Lewis And Clark Expedition

In May of 1804, two men set out on a journey hoping to document whatever could be found in the West. Meriwether Lewis, a Captain in the U.S. Army, was selected by then President Jefferson to lead the expedition. Lewis chose William Clark to aid him in his journey. William Clark had years of experience as a frontiersmen.

Lewis and Clark used waterways to make their journey West toward the Pacific Ocean. This was due to the fact that President Jefferson had commissioned the expedition with the expectation of finding a waterway route from the Missouri River all the way to the Pacific. He argued that a direct waterway would give the young country more of a stronghold in trade and commerce. Jefferson hoped that the expedition would be the key to finding a way to connect the Columbia and Missouri Rivers.

However the expedition did not always go as planned. After journeying past territories settled by Euro-Americans, Lewis and Clark frequently had clashes with Native Americans. They often had to carefully negotiate their way out of these confrontations. In a stroke of luck, the two explorers met a Frenchman named Charbonneau who was able to communicate in Native languages. His wife was a young Shoshone woman names Sacajawea. The couple were essential to the expedition’s survival. Charbonneau would translate for Lewis and Clark, and Sacajawea knew how to survive crossing the terrain in the Rocky Mountains.

As they traveled, Clark kept record of everything he saw. He drew many maps that showed all the landscapes they encountered. He included detailed accounts of food, animals, and landforms surrounding their camps. Encounters with Natives were also recorded, giving vital information for how to survive in the American Northwest.

Eventually, the Lewis and Clark Expedition managed to find a viable trade route from the existing American territories to the Pacific Ocean. They returned home in 1806 with a wealth of new knowledge. The route was not entirely a waterway as Jefferson had hoped, but it did give the go-ahead to the young American government to approve expansion westward. The maps created during the journey gave insight into the geography of the Northwest and the Rocky Mountains. They took away some strategic advantage that the native peoples had held for many years. The expedition of Lewis and Clark changed the course of American history, paving the path toward an America that could stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

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