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Capt. Lewis and Clark's Party of Discovery - Expedition to the Pacific Ocean

Taken From the 1805 The Centinel,  Gettysburg, PA 
and the 1806 Sprig of Liberty, Gettysburg, PA


Taken From the The Centinel, Gettysburg, PA
July 24, 1805

Lexington (Kentucky) June 18

The party of discovery, under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, left the mouth of the Missouri on the 16th day of May, 1804. An express with dispatches from their winter quarters, which left them the 14th of April, has returned to St. Louis. By this express, letters were received from Captain Clark to his correspondent in Kentucky. A gentleman, from Jefferson county has oblidgingly favoured the Editor of the Kentucky Gazette, with the following account, which he obtained from one of the men who returned with the express, and from letters from some of the party.

They fortified themselves in November last, on the bank of the Missouri, 1609 miles from the mouth by actual measurement, in latitude 47, 21 north, called then Fort Mandane, after a nation of Indians who reside in the neighborhood, and who have been very friendly to them. On their passage up they were delighted with the beautiful appearance of the country for about 200 leagues, or to the mouth of the river La Pate, which comes in from the south; after which, to their winter quarters, it is described not to be so fertile. The person who brought the dispatches speaks of the opening made by the river being about one mile wide with high cliffs on each side. The bed of the river occupies about a fourth part of it, the remainder of the bottom entirely composed of coarie sand covered with cotton wood. This bottom is continually giving away either on one side or the other, and gaining on the opposite side.

The cliffs in some places are covered with red cedar, which with the cotton, and a few small black ash trees, is the only timber described to be in that country. From the height there is not a tree or twig to be seen, as far as the sight can extend, or as these have explored. Out from the river, the land goes off perfectly, with but one exception - and the plains covered with grass. They passed the mouths of a number of streams, the most of which had names given by the French. One they have named, Floyd's River, to perpetuate the name of a young man, of their party, named Charles Floyd, who died, much regretted, on the 20th August.

They represent the Indians to have been friendly, with but a few exceptions. The Soux are the most numerous, are organized in bands, having different names, move about from place to place, from the banks of the river out to the plains, in pursuit of game and plunder, having no fixed place of residence, and in a continual state of warfare. These were the most troublesome Indians to the party of discovery, as they expressed a jealousy, lest they would supply their enemies, higher up with arms &c. The higher up they went, the more friendly they found the savages, and the better armed. They have a more regular trade with the North West Company, and Hudson Bay Company; which supplies come to them by the way of Lake Winnepeck. The Mandans cultivate corn, which is of a small kind, from whom the party was supplied during the winter, and their hunters kept them in abundance of meat.

Buffaloes are said to be in great numbers, and of large size. Two descriptions of deer are described; those resembling the common kind of this country being larger, and their tails 18 inches long and the hair much longer on their bodies; the other having a black tail. Elks and goats are numerous. The grouse or prairie hen, are in plenty; and before the closing of the river in the fall, water fouls in abundance. Fish scarce, and those principally of the cat kind. Some of the white bear-skins had been brought to the fort by visiting Indians from higher up; but the party had seen none of those animals. The Indians keep horses, which are used entirely for the chase, and in war.

From such information as they have received of the country above there, it is about 600 miles to the great falls , which are made by a ledge of mountains, called Rocky Mountains, in which it is presumed the Missouri terminates. At their winter quarters, the river is nearly a quarter of a mile wide; is equally as muddy as at its mouth, and had continued its rapidity with very little alteration, as high as they have gone, though it is considerably more shallow, so that they will not be able to take their barg any higher.

From what information they have obtained of the course of the upper part of the river, the most are at the northwardly part. From where they wintered to the falls is nearly a fourth course. The description given by McKenzie, of the head waters of the river, is accurate.

They have sent on the the President of the United States, an accurate Journal, with a map of the country through which they have passed.

Six of the party were sent back - the party now consistes of 28 men, exclusive of the two officers. They have enjoyed perfect health - not having been sick, except the unfortunate young man before mentioned, and was taken off in a few hours with a cramp in his stomach. The greatest friendship has existed with the party; and the men who have returned, speak in the highest terms of the humanity and uncommon pains and attention of both the captains, Lewis and Clark, towards the whole of them; and that they left them in good spirits, fully convinced they would winter on the Pacific Ocean.

They were told of six nations of Indians they would have to pass, before they would arrive at the falls, from only one of which they apprehended any difficuly. They are called the Snake Tribe, and reside high up.

Curiosities of different kinds, live beasts, birds, several boxes of minerals, a pair of uncommon ram horns, from the Rocky Mountains, scions of a new discovered berry, called the buffaloe berry, &c. have been brought on by the returned party, and deposited with the commanding officer at St. Louis, to be sent by him to the President.

We expect in a few days further particulars relative to his interesting voyage.

Taken From the Sprig of Liberty, Gettysburg, PA
November 28, 1806

Frankfort, Kentucky, October 9

We congratulate the public at large and the particular friends of Messrs Lewis and Clark and their enterprising companions, on the happy termination of an expedition, which will doubtless by productive in incalculable commercial advantages to the western country, at no very distant future; improve our geographic knowledge of those hitherto unexplored regions; and assist the government of the union in estimating the true value of those boundaries which we claim by the purchase of Louisiana. Whatever differences of opinion may exist on this point, we are persuaded all think and feel alike on the courage, perseverance and prudent deportment displayed on this adventurous party. They are entitled to and will receive the plaudits of their countrymen.

By the mail of this morning, we have received from an obliging friend, the following letter from Captain Clark to his brother, General Clark near Louisville. Captain Clark did not perhaps intend it for publication; but to gratify in some measure, the impatient wishes of his countrymen, the General was prevailed upon to permit its appearance in our paper of today.

St. Louis, 23 September 1806,

Dear Brother,

We arrived at this place at 12 o'clock today, from the Pacific Ocean, where we remained during the last winter, near the entrance of the Columbian River. This station we left on the 27th of March last, and should have reached St. Louis early in August, had we not been detained by the snow which barred our passage across the Rocky Mountains until the 24th of June.

In returning through those mountains, we divided ourselves into several parties, digressing from the route, by which we went out, in order to more effectually explore the country, and discover the most practical route which does exist across the continent by the way of the Missouri and Columbia rivers; in this we were completely successful, and have therefore no hesitation in declaring, that such as nature has permitted, we have discovered the best route across the continent of N. America in that direction. Such is that by way of the Missouri to the foot of the Rapids below the Great Falls of that river, a distance of 2575 miles, thence by land passing by the Rocky Mountains, to a navigable part of the KoosKooske 340 miles, and with the KoosKooske 73 miles, Lewis's River 154, and the Columbia 413 miles to the Pacific Ocean, making the total distance from the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi to the discharge of the Columbia into the Pacific ocean, 3556 miles.

The navigation of the Missouri may be deemed good - its difficulties arise from its falling banks, timber imbedded in the mud of its channel, its sand bars and the steady rapidity of its current, all which may be overcome with a great degree of certainty, by using the necessary precautions.

The passage by land of 340 miles from the falls of the Missouri to the KoosKooske, is the most formidable part of the track proposed across the continent. Of this distance, 200 miles is along a good road, and 140 miles over tremendous mountain, which for 60 miles are covered with eternal snows. A passage over these mountains is, however practicable, from the latter part of June to the last part of September; and the cheap rate at which horses are to be obtained from the Indians of the Rocky mountains and west of them, reduce the expenses of transportation over this portage to a mere trifle.

The navigation of the KoosKooske, Lewis's River, and the Columbia, is safe and good from the 1st of April to the middle of August, by making three portages on the latter river. The first of which indescending is 1200 paces at the falls of Columbia 261 miles up the river, the second of two miles at the long narrows, 6 miles below the falls, and a third, also of two miles at the great rapids 65 miles still lower down. The tide flows up the Columbia 183 miles, and within 7 miles of the great rapids. Large sloops may with safety ascend as high as tide water, and vessels of 300 tons burthen, reach the entrance of the Multomah river, a large southern branch of the Columbia, which takes its rite on the confines of New Mexico, with the Callorado and Apostle's rivers, discharging itself into the Columbia 125 miles from the entrance into the Pacific ocean.

I consider this tract across the continent of immense advantage to the fur trade, as all the furs collected in nine tenths of the most valuable fur country in America, can be conveyed to the mouth of the Columbia, and shipped from thence to the East Indies, by the first of August in each year; and will of course reach Cario (sp?) earlier than those which are annually exported from Montreal arrive in Great Britain.

In our outward bound voyage, we ascended to the foot of the rapids below the Great Falls of the Missouri, where we arrived on the 14th of June 1805. Not having met with any of the natives of the rocky mountains, we were of course ignorant of the passes by land, which existed through those mountains to the Columbia river; and had we even known the route, we were deficient of horses, which would have been indispensably necessary to enable us to transport the requisite quantity of ammunition and other stores to ensure the remaining part of our voyage down the Columbia; we therefore, determined to navigate the Missouri, as far as it was practicable, or unless we met with some of the natives, from whom we could obtain horses and information of the country. Accordingly we undertook a most laborious partage at the falls of the Missouri, of 13 miles, which we effected with our canoes and baggage by the 3d of July.

From hence ascending the Missouri, we penetrated the rocky mountain at the distance of 71 miles above the upper part of the portage and penetrated as far as the three forks of the river, a distance of 180 miles further; here the Missouri divides into three nearly equal branches at the same point. The two largest branches are so nearly of the same dignity, that we did not conceive that either of them, could with propriety retain the name of the Missouri; and therefore called these streams, Jefferson's, Madison's and Gallatin's rivers. The confluence of those rivers, is 2848 miles from the mouth of the Missouri, by the meanders of that river. We arrived at the three forks of the Missouri the 27th of July. Not having yet been so fortunate as to meet with natives, although I had previously made several exertions for that purpose, we were compelled still to continue our route by water.

The most northern of the three forks, that to which we had given the name of Jefferson's river, was deemed the most proper for our purpose, and we accordingly ascended it 248 miles, to the upper forks, and it's extreme navigable point; making the total distance to which we had navigated the waters of the Missouri 3096 miles, of which 329 lay within the rockey mountains.

On the morning of the 17th of August 1805, I arrived at the forks of Jefferson's river, where I met captain Lewis, who had previously penetrated with a party of three men, to the waters of the Columbia, discovered a band of the Shoshone nation, and had found means to induce 35 of their chiefs and warriors to accompany him to that place. From these people we learned that the river on which they resided was not navigable, and that a passage through the mountains in that direction was impracticable; being unwilling to confide in this favorable account of the natives, it was concerted between captain Lewis and myself, that one of us should go forward immediately with a small party, and explore the river; while the others in the interim would lay up the canoes at that place, and engage the natives with their horses to assist in transporting our stores and baggage to their camp.

Accordingly I set out the next day, passed the dividing mountains between the waters of the Missouri and Columbia, and descended the river which I since called the east fork of Lewis's about 70 miles. Finding that the Indians account of the country in the direction of this river was correct, I returned and joined captain Lewis on the 29th of August at the Shoshone camp, excessively fatigued as you may suppose; having passed mountains almost inaccessible, and compelled to subsist on berries during the greater part of our route.

We now purchased 27 horses of the Indians, and hired a guide, who assured us that he could in fifteen days take us to a large river in an open country west of these mountains, by a route some distance to the north of the river on which they lived, and that by which the natives west of the mountains, visit the plains of the Missouri, for the purpose of hunting buffalo. Every preparation being made we set forward with our guide on the 31st of August, through those tremendous mountains, in which we continued until the 22d of September, before we reached the lower country beyond them; on our way we met with the Olelachshoot, a band of the Tuchapaks, form whom we obtained an accession of seven horses and exchanged eight or ten others; this proved of infinite service to us, as we were compelled to subsist of horse beef about eight days before we reached the KoosKooske.

During our passage over those mountains we suffered every thing which hunger, cold and fatigue could impose; nor did our difficulties with respect to provision, cease on our arrival at the Kooskooskee, for although the Pailotepallers a numerous nation inhabiting that country, were extremely hospitable, and for a few trifling articles furnished us with abundance of roots and dried salmon, the food to which they were accustomed; we found that we could not subsist of these articles, and almost all of us grew sick on eating them - we were obliged therefore to have recourse to the flesh of horses and dogs as food to supply the deficiency of our guns, which produced but little meat, as game was scarce in the vicinity of our camp on the Kooskooske, where we were compelled to remain in order to construct our pirogues to descend the river. At this season the salmon are meager and form but indifferent food. While we remained here I was myself sick for several days, and my friend captain Lewis suffered a severe indisposition.

Having completed four peregues and a small canoe, we gave our horses in charge to the Pallorepallors until we returned, and on the 7th of October embarked for the Pacific Ocean. We descended by the route I have already mentioned. The water of the river being low at this season, we experienced much difficulty in descending, we found it obstructed by a great number of difficult and dangerous rapids in passing of which our peregues several times filled, and the men escaped narrowly with their lives. However this difficulty does not exist in high water, which happens with the period which I have previously mentioned. We found the natives extremely numerous and generally friendly, though we have on several occasions owed our lives and the fate of the expedition to our number, which consisted of 31 men.

On the 17th of November we reached the ocean, where various considerations induced us to spend the winter; we therefore searched for an eligible situation for that purpose, and selected a spot on the fourth side of a little river called by the natives Netul, which discharges itself at the small bar on the south side of the Columbia, and 14 miles within point Adams. Here we constructed some log houses, and descended them with a common stockade work; this place we called fort Clatsop, after a nation of that name who were our nearest neighbors.

In this country we found an abundance of elk, on which we subsisted principally during the last winter; we left fort Clatsop on the 27th of M arch. On our homeward bond voyage, being much better acquainted with the country we were enabled to take such precautions as in a great measure secured us from the want of provisions at any time, and greatly lessened our fatigues, when compared with those to which we were compelled to submit in our outward bound journey. We have not lost a man since we left the Mandans, a circumstance which I assure you is a pleasing consideration to me. As I shall shortly be with you, and the post is now waiting, I deem it unnecessary here to attempt minutely to detail the occurrences of the last eighteen months.

I am &c.

Your affectionate brother,

Wm. Clark



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