Although the missing calumet was not found, the Skilloots learned the white warriors were men to be reckoned with. Finally, three days later, the Corps reached the object of their dreams—the broad waters of the Pacific. After spending nearly a month exploring the coastal plain and the Indians who dwelt along the Pacific rim, the time came to plan once more for winter quarters, although the Northwestern climate freed them from the snows of the cold season experienced at Fort Mandan.
Called Fort Clatsop, after the tribe with whom the Corps now lived, the outpost was designed to be a fitting reminder of American power, even on the shores of the Pacific. The fortification would be a square construction, measuring 50 feet to a side. Building the fort commenced on December 8.
It was completed in time to celebrate Christmas, which was saluted at daylight by a discharge of firearms, followed by a song from the men. The sighting of the Pacific and the claim to the coast that Fort Clatsop so strongly represented marked the climax of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Now it was time for the Corps to begin the long march home. On the return journey, Indians who had been friendly on the way out had become sullen, almost hostile, perhaps due to action by agents of the British North West Fur Company.
Passing with rifles in hand through a gantlet of hostile tribes, the Corps reached the friendly people they had encountered on the way out the year before, the Walla Wallas and Nez Perce.
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In early May, Lewis and Clark again met Twisted Hair, a Nez Perce chief who had been a guide on the western trek and who had guarded their horses during the winter. On June 15, the Corps ascended again the arching peaks of the Bitterroots. Then, near present day Missoula, Mont. Lewis would explore to the north, gauging the chances of fur trapping into Canada, while Clark would hew to the trail back East. For once-and almost fatally-Lewis let down his guard. The practiced eyes of the Indian raiders noticed that both guns and horses were unattended.
Without warning, the Piegans struck. He called to his brother [Reuben] who instantly jumped up and pursued… him, and Reuben Fields, as he seized his gun, stabbed the Indian to the heart! Lewis himself quickly drew his big-mouthed.
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After the skirmish with the Blackfeet, Lewis, lest he be outnumbered by the warlike people, turned around to meet up again with Clark. Lewis made good time covering as much as 83 miles in one day paddling downstream on the Missouri, and on August 7 he reached the mouth of the Yellowstone.
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There the men found a note from Captain Clark, informing them of his intention of waiting for them a few miles below. After reuniting on the Missouri, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, together once more, set out on the final leg of the journey. On August 30 they became soldiers again when Clark, acting on behalf of the recuperating Lewis, berated the unruly Lakotas for breaking the peace with the Mandan tribe.
After Clark returned from haranguing the Lakotas, all the men prepared their weapons in case of an attack—an attack that never materialized. The land now became familiar, almost homelike, to the Corps. They had a happy meeting with the other Lakotas and passed again the sad site of the final resting place of Sergeant Floyd.
Sailing by St. Charles, the Corps descended the Mississippi to St. Louis, where it arrived at noon on September 23, , and received a hearty welcome from the whole town. The long march of Lewis and Clark was over.
The 33 members of the Corps of Discovery picked up speed as they headed home. On their journey west, which began near St. Louis in May , the explorers had rowed and pulled their boats upstream on the Missouri River, laboring to cover 10 miles a day.
Now, late in the summer of , the wayworn expedition members were heading downstream, sometimes making 75 miles a day. They had had their fill of grand adventure and longed to see their loved ones again. In canoes and hollowed-out logs called pirogues, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their Corps of Discovery traversed the Missouri into present-day North Dakota, where the map had ended before their journey.
Her husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, and son, Jean Baptiste, both of whom achieved renown of their own, left the expedition with her. Lewis and Clark and company reached St. Louis on September In the days since their departure, the explorers had traveled more than 8, miles, established friendships with several native nations, collected invaluable botanical and zoological specimens, produced surprisingly accurate maps, and compiled detailed records of the entire expedition.
The mountain men, explorers, buffalo hunters, soldiers, pioneers, gamblers, gold seekers, cowboys, outlaws, missionaries, and homesteaders who went west during the next century all followed in the wake of Lewis and Clark.
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The nation rejoiced when Lewis and Clark and their men — rumored to be dead or lost — safely returned to civilization. Congress awarded 1,acre land grants to Lewis and Clark and acre grants to each enlisted man, as well as the back pay due to everyone. President Thomas Jefferson, the force behind the expedition, further rewarded the captains by appointing Lewis governor of the Territory of Upper Louisiana and Clark superintendent of Indian affairs. Clark promptly ordered former expedition member Nathaniel Pryor, now an army ensign, to return Mandan chief Sheheke also called Big White to his home in North Dakota.
Pryor and his first wife, Margaret Patton, had six children. As he was forming his company, Pryor naturally looked for men he already knew and trusted. Only 18 years old when he joined the captains, Shannon was the youngest member of the party. His youth sometimes showed: he had a habit of forgetting objects on the trail, and he had twice become separated from the main group.
But Shannon proved to be particularly cool under pressure one night when a wolf attacked a small group of scouts. Gibson had acted as an interpreter on the expedition, probably using sign language, and he was also a first-rate hunter. Pryor, Shannon, and Gibson had traveled to the Pacific Coast and back and had traversed Lakota, Yankton Sioux, and Crow territory without a single violent episode with Indians, but their luck changed for the worse on September 9, , when they encountered the Arikara, who were at war with the Mandan.
In the exchange of fire that followed, Shannon took a ball that broke his leg, and Gibson and another man were also wounded. The trapping party accompanying Pryor fared much worse: three men had been killed and seven others badly wounded, one mortally. He was near death by the time the group returned to St. Louis, and a doctor amputated the leg above the knee. He assisted statesman and writer Nicholas Biddle in the publication of the Lewis and Clark journals, served in the Kentucky House of Representatives, and was named U.
In August of , at the age of 51, Shannon fell ill while attending a trial. George Gibson also recovered from his wound and married Maria Reagan. By January , however, the man who had delighted Indians with his fiddle playing fell ill.
Fearing imminent death, Gibson made out his will and left everything to his wife. Five years after his encounter with the Arikara, Nathaniel Pryor made another narrow escape. Pryor escaped by crossing the frozen Mississippi River. Pryor spent the latter part of his life trading with the Osage Indians in the Arkansas Territory, and he had three daughters by his second wife, an Osage woman.
He established a reputation for integrity and served as an Indian agent in all but title, although the government offered him little in the way of position or compensation. Meriwether Lewis returned from the expedition as a conquering hero. At 32 he was an eligible bachelor, a prominent landowner, and governor of a huge territory. His prospects seemed limitless.
No one could have guessed that three years later he would die a lonely death in the Tennessee wilderness. Lewis had commanded the Corps with singular efficiency; his tenure as governor was a different story. After his appointment, he inexplicably lingered in the East for a year. When Lewis finally arrived in St. Louis, his long absence had made the Herculean task of governing the territory virtually impossible. Adding trouble to trouble, Lewis mismanaged his personal finances and fell into debt. Then he neglected to write the promised expedition history, and though he had resolved to marry, the famed explorer failed in courtship.
Louis to book passage on a keelboat. But within days, Lewis was sick, possibly with malaria. He and Pernia stopped miles to the south at New Madrid, where the governor made out his will and bequeathed his property to his mother, Lucy Marks. Changing his plans, Lewis decided to continue overland. The four men rode along the Natchez Trace, an eight-foot-wide, mile trail that ran through the dense woods of Indian territory.
The Trace led them into present Alabama, where they paid a man to ferry them across the swift Tennessee River. Following the winding Trace over streams and through thick forests that blocked out the sun for hours at a time, the four riders entered Tennessee. On October 10, the travelers awoke to find that two packhorses had gotten loose during the night. Neelly remained behind to search for the horses, and Lewis rode on, with the servants following some distance behind. According to Mrs. Grinder, wife of the absent owner, Lewis asked for spirits but drank little.
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Then he sat down outside and lit his pipe. Grinder prepared a bed for Lewis in one of the cabins, but he preferred to sleep on the floor with bearskins and a buffalo robe. The landlady and her children then went to their cabin and the two servants to a barn yards away. Late into the night, Mrs. Grinder heard Lewis in the other cabin pacing and talking to himself.