The Lewis and Clark Expedition | History In A Nutshell

President Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, and recruited his own personal secretary Meriwether Lewis to pick a team of men to make a journey to the Pacific ocean. In addition to the primary objective of confirming the existence of the fabled "northwest passage" waterway, the expedition would map out the new territories, seek new scientific understandings, and establish peaceful relations with the Native American tribes inhabiting the region. 

Part 2 of this episode outlines the early days of the journey west: breaches of conduct, the death of Sergeant Charles Floyd, documenting never-before-seen animals and plants, encountering the first bands of Native American tribes and spending the winter of 1804-1805 at Fort Mandan. That winter stay at Fort Mandan is where Lewis and Clark met one of their most crucial members - Sacagawea, as well as her husband, French fur trader Toussaint Charbonneau. 

Part 3 chronicles the journey from Fort Mandan to their arrival at the Pacific Ocean. The most challenging portions of the trek west take place here: the portage around the Great Falls, and crossing the Bitterroot Mountains using the Lolo trail. Without the contributions of Sacagawea and the Nimiipuu woman named Watkuweis, this expedition would have failed! After arriving at the Pacific Ocean, the Expedition spent the winter of 1805-1806 at Fort Clatsop. 

The final segment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition outlines the journey back to St. Louis, Missouri. Along the way Lewis and Clark split up after the Bitterroot Mountains to explore previously unexplored areas during the westbound journey. An altercation with members of the Blackfoot tribe caused Lewis to make haste back to rejoin Clark at the Missouri River. After saying a few goodbyes at Fort Mandan, the Corps of Discovery returned to St. Louis where they were given a warm welcome. Lewis and Clark's expedition opened up the American west for future generations, but also left tremendous impacts on the Native American tribes they encountered.