Excerpts from expedition's journals

Posted: Monday, January 13, 2003

EDITOR'S NOTE -- Spelling is as originally written.

The journals of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark are many things -- legal documents, whose precisely drawn maps helped define U.S. boundaries; scientific reports, with detailed descriptions and even drawings of many previously unrecorded species; and literature of a uniquely American kind.

Some excerpts:

''Set out at 4oClock P.M, in the presence of many of the neighboring inhabitents, and proceeded on under a jentle brease up the Missouri ...''

-- May 14, 1804, Clark, at the mouth of the Missouri.

''I commence Copying a Map of the river below to Send to the President U.S.''

-- July 23, 1804, Clark.

''A pt. (party) of Otteau and Missourie Nation Came to Camp, among those Indians 6 were chiefs ... Capt. Lewis and myself met those Indians & informed them we were glad to see them, and would speak to them tomorrow, sent them some roasted meat, Pork, flour & meal, in return they sent us Water millions.

''Every man on his Guard & ready for any thing.''

-- Aug. 2, 1804, Clark, near the mouth of the Platte River.

''Serjeant Floyd is taken verry bad all at once with a Biliose Chorlick (bilious colic, now presumed to be infected appendix). we attempt to relieve him without success as yet, he gets worse and we are much allarmed at his Situation, all attention to him...''

-- Aug. 19, 1804, Clark. (The next day, Sgt. Charles Floyd became the only member to die on the expedition. He was buried ''with the honors of war'' above a river named for him at present-day Sioux City, Iowa.)

''Before sunrise I set out with six of my best hunters... passed a grove of plumb trees loaded with fruit and now ripe... the shortness and virdue of the grass give the plain the appearance throughout it's whole extent of beautifull bowling-green in fine order. ... A great number of wolves of the small kind, halks (hawks) and some pole-cats were to be seen. ...

''This senery already rich pleasing and beatiful was still farther hightened by immence herds of Buffaloe, deer, Elk and Antelopes which we saw in every direction feeding on the hills and plains. I do not think I exagerate when I estimate the number of Buffaloe which could be comprehended at one view to amount to 3000.''

-- Sept. 17, 1804, Lewis, in present-day South Dakota.

''Raised a Flag Staff & made an orning (awning) or Shade on a Sand bar in the mouth of the Teton River, for the purpose of Speeking with the Indians ... Met in Council at 12 oClock and after Smokeing, agreeable to the usual Custom, Cap. Lewis proceeded to deliver a Speech which we were obliged to curtail for want of a good interpreter. All our party paraded. Gave a Medal to the Grand Chief ...

''(Trouble began after another chief declared )he had not received presents Suffient from us ... three of their young Men Seased (siezed) the Cable of the Perogue (in which we had presents, &c.) ... the 2d Chief was verry insolent ... his justures were of Such a personal nature I felt My self Compeled to draw my Sword (and Made a Signal to the boat to prepare for action). At this motion Capt. Lewis ordered all under arms in the boat, those with me also Showed a Disoposition to Defend themselves and me, the grand Chief then took hold of the roap & and ordered the young Warrers away. ...

''Most of the warriers appeared to have their Bows strung and took out their arrows from the quiver.''

-- Sept. 25, 1804, Clark, near present-day Pierre, S.D.

''On my return, found many Indians at our camp. Gave the party a dram. They danced, as is very common in the evening... The chief of the Mandans sent a second chief to invite us to his lodge to receive some corn and hear what he had to say. I walked down and, with great ceremony, was seated on a robe by the side of the chief. He threw a handsome robe over me, and after smoking the pipe with several old men around, the chief spoke:

Said he believed what we had told them, and that peace would be general, which not only gave him satisfaction but all his people: they could now hunt without fear, and their women could work in the fields without looking every moment for the enemy; and put off their moccasins at night.''

-- Oct. 31, 1804, Clark, at the Mandan villages near present-day Bismarck, N.D.

''We continued to cut Down trees and raise our houses. A Mr. Chaubonie ... Came to See us ... This man wished to hire as an interpreter.'' (This was Toussaint Charbonneau, who would join the expedition, bringing his wife, Sacagawea.)

-- Nov. 4, 1804, Clark, preparing quarters at Mandan villages where the party would stay until spring.

''Trees all covered with ice, cloudy, all the men move into the huts which is not finished... Men imployed untill late in dobing (daubing: filling between logs with clay).''

- Nov. 16, 1804, Clark.

''At about 8 oClock P.M. the thermometer fell to 74 degrees below the freesing pointe.''

-- Dec. 17, 1804, Clark.

''attempt to Cut our Boat and Canoos out of the Ice, a deficuelt Task ... I bleed the man with the Plurisy to day & Swet him, Capt. Lewis took off the Toes of one foot of the boy who got frost bit...''

-- Jan. 27, 1805, Clark.

''About five oClock this evening one of the wives of Charbono (Sacagawea) was delivered of a fine boy.

''it is worthy of remark that this was the first child this woman had boarn, and as is common in such cases her labor was tedious and the pain violent; Mr. Jessome informed me that he had frequently administered a small portion of the rattle of the rattle-snake ... He administered two rings of it to the woman broken in small pieces with the fingers and added a small quantity of water.

''Whether this medicine was truly the cause or not I shall not undertake to determine, but I was informed that she had not taken it more than ten minutes before she brought forth.''

-- Feb. 11, 1805, Lewis.

''Capt. Clark embarked with our party and proceeded up the River. as I had used no exercise for several weeks, I determined to walk on shore as far as our encampment of this evening.

''Our vessels consisted of six small canoes, and two large perogues. This little fleet altho' not quite as rispectable as those of Columbus or Capt. Cook, were still viewed by us with as much pleasure as those deservedly famed adventurers ever beheld theirs; and I dare say with quite as much anxiety for their safety and preservation.

''We were now about to penetrate a country at least two thousand miles in width, on which the foot of civilized man had never trodden ... and these little vessells contained every article by which we were to expect to subsist or defend ourselves. however ... I could but esteem this moment of my departure as among the most happy of my life.''

-- April 7, 1805, Lewis, leaving Mandan villages.

''Although the game is very abundant and gentle, we only kill as much as is necessary for food. I believe that two good hunters could conveniently supply a regiment with provisions.''

-- April 27, 1805, Lewis, approaching the Yellowstone River.

''Killed the Bear (a grizzly), which was a verry large and turrible looking animal ... the largest of the carnivorous kind I ever saw.''

-- May 5, 1805, Clark, in present-day Montana.

''It was the most tremendious looking animal, and extreemly hard to kill Notwithstanding he had five balls through his lungs and five others in various parts he swam more than half the distance across the river to a sandbar, & it was at least twenty minutes before he died...

Capt. Clark thought he would weigh 500 lbs. for my own part I think the estimate too small by 100 lbs. he measured 8 Feet 7 1/2 Inches from the nose to the extremity of his hind feet, 5 F. 10 1/2 Ins. around the breast... his tallons ... 4 3/8 inches in length.''

-- May 5, 1805, Lewis.

''These bears, being so hard to die, rather intimidate us all. I must confess that I do not like the gentlemen and had rather fight two Indians than one bear.''

-- May 11, 1805, Lewis.

''Charbono was at the helm ... and is perhaps the most timid waterman in the world... In this perogue were embarked our papers, Instruments, books, medicine ... in short almost every article indispensibly necessary ... to insure the success of the enterprize in which we are now launched to the distance of 2,200 miles...

''The Perogue was under sail when a sudon squawl of wind struck her obliquely, and turned her considerably, the steersman allarmed, in stead of puting her before the wind, lufted her into it... (Both Lewis and Clark watched helplessly from shore.) ...

''Charbono still crying to his god for mercy, had not yet recollected the rudder, nor could the repeated orders of the Bowsman, Cruzat, bring him to his recollection untill he threatend to shoot him instantly if he did not take hold of the rudder and do his duty.''

-- May 14, 1805, Lewis, in present-day Montana. (Two days later, he credits Sacagawea: ''The Indian woman, to whom I ascribe equal fortitude and resolution with any person onboard at the time of the accedent, caught and preserved most of the light articles which were washed overboard.'')

''... anxiety with respect to the Snake Indians. If we do not find them or some other nation who have horses, I fear the successful issue of our voyage will be very doubtful... We are now several hundred miles within the bosom of this wild and mountainous country...''

-- July 27, 1805, Lewis, in the Rockies, present-day Montana.

''McNeal ... exultingly stood with a foot on each side of this little rivulet and thanked his god that he had lived to bestride the mighty and heretofore deemed endless Missouri.''

-- Aug. 12, 1805, Lewis, near the Continental Divide.

''Snow about 2 inches deep when it began to rain which termonated in a Sleetstorm.''

-- Sept. 3, 1805, Clark, crossing the Bitterroot Range of the Rockies, near today's Idaho-Montana line.

''I have been wet and as cold in every part as I ever was in my life, indeed I was at one time fearfull my feet would freeze in the thin Mockirsons which I wore... Killed a Second Colt which we all Suped hartily on and thought it fine meat.''

-- Sept. 16, 1805, Clark, in the Bitterroots.

''Nothing to eate except dried fish & roots... Finished and lanced (launched) 2 of our canoes this evening ... Our hunters with every diligence Could kill nothing.''

-- Oct. 5, 1805, Clark, in present-day Idaho.

''I continue verry unwell but obliged to attend every thing all the Canoes put into water and loaded, fixed our Canoes as well as possible and Set out... proceeded on passed 10 rapids which wer dangerous.''

-- Oct. 7, 1805, Clark, on the Clearwater River.

''We concluded to Make a portage of our most valuable articles and run the canoes thro... Great numbers of Indians viewing us from the high rocks under which we had to pass, the 3 first canoes passed through very well, the 4th nearly filled with water, the last passed through by takeing in a little water, thus Safely below what I conceived to be the worst part of this chanel felt my self extremely gratified and pleased.''

-- Oct. 25, 1805, Clark, on the Columbia River, near The Dalles, Ore.

''Ocian in view! O! the joy.''

-- Nov. 7, 1805, Clark, from his field notes.

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