Lewis and Clark led one of
the most famous exploring expeditions ever. In the early
1800s, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson wanted to learn
more about the land west of the Mississippi River. The
United States had just purchased a huge area of land from
the French. This land became known as the Louisiana
Purchase, and the land stretched from the Mississippi
River all the way to the Pacific Ocean. No Americans had
explored that area yet. Jefferson chose Meriwether Lewis
(top picture) to lead the expedition.
Lewis was born on August 18, 1774.
He served in the army and was neighbors with Thomas
Jefferson. He also served President Jefferson as his
personal secretary. William Clark (bottom picture) was
picked to assist Lewis as his partner. He had military
experience and was known as a good leader. He also had
taken part in some explorations.
On May 14, 1804 the famous
expedition to the west began. They took canoes and a
group of about 30 volunteers along the Missouri River to
the west. Along the trip they met an Indian named
Sacagawea, who served as an interpreter for Lewis and
Clark. During their expedition they met many Indian
tribes and greeted them with peace by giving
Since there were no telephones or
telegraphs, Lewis and Clark had to write a description of
what they saw and then send messengers back to Jefferson.
The descriptions had to be kept from getting damaged
because if the writings got wet the ink would blur. To
keep them safe they put the descriptions in
One famous part of the expedition
was at the Three Forks. Clark took one part of the
expedition down the one fork and Lewis the other. In
autumn of 1805 the expedition arrived at the west coast
and Lewis and Clark were the first Americans to see the
Pacific Ocean. The expedition returned to St. Louis on
September 20, 1806.
They were away for over two years
and traveled thousands of miles through very dangerous
and difficult conditions, but only one of the expedition
members died. The trip was considered a great success
because of all the knowledge about the West that Lewis
and Clark brought back with them. It was the beginning of
the American westward movement. Pioneers began to settle
the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, and the Pacific coast.
Lewis and Clark became national heroes.
Unfortunately, the stress and
strain of the journey was hard for Lewis to handle. He
never wrote the formal report of his experiences that he
had promised President Jefferson, and he died three years
later in 1809. Clark held up better and lived a
productive life until his death in 1838.