Value of Lewis and Clark Expedition

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2020/05/04
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The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804 was one of the most memorable and important missions in U.S. history. This crucial expedition was initiated by President Thomas Jefferson and executed by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in 1804. Lewis and Clark were asked to explore the lands west of the Mississippi at the request of President Thomas Jefferson. The journey lasted two years, and during that time, they covered approximately eight-thousand miles.Lewis kept a journal of the expedition, of which he had several entries that described their excursions, camps, and discoveries. This journal was considered a priceless piece of history because their expedition helped America. They explored new territory which led to the discovery of  many plants and animals that were not known prior to their expedition.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were both born in Virginia. Meriwether Lewis graduated from college in 1793. He later joined the Virginia State militia, became a captain in the US. army, and went on to become President Thomas Jefferson’s personal assistant. At the age of nineteen, William Clark joined the state militia and then went on to join the Army as well.  He served in the Army with Meriwether Lewis and was commissioned by President George Washington as lieutenant of Infantry. The Army is how Lewis and Clark become familiar with one another. This was the beginning of the most influential expedition in all of American history.

In 1803, President Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory for fifteen million dollars from France. This was a remarkable deal, as Jefferson garnered several hundred thousand acres for just fifteen million dollars, which divided into only a few cents per acre. This essential transaction became known as the “Louisiana Purchase”. President Johnson’s goal was to map out the new land west of the Mississippi River. Jefferson desired to enhance his knowledge, along with the American citizens about the land and the Mississippi River. He yearned to learn about the Indians, their languages, and their customs. He also wanted to learn more about the climate, plants, and animals. Most importantly, Jefferson wanted to see if there was a water route that ran across the US from the east coast to the Pacific Ocean. If a water route was confirmed, the US would be enabled to increase trade with China and potentially cut Canada out of the fur trade with China.

President Jefferson asked Congress to finance this expedition so he could assemble a team to explore the lands west of the Mississippi. Once Congress gave him approval, he assigned  Meriwether Lewis to the title of  “expedition commander”. This meant Lewis would be put in charge of overseeing the expedition. Then, Jefferson sent Lewis to classes to learn about subjects such as zoology, botany, and astronomy. This was to prepare him for the long journey that lie ahead of him. He would need knowledge in these areas to be able to identify the new animals and plants they would encounter. It would also allow him to be able to navigate in a new territory by the movement of the stars.

After his new position of expedition commander, Lewis chose his former comrade, William Clark, to be his second in command. Together, they collected a multitude of supplies to help them on their journey. Some of these supplies were objects such as surveying instruments, maps, camping supplies, weapons, and medicines. Then, it was time to formulate a team that would ensure that the expedition would go through and run smoothly. The last step was to choose approximately fifty others to assist them in their journey of exploration. The men that were chosen to help had to undergo a strenuous examination of skills and merit. Those men had to meet certain standards to be able to even be considered for the daunting task of exploring the newly-obtained terrain. Some of the qualifications needed were that they be accurate hunters, unmarried, healthy, and were required to undergo some pre-expedition training. The entire team of people were called the “‘Corpus of Volunteers for Northwest Discovery'”, or “Corpus”.

In May of 1804, Lewis and Clark set out on their expedition accompanied by about fifty others. As they made their way across the US, following the Missouri River in search of its endpoint, they observed many of the natural elements in their new environments. They were required by Jefferson to note the new species of wildlife they encountered, as well as the lateral lines they crossed and the indigenous peoples. In their journals detailing the trip, they described the new plants and animals they encountered, as well as the weather patterns and farming capabilities and conditions of the different sections of the territory.

In their prized journals, they documented a wide range of wildlife. They accounted for roughly two-hundred species of mammals alone, including badgers, elk, bison, beavers, and many others. Not only did they discover the existence of mammals, but they also were responsible for the discovery of around sixty or seventy species of birds. Some of those include the wild turkey and even the nation’s symbol of freedom and power, the bald eagle. Lewis and Clark also discussed the new plants they found on their journey. They recorded over one hundred types of plants throughout the acquired land. Two notable species of plants they found were the wild rose and wild rice. Along with plants, mammals, and birds, They also chronicled a few new species of reptiles. They discovered only about five species of reptiles, including the bullsnake. Their journals with descriptions and often times pictures of the wildlife they documented helped the advancement of scientific discovery, especially in the biology field, by discovering many unknown species in North America.

Not only did Lewis and Clark assist in the naming and discovery of wildlife, but they also helped Jefferson identify and often make peace with the Native Americans that lived in the area. They encountered many Natives, as they preoccupied a majority of the lands they went through on their expedition. They met numerous different Indian tribes such as the Shoshone, Mandan, Minitari, Blackfeet, Chinook, Sioux, Hidatsas, and Arikaras. Another of Jefferson’s goals was to make diplomatic ties with the Natives, and Lewis and Clark accomplished this by making peace offerings with the different tribes. For the most part, this tactic worked, as most of the tribes agreed to their terms of trade and peaceful relationships with the American government.

The most influential relationship with a Native happened when the expedition reached the territory of present-day North Dakota. They encountered the Mandan and Hidatsa tribe, which were friendly tribes who allowed the crew in the expedition to set up camp, which they called Forth Mandan. While at Fort Mandan, they met and picked up two additional members to assist in their expedition. The two were a Shoshone Indian woman named Sacagawea and her husband, French Canadian Toussaint Charbonneau. The two of them were able to serve the team as interpreters. She had been captured by another Native tribe then bought by Charbonneau to be his wife. She helped Lewis and Clark and their team navigate the unknown terrain that was familiar to her. She helped communicate with and keep peace with the other Natives, especially since she had recently given birth to a son, who was an infant when he and her husband went to help the expedition. Clark and Sacagawea’s relationship was so strong that when she died after giving birth to a daughter while on the journey, he became their guardian.

During their journey, the expedition team faced many obstacles. Some of the ones they encountered including things from extreme weather to starvation. These hurdles prolonged their expedition. They underwent cold and harsh weather as they ventured into northern areas during the winter. They also underwent diseases and injuries while they were traveling. A few of the illnesses and injuries they faced were “dysentery, venereal disease, boils, tick bites, and injuries from prickly pear” while on their trip. However, there was only one death reported despite all the disease and injury they endured. The only person to die throughout the entire expedition was Charles Floyd, and he was buried in Sioux County, Iowa.

The end of their voyage came about in March of 1806 when the team began their journey home. They waited until June to cross the mountains after getting their horses in March, and then they were on their home with a couple years of exploration and scientific discovery behind them. After their expedition, Lewis and Clark traveled to Washington D.C. to tell Jefferson about their journey of 8,000 miles. Jefferson granted the two double their pay and 1,600 acres for their efforts. Lewis became the Louisianna Territory Govoner and Clark became the Brigadier General of Militia for Louisiana Territory. As the years progressed, Clark garnered much respect in his position and was very successful. Lewis, on the other hand, had an alcohol problem and died in 1809 of a gunshot wound. This exploration brought advancements to scientific discovery and allowed Jefferson to successfully explore the Louisianna Territory, which brought an increase in curiosity about the American West, as well as solidified some relationships with certain Native American tribes, and it was considered a crucial part in American expansion.

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Value Of Lewis and Clark Expedition. (2020, May 04). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/value-of-lewis-and-clark-expedition/

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