Westward Ho!

The corps begins its epic journey

After more than a year of preparations, William Clark and some 44 members of the Corps of Discovery broke camp May 14, 1804, and rowed upriver toward St. Charles, 23 miles away, to rendezvous with Meriwether Lewis, who was in St. Louis arranging for a delegation of Osage Indians to travel to Washington to meet President Jefferson. Clark and his men arrived there on the 16th and, with Lewis among them, set off again on May 21. The following excerpts are from several different journals; the diarists’ names are in brackets.

May 14, 1804 [Cpt. William Clark]
Set out from Camp River a Dubois at 4 oClock P.M. and proceded up the Missouris under Sail to the first Island in the Missouri and Camped on the upper point opposit a Creek on the South Side below a ledge of limestone rock Called Colewater, made 41/2 miles....a Cloudy rainey day...men in high Spirits.

May 16 [Clark]
We arrived at St. Charles at 12 oClock a number Spectators french & Indians flocked to the bank to See the party....I was invited to Dine with a Mr. Ducett this gentleman was once a merchant from Canadia, from misfortunes aded to the loss of a Cargo Sold to the late Judge Turner he has become Somewhat reduced, he has a Charming wife an eligent Situation on the hill Serounded by orchards & a excellent gardain.

May 17 [Sgt. John Ordway]
A Sergeant and four men of the Party destined for the Missourri Expidition will convene at 11 oClock to day on the quarter Deck of the Boat, and form themselves into a Court martial to hear and determine (in behalf of the Capt.) the evidences aduced against William Warner & Hugh Hall for being absent last night without leave....The Court one of oppinion that the Prisoners Warner & Hall are Both Guilty of being absent from camp without leave it being a breach of the Rules and articles of war and do Sentence them Each to receive twenty-five lashes on their naked back, but the Court recommend them from their former Good conduct, to the mercy of the commanding officer.

May 20 [Cpt. Meriwether Lewis]
The morning was fair, and the weather pleasent; at 10 oCk A M....I was joined by Capt. Stoddard...and many other respectable inhabitants of St. Louis, who had engaged to accompany me to the Vilage of St. Charles [and] we set forward to that village in order to join my friend companion and fellow labourer Capt. William Clark who had previously arrived at that place with the party destined for the discovery of the interior of the continent of North America....

May 23 [Clark]
Set out early run on a log: under water and Detained one hour... [after going ashore] Capt Lewis’ assended the hill which has peninsulis projecting in raged points to the river, and was near falling.... Saved himself by the assistance of his Knife....

May 23 [Pvt. Joseph Whitehouse]
We...proceeded on very well, and passed some Plantations, which is called Boons settlement lying on the north side of the River. This settlement was made by Colonel Daniel Boone, the person who first discover’d Kentucky, & who was residing at this place, with a number of his family and friends.

May 25 [Clark]
...To a Small french Village called La Charatt of five families only, in the bend to the Starbord This is the Last Settlement of Whites....

May 31 [Pvt. Patrick Gass]
We were obliged to remain at this encampment all day, on account of a strong wind from the west. An Indian man and a squaw came down the river with two canoes, loaded with fur and peltry, and remained with us all night. Some of our hunters went out and killed a deer.

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