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On April 1, 1804, Clark issued a Detachment Order listing the permanent party “for the Expedition through the interior of the Continent of North America.” The following journal excerpts document representative experiences of George Gibson, Silas Goodrich, Hugh Hall, Thomas Proctor Howard, Jean Baptiste LePage, Hugh McNeal, John Potts, John B. Thompson, Peter M. Weiser, William Werner, Alexander Hamilton Willard, and Richard Windsor, the 12 lesser-known members of the Corps of Discovery.

On May 14, 1804, Clark, commanding all of the members of the Permanent Party, departed Camp Dubois, “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,” manned by a complement of “French Watermen” At St. Charles (Missouri), the waterborne group awaited the arrival of Captain Lewis, who would travel overland from St. Louis, where he had been detained finalizing last minute government business.

During this layover, on May 17, 1804, Privates William Werner, Hugh Hall, and John Collins were tried by court martial and convicted of being absent without leave. Werner and Hall received penalties of 25 lashes “on their bear backs” each, and Collins one hundred lashes for additional offenses. Two of the miscreants, Collins and Hall apparently learning nothing from that experience, were both tried again on June 29 for being drunk. With Private John Potts acting as “Judge advocate,” Colllins, who was on sentry duty, received 100 lashes, and Hall, the lesser penalty of 50 lashes.

October 13, 1804, Hugh Hall, William Werner, Peter Weiser, and Silas Goodrich among others, were members of a court martial that tried Private John Newman for mutiny. Newman was “sentenced to seventy-five lashes on his bear back, discarded from the perminent party, and ordered to perform hard labor” until he could be returned downriver.

Lewis, at Fort Mandan, February 9, 1805, reported that “this evening a man by the name of Howard whom I had given permission to go to the Mandane vilage returned after the gate was shut and rether than call to the guard to have it opened scaled the works. an indian who was looking on shortly after followed his example. I told the Indian of the impropryety of his conduct, and explained to him the riske he had run of being severely treated, the fellow appeared much allarmed, I gave him a smll piece of tobacco and sent him away., Howard I had comitted to the care of the guard with a determination to have him tryed by a courtmartial for this offence this man is an old soldier which still hightens this offince.”

February 15, 1805, while Goodrich was detailed with three others to bring in meat that was cached 25 miles down the frozen Missouri River from Fort Mandan, about 100 Sioux Indians “Cut their horses from the Slays...and ran off with 2 of the mens knives.” On May 25, 1805, while proceeding westward on the Missouri, the Captains named “Goodrich’s Island” for him in the present State of Montana. May 26, Lewis recorded that the expedition “passed another creek...on the Stard. 30 yds in width which also had running water bed rockey...we called it Windsor Cr.” Two hundred miles west of Fort Mandan, the captains named “Hall’s Strand Lake & Creek” on the Starboard side of the Missouri.

June 7, Windsor, who was returning with Lewis from his disappointing exploration of the north fork of the Missouri [Marias River], slipped while crossing the face of a bluff. Lewis found he had fallen to a narrow ledge, and was lying prostrate “on his belley, with his wright hand arm and leg over the precipice...altho’ much allarmed at his situation I disguised my feelings...and spoke to him calmly...to take his knife out of his belt and dig a hole with it in the face of the bank to receive his wright foot which he did and raised himself to his knees...this he happily effected and escaped.”

June 10, 1805, George Gibson, George Druillard, Reuben Fields and Silas Goodrich were chosen by Captain Lewis to scout ahead of the main party in search of the Great Falls of the Missouri. Thus the four men, upon Lewis’s sighting of “this sublimely grand specticle,” would share with Lewis, their “first impressions of the mind...[filled] with such pleasure and astonishment.” June l5, “Goodrich who was our principal fisherman, caught about two douzen [trout] and several small cat[fish] of a yellow color which would weight about 4 lbs.”

On June 22, 1805, Goodrich and three others were detailed to “take Care of the baggage left in camp,” while Clark and the main party were engaged in portaging the canoes and equipment around the Great Falls of the Missouri. Clark reported that the men, carrying heavy loads on their backs, reached “Camp much fatigued at dark...we deturmine to employ every man Cooks & all on the portage after to day.” On June 26, the captains named Howard’s Creek after Thomas P. Howard, one of the party.

On July 4, 1805, Lewis “permitted Sergt. Gass, McNeal and several others who had not yet seen the falls [of the Missouri] to visit them.” Then, on July 15, Lewis comments on excess baggage carried by some of the men: “We find it extreemly difficult to keep the baggage of many of our men within reasonable bounds; they will be adding bulky articles of but little use or value to them....in order to lighten the burthen of the canoes I continued my walk all the evening and took our only invallids Potts and LaPage with me.” On July 20, Lewis wrote, “through the valley which we entered early this morning a large creek flows from the mountains and discharges itself into the river behind an island on Stard. side...this we called Pott’s Creek after John Potts one of our party.”

On August 9, 1805, just after breakfast, Lewis “slung [his] pack and set out accompanyed by Drewsyer Shields and McNeal who had been previously directed to hold themselves in readiness for this service.” On August 10, Lewis named “McNeal’s Creek,” which enters today’s Beaverhead River at Dillon, Montana.

On August 11, Lewis, “We set out early this morning. I kept McNeal with me... I [soon saw] an Indian on horse back about two miles distant...with my glass I discovered from his dress that he was of a different nation from any that we had yet seen, and was satisfyed of his being a Sosone [Shoshoni]. I was overjoyed at the sight of this stranger and had no doubt of obtaining a friendly introduction to his nation provided I could get near enough to him to convince him of our being whitemen...when I had arrived within about a mile he made a halt which I did also...”

“I haistened to take out of my sack som beads a looking glas and a few trinkets which I had brought with. me for this purpose and leaving my gun and pouch with McNeal advanced unarmed towards him...I now called to him in as loud a voice as I could command repeating the word tab-ba-bone, which in their language signifyes white man. I got nearer than about 100 paces when he suddonly turned his horse about, gave him the whip leaped the creek and disapeared...with him vanished all my hopes of obtaining horses for the present...after meeting with the Indian today I fixed a small flag of the U’ S. to a pole which I made McNeal carry.”

On August 12, Lewis wrote, “I now determined to pursue the base of the mountains which form this cove [Shoshone Cove]...the road was still plain, I therefore did not dispair of shortly finding a passage over the mountains and of taisting the waters of the great Columbia this evening...at the distance of 4 miles further the road took us to the most distant fountain of the waters of the mighty Missouri in surch of which we have spent so many toilsome days and wristless nights. thus far I had accomplished one of those great objects on which my mind has been unalterably fixed for many years, judge then of the pleasure I felt in allying my thirst with this pure and ice cold water...two miles below McNeal had exultingly stood with a foot on each side of this little rivulet and thanked his god that he had lived to bestride the mighty & heretofore deemed endless Missouri.”

“[W]e proceeded on to the top of the dividing ridge [Lemhi Pass, on the crest of the Continental Divide of the Rockies] from which I discovered immence ranges of high mountains still to the West of us with their tops partially covered with snow. I now decended the mountain about 3/4 of a mile which I found much steeper than on the opposite side, to a handsome bold running Creek of cold Clear water. here I first tasted the water of the great Columbia river.”

Immediately west of the Continental Divide, Lewis came upon two Shoshone women and a girl who were digging edible roots. Lewis gave them presents, and soon they were joined by a large number of Shoshone men on horseback, including their chief, Cameahwait. Lewis and his men, together the Indians, proceeded o their Shoshone camp on today’s Lemhi River, a tributary to the Salmon River.

On August 15, Lewis wrote, “I found on enquiry of McNeal that we had only about two punds of flour remaining. this I directed him to divide into two equal parts...and cook a kind of pudding with burries...on this new fashoned pudding four of us breakfasted, giving a pretty good allowance alsos to the Chief who declard it the best thing he had taisted for a long time.” On August 16, Lewis, his men and the Indians, while backtracking to the Jefferson River, Drouillard killed a deer. Lewis “directed McNeal to skin the deer ar reserved a quarter, the ballance I gave the Chief to be divided among his people; they devoured thw whole of it nearly without cooking.” Upon reaching the Jefferson River, Lewis established what would be named Camp Fortunate. Here, the group awaited the arrival of Clark and the main party, who were slowly advancing upriver.

Lewis wrote on August 25, that, Windsor, while accompanying Clark during his scouting of the navigation suitability of the Salmon River (Idaho), “was taken very sick today and detained Capt C. very much on his march.”

October 2, while among the Nez Perce Indians, Clark “Despatched 2 men Frasure & S. Guterich back to the village with l Indian & 6 horsed to purchase dried fish, roots &c. we have nothing to eate but roots, which give the men violent pains in their bowels...Provisions all out which Compells us to kill one of our horses to eate and make Suep for the Sick men.”

On October 9, Clark recorded that the day before, serious damage was sustained to a canoe while passing through some bad rapids in the mid-Columbia River, during which Private Thompson “was a little hurt.” Sergeants Pryor and Gass, together with Joseph Field and George Gibson, repaired the cracked, leaking canoe, by “putting Knees and Strong peces to her sides and bottom...” made the canoe once again “fit for Service.” Proceeding downstream, on October 19, while encamped for the night, Indians living nearby came and “...two of our Party, Peter Crusat & Gibson played on the violin which delighted them greatly.”

On November 7, Clark wrote, “Great joy in camp we are in View of the Ocian, this great Pacific Octean which we been sos long anxious to See.” They were still 25 miles upstream, and what they actually saw were huge waves driven into the broad estuary of the Columbia. Clark continued, “The Swells weere So high and the Canoes roled in Such a manner as to cause Several to be Verry Sick. Reuben fields, Wiser, McNeal & Squar wer of the number.”

Clark, on November 12, reported that while the party was stranded by a fierce storm on the estuary of the Columbia, “Three men, Bratten Gibson and Willard...”attempted to round Point Distress (today’s Point Ellice), “where they were obliged to return, the waves tossing them about at will.”

During the construction of Fort Clatsop, their 1805-1806 winter quarters, a number of the men were incapacitated with various ailments. Clark wrote that “Gibson had disentary, & Werner with a Strained Knee.” On December 22, illness among the men continued. “Gibson sick with biles and bruses of different kinds.”

On January 6, Clark, with Charbonneau, Sacagawea, Pryor, Frazer, McNeal, and Werner departed Fort Clatsop for a site 25 miles distant, where a whale had beached. Enroute Weiser, Colter, LePage, R. Fields, and Potts, who were assigned duties at the Salt Works, together with an Indian guide, joined Clark’s party. Hoping to purchase blubber and oil from Indians, the group camped on the tidal shore of Ecola [whale] Creek, opposite the village where Tillamook Indians were processing the whale.

The night of January 8, Clark “herd a hollowing on the opposit Side of the river...I Suspected perhaps Some of my party was over after the Squars, by exemening found that McNeal was not in Camp...my guide told me Some body throat was Cut. I emediately Sent Serjt Pryor & 2 men across for McNeal, they Soon returned...McNeal Said that a man envited him to go across and get Some fish, locked arms of which he Contd [continued] to hold...the woman of the lodge puled his blanket, & Sent out a Squar to hollow (holler) across which allarmed McNeal...a plot was laid to kill McNeal for his Blanket & Clothes.” The Tillamook Indian woman’s action in sounding the alarm with her hollering very likely saved McNeal from serious injury, if not death.

On January 27, 1806, Lewis reported that “Goodrich has recovered from the Louis veneri (syphilis) which he contracted from an amorous contact with a Chinnook damsel. I cured him as I did Gibson last winter by the uce of murcury.” December 25, 1805. Clark, in his Christmas Day journal entry commenting on the festivities, mentioned “I rcved a present of a Small Indian basket of Guterich.”

On January 23, 1806, Lewis “dispatched Howard and Werner to the Camp of the Saltmakers for a supply of salt. The men of the garison are still busily employed in dressing Elk’s skins for cloathing, they find great difficulty for the want of branes [brains]; we have not soap to supply the deficiency nor can we procure ashes to make the lye; none of the pines which we use for fuel affords any ashes.” On January 28, Lewis wrote, “about noon Werner and Howard returned with a supply of salt; the badness of the weather and the difficulty of road had caused their delay.” On January 31, he reported, “discovered that McNeal had the pox, gave him medecine.”

On February 27, Clark reported that “Willard still continues very unwell the other sick men have nearly recovered. Gutridge and McNeal who have the pox are recovering fast, the former nearly well. LePage complaining.” Six months later, Goodrich and McNeal were exhibiting symptoms of the secondary stage of the disease. March 6, “Hall had his foot and ankle much injured yesterday by the fall of a large stick of timber; the bones were fortunately not broken and I expect he will be able to walk again shortly.”

March 8, Lewis wrote “that McNeal and Goodrich having recovered from the Louis veneri I directed them to desist from the uce of Mercury.” April 10, while the party was ascending the turbulent rapids of the Cascades of the Columbia, “Collins and Gibson came over...with the large toe roap...which we were obliged to employ in getting our Canoes the greater part of the way we could only take them one at a time which retarded our progress very much.”

April 18, upon reaching the Indian fishing camps near today’s The Dalles, Oregon, Clark gave Drouillard, Werner, Shannon & Goodrich Articles of Merchendize “to attempt trading for horses, without trading a single horse.” He then returned downriver to their Rockfort Camp and “Cut up two of our Canoes for fire wood verry much to the Sagreen [chagrin] of the nativs, not with standing they would give us nothing for them.” Clark “dispatched Crusat, Willard & McNeal and Peter Wiser to Capt Lewis...with a note informing him of my ill Suckcess in precureing horses.”

May 15, the party having returned to the Nez Perce Indian villages, Lewis reported that “Howard and York are afflicted with the cholic. we had all of our horses driven together today near our camp, which we have directed shall be done each day in order to familiarize them to each other.” Lewis continued, “[W]e had all our baggage Secured and Covered with a rouf of Straw. our little fortification also completely Secured with brush around which our camp is formed. The Greater part of our Security from the rains &c, is the grass which is formed in a kind of ruff So as to turn the rain Completely and is much the best tents we have. as the days are worm &c. we have a bowry made to write under.”

May 30, 1806. Lewis recorded a serious accident involving a canoe that “was driven broadside with the full forse of a very strong current against some standing trees and instantly filled with water and sunk. Potts who was [aboard] is an indifferent swimmer, [and] it was with much difficulty he made the land. they lost three blankets a blanket coat and their pittance of merchandize. in our bear state of clootheing this was a serious loss.”

On June 18, Lewis reported that “Potts cut his leg very badly with one of the large knives; he cut one of the large veigns on the inner side of the leg; I found much difficulty in stoping the blood which I could not effect untill I applyed a tight bandage with a little cushion of wood low on the veign below the wound.” On June 22, Lewis remarked, “Pott’s legg is inflamed and very painfull to him. we apply a poltice of the roots of Cows” (cous, a member of the carrot family).

On July l, Lewis, preparing for his side exploration of the upper Marias River, “determined to leave Thompson, McNeal and Goodrich to prepare carriages and geer for the purpose of transporting the canoes and baggage over the portage.” (around the Great Falls) On July 2, he wrote, “Goodrich and McNeal are both very unwell with the pox which they contracted last winter with the Chinnok women. this forms my inducement principally for taking them to the falls of the Missouri where during an intervail of rest they can use the murcury freely.”

On July 13, 1806, Clark’s Yellowstone River detachment had reached the cache of supplies and canoes that had been submerged the year before, at Camp Fortunate. While Clark and his group, on horses, proceeded overland to the Yellowstone, Sergeant Ordway was in charge of the party returning down the Jefferson and Missouri Rivers to Great Falls. In his group were Collins, Colter, Cruzatte, Howard, LePage, Potts, Weiser, Whitehouse, and Willard. Enroute, Howard was caught in between the canoe and a log and a little hurt.

On July 18, 1806, while proceeding to the Yellowstone River with Clark during the return journey, “Gibson in attempting to mount his horse...fell on a Snag and sent it nearly two inches into the Muskeler part of his thy....this is a very bad wound and pains him exceedingly.”

On July 15, McNeal, who had accompanied Lewis’ detachment from Travellers Rest camp on the Bitterroot River to the Great Falls of the Missouri, had been dispatched by Lewis “to the lower part of the portage in order to learn whether the Cash and white perogue remained untouched or in what state they were. A little before dark McNeal returned with his musquet broken at the breach, and informed me that on his arrival at willow run [on the portage] he had approached a white [grizzly] bear within ten feet without discover[ing] him the bear being in the thick brush, the horse took the alarm and turning threw him immediately under the bear; this animal raised himself on his hind feet for battle, and gave McNeal time to recover from his fall which he did in an instant and with his clubbed musquet he struck the bear over the head and cut him with the guard of the gun and broke off the breach.”

“[T]he bear stunned... gave McNeal time to climb a willow tree which was near at hand and thus made his escape. The bear in the evening, left him...McNeal ventured down and caught his horse and returned to camp...there seems to be a sertain fatality attached to the neighborurhood of these falls, for there is always a chapter of accedents prepared for us during our residence at them.”

Clark wrote that on July 26, 1806, during the return journey, “a Wolf bit Sergt. Pryor through his hand when asleep, and this animal was So vicious as to make an attempt to Seize Windsor.”


  GM