Lewis and Clark Expedition

By: Anna Wells

What is the Lewis and Clark Expedition?

The Lewis and Clark expedition (AKA The Corps of Discovery Expedition) was the first American journey to the Western part of the United States. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the expedition. They departed in May of 1804 on the Mississippi River. They then headed Westward through the continental divide to the Pacific.
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Who Are Lewis and Clark?

Meriwether Lewis was President Thomas Jefferson's personal secretary. Jefferson chose Lewis because he was a very intelligent and literate man. He also had skills as a frontiersman. Lewis then turned to William Clark. William Clark had better skills as frontiersman that would help them on their journey. Clark was then named co- commanding captain of the expedition.

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Left is William Clark. Right is Meriwether Lewis.

Key People

Thomas Jefferson- Third President of the United States of America, principle author of the Declaration of Independence, Founding Father. Some major events that happened during his presidency are Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition.

York- William Clark's servant from boyhood. York was compelled to leave his wife and family to accompany Clark on the Lewis and Clark expedition. He was the only African American on the trip. On the Lewis and Clark expedition, York had the same freedoms as everyone else on the expedition.

Sergeant Charles Floyd- Floyd kept an uninterrupted daily record from May 1804 to August. He died a tragic and premature death. Floyd was able to judge land quality and soil conditions. When he died they were no longer able to keep records or keep check the land quality.

Toussaint Charbonneau- Charbonneau purchased two captive ShoShone women: Sacagawea and "Otter Women". These women later were to be his wives. In 1804 Lewis and Clark came to the area where Charbonneau was living. They were looking for members of the corps of discovery. Charbonneau interviewed, but they weren't overly impressed until they found out his wives were ShoShone. Charbonneau is considered to be unimportant, but because he had two ShoShone wives he was needed.

Sacagawea- Born into the ShoShone tribe in Idaho. At age 13 she was taken in to be Toussaint Charbonneau's wife. She joined her husband on the Lewis and Clark expedition and was praised for quick action when the records Lewis and Clark had been keeping went overboard. She was also useful when it came to communicating with the ShoShone tribe, she was able to translate for Lewis and Clark.

What Was The Purpose of The Expedition?

The purpose of the expedition was to explore the West. Jefferson was hesitant to further the exploration of the West when it was first presented to him. Although, after the Louisiana Purchase the need to explore was greater. Congress approved the idea and presented the money needed. With that the exploration proceeded.

How Did Their Expedition Help Us?

Lewis and Clark expanded our knowledge on Western North America. They then used this knowledge to form a cartographic image of the West we know today. They also kept records of important geographic features, longitiude and latitude, and made detailed route maps. These records helped geologists piece together the western portion of the USA. Not only did the expedition further our knowledge on the West, but it also opened up more opportunities for trade (fur and land). The impact that the Lewis and Clark expedition had was great. The expedition resulted in more resources expanding America's greatness.
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Above is the cartographic image that Lewis and Clark were able to make 50 years after their expedition.

Keeping The Peace

Keeping the peace between Native American tribes was vital if Lewis and Clark were going to have a successful journey to the West. To keep the peace they had items such as pipes, pipe tomahawks, and kettles.
Pipe- The tribal society welcomed Lewis and Clark by doing a pipe ceremony. The pipe ceremony was done by the Plain Indians. During this ceremony the Natives, Lewis and Clark shared a pipe. This meant that they were obliged to share wealth, aid in war, etc. At the end of this ceremony the pipe should have been presented to Lewis and Clark.
Pipe Tomahawk- On this artifact there is on one end a pipe to resemble peace and on the other an axe to resemble war. Lewis and Clark were instructed to bring 50 of these on their journey. These were often exchanged as diplomatic gifts.
Kettle- In the Native American culture gift-giving was an essential part to diplomacy. Lewis and Clark brought kettles and other manufactured goods on their journey to give to the Natives to show diplomacy and keep their relationships peaceful.

What Else Was Going On At This Time?

-In December of 1804 Thomas Jefferson was re-elected as President.

-Haitian Revolution: Rebellion of Haitian slaves in France. This was also known as the largest and most successful rebellion.

What Happened After the Expediton?


-Two years after Lewis and Clark arrived back from their journey to the West they set up a company called the St. Louis Missouri River Fur Company.

-Military forts were established in the late 1800's. These were made to protect workers.


-A sudden breakout in diseases like the measles made a once strong group weak and struggling to survive.

-The military forts that were made forced cultural change.

Fun Facts:

- Men on the expedition would eat up to 9 pounds of meat a day when available.

-The expedition discovered roughly 122 new animals and 178 new plants.

-The biggest tormentor on the expedition was mosquitos.

-Lewis and Clark met in Louisville, Kentucky!

What to learn more?


This website is very interactive and is great if you're interested in learning more information on the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Don't Know a Word?

Frontiersman- A person who settles in a new region. These people are able to bear harsh living conditions in order to have a better life.

Literate- A person able to read or write.

Cartography- Able to write or make a map.

Diplomacy- Skill of managing international relations.