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Give a little background on William Clark.

William Least Heat-Moon
William Least Heat-Moon

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Clark, the both men of course were military men, Lewis also, Clark was the older of the two. Clark was the the man who had the practicality always to be able to to find a solution, whatever the problem was. I have a sense that in a way, he was he was the the rod in the spine of of Lewis. I don’t mean to say that Lewis was weak because clearly he wasn’t. But it was Clark’s force of personality, his capacity to deal with with the men, all of whom were were not formally educated. That gave Lewis his discipline and his intelligence the the force, the power to make it, make it go, to make it active.

Is it true that Clark was an excellent mapmaker?

John Logan Allen
John Logan Allen

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As, as a cartographer, Clark was without peer, not in the sense that he produced elegant maps, in, in the same sense that, that the Army topographers of, of the 1850’s produced elegant maps. What made Clark so, so marvelous as a cartographer, even though his, his maps look to us today to be a bit crude, was that he had an incredible instinct and, and feel for the landscape. He seemed to know what was the most logical direction for a river to take, once it got out of his line of sight. If you look at, at Clark’s maps as, as field exercises in and by themselves, as opposed to looking at them as finished products of, of cartography, you, you see a, a, a beauty in the ability of, of this guy to, to recognize the landscape, to convert what he’s seeing in a horizontal perspective into that vertical map perspective. It, it’s the hardest thing that people do in, in dealing with space. As a geographer, one of the things that I, I have to teach my students at the very beginning of their training, is how to convert what they’re seeing to that map perspective. Most people can’t do that, most people can’t see that readily. Clark could, and he could see it better than, than almost any other explorer that I know of, and, and as a consequence, he is without peer as a map maker, given the state of his equipment, given the nature of, of overall cartographic technology, that nobody is his equal.

Why did Lewis select Clark to help lead the expedition?

Dayton Duncan
Dayton Duncan

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I think Lewis knew that he needed somebody to help him on the expedition. I think somewhere deep down, he knew that he needed somebody he could count on. And the person he could count the most on was William Clark. I think he, he offered Clark not only to be a co-captain, but he said, “If you can’t do this,” when he wrote him a letter, “if you can’t do this, how about going at least part way up the river. And then go home.” But I think that somewhere deep down, Meriwether Lewis knew that he couldn’t make it on his own.

What happened to Clark once the expedition was over?

Stephen Ambrose
Stephen Ambrose

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Clark had a wonderful post-expedition career. He married, successfully. Went to St. Louis, where he was promoted to General of Militia and became Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Was very popular with all the Indian tribes of the west. Kept the peace among the Indians on the Mississippi River, and pretty far west actually, for 30 years, and became a distinguished citizen of St. Louis.

  GM