The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition - Vol. 11

By Joseph Whitehouse; Gary E. Moulton | Go to book overview

Introduction to Volume 11

The essential, definitive record of the Lewis and Clark expedition is contained in the journals and observations of the two captains, "the writingest explorers of their time," in the words of Donald Jackson.1 If no one else associated with the enterprise had written a word we would still have a marvelous narrative replete with geographic, zoological, botanical, and ethnographic information. In fact, however, at least four other members of the party did set down their own daily accounts. This edition brings them together with those of their commanders for the first time.

President Thomas Jefferson did not order the actual keeping of separate journals by anyone other than the captains. In his final instructions to Lewis, however, he did suggest that "several copies of these as well as of your other notes should be made at leisure times, & put into the care of the most trust-worthy of your attendants, to guard, by multiplying them, against the accidental losses to which they will be exposed."2 All this would seem to require is that some of the "attendants" copy the captains' journals verbatim. Apparently Lewis and Clark, at an early stage, decided to do something else. On May 26, 1804, less than two weeks out from River Dubois, the captains noted that "The sergts . . . are directed each to keep a separate journal from day to day of all passing accurences, and such other observations on the country &c. as shall appear to them worthy of notice.--"3

In his last communication to Jefferson from Fort Mandan in April 1805, Lewis wrote: "We have encouraged our men to keep journals, and seven of them do so, to whom in this respect we give every assistance in our power."4 Lewis had a sense of history; in departing westward from the Mandan villages he compared his little fleet of pirogues and canoes to the vessels of Captain Cook.5 The significance of his enterprise warranted as complete a record as possible. It might be too much to ask any enlisted men to copy their officers' voluminous journals, but those so inclined could be encouraged to add their bit to the record.

At least some of the men who went with Lewis and Clark seem to have shared that sense of history. They were volunteers, after all, and although some of them no doubt simply hoped to escape from irksome military discipline or to find good beaver streams, others evidently knew very well that this was the chance of a lifetime,

-xi-

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The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition - Vol. 11
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Editorial Procedures ix
  • Introduction to Volume 11 xi
  • Chapter Fifty-Five - Up the Missouri 1
  • Chapter Fifty-Six - Winter at the Knife River 85
  • Chapter Fifty-Seven - Great Falls of the Missouri 132
  • Chapter Fifty-Eight - Across the Rockies 227
  • Chapter Fifty-Nine - Winter on the Coast 348
  • Sources Cited 441
  • Index 443
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