AUTHOR: Judith Edwards
WHAT TERRITORY WAS EXPLORED AND WHEN? In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson paid 15 million dollars to France for a vast tract of land between the Mississippi River and the Continental Divide. Little was known about the contents of this Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery to explore from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, following the Missouri River. This journey took place from 1804 to 1806.
WHO DID THE EXPLORING? A party of 33 individuals headed by Meriwether Lewis, a U.S. Army Captain and personal friend of the president’s, and William Clark, who also served in the U. S. Army. This book is written from the perspective of Reubin Field, who was a young Kentucky farmer. When word got out that able woodsmen and hunters were needed to make the trip and would be compensated with land, men like Reubin applied for the expedition. A French trader, Toussaint Charonneau, and his young wife, Sacagawea, joined the expedition as interpreters, along with their brand new baby son that came to be called little Pomp.
HOW WAS THE TRIP? They traveled as much as they could by their keelboat and then canoes. When they couldn’t float they walked, wearing out scores of moccasins. The group encountered many native tribes, most of which were friendly, but some were not. They dealt with hoards of mosquitoes, a stampeding buffalo in their camp, an aggressive grizzly bear and considerable difficulty crossing the mountains.
WHAT WAS GAINED? Data was collected on previously unknown species of mammals, birds and plants and about available resources, especially in regard to the all important fur trade. Knowledge was gained about the tribes living in this area. This expedition ruled out the hope that there was a water route to the Pacific and provided other geographic details. This undertaking also opened the door for westward expansion.
A few years ago the 200th anniversary of this historical event was celebrated, and a slew of great books on this subject were published. I haven’t had a chance to read them all, but am amazed at the variety offered from different points of view, including:
Sacagawea: They Call Me Sacagawea and I Am Sacajawea, I Am York: Our Journey West with Lewis and Clark
York, Clark’s slave: York's Adventures with Lewis and Clark: An African-American's Part in the Great Expedition and I Am Sacajawea, I Am York: Our Journey West with Lewis and Clark
Seaman, Lewis’s dog: Seaman's Journal: On the Trail With Lewis and Clark, The Captain's Dog: My Journey with the Lewis and Clark Tribe, Lewis and Clark and Me: A Dog's Tale and Seaman: The Dog Who Explored the West With Lewis and Clark
Lewis and Clark: How We Crossed The West: The Adventures Of Lewis And Clark, Lewis and Clark (In Their Own Words) and Off the Map: The Journals of Lewis and Clark
Natural History: Animals on the Trail with Lewis and Clark and Plants on the Trail with Lewis and Clark
Native Americans: Bad River Boys: A Meeting of the Lakota Sioux with Lewis and Clark
Activity: Here's a Lewis and Clark National Geographic Interactive Game.