Hoosier Dusty Files - October 26, 1803 - Meriwether Lewis and William Clark BeginTheir Great Journey
|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
The Lewis and Clark Heritage Foundation has placed an Indiana Historical Bureau marker on the site. The text of the marker:
Title of Marker:
Lewis & Clark Expedition 1803-1806
Falls of the Ohio State Park, George Rogers Clark Homesite, 1200 South Harrison Street, Clarksville. (Clark County, Indiana)
Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, Inc. 1991
Marker ID #:
Near this site on October 26, 1803, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark with the nucleus of the Corps of Discovery together set off down the Ohio River on their epic journey to explore the Louisiana Purchase and Pacific Northwest.
Brief History – Written by the Author
Lewis And Clark Expedition 1803-1806
William Clark lived with his brother George Rogers Clark in his cabin near the Ohio River when he received the letter from Meriwether Lewis requesting that he become co-commander of the expedition into the vast Louisiana Territory. The cabin became the base camp for Lewis and Clark as they organized the expedition. the Corps of Discovery breathed into life in the cabin as the men recruited men from Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia to make the historic journey west.
Arrival at the Falls
Meriwether Lewis arrived at the Falls of the Ohio on October 14, 1803. The Clark Homesite is located within the bounds of Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville, Indiana. The Historic Marker is near the cabin where the men planned the expedition.
Purpose of the Expedition
President Thomas Jefferson requested that Congress fund the expedition into his newly acquired territory. His instructions to Lewis and Clark were, "The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri River, & such principle stream of it, as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado or any other river may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent for the purpose of commerce." He also wanted to establish the new republic's presence in the vast territory. France, Great Britain and Spain all had immense interest in the region and Jefferson wanted to make the United States claim valid with this exploratory mission. Other goals included discovering the sort of natural resources the region had and making contact with the various native tribes that lived there. It was also his hope that they would find a water route across the continent.
Preparations for the Trek
Lewis had served President Jefferson as his personal secretary. As such, he gained access to Jefferson's vast library to study the maps, books and other information Jefferson had acquired. He consulted with Jefferson and gleaned whatever scientific information he needed for the expedition. He studied medicine for a time with noted physician Benjamin Rush. The President also asked astronomer Andrew Ellicott to teach Lewis how to use various navigational aids like the sextant. Jefferson chose Lewis because, in his words, "It was impossible to find a character who to a complete science in botany, natural history, mineralogy & astronomy, joined the firmness of constitution & character, prudence, habits adapted to the woods & a familiarity with the Indian manners and character, requisite for this undertaking. All the latter qualifications Capt. Lewis has." Lewis chose Clark for his draftsman and frontiersman skills. The men that made up the expedition were all volunteers, chosen for their frontier and survival expertise. They departed from the Falls of the Ohio on October 26, 1803. They would be gone for three years, returning with a vast collection of scientific information, maps, charts and a trove of other information about the Louisiana Territory.
For more information on the Falls of the Ohio area, check out the author’s book:
A Visit to Falls of the Ohio State Park
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