Events of 1806
Life at Fort Clatsop is depressing. Of
the 112 (some say 102) days the Expedition is there, it rains every day
except twelve, and only half of those are clear days. Most of the men
are constantly wet and cold. After three months, the Corps of Discovery
departs Fort Clatsop, arriving at the Nez Perce village in early May.
A month later the Expedition sets out over the objections of the Nez Perce
towards the Lolo Trail and the Rockies. Heavy snow stops the party (the
only time the Corps of Discovery is "compelled to retreat,"
according to Lewis). After this initial setback, the men wait two weeks
and set out once again, this time with Indian guides. They average 26
miles a day and reach the eastern side of the Rockies on June 30th.
July - August: According to the plan they had formulated at
Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark divide their command into four groups.
Captain Lewis, Sergeant Gass, Drouillard, and seven privates head northeast
to explore the Marias River and hopefully meet with the Blackfeet to
establish good relations with them. At the portage camp near the Great
Falls, Lewis leaves Gass and three men to recover the cache left there.
Captain Clark takes the remainder of the expedition southeast across
the Continental Divide to the Three Forks of the Missouri. There, he
sends Sergeant Ordway, nine privates, and the cache recovered from Camp
Fortunate down the Missouri to link up with Lewis and Gass at the mouth
of the Marias River. Clark, four privates, the Charbonneau family, and
York then descend the Yellowstone River to its juncture with the Missouri
River. Meanwhile, Sergeant Pryor and three privates take the horses
overland to the Mandan villages and deliver a letter to the British
North West Company, seeking to bring it into an American trading system
Lewis seeks to establish. Lewis and Clark unite at the juncture of the
Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers in August.
Separated for forty days, the Corps of Discovery proceeds to accomplish
nearly all its objectives. Lewis and his team successfully explore the
Marias but narrowly escapes a deadly confrontation with the Blackfeet
in which two Indians die. What had begun as a friendly meeting turns
into a tragedy. Fearing for their lives, Lewis, Drouillard, and the
Field brothers begin a frantic ride southeastward to reunite with Sergeants
Gass and Ordway at the mouth of the Marias. This they accomplish on
July28th, after riding nearly 120 miles in slightly more than twenty-four
As Lewis and his party makes their way from the site where they had
encountered the Blackfeet, Sergeant Ordway's group recovers the cache
at Camp Fortunate, proceeds down the Missouri River, and links up with
Sergeant Gass without incident. Gass' team had already recovered the
cache at the portage camp at the Great Falls and was awaiting Lewis
and Ordway. Meanwhile, while Clark and his party explore the Yellowstone
River, Pryor cannot complete his mission. On the second night out, a
Crow raiding party steals all the soldiers' horses. Demonstrating their
ingenuity, Pryor and his men keep their cool, walk to Pompey's Pillar
(named in honor of Sacagawea's infant son, whom Clark nicknamed "Pomp"),
kill a buffalo for food and its hide, make two circular Mandan-type
bullboats, and float downriver to link up with Clark on the morning
of August 8th. Four days later, Lewis and his group find Clark along
the banks of the Missouri River.
August: On August 14th, The Corps of Discovery reaches the Mandan
villages. There they bid farewell to the Charbonneau family and Private
John Colter, who had requested an early release so he could accompany
two trappers up the Yellowstone River.
September: On September 1st, Lewis and Clark hold a council
with the Yanton Sioux. Three days later they visit the gravesite of
Sergeant Floyd. On the morning of September 23, 1806, the Corps of Discovery
arrive at St. Louis to the cheers of crowds lining the riverfront.