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Lewis and Clark

William Clark

American Explorer

1770-1838

Merriwether Lewis

American Explorer

1774-1809

A selection from
THE JOURNALS OF LEWIS AND CLARK

Narrated by Lloyd James

Download mp3 file: The Journals of Lewis And Clark

This file is 5.3 MB; running time is 11 minutes
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[Meriwether Lewis, April 7, 1805]

Fort Mandan. Having on this day at 4 P.M. completed every arrangement necessary for our departure, we dismissed the barge and crew with orders to return without loss of time to S. Louis.

Our party now consisted of Interpreters George Drewyer and Tauasant Charbono, also a Black man by the name of York, servant to Captain Clark, an Indian Woman wife to Charbono with a young child, and a Mandan man who had promised us to accompany us as far as the Snake Indians, with a view to bring about a good understanding and friendly intercourse between that nation and his own, the Minetares and Ahwahharways.

Our vessels consisted of six small canoes, and two large perogues. This little fleet, although not quite so respectable as those of Columbus or Captain Cook, were still viewed by us with as much pleasure as those deservedly famed adventurers ever beheld theirs; and I dare say with quite as much anxiety for their safety and preservation.

We were now about to penetrate a country at least two thousand miles in width, on which the foot of civillized man had never trodden; the good or evil it had in store for us was for experiment yet to determine, and these little vessels contained every article by which we were to expect to subsist or defend ourselves. However, as this, the state of mind in which we are, generally gives the colouring to events when the immagination is suffered to wander into futurity, the picture which now presented itself to me was a most pleasing one. Entertaining the most confident hope of succeeding in a voyage which had formed a darling project of mine for the last ten years, I could but esteem this moment of my departure as among the most happy of my life.

[Meriwether Lewis, June 29, 1805]

Shortly after the rain which fell early this morning Captain Clark found it imposseble from the state of the plains for the party to reach the upper extremity of the portage with their present load, and therefore sent back almost all of the party to bring the baggage which had been left behind yesterday. He determined himself to pass by the way of the river to camp in order to supply the deficiency of some notes and remarks which he had made as he first ascended the river but which he had unfortunately lost.

Accordingly, he left one man at Willow run to guard the baggage and took with him his black man York. Sharbono and his indian woman also accompanyed Captain Clark. On his arrival at the falls, he perceived a very black cloud rising in the West which threatened immediate rain; he looked about for a shelter but could find none without being in great danger of being blown into the river should the wind prove as violent as it sometimes is on those occasions in these plains; at length above the falls he discovered a deep rivine where there were some shelving rocks under which he took shelter near the river with Sharbono and the Indian woman, where they were perfectly secure from the rain.

The first shower was moderate, accompanyed by a violent rain the effects of which they did but little feel; soon after a most violent torrent of rain decended accompanyed with hail; the rain appeared to decend in a body and instantly collected in the rivine and came down in a rolling torrent with irresistable force, driving rocks mud and everything before it which opposed it's passage. Captain Clark fortunately discovered it a moment before it reached them, and seizing his gun and shot pouch with his left hand, with the right he assisted himself up the steep bluff shoving occasionaly the Indian woman before him who had her child in her arms.

Sharbono had the woman by the hand endeavouring to pull her up the hill but was so much frightened that he remained frequently motionless, and but for Captain Clark both himself and his woman and child must have perished. So sudden was the rise of the water that before Captain Clark could reach his gun and begin to ascend the bank it was up to his waist and wet his watch; and he could scarcely ascend faster than it arose till it had obtained the depth of 15 feet with a current tremendous to behold. One moment longer and it would have swept them into the river just above the great cataract of 87 feet where they must have inevitably perished. Sarbono lost his gun, shot pouch, horn, tomahawk, and my wiping rod; Captain Clark his Umbrella and compass. They fortunately arrived on the plain safe, where they found the black man, York, in search of them; York had seperated from them a little while before the storm, in pursuit of some buffalo and had not seen them enter the rivine.

When this gust came on, he returned in search of them. And not being able to find them for some time, was much alarmed. The bier in which the woman carrys her child, and all it's clothes, were swept away as they lay at her feet she having time only to grasp her child. The infant was therefore very cold and the woman also who had just recovered from a severe indisposition was also wet and cold. Captain Clark. therefore relinquished his intended route and returned to the camp at willow run in order also to obtain dry cloathes for himself and directed them to follow him.

On Captain Clark's arrival at camp, he found that the party dispatched for the baggage had returned in great confusion and consternation leaving their loads in the plains; The men who were all nearly naked and no covering on the head were sorely mawled with the hail which was so large and driven with such force by the wind that it nocked many of them down and one as many as three times. Most of them were bleeding freely and complained of being much bruised. Willow run raised about 6 feet with this rain and the plains were so wet they could do nothing more this evening. Captain Clark gave the party a dram to console them in some measure for their general defeat.

[Meriwether Lewis, August 17, 1805]

This morning I arrose very early and dispatched Drewyer and the Indian down the river. Sent Shields to hunt. I made McNeal cook the remainder of our meat which afforded a slight breakfast for ourselves and the Chief. Drewyer had been gone about 2 hours when an Indian who had straggled some little distance down the river returned and reported that the whitemen were coming, that he had seen them just below. They all appeared transported with joy, & the chief repeated his fraternal hug. I felt quite as much gratifyed at this information as the Indians appeared to be.

Shortly after Captain Clark arrived with the Interpreter Charbono, and the Indian woman, who proved to be a sister of the Chief Cameahwait. The meeting of those people was really affecting, particularly between Sah cah-gar-we-ah {check the modern day pronunciation of Sacagawea} and an Indian woman, who had been taken prisoner at the same time with her, and who had afterwards escaped from the Minnetares and rejoined her nation. At noon the Canoes arrived, and we had the satisfaction once more to find ourselves all together, with a flattering prospect of being able to obtain as many horses shortly as would enable us to prosicute our voyage by land should that by water be deemed unadvisable.

[William Clark, May 11, 1806]

Some little rain last night. We were crowded in the Lodge with Indians who continued all night and this morning. Great numbers were around us. The One Eyed Chief Yoom-park-kar-tim arived and we gave him a medal of the Small Size and Spoke to the Indians through a Snake boy and Shabono and his wife.

We informed them who we were, where we came from and our intentions towards them, which pleased them very much. A young man, Son to the great Chief who was killed not long since by the Indians from the Northeast, brought an elegant mare and Colt and gave us them. And said hehad opend his ears to what we had said and his heart was glad and requested us to take this mare and Colt as a token of his determination to pursue our Councels etc. The twisted hair brought Six of our horses all in fine order. Great numbers of Indians apply to us for medical aide which we gave them cherfully, so far as our skill and store of medicine would enable us. Ulcers, rhumetism, sore eyes, and the loss of the use of their limbs are the most common cases among them. The latter case is not very common but we have Seen three instances of it among the Chopunnish, a very extroadinery complaint.

About 3 P.M. George Drewyer arived with 2 deer which he had killed. He informed us that the snow still continued to cover the plains. We are now pretty well informed that the principal Chiefs of the Chopunnish Nation were present in our lodge. We thought it a favourable time to repeat what had been said and to enter more minutely into the views of our government with respect to the inhabitents of this Western part of the Continent, their intention of establishing trading houses for their relief, their wish to restore peace and harmony among the nativs, the strength, wealth and powers of our Nation &c. To this end we drew a map of the Country with a coal on a mat in their way, and by the assistance of the Snake boy and our intrepeters were enabled to make ourselves understood by them, although it had to pass through French, Minnetare, Shoshone and Chopunnish languages.

The interpretation being tedious, it occupied the greater part of the day, before we had communicated to them what we wished. They appeared highly pleased. After this Council was over, we amused ourselves with showing them the power of Magnetism, the Spy glass, compass, watch, air gun and sundery other articles equally novel and incomprehensible to them. They informed us that after we left the Menetares last Spring that three of their people had visited that nation, and that they had informed them of us, and had told them that we had such things in our possession but that they could not place confidence in the information until they had now witnessed it themselves.

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