It would be difficult to comprehend the miniaturized United States and vast frontiers if we looked back 200 years. Men from all over our tiny, developing country had dreams and hopes in these lands. Young and old, skilled and passionate men explored this unexplored land. Thomas Jefferson gave the order to two men, along with 29 other contemporaries.
Meriwether Clarke (the commanding officer) and William Clark (the leader of a party of 31 members) embarked in a mysterious and fortifying expedition to find and document their way from the American continent to the Pacific Ocean. They were the first white men who saw its jagged cliffs, tumbling waves, and lush beaches. They would be the ones who first reported the mystery of frontier.
Captain Lewis and Captain Clark began their expedition across the nation on May 13, 1804. The men began their journey on the Missouri River in a 54 foot boat with several small canoes. First, they would have to travel from Fort Dubois to Two-Thousand-Mile Creek to meet the Sioux Indians. They couldn’t look back as they travelled up the Missouri. This was a journey that would change the course of American history.
The journey between Fort Dubois and Two-Thousand-Mile Creek remained relatively calm. The men were surrounded as they rode on the Missouri by lush green fields, endless plains, and animals. These men would eat these animals for the rest of their lives. Prairie Dogs and Prairie Wolfs were the first animals to be seen by humans. When the men saw the animals up close, they were surprised by how similar they looked to the gray squirrels in America. But when they killed them and got closer, they realized the differences. The men made several stops along the Missouri to rest, hunt, and contact Indians. The captains, their Indian interpreters and the Sioux and Ottoes traded and spoke with each other along the way. They observed that the Indians always celebrated friendship by puffing on a tobacco pipe. The Indians were friendly with the white men, who had never seen a skin this color.
The men camped for a few days after reaching Two-Thousand-Mile Creek. They were able to see the beauty of the landscape. Around the men, there were thousands of animals. Buffalo and antelopes freely roamed around waterholes. Elk and Deer, in unprecedented numbers, waded in the same pool as these men.
After spending a few nights on Two-Thousand-Mile Creek the men started their journey to the Shoshoni Indian Camp via Lemhi River. This journey would have covered 2,300 mile, a distance so long that it would be enough to make today’s drivers shudder. This is where they encountered their first great beast. After they killed the famous white bear, Captain Clark described it as a huge and terrifying animal that required 10 balls to kill. Captain Lewis described a massive waterfall as follows: “I would like to have the pencil or pen of Thompson to be able to give to the world an idea of how magnificent and sublimely great this object …”(p.61) is. The crew and captains saw their first snow-covered peaks in the Rocky Mountains along this route.
Smoking was a way for the men to celebrate their friendship with the Indians and trade many items. The men spent a couple of days at the Shoshoni Camp, where they traded many things with the Indians and celebrated their friendships by smoking. Travelers Rest Camp was set up by the travelers at Lolo Creek’s mouth, after passing through Bitterroot. The group climbed up to the Rocky Mountains and across frostbitten terrain after trading horses with Flathead Indians. Once they crossed the mountains, the group was greeted by a vast desert without animals or any wood for canoes. Finally, the Pacific Ocean’s rumbling was heard. This sound represented immense power and total conquest. The men were stunned by the tranquility and surreal effects that nature had on them. The sharp cliffs rising from the sea, the whales that were beached, the natives on the land and the salmon rush are all amazing. The men were on these shores for almost three months. They lived off roots and caught fish. Some Indians relied on their Captains’ survival. Captain Clark, now a doctor, was caring for people who were once considered savages and had lived on America’s frontiers for hundreds of year.
The men began to return home when the weather and time were right. The two captains had been journaling in elk-skin bound notebooks all along. They were now going to share their experiences and discoveries with the community they left. First they made the trip to Musquettoe Creek in the West Side Rocky Mountains. One problem stood out, and it was mosquitoes. The pain and suffering that these West Nile Virus carriers caused was almost unbearable. The brave, intelligent, and determined men were able to overcome this challenge and reach their resting place near the Rocky Mountains. After resting for 2 months, the group was able to continue on their journey. During that time they lived in a neighboring tribe named the Chinooks. The Chinooks treated the white men very well, as did their black servant. They offered to give them horses or even kill them for food when they needed it. They gave the Indians whatever they did not have in bartering. After the next full-moon, when the mountains could be seen and were not covered with 15 feet snow, they moved. On the 30th June 1806 they crossed the Rocky Mountains over icy precipices and hills.
It was time for the final adventure. The last part seemed easier than the rest of the journey. Travelers Rest was the starting point for the voyagers. From July 3, 1806 to August 12, 1806 they were on their way. On the way to the Missouri River’s opening, the group was split. Clark and some men chose an alternate route, plotted by Lewis. Clark’s trip went smoothly. They made it through Yellowstone Park with the assistance of an Indian woman, who was the wife of a crewmember. Clark’s men and a large number of Indians came into contact and saw many animals. However, they did not encounter any problems. Lewis and the men met a band French-speaking Miniarates Indians that had a bad name. While the men were sleeping, the Indians stole the guns from the men and attempted to escape the white man’s horse. William Clark’s men and one Indian were woken up by a fight that resulted in the death of the Indian. They then took 15 Indian Horses from the thieves. After the incident, the remainder of the trip, to the rendezvous point at the mouth Missouri, was uneventful.
Clark and Lewis had reunited and were returning home. On the 23rd September 1806, Clark and Lewis, along with their crew, arrived at St. Louis in front of an amazed America. Jefferson was the only one who remembered their mission. Everyone else had given up or forgotten. Clark and Lewis then sent Washington their writings and the materials they dealt with, as well as the skeletons and new vocabulary they acquired. They were no longer heroes of war, but of the new era.
This journey by Meriwether and William Clark is vital for the survival of America. These men returned to America with the route they had taken to the Pacific. This led them to create the rest of the country.