Little Bits of History

Floyd’s Bluff

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 20, 2013
Lewis and Clark Expedition map

Lewis and Clark Expedition map

August 20, 1804: Sergeant Charles Floyd dies. The 22-year-old was quartermaster for the renowned Lewis and Clark Expedition. In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson looked westward to a land of unexplored vastness. Two-thirds of the young country’s population lived within 50 miles of the Atlantic Ocean. Interested in the other 2,750 miles to the Pacific Ocean, Jefferson hired Meriwether Lewis to be his private secretary. The two conspired in secret to explore the western lands.

In 1803, a cash-strapped Napoleon sold a parcel of land to the US for three cents per acre. Now with 828,000 square miles more territory, westward exploration became even more important. Captain Lewis was selected to head the expedition. Lewis chose Lieutenant (later Captain) William Clark as his right hand man. The two shared leadership, although technically, Clark was second in command.

The expedition, officially called Corps of Discovery, received their mission statement and $2,500 (≈ $95,000 in 2009 USD) in funding (eventually it would cost a total of $38,000 or nearly $1.5 million in 2009) on June 20, 1803. Preparation for the journey was extensive and took place at Camp Dubois on the Mississippi River. The expedition finally began on May 14, 1804 and returned on September 23, 1806. There were close to 50 men from all four corners of the new nation involved in the trek. They traveled in a keelboat measuring 55 feet long and 8 feet wide and two smaller boats. Sailing, rowing, poling, and sometimes even wading through the mud along the banks and dragging the boats upriver was tedious. They averaged fourteen miles per day.

Charles Floyd was first taken ill towards the end of July. On July 31, he seemed to be improving. Soon he was again ill and died “with a great deal of composure.” He was thought to have succumbed to “bilious colic” but doctors today say it was more likely to have been something else. His original pain was likely due to acute appendicitis, the reprieve came when the appendix ruptured, and then he died from the ensuing peritonitis. There was no known cure for this at the time. He was buried on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River – Floyd’s Bluff.

“I am verry sick and has been for Sometime but have Recovered my helth again.” – Charles Floyd’s diary entry for July 31, 1804

“There is no curing a sick man who believes himself in health.” – Henri Amiel

“The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” – Voltaire

“The symptoms of disease are marked by purpose, and the purpose is beneficent. The processes of disease aim not at the destruction of life, but at the saving of it.” – Frederick Treves

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The appendix is a blind ended pouchlike structure of the colon. It is termed vestigial in humans because it has lost all or most of its functions through the process of evolution. It may have some function in maintaining gut flora or the immune system. When it becomes blocked it becomes inflamed and the resulting condition is called appendicitis. There is a chronic condition in which the inflammation comes and goes and it is self-contained. However, acute appendicitis is treated with surgery. The preferred method, today, is to laproscopically remove the inflamed organ via three small incisions used as portals for the instrumentation and the camera needed to see what is going on inside the patient. Prior to the invention of the minimally invasive procedure, a laparotomy or open incision was made in the lower abdomen and the appendix removed.

Also on this day: Boom Record – In 1882, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture premieres.
Disgruntled Worker – In 1986, Patrick Sherrill kills 14 at the Edmonton post office.
Thar She Blows – In 1910, the Big Blowup took place.

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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Lewis and Clark

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 14, 2010

Lewis and Clark route

May 14, 1804: The Lewis and Clark Expedition leaves from Camp Dubois near Hartford, Illinois at 4:00 PM on a trip that lasts a little more than 28 months and covers about 8,000 miles. President Thomas Jefferson needed someone to explore the new territory acquired with the Louisiana Purchase and journey west to the Pacific Ocean. The groundwork for the Louisiana Purchase was laid in 1801 with the treaty signed on April 30, 1803 and actual possession being passed on in a ceremony at St. Louis on March 10, 1804.

Preparation for the military expedition began in the spring of 1803. Thirty-three men and one dog made the entire journey. Only one casualty was suffered, Sergeant Charles Floyd died of appendicitis on August 20, 1804.  The lands explored by the Corps of Discovery were not unknown to the nearly fifty Native American tribes who helped the travelers on their way.

During the winter of 1804-05, the party wintered at Fort Mandan in present-day North Dakota. Sacagawea and her French-Canadian husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, joined the group as guides to points further west. In April 1805, part of the Corps was sent home with reports showing discovery of 108 botanical as well as 68 mineral specimens. Station Camp, at the mouth of the Columbia River as it empties into the Pacific Ocean in present day Oregon, was occupied from November 15-25, 1805. With another winter approaching, where to camp became in issue. They retreated inland to Point William further inland on the Columbia River from November 27-December 7 and then moved to Fort Clatsop, Oregon until March 23, 1806.

Saltmaking Camp was established on the Pacific coast and was occupied by a few privates who were sent to the edge of the ocean to get much needed salt for the expedition. They were completely out of salt when the privates returned with a gallon of sea salt. For the next six weeks, 1,400 gallons of water were boiled down to create 28 gallons of salt. On March 23, 1806, the explorers broke camp and began the strenuous journey back home.

“Commerce is always preceded by explorers. We now have Yellowstone Park but long before you had Yellowstone Park, you had to have Lewis and Clark map the Louisiana purchase.” – Kevin Gray

“We wouldn’t be standing here today talking about Lewis and Clark if it weren’t for many different American Indian nations that Lewis and Clark met.” – Jeff Olson

“Life affords no higher pleasure than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes and seeing them gratified.” – Samuel Johnson

“The ultimate camping trip was the Lewis and Clark expedition.” – Dave Barry

Also on this day, in 1939 Lina Medina became the youngest mother on record at age 5.

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