Lewis and Clark Expedition
In 1804 President Thomas Jefferson asked his secretary, Meriwether Lewis, and William Clark to take a group of military men to explore lands obtained by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. This land was bought from France.
Two interpreters went with them. Toussaint Charbonneau was French. His wife Sacagawea was Indian and could speak to the Native Americans they might meet. Soldiers called the Corps of Discovery also went as well as Charbonneau's young son and Clark's slave. A dog named Seaman went with the group also. Only one soldier died on the trip.
The expedition lasted 2 years. The President wanted them to study all the different forms of plant life and animals. He also wanted to know about the possibilities for trade in that area. They were also to study the climate and weather and keep journals of everything they saw and learned. They were asked to talk about trade with the Indians along the Missouri River.
The trip cost much more than the President had set aside. He had planned on $2,500, but it really cost $38,000. The expedition left from an army camp near St. Louis, Missouri. They traveled in a keelboat, canoes and dugout boats.
The expedition took along instruments like compasses and sextants. The travelers of course had problems with wild animals, mountains, and raging rapids in rivers. Their trip covered 8,000 miles. They reached the Pacific Ocean in November, 1805, after leaving St. Louis in May, 1804.
Lewis and Clark brought back 140 maps of the region, samples of plants, rocks and fossils. They made a catalog of all the animals they saw. They also set up good relations with the Native Americans they met along the way.
The men in the Corps of Discovery were very skilled hunters and outdoorsmen. They had the knowledge and artistic abilities to make records of everything they saw. They brought medicine and small gifts to the Indians. They also brought Indian Peace Medals with a picture of President Jefferson on them.
The expedition saw buffalo, panthers, grizzly bears, coyotes, wolverines, elks, prairie dogs, mountain goats and many other types of animals. The animals provided food for the explorers throughout the expedition.
Sacagawea was born about 1790 in a Shoshone village. She was kidnapped when she was 12 and sold as a slave to Toussaint Charbonneau, a French fur trapper. She later married him. After the expedition, her husband was given money and land as a thank you gift.
Meriwether Lewis was born in Virginia. For 2 years Thomas Jefferson got him ready for this expedition by having him study plants and animals and navigation. William Clark was also from Virginia but moved to Kentucky when he was 14. After the deaths of Sacagawea and her husband, he took care of their children. He also became governor of the Missouri Territory in 1813.
Thomas Jefferson is thought to have been one of the most intelligent men in the history of the United States. It was due to his tremendous love for learning that he decided to send out the expedition to explore the land he had purchased for the United States.
Lewis and Clark Expedition Timeline
Lewis and Clark Expedition Facts
Meriwether Lewis Timeline
William Clark Timeline
Westward Expansion Timeline
USA History Facts for Kids
North Dakota Facts
Mount Rainier Volcano Facts
To link to this Lewis and Clark Expedition page, copy the following code to your site: