Lewis and Clark

Many years ago-long before your grandparents were born-most of America was covered with trees and tall grass. Indian people lived here. Some of them were farmers who lived in wooden houses. Others were buffalo hunters who lived in tents called teepees. A lot of wild animals lived here, too-horses, buffalo, deer, bears, wolves, and many more. There were no highways or cars or airplanes back then. Indian people walked, rode on horses, or sailed in boats.

After the Indians had been here a long, long time, new people came to America from other countries. They sailed across the ocean in large boats. The new people liked it here, so they stayed. After a time, they formed a new country which they named the United States of America. At first, most of the new people lived in only a small part of the country beside the Atlantic Ocean. They didn’t even know what the rest of America looked like or what kinds of people lived there.

The President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, wanted to know all of these things. In order to find out, he asked a young man to travel all the way across America to see what was there. The young man’s name was Meriwether Lewis. He was a captain in the army.

Captain Lewis needed help for such a long journey, so he asked his friend, William Clark to go with him. Together, Lewis and Clark hired a small group of strong, brave explorers to travel across America with them. Explorers are people who travel around to discover new places and meet new people. Lewis and Clark and their band of explorers traveled in boats, on horseback, and walked just as the Indian people did.

Lewis and Clark did not know how to speak Indian languages, so they hired a man who knew some Indian languages to go with them. His name was Toussaint Charbonneau. He brought along his Shoshone Indian wife and their baby boy. His wife’s name was Sacagawea and the baby’s name was Jean Baptiste. Jean Baptiste was only a few weeks old when they started, so his mother carried him on her back—probably in an Indian baby carrier called a cradle board.

Captain Lewis’ pet dog went along on the trip also. It was a large dog with black curly fur. Lewis called the dog Seaman because it loved the water and rode in the boat with him a lot of the time. One night while camping on the trail, Seaman saved Lewis and Clark from being run over by a big buffalo by barking and waking them up.

Lewis and Clark and their band of explorers had many wonderful adventures on their long journey. They saw beautiful mountains, prairies, and rivers. They saw animals and plants that they had never seen before. They also met a lot of interesting Indian people who helped them in many different ways.

The explorers had some bad times, too. Grizzly bears chased them and swarms of mosquitoes bit them. They were often tired and hungry, and once in a while somebody got sick or injured. No matter how bad their troubles were, however, they didn’t quit. They went all the way across America to the Pacific Ocean and then back to St. Louis. It was a very long journey.

Lewis and Clark wrote down what happened each day in notebooks called journals so they could tell President Jefferson about it when they got back. Copies of the journals are now kept in libraries so people today may read all about these exciting adventures of long ago.

Courtesy of the National Park Service