The Lewis and Clark Expedition

More of this Feature

• Part 2: Two Guides for the Price of One
Part 3: There and Back Again
Part 4: The Journey Home

On This Site

Meriwether Lewis
William Clark
The Louisiana Purchase
American History Glossary
Book Review: How We Crossed the West

Part 1: Friends Get Ready to Go

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were the leaders of an expedition to explore the vast unknown territory west of the Mississippi River. They were friends who also happened to know President Thomas Jefferson. (Lewis was, in fact, Jefferson's private secretary at the time.)

Their job was to learn as much as they could about the new territory. They kept detailed notes in journals, and they brought and sent back examples of hundreds of new species of animals and plants.

Both Lewis and Clark had served in the army, and they were familiar with exploring and with Native Americans. They were not, however, familiar with the territory they were about to see.

Relying on their skills as soldiers and leaders, they planned to take a team of about 30 on the long journey, from the Missouri Territory to the source of the Columbia River. During the winter of 1803-1804, Lewis and Clark assembled their team. Among them were 14 other soldiers; nine frontiersmen from Kentucky; two French boatmen; and Clark's servant, York.

On May 14, 1804, the expedition officially began, with the teams sailing up the Missouri River from a point near St. Louis. They stopped from time to time, then reached the Dakota Territory near wintertime. They decided to build a fort and stay for the winter.

Next page > Two Guides for the Price of One > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

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Social Studies for Kids
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David White