History Timeline 1800s

Indian petroglyphs mentioned in the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Nemaha River, Troy, Kansas. Courtesy National Archives. Right: Historic New Orleans wharf scene along the Mississippi River. Courtesy Library of Congress.

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U.S. Timeline - The 1800s

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  • Timeline

  • 1804 Detail

    October 26, 1804 - The Lewis and Clark Expedition arrives at the confluence of the Knife and Missouri Rivers, in what is now the state of North Dakota, where they camped until the spring of 1805 at the hospitality of the Mandan and Minitari Indian villages.

    Lewis and Clark with Sacagawea


    They had been traveling along the Missouri River for five months since leaving St. Louis on their task to discover the lands of the Louisiana Territory for President Thomas Jefferson when they crossed into what today is North Dakota and arrived at the confluence of the Knife River. Relations with the various tribes met along the way to this point had predominantly gone well. There had been tension between the Lewis and Clark expedition with the Lakota Sioux the month before. On September 24, the expedition reached the Bad River and sent notice to the Lakota that they wished to have a council meeting the next day. Fifty to sixty Lakota arrived at the Lewis and Clark camp. The expedition gave them medals and gifts, made speeches, and showed them a military parade. All seemed well, until Clark ferried the chiefs back to shore in their keelboat, but was prevented from leaving. There was an armed confrontation, but in the end, no violence. They were permitted to continue northwest up the Missouri River.

    With weather beginning to turn colder, the expedition reached the Mandan nation territory near today's Washburn, North Dakota on October 26, 1804. They set up camp and met in council with the chiefs of the Mandan nation.


    Journal Entries, Corps of Discovery, Upon Arrival at the Mandan Villages


    October 26, 1804 Clark Diary - wind from the S. E we Set the Ricara Chief on Shore with Some Mandans, many on each Side veiwing of us, we took in 2 Chiefs (Coal and Big Man) and halted a feiw minits at their Camps, on the L. S. fortified in their way, here we Saw a trader from the Ossinniboin River Called McCracken, this man arrived 9 day ago with goods to trade for horses & Roabs one other man with him - we Camped on the L. Side a Short distanc below the 1st mandan village on the L. S. many men women & Children flocked down to See us - Capt Lewis walked to the Village with the Chief and interpeters, my Rheumitism increasing prevented me from going also, and we had Deturmined that both would not leave the boat at the Same time untill we Knew the Desposition of the Nativs, Some Chieef visited me & I Smoked with them - they appeared delighted with the Steel Mill which we were obliged to use, also with my black Servent, Capt Lewis returned late -

    October 26, 1804 Ordway Diary - Friday 26th Oct. a clear morning. we Set off eairly. passed a large willow Bottom on S. S. high land on N. S. we proceeded on at 10 oClock we halted at a hunting camp of the Mandens, consisting of men women and children. here we found an Irishman who was here tradeing with them from the N. W. Company of Traders. we delayd about an hour with them, & proceedd on. took 2 of the natives on board with their Baggage in order to go to their Village. the Greater part of that Camp kept along Shore Going up to the villages. we Camped on the S. S. below the 1st village at an old field where the manden nation had raised corn the last Summer, & Sun flowers &.C. of which they eat with corn. Capt. Lewis walked up to the village this evening. found the nation verry friendly, - .C.

    October 26, 1804 Gass Diary - Friday 26th. We set out early and had a clear morning; passed a large Willow bottom on the south and high land on the north side. The Mandan Indian left us early in the morning. At 10, we came to a hunting party of the Mandans, consisting of men, women and children. There was an Irishman with them, who had come from the North West Company of traders. We remained here an hour, and then proceeded. A number of the Indians kept along the shore opposite the boat all day, on the south side, on which side we encamped. Some of them remained with us till 12 at night and then returned to their village.

    October 26, 1804 Whitehouse Diary - Friday October 26th This morning we had clear & pleasant Weather, We set off early, at 10 oClock we came too, where a party of the Mandan Indians were hunting, & they were encamped in a River bottom which was cover'd with heavy Timber, on the South side of the River, - We found with those Indians an Irishman that belonged to the Northwest Company of Traders. We stop'ed with those Indians about one hour, and then proceeded on our way 'till Night, and encamped, on the South side of the River, Some of the Mandan Indians who we found a hunting this day came and staid with us this night.


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    Construction of Fort Mandan, Meeting with Charbonneau and Sacagawea


    On November 2, 1804, construction of their winter encampment, Fort Mandan, was begun across the river from the main Mandan village. Two days later, they met the French-Canadian trapper Toussant Charbonneau, who had lived amongst the Hidatsa (Minitari) for several years, and wanted to serve the corps as translator. He brought along his young Shoshone wife, the sixteen year old girl we know as Sacagawea. Clark wrote that he was convinced that Charbonneau and his then pregnant wife would be useful in their expedition when spring allowed further movement, as they were about to enter Shoshone territory.

    "[A] french man by Name Chabonah, who Speaks the Big Belley language visit us, he wished to hire & informed us his 2 Squars (squaws) were Snake Indians, we engau (engaged) him to go on with us and take one of his wives to interpret the Snake language," William Clark, November 4, 1804.




    Fort Mandan and the Winter Camp


    With the fort completed by December 24, the men of the Corps of Discovery spent a mostly peaceful winter near the Mandan and Hidatsu nations. Sacagawea gave birth to Jean Baptiste Charbonneau on February 11, 1805. On April 7, 1805, Lewis and Clark led their men out of Fort Mandan on six canoes and two pirogues to continue their journey, now accompanied by the Indian guide, Charbonneau, and her son. They had sent back the large keelboat to St. Louis with samples, journals, and reports.

    December 24, 1804 Gass Diary - Monday 24th. Some snow fell this morning; about 10 it cleared up, and the weather became pleasant. This evening we finished our fortification. Flour, dried apples, pepper and other articles were distributed in the different messes to enable them to celebrate Christmas in a proper and social manner.

    February 11, 1805 Lewis Diary - The party that were ordered last evening set out early this morning. the weather was fair and could wind N. W. about five oclock this evening one of the wives of Charbono was delivered of a fine boy. it is worthy of remark that this was the first child which this woman had boarn and as is common in such cases her labour was tedious and the pain violent; Mr. Jessome informed me that he had freequently adminstered a small portion of the rattle of the rattle-snake, which he assured me had never failed to produce the desired effect, that of hastening the birth of the child; having the rattle of a snake by me I gave it to him and he administered two rings of it to the woman broken in small pieces with the fingers and added to a small quantity of water. Whether this medicine was truly the cause or not I shall not undertake to determine, but I was informed that she had not taken it more than ten minutes before she brought forth perhaps this remedy may be worthy of future experiments, but I must confess that I want faith as to it's efficacy. -

    April 7, 1805 Lewis Diary - Having on this day at 4 P.M. completed every arrangement necessary for our departure, we dismissed the barge and crew with orders to return without loss of time to S. Louis, a small canoe with two French hunters accompanyed the barge; these men had assended the missouri with us the last year as engages. The barge crew consisted of six soldiers and two [blank] Frenchmen; two Frenchmen and a Ricara Indian also take their passage in her as far as the Ricara Vilages, at which place we expect Tiebeau [Tabeau] to embark with his peltry who in that case will make an addition of two, perhaps four men to the crew of the barge. We gave Richard Warfington, a discharged Corpl., the charge of the Barge and crew, and confided to his care likewise our dispatches to the government, letters to our private friends, and a number of articles to the President of the United States. One of the Frenchmen by the name of [NB?: Joseph] Gravline an honest discrete man and an excellent boat-man is imployed to conduct the barge as a pilot; we have therefore every hope that the barge and with her our dispatches will arrive safe at St. Louis. Mr. Gravlin who speaks the Ricara language extreemly well, has been imployed to conduct a few of the Recara Chiefs to the seat of government who have promised us to decend in the barge to St. Liwis with that view. -

    At same moment that the Barge departed from Fort Mandan, Capt. Clark embaked with our party and proceeded up the river. as I had used no exercise for several weeks, I determined to talk (walk) on shore as far as our encampment of this evening; accordingly I continued my walk on the N. side of the River about six miles, to the upper Village of the Mandans, and called on the Black Cat or Pose cop'se ha, the great chief of the Mandans; he was not as (at) home; I rested myself a minutes, and finding that the party had not arrived I returned about 2 miles and joined them at their encampment on the N. side of the river opposite the lower Mandan village. Our party now consisted of the following Individuals. Sergts. John Ordway, Nathaniel Prior, & Patric Gass; Privates, William Bratton, John Colter, Reubin, and Joseph Fields, John Shields, George Gibson, George Shannon, John Potts, John Collins, Joseph Whitehouse, Richard Windsor, Alexander Willard, Hugh Hall, Silas Goodrich, Robert Frazier, Crouzatt, John Baptiest la Page, Francis Labiech, Hue McNeal, William Werner, Thomas P. Howard, Peter Wiser, and John B. Thompson. -

    Interpreters, George Drewyer and Tauasant Charbono also a Black man by the name of York, servant to Capt. Clark, an Indian Woman wife to Charbono with a young child, and a Mandan man who had promised us to accompany us as far as the Snake Indians with a view to bring about a good understanding and friendly intercourse between that nation and his own, the Minetares and Ahwahharways.

    Our vessels consisted of six small canoes, and two large perogues. This little fleet altho' not quite so rispectable as those of Columbus or Capt. Cook were still viewed by us with as much pleasure as those deservedly famed adventurers ever beheld theirs; and I dare say with quite as much anxiety for their safety and preservation. we were now about to penetrate a country at least two thousand miles in width, on which the foot of civillized man had never trodden; the good or evil it had in store for us was for experiment yet to determine, and these little vessells contained every article by which we were to expect to subsist or defend ourselves. however as this the state of mind in which we are, generally gives the colouring to events, when the immagination is suffered to wander into futurity, the picture which now presented itself to me was a most pleasing one. entertaing (now) as I do, the most confident hope of succeading in a voyage which had formed a darling project of mine for the last ten years (of my life), I could but esteem this moment of my (our) departure as among the most happy of my life. The party are in excellent health and sperits, zealously attatched to the enterprise, and anxious to proceed; not a whisper of murmur or discontent to be heard among them, but all act in unison, and with the most perfect harmony. I took an early supper this evening and went to bed. Capt. Clark myself the two Interpretters and the woman and child sleep in a tent of dressed skins. this tent is in the Indian stile, formed of a number of dressed Buffaloe skins sewed together with sniues. it is cut in such manner that when foalded double it forms the quarter of a circle, and is left open at one side where it may be attached or loosened at pleasure by strings which are sewed to its sides to the purpose. to erect this tent, a parsel of ten or twelve poles are provided, fore or five of which are attatched together at one end, they are then elivated and their lower extremities are spread in a circular manner to a width proportionate to the demention of the lodge, in the same position orther poles are leant against those, and the leather is then thrown over them forming a conic figure. -

    As noted in the journal entries above, reprinted courtesy of lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu, much of the Corps of Discovery history has been kept in the journals of six men; Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Joseph Whitehouse, John Ordway, Patrick Gass, and Charles Floyd.

    The Corps of Discovery would continue toward the Great Falls of the Missouri River before crossing the Continental Divide in the fall of 1805.

    Photo above: Painting of Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea, Edgar Samuel Paxson. Courtesy Montana State Capitol via Wikipedia Commons. Below: Engraving of Meriwether Lewis, 1805, Saint-Memin, Charles Balthazar, Julien Fevret de. Courtesy Library of Congress. (left) and (right) William Clark, 1807, Saint-Memin, Charles Balthazar, Julien Fevret de. Courtesy Library of Congress. Info source: Library of Congress; https://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu/; Diaries of William Clark, Meriwether Lewis, Joseph Whitehouse, Patrick Gass, John Ordway; National Park Service; Wikipedia Commons.


    William Clark and Meriwether Lewis





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