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A very interesting part of our American History

sunny 65 °F

(Monday, LABOR DAY) Since most venues are closed on this National Holiday I called the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn, ND which is about 35 miles from Bismarck. Fortunately (for me) they were open. Captains Merriwether Lewis and William Clark were commissioned in 1804 by President Thomas Jefferson to find a passage via the Missouri river to the Pacific Ocean. It was a military mission and their soldiers were part of what was called the 'Corps of Discovery for North Western Exploration'. The 'corps' consisted of about 30 men, although it varied according to the needs along the way. That is to say, oarsmen were required in the early part of the trip to paddle the boats against the current of the Mississippi & Missouri rivers, thus requiring more in the troop. Strict military discipline was adhered to for flogging of unruly soldiers, and even an execution took place along the way for insubordination. When President Jefferson urged Congress to buy the vast unknown land called 'The Louisiana Purchase' in 1803 he was uncertain of what is was, what it encompassed, & where the bountries were. What he wanted was to define the National Border to secure for the US the profitable fur trade operating in this territory. He felt the British (later Canada) were encroaching on the fur trade from the north, thus robbing taxes from the US government. This was accomplished, along with volumns of discovery documented by Lewis & Clark along the way. The two year trek was a brutal one for they endured many hardships along the way. Dangers, such as, hostile Indians who had never seen a white man, Grizzley bears, Mountain lions, Rattle Snakes, mosquitos, low-growing thorned cactus which tore their feet & legs, and near starvation in the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains were encountered. At one point they were forced to eat their dogs, and horses for meat to sustain themselves. Fortunately, early in their expedition a French fur trader 'loaned' them his Indian wife and infant child to accompany them along the way as a native language interpreter. Her name was Sakakawea, and her presence defused many hostile incidents due to her ability to communicate with the native tribes. After enduring the brutal winter(s), that is going & returning, of the Rocky Mountains they found the Columbia River and the route to the Pacific Ocean. Quite a story.

Just 2 miles down the road from the Interpretive Center is the location of Ft. Mandan where Lewis & Clark's troop established winter quarters by building a fort on the Missouri river bank for protection from hostile Indians and from the harsh winter. When the ice left the river in the Spring of 1805 the men continued their expedition. It was here that they met Sakakawea who was pregnant at the time and had delivered her child during that winter. That story was told in more detail at the Fort's location.

It was an interesting drive through the prairie lands with the buttes and depressions among the farmlands. All very foreign to me.

Posted by dixter 13:27 Archived in USA Tagged & lewis clark

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