The U.S. Army and the Lewis & Clark
Part 8: Triumphant Return
On the morning of 23 September 1806,
the Corps of Discovery arrived at St. Louis to the cheers of crowds lining
Over the past two hundred years, the Lewis and Clark Expedition has
become famous as an epic of human achievement, covering nearly eight
thousand miles in two years, four months, and ten days. Although the
Corps of Discovery did not locate an uninterrupted, direct route to
the Pacific Ocean as Jefferson had hoped, the expedition strengthened
the nations claim to the Pacific Northwest and paved the way for
future Army expeditions, which helped to open the American West to commerce
and settlement. The two captains and some of their men kept detailed
journals and brought back invaluable geographic and scientific data,
including 178 new plants and 122 previously unknown species and subspecies
of animals. They also made friends with several Indian tribes and gave
the nation a foothold in the regions fur trade.
The U.S. Army had made a singular contribution to the success of the
Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Army furnished the organization and
much of the manpower, equipment, and supplies. Military discipline and
training proved crucial, both to winning over potentially hostile tribes
and to overcoming the huge natural obstacles to crossing the continent.
The journey of the Corps of Discovery demonstrated, as todays
force continues to, that the U.S. Army has many roles and helps the
nation in many ways.