The Journals of Lewis and Clark by Meriwether LewisThe Journals of Lewis and Clark are the first report on the West, on the United States over the hill and beyond the sunset, on the province of the American future (Bernard DeVoto).
In 1803, the great expanse of the Louisiana Purchase was an empty canvas. Keenly aware that the course of the nations destiny lay westward—and that a Voyage of Discovery would be necessary to determine the nature of the frontier—President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis to lead an expedition from the Missouri River to the northern Pacific coast and back. From 1804 to 1806, accompanied by co-captain William Clark, the Shoshone guide Sacajawea, and thirty-two men, Lewis mapped rivers, traced the principal waterways to the sea, and established the American claim to the territories of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Together the captains kept this journal: a richly detailed record of the flora and fauna they sighted, the native tribes they encountered, and the awe-inspiring landscape they traversed, from their base camp near present-day St. Louis to the mouth of the Columbia River, that has become an incomparable contribution to the literature of exploration and the writing of natural history.
It began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ,  made its way westward, and passed through the Continental Divide of the Americas to reach the Pacific coast. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the expedition shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in to explore and to map the newly acquired territory, to find a practical route across the western half of the continent, and to establish an American presence in this territory before Britain and other European powers tried to claim it. The campaign's secondary objectives were scientific and economic: to study the area's plants, animal life, and geography, and to establish trade with local American Indian tribes. The expedition returned to St. Louis to report its findings to Jefferson, with maps, sketches, and journals in hand. One of Thomas Jefferson 's goals was to find "the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce. During the 19th century, references to Lewis and Clark "scarcely appeared" in history books, even during the United States Centennial in , and the expedition was largely forgotten.
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After reaching the Pacific Ocean in November , the corps established Fort Clatsop, near present-day Astoria, Oregon, as its winter quarters. Then, on March 23, , the weary explorers headed for home and St. The expedition separated into two parties near today's Lolo, Idaho, to explore the country more thoroughly on the return trip; the groups would be apart for more than a month. During that time, Lewis' company was attacked by Blackfoot warriors, two of whom were killed in the fighting, the expedition's only bloodshed. Shortly afterward, the half-blind private Pierre Cruzatte mistook Lewis for an elk and shot him in the thigh. By the time Lewis was reunited with Clark, his leg was nearly mended.