Lower Missouri: May 1804 to April 1805
The Expedition broke camp on May 14, 1804. Clark wrote in his journal: "I set out at 4 oClock P.M and proceeded on under a jentle brease up the Missouri." The party traveled in a 55-foot long keelboat and two smaller boats, called "pirogues." Through the long, hot summer they laboriously worked their way upriver. Numerous navigational hazards, including sunken trees called "sawyers," sand bars, collapsing river banks, and sudden squalls of high winds with drenching rains slowed their progress. There were other problems, including disciplinary floggings, two desertions, a man dishonorably discharged for mutiny, and the death of Sgt. Charles Floyd, the only member to die during the Expedition. In modern day South Dakota, a band of Teton Sioux tried to detain the boats, but the explorers showed their superior armaments and sailed on.
In four weeks of hard work, the men built a triangular shaped fort. Rows of small huts made up two sides; a wall of upright cottonwood logs formed the front. They named it Fort Mandan, in honor of the local inhabitants. The party was now 164 days and approximately 1,510 miles distant from Wood River.
The explorers spent five months at Fort Mandan, hunting and obtaining information about the route ahead from the Indians and French-Canadian traders who lived nearby. The Expedition's blacksmiths set up a forge and made tools and implements, which were traded for the American Indian's garden crops of corn, melons and beans. A French-Canadian named Toussaint Charbonneau visited the captains with his young pregnant Shoshone wife, Sacagawea.
- ↑ Adapted from an article by Irving W. Anderson.