The Library of Virginia


Lewis and Clark: "We send from this place with dispatches"


Kentucky Gazette & General AdvertiserNational Intelligencer & Washington AdvertiserIn late summer some of the "curiosities" collected by the explorers arrived in the nation's capital to the amazement and amusement of the public and the press.

These examples of western animal life and botanical and mineral specimens forwarded by Lewis led to not only public delight but also to serious interest and examination by Jefferson and other enthusiasts in the scientific and intellectual communities of the East. Perhaps of greatest importance among the items sent to Washington were Clark's map of the Lower Missouri, portions of his personal journal, and statistical information about Indian tribes and their activities. The National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser of  February 21, 1806 summarized President Jefferson's report to Congress on February19*.

newspaper graphicWith the departure from Fort Mandan, the Corps of Discovery headed into territory virtually unknown to white Americans. In an April 7, 1805, letter to Jefferson, Lewis had mentioned that he hoped to send a few men back from the farthest navigable point on the Missouri with news of his progress. This did not occur. Lewis realized that a reduction in the party's numbers could be risky and might demoralize those who "proceeded on." Thus, no word from the expedition was received in the East until its return to St. Louis seventeen months later with accounts of spectacular adventure, hardship, and discovery.

By April 25, 1805, the expedition had reached the Missouri's junction with the Yellowstone River with some days of remarkable progress alternating with others hampered by cold mornings, head winds, and blowing sand.  Beyond were plains rich with animal life - buffalo, elk, antelope, beaver, innumerable birds - and the first and sometimes hair-raising encounters with the infamous grizzly bear. On at least two occasions sudden squalls almost capsized one of the pirogues, endangering the expedition's instruments, medicines, and papers.  Sacagawea's quick thinking and actions were responsible for saving many of these valuables.

*By that date the explorers were nearing the end of their second winter away from home. At Fort Clatsop near the mouth of the Columbia River they anxiously awaited spring and the beginning of the journey back to St. Louis.







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