The Journals of Lewis and Clark

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The Journals of Lewis and Clark

Author: Meriwether Lewis
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Copyright: 1905
Pages: 576
Cover Price: $ 15.95

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In 1803, when the United States purchased Louisiana from France, the great expanse of this new American territory was a blank -- not only on the map but in our knowledge. President Thomas Jefferson keenly understood that the course of the nation's destiny lay westward and that a national "Voyage of Discovery" must be mounted to determine the nature and accessibility of the frontier. He commissioned his young secretary, Meriwether Lewis, to lead an intelligence-gathering expedition from the Missouri River to the northern Pacific coast and back. From 1804 to 1806, Lewis, accompanied by co-captain William Clark, the Shoshone guide Sacajawea, and thirty-two men, made the first trek across the Louisiana Purchase, mapping the rivers as he went, tracing the principal waterways to the sea, and establishing the American claim to the territories of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. together the captains kept a journal, a richly detailed record of the flora and fauna they sighted, the Indian tribes they encountered, and the awe-inspiring landscape they traversed, from their base camp near present-day St. Louis to the mouth of the Columbia River.

In keeping this record they made an incomparable contribution to the literature of exploration and the writing of natural history. The Journals of Lewis and Clark, writes Bernard DeVoto, was "the first report on the West, on the United States over the hill and beyond the sunset, on the province of the American future. There has never been another so excellent or so influential...It satisfied desire and created desire: the desire of the westering nation."

Background Information

With the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the United States acquired from France all its territorial claims on the North American continent, from the Gulf of Mexico to present day Canada. The Missouri River is the longest tributary of the Mississippi, flowing from Montana eastward to join the Mississippi at St Louis MO. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, founded the Democratic-Republican Party and was the third President. Founded in 1764, St. Louis grew as a steamboat center on the Mississippi, as the eastern end of the Oregon Trail, and as the result of industrialization after the Civil War. Idaho was first part of the Oregon Territory, then the Washington Territory, and finally a state in its own right in 1890.