Dakota Datebook: Lewis and Clark Return (Part V)

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Dakota Datebook: Lewis and Clark Return (Part V)
July 31, 2006

Transcript:

Two hundred years ago this week, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were moving swiftly eastward through Montana on rain-swollen rivers. Lewis—now with the larger group of nineteen men—was on the Missouri, below the Great Falls, making about 75 miles per day. Clark was to the south on the Yellowstone River with ten men, Sacagawea, and her toddler son—Jean Baptiste. All were enduring some of the same problems as modern campers—rain, mosquitoes, and bears.


The Yellowstone meets the Missouri at a point just east of the present-day Montana/North Dakota border, west of Williston. After a month of separation, the expedition members eagerly anticipated a planned reunion at the confluence of the two rivers. Their journals tell of the week’s progress.


July 30, 1806, Meriwether Lewis wrote, “The rain still continued this morning ... the current being strong and the men anxious to get on they plied their oars faithfully and we went at the rate of about seven miles an hour.”


On July 31 Lewis wrote, “The rain still continuing ... we fell in with a large herd of Elk of which we killed 15 and took their skins ... killed 14 deer ... took shelter in some Indian lodges built of sticks…”


On the same day, Clark told of the southern group’s animal encounters, “I was much disturbed last night by the noise of the buffalo which were about me. One gang swam the river near our Camp which alarmed me a little for fear of their crossing our canoes and splitting them to pieces. ...Passed a rapid which I call wolf rapid from the circumstance of one of those animals being at the rapid…Saw a white bear…the largest I ever saw eating a dead buffalo on a sand bar.”


On August 1, Lewis noted, “…rain still continuing…” and Clark’s group was forced to halt their progress… “At 2 p.m. I was obliged to land to let the Buffalo cross over…” Clark made no mention of the day being his 36th birthday.


The rain finally stopped on August 2nd, and Lewis wrote, “The morning proved fair and I determined to remain all day and dry the baggage and give the men an opportunity to dry and air their skins and fur.”


On August 3, Lewis wrote, “we proceeded, and shortly after overtook J. and R. Fields who had killed 25 deer since they left us yesterday; ... we did not halt today to cook and dine as usual having directed that in future the party should cook as much meat in the evening after encamping as would be sufficient to serve them the next day…”
Having entered present-day North Dakota, Clark’s group reached the confluence on the morning of August 3, 1806. Clark found the point of land between the two rivers so infested with mosquitoes it was virtually uninhabitable, so he wrote a note to Captain Lewis, tied it to a pole at the point, and continued down the Missouri to look for a better camp site.


The mosquitoes only got worse. On August 4, Clark noted, “…Mosquitoes were so abundant that we were tormented much worst than at the point. The child of Charbonneau has been so much bitten by the mosquitoes that his face is much puffed up & swelled.”


Clark continued on at a slowed pace, searching in vain for relief from the mosquitoes, and expecting Lewis to read his note and catch up. Lewis and company were in fact a few days behind, but the parties were still quite unaware of each other’s position.


Written by Russell Ford-Dunker


Note: Spelling is corrected in journal quotes for ease of reading.
Sources:
http://www.pbs.org/lewisandclark/archive
http://www.lewisandclark.org

 

Source

Source: Dakota Datebook, Prairie Public. http://www.prairiepublic.org/radio/

Subject Matter

Social Studies

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