A year after the United States doubled its territory with the purchase of Louisiana, the Lewis and Clark expedition leaves Saint-Louis, Missouri, on a mission to explore the northwest of Mississippi in the Pacific Ocean .
Before the US government even concluded purchase negotiations with France, President Thomas Jefferson instructed his private secretary Meriwether Lewis and William Captain, an army captain, to lead an expedition to what is now the north. – American west. On May 14, the “Corps of Discovery” – which numbered about 45 men (although only about 33 men would make the full trip) – left Saint-Louis for the American interior.
The expedition sailed up the Missouri River in a 55-foot long keelboat and two small boats. In November, Toussaint Charbonneau, a French Canadian fur trader accompanied by his young Native American wife Sacagawea, joined the expedition as an interpreter. The group wintered in present-day North Dakota before crossing into present-day Montana, where they first saw the Rocky Mountains. On the other side of the mainland, they were greeted by the Sacagawea tribe, the Shoshone Indians, who sold them horses for their journey through the Bitterroot Mountains. After crossing the dangerous rapids of the Clearwater and Snake rivers by canoe, the explorers reached the calm of the Columbia, which led them to the sea. On November 8, 1805, the expedition arrived in the Pacific Ocean, the first explorers Europeans to do so by a land route from the east. After a break there for the winter, the explorers began their long journey back to Saint-Louis.
On September 23, 1806, after almost two and a half years, the expedition returned to the city, bringing back a wealth of information about the largely unexplored region, as well as valuable American claims to Oregon territory.