Meriwether Lewis and William Clark

By: Ashlan Hustava

Meriwether Lewis

  • Born August 18th, 1774 near Charlottesville, Virginia
  • William and Lucy Meriwether Lewis
  • Father died when he was 5 and mother remarried to Captain John Marks
  • Grew up on a 1000 acre plantation in Georgia
  • Played in the outdoors and explored around his plantation - began hunting alone at eight years old
  • Joined the Virginia Militia in 1793 (19 yrs old) - his commanding officer was William Clark
  • Was a good friend of Thomas Jefferson and was his personal secretary
  • After he got back from the expedition he was appointed the Governor of Louisiana Territory
  • Never married and died shortly after the expedition was over
  • Father died and so did stepfather
  • When he lived in Georgia while he explored he would often make contact with the Cherokee Indians

"I am not a coward, but I am so strong." -Meriwether Lewis

William Clark

  • Born August 1st, 1770 in Caroline County, Virginia
  • John Clark II and Anna Rogers Clark - were of either English or Scottish descent
  • Was 9/10 children and his older brother, George Rodgers Clark was an American Revolution Hero
  • Five older brothers fought in the Revolutionary War
  • Had no formal education
  • Served in the Virginia Militia in 1795 (25 yrs old) and befriended Meriwether Lewis
  • After the expedition he became the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Nations West of the Mississippi River
  • Got married to Julia Hancock and had five children (Meriwether Lewis Clark) then when Julia died he married her cousin and had three more children

“Boys, be ambitious. Be ambitious not for money, not for selfish aggrandizement, not for the evanescent thing which men call fame. Be ambitious for the attainment of all that a man can be.” -William Clark

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Most Important Contribution and Moral Decisions

  • They mapped and explored over 820,000 square miles of unknown territory
  • Lewis recorded over 200 new species of plants
  • They discovered new species such as the prairie dog, grizzly bear, antelope, and mountain goat
  • They befriended over 40 Indian Tribes and documented new culture
  • Claimed Oregon territory and Pacific Northwest for the United States.
  • Morally, each men treated everybody with respect. They believed in equality and treated York, a slave, and Sacajawea, a women, as if they were just as important in the expedition.
  • Sergeant Charles Floyd died on the expedition and they buried him and named a river after him and decided to keep on going.
  • It was illegal for York to carry his own gun, but they let him carry one.
  • When they returned to St. Louis York asked to become a freeman and Clark said no.
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Cause/Motivation of Their Success

  • They got orders from the President, Thomas Jefferson
  • They wanted to make new scientific discoveries
  • Idea of Manifest Destiny and that America ruled from ocean to ocean and superior over the Native Americans.
  • Wanted to establish trade with the Native Americans so the British and the French wouldn't try to trade with them
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Sacrifices Made

  • Each man had to drop everything and go on this expedition not knowing when they would get back and even if they would get back at all.
  • They had no idea what to expect, there was no maps, experience, or prior knowledge of this region.
  • Also they had to live in the forest away from civilization for two whole years!!
  • Even though neither men was married and didn't have a family they were leaving behind going on this expedition was sacrifice enough.

Different Time Period

  • They would have been very useful in the Age of Exploration
  • During the Age of Exploration they could have sailed across the Atlantic then explored the new world
  • Nobody knew what lied ahead of them when the sailed across the Atlantic just like they did not know what to expect when the traveled West
  • They would have been seen as fearless leaders ready to explore and claim superiority over the Native Americans.
  • After the Age of Exploration they could have had their own colony and explored land to make a settlement



  • They also would have been very useful in the 1960s during the Race to Space
  • They could have been astronauts because they were fearless
  • Going into the unknown territory of the Louisiana Purchase was much like going into space because it was unmarked territory and nobody had any idea what to expect.
  • They probably would have had better education in this time period and would have been very smart and able to be astronauts.
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Fun Facts about Lewis and Clark

  • Lewis helped deliver and Native American baby on the expedition They nicknamed him 'Little Pomp"
  • Clark had a slave named York who accompanied him on the expedition
  • They ate horses and dogs on the expedition, but Lewis's dog, Seaman, was not eaten.
  • It took them 2 years and four months to travel
  • Yorks nickname given to him by the Native Americans was Big Medicine
  • Clark names one of his sons Meriwehter Lewis Clark
  • Thomas Jeffersons first choice for leading the expedition was actually Clark's bother, George Rogers Clark but he couldn't

Historical Summation

In the article, Transcontinental Trek, the author, Roger D. McGrath, describes the events before, after, and during, the Corps of Discovery. Thomas Jefferson was always fascinated by the idea of "Manifest Destiny" and exploring the West side of the continent and so when he was elected president in 1801 he decided to send people to explore it. Jefferson bought the Lousiana Purchase in 1803 and sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the land the following winter. They brought forty or so men and set out for the Pacific Ocean. While they were exploring they met many Native American tribes such as the Nez Perce, Mandan, Flathead and the Shoshone. When stopped with the Mandan tribe, Lewis and Clark befriended a French fur trader and his Shoshone wife. The two decided to hire the fur trader to guide them to the Pacific Ocean and his wife, Sacajawea, tagged along. While they continued their trek they Sacajawea birthed a baby boy and also proved to be very useful in picking berries and keeping morale high. After Lewis and Clark reached the Pacific Ocean they decided to split up on the way back so they could explore twice the land. While hunting for elk, one of Lewis' men shot him in the butt, but luckily the wound did not get infected and he made a full recovery. Once the Corps of Discovery got back to civilization they all somewhat faded into an oblivion. Many of the members died shortly after coming back. The only member that truly stayed "famous" was Clark when he was appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs. This exploration was something never seen before in American History and these men were seen as heroes. Without this exploration Americans would have been unaware of the Western Territory and that would have been troublesome during westward expansionism.

Parallels/Conclusion

  • During the colonial time all they heard about was manifest destiny so now they could be the people to travel throughout the unknown and actually claim a lot of territory for the United States and spread coat to coast
  • Slavery was legal so Clark had and brought his slave on the expedition and did not free him when they were done
  • After living without any technology they had a hard time adjusting to civilization again.
  • Lewis had a very stressful life and was bipolar and depressed much of his life, he eventually committed suicide in 1809.
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Work Cited

  • Ambrose, Stephen E. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
  • Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.
  • Fifer, Barbara, Vicky Soderberg, and Joseph A. Mussulman. Along the Trail with Lewis and Clark. Helena, MT: Montana Magazine, 2001. Print.
  • "Lewis and Clark." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.
  • McGrath, Roger D. "Transcontinental Trek: Two Hundred Years Ago This Monty, the Lewis and Clark Expedition Reached the Pacific Ocean, Having Trekked Across What Is Now the United States." The New American. American Opinion Publishing, 14 Nov. 2005. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
  • "Meriwether Lewis." Biography of. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
  • PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
  • "William Clark | Biography - American Explorer." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2015.
  • "William Clark." Biography of. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.