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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  • 1806 Detail

    March 23, 1806 - Explorers Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery begin the several thousand mile trek back to St. Louis, Missouri from their winter camp near the Pacific Ocean.

    Lewis and Clark Expedition

    They had reached their Pacific coast destination on November 20, 1805, building Fort Clatsop after their arduous journey of discovery had taken them up the Missouri River, across the Continental Divide, and down the Columbia River. Their stay on the west coast had not been easy. Lack of food was a constant struggle. The fort provided shelter, protection, and a location for Meriweather Lewis and company to write about their observations, including flora, fauna, and an estimation about the population and location of the western Indian tribes. As spring approached in 1806, they prepared for an early return trip. Seven days prior to their original return date, Lewis and Clark set out for home. They handed Fort Clatsop to Coboway, the Chinook leader.

    Today, you can visit a replica of Fort Clatsop at Lewis and Clark National Historical Site in Astoria, Oregon.

    Journal Entries, Corps of Discovery, Starting Home

    March 23, 1806 Lewis Diary - Half after 9 A. M. Colter arrived, having killed one Elk but so distant that we could not send for the meat and get arround Point William today, we therefore prefered seting out and depending on Drewyer and the hunters we have sent forward for meat. the wind is pretty high but it seems to be the common opinion that we can pass point William. we accordingly distributed the baggage and directed the canoes to be launched and loaded for our departure. - at 1 P.M. we bid a final adieu to Fort Clatsop. we had not proceeded more than a mile before we met Delashelwilt and a party of 20 Chinnooks men and women. this Cheif leaning that we were in want of a canoe some days past, had brought us one for sale, but being already supplyed we did not purchase it. I obtained one Sea Otter skin from this party. at a 1/4 before three we had passed Meriwethers bay and commenced coasting the difficult shore; at 1/2 after five we doubled point William, and at 7 arrived in the mouth of a small creek where we found our hunters. they had killed 2 Elk, at the distance of a mile & 1/2. it was too late to send after it this evening. we therefore encamped on the Stard side of the Creek. the wind was not very hard. -

    March 23, 1806 Clark Diary - This morning proved So raney and uncertain that we were undeturmined for Some time whether we had best Set out & risque the (river?) which appeared to be riseing or not. Jo. Colter returned haveing killed an Elk about 3 miles towards Point Adams. the rained Seased and it became fair about Meridean, at which time we loaded our Canoes & at 1 P. M. left Fort Clatsop on our homeward bound journey. at this place we had wintered and remained from the 7th of Decr. 1805 to this day and have lived as well as we had any right to expect, and we can Say that we were never one day without 3 meals of Some kind a day either pore Elk meat or roots, not withstanding the repeeted fall of rain which has fallen almost Constantly Since we passed the long narrows on the [blank] of Novr. last indeed w[e] have had only [blank] days fair weather since that time. Soon after we had Set out from Fort Clatsop we were met by De lash el wilt & 8 men of the Chinnooks, and Delashelwilts wife the old boud and his Six Girls, they had, a Canoe, a Sea otter Skin, Dried fish and hats for Sale, we purchased a Sea otter Skin, and proceeded on, thro' Meriwethers Bay, there was a Stiff breese from the S. W. which raised Considerable Swells around Meriwethers point which was as much as our Canoes Could ride. above point William we came too at the Camp of Drewyer & the 2 Field's. they had killed 2 Elk which was about 1 1/2 miles distant. here we Encampd. for the night having made 16 miles.

    March 23, 1806 Whitehouse Diary - Sunday March 23d It rained very hard, during the whole of last night. One of our hunters did not return to the fort during that time; This morning it still continued raining, & the Weather appeared very uncertain. Our Officers were undetermined, whether they would set out, on our homeward bound Voyage; or not. About 9 o'Clock A. M., the hunter that had staid out during last night, returned to the Fort; he had killed one Elk, which he mention'd, he had left about 3 Miles from the Fort, towards Point Adams. About 12 o'Clock A. M. it ceased raining; & the weather became Clear & pleasant, & we loaded our Canoes, & got every thing in readiness to ascend the Columbia River. We have been at Fort Clatsop from the 7th day of December last past; and our party had lived as well, (as they) as could be expected, & can say that they never were, without 3 Meals each day, of some kind of food, either Elk meat, Roots, fish &ca. notwithstanding the repeated rainey Weather; which fell (with a few days intermission) ever since, we passed the long Narrows of Columbia River; which was the 2nd of November last past. - Fort Clatsop is situated on the South side of Columbia River, and about 1 1/2 Miles up a small River (which empties itself into the Columbia River) called by the Natives Ne-tul, and lay a small distance back, from the West bank of said River. The fort was built in the form of an oblong Square, & the front of it facing the River, was picketed in, & had a Gate on the North & one on the South side of it. The distance from the head waters of the So fork of the Columbia River; (or) Kiomenum or Lewis's River), to fort Clatsop is 994 Miles, (this being the fork which we descended) & from the Mouth of the River de Bois 4134 Miles, the place from whence we took our departure, (& in) Latitude 46 degrees 19' 11 1/10S North, The River Columbia at its mouth also, lay: in Latitude 46 degrees 19' 11 1/10S North, & Longitude 124 degrees 57' 0 1/10S West from Greenwich; & is 21 Miles wide from Cape disappointment on the No side, to Point Adams on So. side of the River; which is where the Columbia River enters into the Western or pacific Ocean. the Tide rises & falls, about 8 feet at the small River, (on) near which was built Fort Clatsop. We have been 60 Miles from Cape disappointment (Where the Chin-ook Indian village lays) which is on the No. side of the River & or its entrance into the Ocean to the No. North West. The two points, Cape disappointment, & point Adams; lay nearly opposite to each other, & about 10 Miles below fort Clatsop The distance that we have went to the Mouth of Columbia River; from the River du Bois, from whence we took our departure is 4,144 Miles, fort Adams being the extreme So point, & lay near to where our party made Salt. - We found that Bands of the flatt head Nation of Indians; are far more numerous that we expected; they extending from the head waters of the Ki-o-me-num River, to the Mouth of the Columbia River; & to the head of all the Rivers, which runs into the No. fork of Columbia River; & to the head of the same. This information we received from numbers of Indians belonging to the different bands of that Nation. - They are called flatt heads from the custom they have among them, of binding flatt pieces of wood, on the foreheads, & back parts of the heads of their Children, when born, which occasions their foreheads & back part of their heads to be flatt. - End of first Volume.

    Sunday March 23d - At 1 o'Clock P. M. we embarked, on board our Canoes from Fort Clatsop, on our homeward bound Voyage. We proceeded on up the South side of the Columbia River, when we were met by a party of the Chin-ook tribe of Indians, who belong to the Flatt head nation. These Indians were in Canoes, & were on their way to Fort Clatsop in Order to trade with us; they had with them a Canoe & a Sea Otter Skin, which they Intended trading with us. We halted a short time, & Captain Lewis purchased the Sea Otter skin from them. We then continued on our Voyage, and went round a point of land called by our officers Merryweather point (the Sirname of Captain Lewis) when the wind rose & blew hard from the South West, & the waves ran very high. We proceeded on, & passed another point of land called point William by our officers the Sirname of Captain Clark. We halted a short distance above this last point, at a Camp where the two hunters that were sent on ahead of us were. These two hunters had killed 2 Elk, which they informed us lay 1 1/2 Miles from this place. We encamped at that place having come 16 Miles this day. -

    Journal Entries, Corps of Discovery, Sacagawea Departs

    The Corps of Discovery headed east along the Columbia River in their canoes, reaching the Great Falls of the Columbia River on April 18. On May 14, they were forced to construct their first major camp of the return trip at the Nez Perce Pass along the Clearwater River, which they named Camp Chopunnis. Snow still covered the Bitteroot Mountains, causing them to pause into June. While there, they purchased sixty-five horses for the overland trip and engaged three Nez Perce guides, who knew of a route that would cut three hundred miles from their trip.

    Prior to reaching the Continental Divide, the expedition split into two halves on July 3. Meriweather Lewis traveled south along the Missouri River and explored the Marias River with four men. Clark embarked on a northern route along the Yellowstone River. While on his journey, Clark discovered what he named Pompey's Pillar after Sacagawea's son Jean-Baptiste, and carved his name and date into its face. This is the only physical remain of the entire Lewis and Clark expedition. On August 2, 1906, William Clark and his group reached the Missouri River in today's North Dakota, and waited for Lewis to return. On August 11, near the Yellowstone and Missouri River, an ill-fated mistake occurred when one man of the Clark group thought Lewis was an elk and shot him in the thigh. Lewis would recover.

    On August 14, the Corps of Discovery reached the Mandan and Hidatsa villages to a warm reception, camping there for three days. Sacagawea, her son, and husband Charbonneau remained with the Mandan, after William Clark offered to raise the boy. The Corps of Discovery continued on their journey down the Missouri River toward St. Louis three days later.

    August 14, 1806 Clark Diary - Set out at Sunrise and proceeded on. when we were opposit the Minetares Grand Village we Saw a number of the Nativs viewing of we derected the Blunderbuses fired Several times, Soon after we Came too at a Croud of the nativs on the bank opposit the Village of the Shoe Indians or Mah-har-ha's at which place I saw the principal Chief of the Little Village of the Menitarre & the principal Chief of the Mah-har-has. those people were extreamly pleased to See us. the Chief of the little Village of the Menetarias cried most imoderately, I enquired the Cause and was informed it was for the loss of his Son who had been killed latterly by the Blackfoot Indians. after a delay of a fiew minits I proceeded on to the black Cats [NB: Mandan ] Village on the N. E. Side of the Missouri where I intended to Encamp but the Sand blew in Such a manner that we deturmined not to continu on that Side but return to the Side we had left. here we were visited by all the inhabitants of this village who appeared equally as well pleased to See us as those above. I walked up to the Black Cats village & eate some Simnins with him, and Smoked a pipe this Village I discovered had been rebuilt Since I left it and much Smaller than it was; on enquirey into the Cause was informed that a quarrel had taken place and [NB: a number of] Lodges had removed to the opposd Side. I had Soon as I landed despatched Shabono to the Minetarras inviting the Chiefs to visit us, & Drewyer down to the lower Village of the Mandans to ask Mr. Jessomme to Come and enterpret for us. Mr. Jessomme arived and I spoke to the chiefs of the Village informing them that we Spoke to them as we had done when we were with them last and we now repeeted our envitation to the principal Chiefs of all the Villages to accompany us and to the U States &c. &c. the Black Cat Chief of the Mandans, Spoke and informed me that he wished to Visit the United States and his Great Father but was afraid of the Scioux who were yet at war with them and had killed Several of their men Since we had left them, and were on the river below and would Certainly kill (this) him if he attempted to go down. I indeavered to do away with his objections by informig him that we would not Suffer those indians to hurt any of our red Children who Should think proper to accompany us, and on their return they would be equally protected, and their presents which would be very liberal, with themselves, Conveyed to their own Country at the expence of the U. States &c. &c. The chief promised us Some corn tomorrow. after the Council I directed the Canoes to cross the river to a brook opposit where we Should be under the wind and in a plain where we would be Clear of musquetors & after Crossing the Chief of the Mah har has told me if I would Send with him he would let me have some corn. I directed Sergt Gass & 2 men to accompany him to his Village, they Soon returned loaded with Corn. the Chief and his wife also came down. I gave his wife a fiew Needles &c. - The great Chif of all the Menitarres the one eye Came to Camp also Several other Chiefs of the different Villages. I assembled all the Chiefs on a leavel Spot on the band and Spoke to them & see next book.

    August 15, 1806 Clark Diary - after assembling the Chiefs and Smokeing one pipe, I informed them that I Still Spoke the Same words which we had Spoken to them when we first arived in their Country in the fall of 1804. we then envited them to visit their great father the president of the U. States and to hear (their) his own Councils and receive his Gifts from his own hands as also See the population of a government which Can at their pleasure protect and Secur you from all your enimies, and chastize all those who will Shut their years to (their) his Councils. we now offer to take you at the expense of our Government and Send you back to your Country again with a considerable present (of) in merchendize which you will recive of your great Father. I urged the necessity of their going on with us as it would be the means of hastening those Supples of Merchindize which would be Sent to their Country and exchanged as before mentioned for a moderate price in Pelteries and furs &c. the great Chief of the Menetaras Spoke, he Said he wished to go down and See his great father very much, but that the Scioux were in the road and would most certainly kill him or any others who Should go down they were bad people and would not listen to any thing which was told them. when (we) he Saw us last we told him that we had made peaace with all the nations below, Since that time the Seioux had killed 8 of their people and Stole a number of their horses. he Said that he had opened his ears and followed our Councils, he had made peace with the Chyennes and rocky mountains indians, and repieted the same objecctions as mentioned. that he went to war against none and was willing to receive all nations as friends. he Said that the Ricaras had Stolen from his people a number of horses at different times and his people had killed 2 Ricaras. if the Sieoux were at peace with them and Could be depended on he as also other Chiefs of the villages would be glad to go and See their great father, but as they were all afraid of the Sieoux they Should not go down &c.

    The Black Cat (sent) Chief of the Mandans Village on the North Side of the Missouri Sent over and requested me to go over to his village which envertation I axceptd and crossed over to his village. he had a parcel of Corn about 12 bushuls in a pile in his lodge. he told me that his people had but little corn part of which they had given me. after takeing a Smoke he informed me that as the Sieoux were very troublesom and the road to his great father dangerous none of this village would go down with us. I told the Cheifs and wariers of the village who were there present that we were anxious that Some of the village Should go and See their great father and hear his good words & recve his bountifull gifts &c. and told them to pitch on Some Man on which they could rely on and send him to See their Great father, they made the Same objections which the Chief had done before. a young man offered to go down, and they all agreeed for him to go down the charector of this young man I knew as a bad one and made an objection as to his age and Chareckter at this time Gibson who was with me informed me that this young man had Stole his knife and had it then in his possession, this I informed the Chief and directed him to give up the knife he delivered the knife with a very faint apology for his haveing it in his possession. I then reproached those people for wishing to Send Such a man to See and hear the words of So great a man as their great father; they hung their heads and Said nothing for Some time when the Cheif Spoke and Said that they were afraid to Send any one for fear of their being killed by the Sieux. after Smoking a pipe and relateing Some passages I recrossed to our Camp -. being informed by one of our enterpreters that the 2d Chief of the Mandans Comonly Called the little Crow intended to accompany us down, I took Charbono and walked to the Village to See this Chief and talk with him on the Subject. he told me he had deturmined to go down, but wished to have a council first with his people which would be in the after part of the day. I smoked a pipe with the little Crow and returned to the boat. Colter one of our men expressed a desire to join Some trappers [NB: the two Illinois Men we met, & who now came down to us] who offered to become Shearers with and furnish traps &c. the offer a very advantagious one, to him, his Services Could be dispenced with from this down and as we were disposed to be of Service to any one of our party who had performed their duty as well as Colter had done, we agreed to allow him the prvilage provided no one of the party would ask or expect a Similar permission to which they all agreeed that they wished Colter every Suckcess and that as we did not wish any of them to Seperate untill we Should arive at St. Louis they would not apply or expect it &c. The Maharha Chief brought us Some Corn, as did also the Chief of the little village of the Menetarras on mules of which they have Several. [NB: bought from the Crow Inds. who get or Steal them from the Spaniards] The evening is Cool and windy. great number of the nativs of the different villages Came to view us and exchange robes with our men for their Skins - we gave Jo Colter Some Small articles which we did not want and Some powder & lead. the party also gave him Several articles which will be usefull to him on his expedittion. - This evening Charbono informed me that our back was scercely turned before a war party from the two menetarry villages followed on and attacked and killed the Snake Indians whome we had Seen and in the engagement between them and the Snake indians they had lost two men one of which was the Son of the principal Chief of the little village of the menitarras. that they had also went to war from the Menetarras and killeld two Ricaras. he further informed me that a missunderstanding had taken place between the Mandans & minetarras and had verry nearly come to blows about a woman, the Mintarres at length presented a pipe and a reconsilliation took place between them

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    August 16, 1806 Clark Diary - Friday 16th August 1806. a cool morning. Sent up Sergt. Pryor to the mandan village, for Some Corn which they offered to give us. he informed that they had more Corn collected for us than our Canoes Could Carry Six loads of which he brought down. I thanked the Chief for his kindness and informed him that our Canoes would not Carry any more Corn than we had already brought down. at 10 A. M the Chiefs of the different villages came to See us and Smoke a pipe &c. as our Swivel Could no longer be Serveceabe to us as it could not be fireed on board the largest Perogue, we Concluded to make a present of it to the Great Chief of the Menetaras (the One Eye) with a view to ingratiate him more Strongly in our favour I had the Swivel Charged and Collected the Chiefs in a circle around it and adressed them with great ceremoney. told them I had listened with much attention to what the One Eye had Said yesterday and beleived that he was Sincere & Spoke from his heart. I reproached them very Severely for not attending to what had been Said to them by us in Council in the fall of 1804 and at different times in the winter of 1804 & 5, and told them our backs were Scerely turned befor a party followed and killed the pore defenceless snake indians whom we had taken by the hand & told them not to be afraid that you would never Strike them again &c. also mentioned the ricers &c. The little Cherry old Chief of the Menetarras Spoke as follows Viz: "Father we wish to go down with you to See our Great Father, but we know the nations below and are afraid of the Scioux who will be on the river and will kill us on our return home. The Scioux has Stolen our horses and killed 8 of our men Since you left us, and the Ricaras have also Struck us. we Staid at home and listened to what you had told us. we at length went to war against the Scioux and met with Ricaras and killed two of them, they were on their way to Strike us. We will attend to your word and not hurt any people all Shall be Welcom and we Shall do as you direct - .["] The One Eye Said his ears would always be open to the word f his great father and Shut against bad Council &c. I then a good deel of Ceremony made a preasent of the Swivel to the One Eye Chief and told him when he fired this gun to remember the words of his great father which we had given him. this gun had anounced the words of his great father to all the nations which we had Seen &c. &c. after the council was over the gun was fired & delivered, they Chief appeared to be much pelased and conveyed it immediately to his village &c. we Settled with and discharged Colter. in the evening I walked to the village to See the little Crow and know when he would be ready, took with me a flag intending to give him to leave at his lodge but to my astonishment he informed me he had declined going down the reason of which I found was through a jellousy between himself and the principal Chief he refused a flag & we Sent for Mr. Jessomme and told him to use his influn to provail on one of the Chiefs to accompany us and we would employ him. he informed us soon after that the big white Chief would go if we would take his wife & Son & Jessoms wife & 2 children we wer obliged to agree to do

    August 17, 1806 Clark Diary - Saturday 17th of August 1806. a Cool morning gave some powder & Ball to Big White Chief Settled with Touisant Chabono for his Services as an enterpreter the pric of a horse and Lodge purchased of him for public Service in all amounting to 500$ 33 1/3 cents. derected two of the largest of the Canoes be fastened together with poles tied across them So as to make them Study for the purpose of Conveying the Indians and enterpreter and their families

    we were visited by all the principal Chiefs of the Menetarras to take their leave of us at 2 oClock we left our encampment after takeing leave of Colter who also Set out up the river in Company with Messrs. Dickson & Handcock. we also took our leave of T. Chabono, his Snake Indian wife and their Son Child who had accompanied us on our rout to the pacific Ocean in the Capacity of interpreter and interpretes. T. Chabono wished much to accompany us in the Said Capacity if (he) we could have provailed the MenetarreChiefs to dcend the river with us to the U. States, but as none of those chiefs of whoes (set out) language he was Conversent would accompany us, his Services were no longer of use to the U' States and he was therefore discharged and paid up. we offered to convey him down to the Illinois if he Chose to go, he declined proceeding on at present, observing that he had no acquaintance or prospects of makeing a liveing below, and must continue to live in the way that he had done. I offered to take his little Son a butifull promising Child who is 19 months old to which they both himself & wife wer willing provided the Child had been weened. they observed that in one year the boy would be Sufficiently old to leave his mother & he would then take him to me if I would be so freindly as to raise the Child for him in Such a manner as I thought proper, to which I agreeed &c. - we droped down to the Big white Cheifs Mandan Village 1/2 a mile below on the South Side, all the Indians proceeded on down by land. and I walked to the lodge of the Chief whome I found Sorounded by his friends the men were Setting in a circle Smokeing and the womin Crying. he Sent his bagage with his wife & Son, with the Interpreter Jessomme & his wife and 2 children to the Canoes provided for them. after Smoking one pipe, and distributing Some powder & lead which we had given him, he informed me that he was ready and we were accompd to the Canoes by all the village Maney of them Cried out aloud. as I was about to Shake with the Grand Cheifs of all the Villages there assembled they requested me to Set one minit longer with them which I readily agreed to and directed a pipe to be lit. the Cheifs informed that when we first came to their Country they did not beleive all we Said we then told them. but they were now Convinced that every thing we had told them were true, that they Should keep in memory every thing which he had Said to them, and Strictly attend to our advice, that their young men Should Stay at home and Should no go again to war against any nation, that if any atacted them they Should defend themselves, that we might depend on what they Said, and requested us to inform their great father. the also requested me to tell the Ricaras to Come and See them, not to be afraid that no harm Should be done them, that they were anxious to be in peace with them.

    The Seeoux they Said they had no dependance in and Should kill them whenever they Came into their Country to do them harm &c. I told them that we had always told them to defend themselves, but not to Strike those nations we had taken by the hand, the Sieoux with whome they were at war we had never Seen on our return we Should inform their great fathe of their conduct towards his faithfull red Children and he would take Such Steps as will bring about a lasting peace between them and his faithfull red children. I informed them that we should inform the ricaras what they had requested &c. The Grand Chief of the Mineterres Said that the great Cheif who was going down with to see their great father was a well as if he went also, and on his return he would be fully informed of the words of his great father, and requested us to take care of this Gt. Chief. we then Saluted them with a gun and Set out and proceeded on to Fort Mandan where I landed and went to view the old works the houses except one in the rear bastion was burnt by accident, Some pickets were Standing in front next to the river. we proceeded on to the old Ricara village the S E wind was so hardd and the (wind) waves So high that we were obliged to Come too, & Camp on the S W Side near the old Village. (18 mils)

    And what happened to William Clark and his promise to Sacagawea to raise her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, nicknamed Pompey? He kept it. One year after the expedition had ended, on April 7, 1807, the Charbonneau family moved to St. Louis at Clark's request. Two years later, Sacagawea and her husband moved back to the Mandan village and left Jean Baptiste to live with Clark. He was educated at St. Louis Academy; his education was paid for by William Clark.

    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.

    Photo above: Painting of the Lewis and Clark Expedition on the Lower Columbia River, 1905, Charles Marion Russell. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Below: Painting of Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea, Edgar Samuel Paxson. Courtesy Montana State Capitol via Wikipedia Commons. 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.

    Lewis and Clark with Sacagsawea

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