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Go back to 1805

January 1

In his journal entry, Lewis exhibits the homesickness that seems to afflict everyone during the rainy winter, during which there are only 12 days in which it doesn’t rain. “Nothing worthy of notice” soon replaces “we proceeded on” as the most common phrase used by the diarists.
Arikara Rush Gatherer
Arikara Rush Gatherer

January 4

In the East, President Jefferson welcomes a delegation of Missouri, Oto, Arikara, and Yankton Sioux chiefs who had met Lewis and Clark more than a year earlier. Jefferson thanks them for helping the expedition and tells them of his hope “that we may all live together as one household.” The chiefs respond with praise for the explorers, but doubts about whether Jefferson’s other “white children” will keep his word.

March 7

Having previously run out of whiskey, the expedition now runs out of tobacco. Patrick Gass reports that the men use crab tree bark as a substitute.

March 23

Fort Clatsop is presented to the Clatsops, and the expedition sets off for home.
Nez Perce Scout
Nez Perce Scout

May - late June

The expedition arrives back with the Nez PercÚ but have to wait for the snows to melt on the Bitterroots before trying to cross them. They play a game of “base” with the Indians, who once again provide the explorers with food.

July 3

After re-crossing the Bitterroots, the expedition splits into smaller units, in order to explore more of the Louisiana Territory. Clark takes a group down the Yellowstone River; Lewis heads across the shortcut to the Great Falls and then explores the northernmost reaches of the Marias River (and therefore the Louisiana Territory). It will mean they will be split at one point into 4 separate groups.
Clark's Signature
Clark's Signature

July 25

Having reached the Yellowstone (with some guiding assistance from Sacagawea), Clark’s group has re-entered the Great Plains, built two dugouts, been stopped on the river by a huge buffalo herd, and now comes to a sandstone outcropping east of present-day Billings, Montana. He names it Pompy’s Tower, in honor of Sacagawea’s son, nicknamed Little Pomp. And on the rock face, Clark inscribes his name and the date – the only physical evidence the Corps of Discovery left on the landscape that survives to this day.

Lewis and three men, meanwhile, are now 300 miles away, near the Canadian border and what is now Cut Bank, Montana.

July 26/27

Heading back toward the Missouri, Lewis sees eight Blackfeet warriors. They camp together warily, but the morning of the 27th the explorers catch the Blackfeet trying to steal their horses and guns. In the fight that follows, two Blackfeet are killed – the only act of bloodshed during the entire expedition. Lewis leaves a peace medal around the neck of one of the corpses “that they might be informed who we were.” The explorers gallop away, riding for 24 straight hours, meet the group with the canoes on the Missouri, and paddle off toward the rendezvous with Clark.

August 12

Downstream from the mouth of the Yellowstone, the entire expedition is finally reunited.
Mandan Lodge
Mandan Lodge

August 14

They arrive back at the Mandan villages. John Colter is given permission to leave the expedition and return to the Yellowstone to trap beaver (and become one of the first American “mountain men”). The captains say good-bye to Charbonneau, Sacagawea, and Baptiste.


Speeding home with the Missouri’s current, they cover up to 70 miles a day, often not even stopping to hunt in order to get back sooner. They exchange harsh words with the Teton Sioux chief, Black Buffalo; pay their respects at the grave of Charles Floyd, their only casualty; and begin meeting boat after boat of American traders already heading upriver into this newest section of the nation.

September 20

The men see a cow on the shore and raise a cheer at the sign that they are finally returning to the settlements; that day they reach La Charette.

September 23

Their last day as the Corps of Discovery. They reach St. Louis. Having been gone nearly two and a half years, they had been given up for dead by the citizens, who greet the explorers enthusiastically. “Now,” young John Ordway writes, “we intend to return to our native homes to see our parents once more, as we have been so long from them.”


The captains are national heroes; as they travel to Washington, D.C., balls and galas are held in the towns they pass through. In the capitol, one senator tells Lewis it’s as if he had just returned from the moon. The men get double pay and 320 acres of land as rewards; the captains get 1,600 acres. Lewis is named governor of the Louisiana Territory; Clark is made Indian agent for the West and brigadier general of the territory’s militia.

October 11

Traveling east along the Natchez Trace in Tennessee, on his way from St. Louis to Washington, Lewis commits suicide at Grinder’s Stand, an inn south of Nashville. (Later, theories that he was murdered arise, but neither Clark nor Jefferson doubted the original, on-site reports that Lewis had shot himself. Few historians give credence to the the murder theory.)

December 20

At Fort Manuel in what is now South Dakota, Sacagawea dies. Clark, in St. Louis, assumes custody of Jean Baptiste and her infant daughter, Lisette. (Later, legends arise that it was Charbonneau’s other wife that died, that Sacagawea lived until the late 1800s and died on the Shoshone reservation in Wyoming; even fewer historians give much weight to this.)
1832 York dies sometime before this date, probably of cholera, after going into the freighting business in Tennessee and Kentucky. Clark had kept him slavery for at least ten years following the expedition before granting him his freedom.

September 1

William Clark had married Julia “Judith” Hancock, for whom he named a river in Montana; been respected as Indian agent (Native Americans called St. Louis the “Red-Headed Chief’s Town”); successful in business; and several times appointed governor of the Missouri Territory (though he lost the first election to be the new state’s governor, after being accused of being too “soft” on Indians). On this date he dies at the home of his eldest son, Meriwether Lewis Clark.