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The U.S. Army and the Lewis & Clark Expedition
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 the riverfront.

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 nation’s 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 region’s 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 today’s force continues to, that the U.S. Army has many roles and helps the nation in many ways.

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