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Meriwether Lewis teamed up with William Clark to form the historic expedition pairing Lewis and Clark, who together explored the lands west of the Mississippi.
Lewis & Clark - The Return (2:21)
In order to learn about the territory in the Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson hired explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to map the land.
Perhaps one of the most important people Lewis and Clark would ever encounter was Sacagawea, a young Shoshone girl who helped them navigate the harsh lands of the Western United States.
After they returned from their two year journey, Lewis and Clark were national heroes.
When Thomas Jefferson wanted to unite the country from coast to coast, he chose two very qualified men, Lewis and Clark, to lead an expedition westward to find the best route.
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Born on August 18, 1774, near Ivy, Virginia, Meriwether Lewis, in 1801, was asked by President Thomas Jefferson to act as his private secretary. Jefferson made Lewis another offer—to lead an expedition into the lands west of the Mississippi, which he did after enlisting William Clark. With the help of Sacagawea, the team successfully reached the Pacific Ocean in November of 1805.
Explorer and soldier Meriwether Lewis was born on August 18, 1774, near Ivy, Virginia. As a member of the state militia, Lewis helped to quell the Whiskey Rebellion, a Pennsylvania uprising led by farmers against taxes, in 1794. The next year he served with William Clark, a man who would later help him on one of the greatest expeditions of all time. Lewis joined the regular army and achieved the rank of captain. In 1801, he was asked by President Thomas Jefferson to act as his private secretary.
Jefferson made Lewis another offer—to lead an expedition into the lands west of the Mississippi. Already eager to know more about these lands, Jefferson's interest in the area increased with purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803. Jefferson asked Lewis to gather information about the plants, animals, and peoples of the region. Lewis jumped at the chance and selected old friend William Clark to join him as co-commander of the expedition.
Lewis, Clark, and the rest of their expedition began their journey near St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1804. This group—often called the Corps of Discovery by historians—faced nearly every obstacle and hardship imaginable on their trip. They braved dangerous waters and harsh weather and endured hunger, illness, injury and fatigue. Along the way, Lewis kept a detailed journal and collected samples of plants and animals he encountered.
Lewis and his expedition received assistance in their mission from many of the native peoples they met during their journey westward. The Mandans provided them with supplies during their first winter. It was during this time that expedition picked up two new members, Sacagawea and Touissant Charbonneau. The two acted as interpreters for the expedition and Sacagawea, Charbonneau's wife and a Shoshone Indian, was able to help get horses for the group later in the journey.
The Corps of Discovery reached the Pacific Ocean in November of 1805. They built Fort Clatsop and spent the winter in present-day Oregon. On the way back in 1806, Lewis and Clark split up to explore more territory and look for faster route home. Lewis and his men faced great danger when a group of Blackfeet Indians sought to steal from the corps in late July. Two Blackfeet were killed in the ensuing conflict.
The next month, Lewis was shot in the thigh by one of his own men during a hunt. Lewis and Clark and their two groups joined up again at the Missouri River and made the rest of the trek to St. Louis together. In total, the expedition traveled roughly 8,000 miles by boat, on foot, and on horseback.
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Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, at the request of President Thomas Jefferson, led an expedition to survey the land West of the Mississippi, known as Louisiana Territory, that had been purchased from France in 1803. Lewis, Clark and the rest of their expedition began their journey near St. Louis, Missouri, in May 1804. This group—often called the Corps of Discovery by historians—faced nearly every obstacle and hardship imaginable on their trip. They braved dangerous waters and harsh weather and endured hunger, illness, injury and fatigue. During their first winter, they recieved help and guidance from Sacagawea, a Shoshone Indian.
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