10 facts about The Lewis and Clark

By: Josiah Goulding

Fact #1: Only 1 Casualty

Only one person died during the expedition due to natural, non-violence related causes. Sgt. Charles Floyd died only three months into the expedition with Lewis and Clark. He would've died even if he was in Philadelphia, because the best medicine wasn't good enough to tread his condition. Sgt. Charles Floyd died in August 19, 1804.
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Fact #2: Lewis served as Thomas Jefferson's Secretary.

In 1801, Lewis left the army and accepted an invitation to serve as Thomas Jefferson’s presidential secretary. Lewis had known Jefferson since he was a boy—he’d grown up on a Virginia plantation only a few miles from Monticello—and the pair went on to forge a mentor-protégé relationship while working together in the White House. When Jefferson conceived of his grand expedition to the West in 1802, he immediately named the rugged, intellectually gifted Lewis as its commander. To help the young secretary prepare, Jefferson gave him a crash course in the natural sciences and sent him to Philadelphia to study medicine, botany and celestial navigation.

Fact #3: Lewis and Clark’s arsenal included an experimental air rifle.

The Corps of Discovery carried one of the largest arsenals ever taken west of the Mississippi. It included an assortment of pikes, tomahawks and knives as well as several rifles and muskets, 200 pounds of gunpowder and over 400 pounds of lead for bullets. Lewis also had a state-of-the-art pneumatic rifle he used to impress Indian tribes on the frontier. After pumping compressed air into the gun’s stock, he could fire some 20 shots—each of them almost completely silent. Despite being armed to the teeth, most of the explorers never had to use their weapons in combat. The lone exception came during the return journey, when Lewis and three of his soldiers engaged in a gun battle with Blackfeet Indians that left two natives dead.

Fact #4: The Spanish sent soldiers to arrest the expedition.

Jefferson often described Lewis and Clark’s expedition as a scientific mission to study the lands acquired in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, but the explorers’ central goal was to find a water route to the Pacific, which would increase trade opportunities and help solidify an American claim on the far Northwest. That was distressing news for the Spanish, who feared the expedition might lead to the seizure of their gold-rich territories in the Southwest. On the suggestions of U.S. Army General James Wilkinson—a Spanish spy—the governor of New Mexico dispatched four different groups of Spanish soldiers and Comanche Indians to intercept the explorers and bring them back in chains. Luckily for Lewis and Clark, the hostile search parties failed to locate them in the vastness of the frontier.