Literature Study GuidesLewis And Clarks Journals Of Exploration

Lewis and Clark's Journals of Exploration | Study Guide

Meriwether Lewis&William Clark

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Meriwether Lewis&William Clark

Years Written



Primary Source



At a Glance

  • Meriwether Lewis (1774–1809) and William Clark (1770–1838) explored and charted the American West between 1804 and 1806, covering nearly 8,000 miles. Their journals described lands of North America previously uncharted by European colonists.
  • President Jefferson's desire to find a river passage to the Pacific Ocean and the recent addition of a vast territory, acquired through the Louisiana Purchase (1803), fueled his decision to fund an exploration party to the lands beyond the Mississippi.
  • The expedition party of around 40 men came to be known as the Corps of Discovery. Along the way they added two interpreters, Toussaint Charbonneau and his Shoshone Indian wife, Sacagawea, whom Charbonneau had purchased from Hidatsa kidnappers.
  • Only 2,000 copies of the journals were printed in 1814. Because the editor omitted many of the scientific findings, they were viewed as an adventure story. Later editions corrected the omissions and established the journals' place in history.
  • Today, Lewis and Clark's journals are a valuable record of the lives and customs of the native peoples of the northwestern United States and the explorers' interactions with them. They also document the American government's first encounter with the landscape, climate, plants, and animals of the land obtained by the Louisiana Purchase, as the United States geared up for westward expansion.


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