Lewis and Clark: Adventurers into the Unknown West

Roshan Patel
Mrs. Boone
English 8-AL
19, April, 1999

On May 21, 1804, the history of America would be altered once again. A group of men led by Lewis and Clark would embark on a mission to explore the west, unseen by white men. Thomas Jefferson organized an expedition that would explore the western region of America, try to find a water source running to the Pacific, and build the gateway for western expansion. The explorers traveled up the wide Missouri by keelboat and barge, across Idaho\'s swirling river rapids, over the snowy splendor of the Continental Divide, to Oregon\'s gleaming Pacific shore (Gilbert 882- caption). The Lewis and Clark expedition earned its place as one of the most famous explorations of time, and the factors that increased its fame in America were the preparations for the expedition, the route of the expedition, and its benefits.
A jigsaw puzzle of ideas and dreams interlocked to form the Lewis and Clark expedition similar to the growth of an acorn into a tree. Thomas Jefferson sent a secret message to Congress stressing the commercial benefits of the expedition (Duncan 8). He believed that America would benefit commercially by discovering a water passage through North America (Encarta CD-ROM). The President also told the ambassadors of France, Spain, and England that the expedition would be entirely scientific. The British and French ambassadors granted the United States permission to cross their territories, but Spain refused (Duncan 8). "At last, in early 1803, Jefferson\'s persistent dream of exploring the West- for the sake of science, commerce, and the national interest- seemed about to be fulfilled" (Duncan 8).
The Lewis and Clark expedition was given the name the Corps of Discovery by the President himself. To lead what he called his Corps of Discovery, President Thomas Jefferson turned to his personal secretary, Meriwether Lewis. "Capt. Lewis is brave, prudent, habituated to the woods, & familiar with Indian manners" (Duncan 8). In turn, Lewis chose William Clark as an equal "who would take over the full leadership should anything happen to him" (Snyder 15).
The men who were recruited for the expedition were chosen in the same manner as the co-leaders themselves. Lewis later wrote to Clark, telling him of the expedition and asking him to help find "some good hunters, stout, healthy, unmarried men, accustomed to the woods, and capable of bearing bodily fatigue in a pretty considerable degree" (Snyder 15). Lewis and Clark recruited many civilian hunters, army soldiers, and French boatmen to prepare for the expedition (Encarta CD-ROM). The Corps of Discovery, comprising of Lewis, Clark, and the other recruited men, left St. Louis, Missouri after months of preparation in a fifty-five foot long keelboat, the Discovery, an enormous towboat named the Pathfinder, and several additional smaller boats (Snyder 33). Gerald Snyder described the departure of the Corps of Discovery in the book In the Footsteps of Lewis and Clark:
At four o\'clock in the afternoon - with no more fanfare than the boom of a bow gun and a few huzzahs from \'neighboring inhabitents\' along the bank - the last of a fleet of three boats swung out from the mouth of Wood River, some 20 miles north of St. Louis in Illinois Country. Crossing the broad Mississippi, the vessels \'proceeded on under a jentle brease up the Missourie\' (33).
The Corps of Discovery, comprising of about forty-eight men, had begun a quest to the West (Encarta CD-ROM). Ben York and Sacajawea were indeed helpful during meetings with Indians. "Ben York, Clark\'s Negro servant, sits amidships. He was a helpful ambassador; the Indians\' curiosity about his color often overcame their fear of his companions" (Everhart 647). Along the way, Sacajawea, her husband Charbonneu, and her son Baptiste would join the Corps of Discovery. Sacajawea "reconsiles all the Indians, as to our friendly intention," Clark wrote, "a woman with a party of men is a token of peace" (Everhart 646). This Corps of Discovery had begun a journey of perils and everlasting dangers.
President Thomas Jefferson made himself busy preparing for the Lewis and Clark expedition. He drafted and signed a letter for Lewis to keep, promising that the United States government would repay any goods taken or used in case of emergency (Duncan 14). He also developed