What Dangers and Hardships Did Lewis and Clark Face When Exploring the Midwest?

Expedition of Lewis and Clark Essay

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1803 year was prominent in the American history as it was the year when the territory of then-USA almost doubled due to the purchase of Louisiana Territory from France. As a result, more than 800,000 square miles were unknown. Exploration of the American Midwest was one of the tasks that U.S. President entrusted to the newly created Corps of Discovery in 1803. The same year the expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark was organized, and the main aim of it was thorough investigation of the Northwest. In 1804 they started the journey aiming to research the territories around the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. The expedition resulted in more than 3,700 miles of journey on man-powered boats, horseback and foot and brought detailed insight to the territories, tribes and locations of the newly purchased land. (Discovering Lewis and Clark).

Still, even today journeys on such a long distances are surrounded with troubles, let alone travelling two centuries ago when people had no technologies to simplify their journey except of horses and boats. The expedition of Lewis and Clark faced many hardships, including weather condition, geographical obstacles and dangerous encounters. More than that, they had no reliable map and their route went through the territories inhabited by Indian tribes who were not that friendly to the intruders.

They have planned to move up the Missouri for more than 2,000 miles, that is why they took a 55-feet keelboat with them. President Jefferson had expected that the expedition would find a short and easy passage to the Pacific after leaving the Missouri (Bredenberg). Though in reality they hardly managed to navigate on the river because of the heavy current as they moved upstream constantly. In addition, they managed to make no more than 12 miles per day because of the bad weather. As they expected to see only a small mountain range with a river to the Pacific, they took their boats with them and had to carry them. In reality they had to find their way through the Bitterroot Mountains along the Lolo Trail – and these mountains are covered with snow from September. They survived only thanks to Shoshone woman named Sacagawea, a wife of their guide, French fur trader Toussaint Charbonneau. She with her newborn baby and elder son led the expedition through the mountains and because of the weather and the fact that men carried their boats with them, they barely made 5 miles per day. The crossing took 11 days and they nearly starved then.

Another problem they faced during the expedition was insects and animals. During the travel on Missouri, mosquitoes turned out to be a huge problem. John Ordway, a member of the expedition, was the only one who took notes about every day of the expedition and he wrote in his journal that the mosquitoes were “troublesome” and because of them his face and eyes swelled. (Discovering Lewis and Clark). According to his notes, the expedition also confronted nearly 40 grizzly bears and one of them nearly killed Lewis.

During the journey the expedition has met different tribes: Missouris, the Omahas, the Yankton Sioux, the Teton Sioux (Lakota), and the Arikaras. Almost all tribes except Lakota were friendly to the members of the expedition, though the conflict with Lacota was almost deadly – small group of Lewis had a fight with a group of Blackfeet Indians and killed two Indians.

The expedition took more than a year and a half and they were met as heroes because many people thought that they were dead.

Works Cited

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History: Lewis & Clark: Mapping the West: The Expedition of the Corps of Discovery
U.S. Army Center of Military History: Corps of Discovery
National Park Service: Determining the Facts Reading 1: The Corps of Discovery
Discovering Lewis and Clark: John Ordway