From their journals. President Thomas Jefferson in 1803 asked his private secretary, Lewis, to locate the fabled Northwest Passage. Lewis enlisted the help of his old military superior, Lieutenant Clark. Prior to their departure, Lewis received a crash course in the natural sciences; Clark modified their keelboat and drilled the men. For their successful 8,000-mile expedition, Lewis and Clark were each awarded 1,600 acres of public land.
May 14, 1804
I set out at 4 oClock p.m. in the presence of many of the Neighbouring inhabitents, and proceeded on under a jentle brease up the Missourie. —William Clark
I observed a great number of Parrot queets [Carolina parakeets, now extinct] this evening. —W.C.
Capt. M. Lewis & W. Clark constituted themselves a court martial. Alexander Willard was brought forward Charged with “Lying down and Sleeping on his post whilst a Sentinal.” Sentence him to receive One hundred lashes on his bear back, at four different times in equal propation. —W.C. & Meriwether Lewis
They [the Tetons] offered us women, which we did not except. —W.C.
The Inds much astonished at my black Servent, telling them that before I cought him he was wild & lived upon people, young children was verry good eating. —W.C.
A French man by name Chabonah, informed us his 2 Squars were Snake Indians, we engaged him to go with us and take one of his wives [Sacagawea] to interpret the Snake language. —W.C.
I with 15 men turned out and killed 8 buffalow & one Deer. This day being cold Several men returned a little frost bit; my Servent’s feet also frosted & his P—s a little. —W.C.
April 24, 1805
The wind blew so hard during the whole of this day, that we were unable to move… Soar eyes is a common complaint. I believe it origenates from the immence quantities of sand. We are compelled to eat, drink, and breathe it freely. —M.L.
This is the upsetting and narrow escape of the white perogue. In this perogue were embarked our papers, Instruments, books, medicine, a great part of our merchandize, and in short almost every article indispensably necessary to insure the success of the enterprize in which we are now launched to the distance of 2,200 miles. —M.L.
Aztecs’ long march, from the Boturini Codex, c. 1540. National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City, Mexico.
Bluff is a smooth even sheet of water falling over a precipice of at least eighty feet. I wished for the pencil of Salvator Rosa or the pen of Thompson that I might be enabled to give the enlightened world some just idea of this truly magnifficent and sublimely grand object, which has from the commencement of time been concealed from the view of civilized man. —M.L.
Our men nearly all Complaining of ther bowels, a heaviness at the Stomach & Lax. Some of those taken first getting better. Men complaining of their diet of fish & roots. —W.C.
A chief directed his wife to hand him his medison bag which he opened and Showed us 14 fingers which he Said was the fingers of his enemies and Securely put them back, haveing first made a Short harrang which I Suppose was bragging of what he had done in war. —W.C.
Ocian in view! O! the joy. —W.C.