Lewis and Clark
Our chapter is proud to be named after the great explorers, Captain Merriweather Lewis and his partner, William Clark.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Louisiana Purchase. Westward Expansion. All three are different pages in our country's history. Yet all three are, and forever will be, linked.
The Lousiana Purchase in 1803 sparked interest in westward expansion. At the time, the fledgling United States did not know how much land it was buying from France. Even France was unsure how much land it was selling. So President Thomas Jefferson, an advocate of westward expansion who was nonetheless fearful of the dangers involved, selected his aide and personal friend, army Captain Merriweather Lewis, to lead the expedition. Lewis selected William Clark as his partner.
Lewis declared the mouth of the river Dubois (on the east side of the Mississippi across from the mouth of the Missouri river) to be the expedition's official point of departure. At that spot called Camp Dubois, Illinois Territory, near the present day Wood River, Illinois, Clark recruited and trained their expedition party. The American expedition to the Pacific northwest was intended to study the Indian tribes, botany, geology, Western terrain and wildlife in the region, as well as evaluate the potential interference of British and French Canadian hunters and trappers who were already well established in the area.
From Camp DuBois, the Corps of Discovery departed and began their historic journey on May 14, 1804, meeting up with Lewis in nearby Saint Charles, Missouri. The group then followed the Missouri River westward.
Into the winter of 1804–05, the expedition continued, and at Fort Mandan they were joined and assisted by Sacajawea and Toussaint Charbonneau.
The crew eventually made its journey all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The Corps of Discovery returned with important information about the new United States territory and the people who lived in it, as well as its rivers and mountains, plants and animals. The expedition made a major contribution to mapping the North American continent.