualty, when Sgt Floyd died of appendicitis three months into the trip. During the arduous mission, Lewis and Clark drew about 140 maps, recorded more than 200 plants and animals that were new to science, and noted at least 72 separate native tribes. They made notes on the regions landscapes as well as astronomy, climate, mineral deposits, weather, and all flora and fauna. They managed to return to St. Louis on September 23, 1806 having covered 7,689 miles.

Left Pittsburgh this day at 11 ock with a party of 11 hands 7 of which are soldiers, a pilot and three young men on trial they having proposed to go with me throughout the voyage.

January 1st 1804 Snow about an inch deep Cloudy to day, a woman Come forward wishing to wash and doe Such things as may be necessary for the Detachmt Several men Come from the Countrey to See us & Shoot with the men.

Monday 14th 1804 a Cloudy morning fixing for a Start Some provisions on examination is found to be wet rain at 9 oClock many of the neighbours Came from the Countrey mail and freemail rained the greater part of the day, I set out at 4 oClock to the head of the first Island in the Missouri 6 Miles and incamped, on the Island rained.

September 23rd 1806 we rose early took the Chief to the publick store & furnished him with Some clothes &c. took an early breckfast with Colo. Hunt and Set out decended to the Mississippi and down that river to St. Louis at which place we arived about 12 oClock. we Suffered the party to fire off their pieces as a Salute to the Town. – all from journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Also on this day:

Who Was He? – In 1888, Mary Ann Nichols was brutally murdered.
Try This – In 1900, Coke was first sold in England.
Fairy Tale’s End – In 1997, Princess Diana is killed in a car crash.

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