Lewis, Clark & Sacagawea

Lewis, Clark & Sacagawea

Value: How it Began

Exploration has always been a core part of the American spirit. From the arrival of the pilgrims at Plymouth to Neil Armstrong's landing on the moon, Americans have always been explorers.

America’s first states were located along the eastern side of North America, but to many of the earliest Americans, moving west presented great opportunities

The Louisiana Purchase

However, in 1800, Spain and France secretly signed a treaty, giving the Louisiana territory to France. The treaty didn’t remain a secret for long, as rumors of the transaction circulated in Washington. The French limiting American opportunity greatly concerned President Thomas Jefferson.

France offered to sell all of Louisiana. The Louisiana Purchase was finalized in 1803. For $15 million, the United States acquired 827,000 square miles of territory, which doubled the size of our young nation.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition

On February 28, 1803, Congress agreed to fund exploration west. But there was only one man whom Jefferson trusted and thought capable of exploring this new territory – Meriweather Lewis, his former secretary, and close friend. Lewis already had significant knowledge of the West, had a great amount of military discipline from his experience as a captain in the U.S. Army, and spoke several Native American languages. Lewis selected his former superior in the army, William Clark, to help lead the U.S. Army expedition, now known as the “Corps of Discovery.” Lewis recruited men to join the expedition and gathered supplies.

  • May 14, 1804

    After gathering enough supplies, Lewis, Clark, and more than 40 men set off from Camp Dubois (near St. Louis). In a large keelboat and two smaller pirogues, they started their journey up the Missouri River.
  • November 1804

    After traveling nearly 1,600 miles, the Corps of Discovery began building Fort Mandan in present-day North Dakota to camp for the winter. While there, Lewis and Clark worked to establish a friendship with the native tribes. They met Sacagawea. She would be the only woman to join the expedition.
  • August 1805

    With Sacagawea’s help, the Shoshone provided the expedition with horses and a guide named Old Toby. They continued on in their journey across mountains and rivers and finally, on November 7, Clark wrote in his journal that the Pacific Ocean was in view
  • March 23, 1806

    They began their journey home. In August, Sacagawea returned to the Mandan villages. The remaining members of the Corps of Discovery returned to St. Louis on September 23, 1806, marking the completion of their remarkably successful journey.

The expedition opened the door for peaceful relations with dozens of Native American tribes. The groundbreaking expedition of Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea would become one of the defining moments in American history. Their journey had demonstrated to many Americans in the East that the unknown was nothing to fear. In fact, the American West held great potential for settlers to achieve wealth and prosperity.