THE ABBREVIATED JOURNALS OF THE LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION:
Fort Mandan, ND (Winter and Spring)
January 1, 1805 – April 6, 1805
NOTE: The following is an abbreviated summary for each day of the Lewis and Clark journey, combining the journal entries of Lewis, Clark, Ordway, Floyd, Gass and Whitehouse into one seamless account. As much as possible, the original thoughts were retained. In cases of quotes or unique information, the individual who made the statement is added in parenthesis (). The original journal entries have also been corrected for spelling, grammar and readability. Click to view the journals in their original state.
The Corps of Discovery officially began their journey to the Pacific on May 14, 1804 and returned to St. Louis, MO on September 23, 1806.
New Year’s Day began with a bang (two cannons were fired). The captains rewarded the men with a couple shots of whiskey (Lewis offered a third glass later in the afternoon [Gass]). It was a warm day (34 degrees). Sixteen men went to the Mandan Village to dance for their chiefs (taking a fiddle, tambourine, and horn). Around 11 a.m., Clark, his interpreter and two men walked up to the Indian village (hopefully to relieve any misunderstandings and jealousy due to a previous treatment). Clark found the chiefs were happily enjoying the dancing of his men, which included Francois Rivet (who had “danced on his head” before to entertain the Indians). Clark ordered his black servant York to also dance, which amused, even astonished, the Indians. They couldn’t believe such a large man could be so active. There’s Indian activity on the prairie between the Hidatsa and the Moccasin tribes.
The Hidatsa want vengeance for the theft of a Hidatsa girl (however she was returned before hostilities broke out). Clark returned to the fort in the evening with the men (save the six who remained to spend the night with the Mandans). They brought back three buffalo robes and 13 strings of corn. At dark it began to snow, and it snowed all night.
A cold day (-8). The snow piled up in the morning. There is still “frolicking” (dancing) happening in the Mandan Villages. Lewis took another party of men to enjoy the “very friendly” fun. Several Indian men and women visited the fort, bringing corn to pay the blacksmiths for repairing their axes and bridles. Gass reported the Indians permit their horses to run free during the day during the winter but bring them back to the camps for the night (to prevent theft). The horses fed on cottonwood branches, which are “sweet and good” (Ordway).
More snow and very cold (-8 high). Eight men went hunting for buffalo but only killed a hare and a wolf. Several Indians visit the fort, including a Hidatsa husband looking for his wife. She was greatly abused and came to the fort seeking sanctuary.
Another cloudy, snowy morning (28 degrees). Clark dispatched several men to hunt downriver (they killed a buffalo calf and a wolf). Three of the men remained out all night. More Indians came to the fort, including the Chief Little Crow (he “proved friendly” claimed Clark). The captains gave him a handkerchief and two files. In the afternoon, the temperatures dropped over thirty degrees (-4 below at 4 p.m.). Clark reported feeling ill.
A blustery cold day with some snow (-18 high). Several Mandans visit the fort to repair more of their axes. Clark started to draw a map of the western area from the various information he had received. In the primary Mandan Village a buffalo (or medicine) dance was held. According to Clark, this traditional dance, the old men sat in a circle and smoked a pipe. Meanwhile the wives (all naked except for a robe) of several young men circled behind the older men. At this point one of the younger men brought his wife to an older man and “whiningly” requested him to sleep with her. The girl took the old man “who can very often can scarcely walk” to a “convenient place for the business.” When they’re finished they return to the lodge. If the old man, however, is not fully gratified, the wife is offered again and again to him. If the old man still cannot perform, the husband threw a “nice robe over the old man” and begged him not to despise him and his wife. Clark added they sent one of their corpsmen to the Medicine Dance the night before and they gave him four girls.
NOTE: The reason for the Buffalo or Medicine Dance was to pass the spiritual power of the old men to the younger generation through their wives. Similarly the men of the Corps (due to being white) also were considered “powerful” and were offered many Mandan women for sexual pleasure.
Another clear and cold day (-11 high), with blustery winds. Brattan trapped a fox who frequently entered the fort (through a hole in the picket wall) to chew on the discarded meat bones of the company.
The temperatures dive once again (-22 low). Several Mandans returned from hunting, including Chief Big White. He dined with the Corps and gave Clark a map of the western regions, including the Montana Rockies and the Yellowstone River. Clark estimated the “great falls” of the Missouri are about 800 miles to the west. Big White described the country as “very hilly” and “covered with timber” (with much beaver). Three men returned from hunting (four deer and two wolves killed). They also sighted buffalo in the distance.
A cold windy day (-10 high). Few Indians come to the fort. Ordway ventured to the primary Mandan village.
Another bitterly cold day, with snow (-18 high). Great numbers of Mandans hunt for buffalo and returned loaded with meat. Several Mandans visited the fort but nearly froze doing it. Two Mandan men froze to death on the prairie and several more were missing (including an Indian boy whose distressed father had sent to the fort mid-afternoon but never showed). Two of the Corpsmen got separated on a hunt and only one returned (suffering considerably from the cold and frostbit feet). The men are worried the other man was already frozen (or would be after nightfall). Several Indians remained at the fort for the night.
More extreme, bitter cold (-40 low) and snow. Three men went out to hunt elk down river. The captains also lined up a search party to look for the man who stayed out all night but fortunately he returned to the fort at 8 a.m.. A group of Mandan Indians arrived at the fort seeking medical assistance for a 13-year old Indian boy with frostbite. They had gone hunting the previous day but the bitter cold weakened him considerably and they were forced to leave the teenager behind. When they returned, the Indians expected to find him frozen to death, but he had managed to make a bed of trees in the thick woods to lie on...and somehow survived the night. He had no covering save a small buffalo robe, antelope skin leggings and buffalo moccasins. However he is severely frost bit (feet) and in need of emergency medical care. In the end, the young Indian teen lost only his toes.
Yet another very cold day (-38 low). Three hunters dispatched to join the three already hunting for elk. The party of six were Joseph and Reuben Field, George Shannon, John Collins and Joseph Whitehouse. Two hunters returned with three elk. The Mandan Chief Black Cat visited the fort and stayed the night. Some of the men attend a War Medicine Dance at the Village.
Another very cold and clear day (-20 low). The Fields brothers returned with two elk on a sleigh. Additional hunters dispatched to hunt for elk.
Yet another clear and cold day (-34 low). Two more men dispatched to hunt. The Indians are getting low on meat. Half the Mandan nation moved down river to hunt buffalo. The Indians not only save most of the meat on the buffalo but also share any kill with the whole community (Clark). The Mandan and Hidatsa also have a corn and bean supply for times when there’s no meat or they are under attack by the Sioux (of whom they deeply dread). The Mandan and Hidatsa rarely go far to hunt unless in a large party, and they well stay out for days. Their interpreter Toussaint Charbonneau and his companion returned from some Assiniboine (Minatare Sioux) lodges with frostbit faces and horses loaded with meat. According to Gass, the two men’s faces were so badly frostbitten that their skin came off. They even had to lead their badly frostbitten guide behind with the tribe.
Charbonneau informed Clark that the Hudson Bay Company and the Assiniboine have been communicating some “unfavorable expressions” towards the Corp. He said the North West Company planned to build a fort in their area, about a couple hundred miles west from their location. Charbonneau also met with another Hidatsa “grand” chief (who mentioned the Corps only in passing but wanted to council with the captains and be given an American flag).
Snow fell in the morning (-8 high). In the morning numerous Mandan Indian men, women and children (and their dogs) passed to join their hunting party down river. The captains sent Sgt. Pryor and five men to hunt with the Indians. Several men are suffering from venereal disease, caught from their sexual relations with the Mandan women. George Shannon returned and told the captains that Joseph Whitehouse is so badly frostbitten that he can’t walk back to the fort (he needs a horse). Shannon and Collins killed a bull buffalo, wolf, two porcupines and a white hare. In a rare (non-equation and scientific numbers) entry, Lewis recorded an eclipse of the moon (between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m.), thanks to “a small refracting telescope.”
Still cold but a warmer (3 degrees high). Shannon took horses down to the hunters to bring meat and the frostbitten Whitehouse back to the fort. Four “considerate men” of the Assiniboine (Minatare Sioux) visited the captains, along with many Mandans. They smoked a pipe and talked about the “unfavorable opinions” the Assiniboine had heard about the American Corps of Discovery. The Indians all seemed satisfied.
Temperatures soar to above freezing causing snow to melt rapidly (36 high). About 30 Mandans visited the fort, with six chiefs. The Assiniboine (Nakota Sioux) stirred up trouble, accusing the Mandans of being liars and stating the Corps planned to kill them if they came to the fort. A young (26 year-old) Hidatsa war chief named Seeing Snake visited with his wife. The captains shot the air gun twice for him and it greatly pleased the chief. Seeing Snake gave the captains a map of the Missouri river and informed they his tribe intended to war against the Shoshone in the spring. The captains advised the war chief to consider all the nations who had been destroyed by war and that peace was the best and only way to provide and protect his people. A free and peaceful trading culture among the Indians was better than constant war. They also told him that going to war would displease their new “great father” (Jefferson). The young Seeing Snake agreed that war was not the best solution and would not go if the Shoshone proved friendly to the Corps when they met.
The captains noted that, in general, the Indians (at least the ones they’ve talked to) all “promise to open their ears.” The only exception were the Sioux. The Mandan chief Little Crow also arrived with corn. Some Shoshone (likely captured by the Hidatsa) also stayed all night at the fort. Three of the hunters returned but without any meat. Whitehouse’s frostbitten feet were improving.
Temperatures drop again. A very windy morning...and cold (-12 low). Several Indians visited the fort.
Very cold weather (7 degrees, high). Traders Francois-Antoine Larocque and Charles McKenzie visited the captains. They brought several Hidatsa Indians with them. Two hunters returned with four deer, a badger, and four wolves they trapped. There was a report that Sgt. Pryor’s hunting party has killed elk, deer and other small game.
A cloudy and cold day (12 degrees high). Larocque and McKenzie departed for their home. The captains dispatched men with three horses to the hunting camp to help carry the meat back to the fort. They are about 30 miles downriver.
A cold but warmer day (28 above high). Several Indians are at the fort, bringing corn. There was a misunderstanding between the two interpreters involving their Indian wives. One of Charbonneau’s wives was sick. Clark ordered York to give her some stewed fruit and tea, and somehow created a misunderstanding in the process. Sgt. Gass ventured with another corpsman to the Villages and it proved a friendly visit. The Indians also made them a nice meal. After the dinner they offered a bowl to a buffalo head, before which they fell down, worshipped and said, “eat that.” This superstitious act supposedly would bring more buffalo their way. Whitehouse: “[The] Indians possess very strange and uncommon ideas of things in general, they are very ignorant, have no ideas of our forms and custom, neither in regard to our worship or the Deity. They are of...quick apprehension,...and conceited in themselves to a fault.”
Moderate weather, but very chilly (8 degrees, high). Several Indians at the fort, bringing considerable corn to pay the blacksmiths for their iron work. One of the men has a bad case of syphilis. Pryor and his hunting party returned with three elk, four deer, one fox, a hare and two porcupines. Two men went to the Hidatsa village to trade wolf skins for tobacco (they returned with a three foot “twist” of tobacco for one wolf skin).
A warmer day (19 degrees high). The men attempted to cut the boat and pirogues out of the ice (it’s about three feet thick). That night another heavy snow preempted the work for several days.
And a colder day (-2 below). Four inches of snow fell. A couple men made hand sleds for the Indians (in trade for corn and beans). The men tried to thaw the boats by heating stones on a fire to drop on the ice to melt it. However when the stones were put into the fire, they broke due to the heat.
The day is colder (-2 high). The situation between the two interpreters seems to have settled down. The captains sent out several hunters, but they killed nothing. Five men men cut coal wood as they coal supply is low.
It’s a clear and cold day (-26 low). The captains were informed that a band of the Assiniboine were at the Mandan Villages to trade. One of the interpreters and another man went to the Hidatsa camp opposite the island. Men mostly continue to free the ice-bound boats and collect coal wood.
A very fine and warmer day (20 above, high). Several Indians dined with the captains and were pleased. One man was violently ill. He was bled and “sweat” him as a cure. The blacksmiths continue to make war-axes and other axes for the Indians (in return for considerable corn).
The weather is finally cooperating (20 above, high). It’s “more settled, warm and pleasant” (Gass). The men still worked to free the barge and two pirogues from the ice. It’s proven a difficult task. Charbonneau informed the captains the Assiniboine had returned to their camps, but not before leaving three horses with Laroche.
A cold day (15 above, high). The work to free the ice-bound boats continued (they’re now using pry bars to “shake her loose”)...but without success. Several Indians requested the blacksmiths forge some war hatchets for them. The sick man is improving, but their interpreter Jusseaume is now ill.
Another cold day (16 degrees, high). Clark gave Jusseaume a dose of salts. They tried a new plan to free the boats. They men heated water inside the boats but, once again, the stones they used to heat the water only busted apart when the hot stone touched the icy water. The blacksmiths created a large fire pit to heat the iron for the Indian hatchets. It’s proven the best way to procure corn for their diets.
A cloudy day overall (14 degrees, high). Larocque returned to the fort. In his previous visit he wanted the captains to help him (financially) to gain some geographical knowledge for the British government and the North West Company. The captains had no intention of helping Larocque and told him so. Sgt. Gass went upriver to look for stones that wouldn’t break so easily heating water, but all the rocks he brought home also “bursted asunder” when heated. They had to come up with a different plan to free the boats.
A disagreeably cold day (-2, low). More snow with high winds overnight. Five men sent down river to hunt. George Drouillard was sick with pleurisy that made breathing hard and painful. Clark bled him and cooked him some sage tea, and he improved...as did the weather (in the afternoon it was “warm and pleasant”).
A cold, clear and windy day (16 degrees, high). The hunters returned around 11 a.m. with no meat. Another man hunted around the fort and killed a deer. The Hidatsa war chief Seeing Snake returned to have a war hatchet made. He also requested permission to war against the Sioux and Arikara tribes, as they had killed a Mandan “some time past.” The captains reasoned with the young chief and encouraged peace. He agreed and “promised to open his ears to all [the captains] said.”
A “fine” day but colder (-12 low). Drouillard is still sick. One of the wives of Charbonneau is also sick. The French trader Larocque left the fort. He’s a clerk for the North West Company and wants to join the expedition (Clark). Ordway’s hat was burned accidentally. One deer killed.
It’s Sunday and another cold, clear day (2 degrees, high). The blacksmiths are back at work, as several natives visited the fort. Clark is “alarmed” about the ice-bound boat and pirogue situation. There are multiple layers of ice (and several inches of snow) covering the wooden vessels. The men have mostly used axes to cut away the ice but cannot get far before they tap into the water (which rises up and fills the ice they have removed). They’ve tried heating the boats with hot stones but the rocks continually break in the fire. Currently, they are using pry bars to free the vessels.
Another concern is meat. Their provisions are exhausted, and Clark decided he needed to head downriver to hunt. He took 16 men, three horses and two sleighs. For the next nine days (February 4-12) they’d hunt (traveling as far as 60 miles downstream). The hunting party killed 40 deer, three buffalo and 19 elk, but many of the animals are too skinny to provide much meat. Lewis took over the daily journal report in Clark’s absence, suggesting he is not recording his thoughts (only taking scientific measurement and noting occasional discoveries). This is the first indication that Lewis wasn’t following Jefferson’s directive to journal about the mission.
A bitter cold day (-18 low). Many natives visited the fort. They have not seen buffalo near the fort for several weeks. The area is basically hunted out, and the Indians are suffering greatly without fresh meat. Even the animals are struggling to survive in the extreme cold. Shields killed two deer (including a large buck) but both are very skinny. Clark’s hunting party traveled 20 miles downstream and found no game.
A pleasant morning with a northwest wind (20 degrees high). The Mandan and Hidatsa Indians continue bring “considerable quantity of corn” to pay for blacksmithing jobs. Besides scrapers to dress their buffalo, most of the iron work was to build a “battle ax” for fighting enemies. Lewis felt it was a rather “inconvenient” shaped and small weapon. It’s 7-9 inch blade is “extremely thin” and the handle is short (14” at the most). For fighting, Lewis concluded, the axe required a “well-directed” throw with some force. He found that a difficult task for the Indians who routinely ride horses into battle. Nevertheless, it's still better than the “old-fashioned” and longer axe they formerly used. On other matters, the river is rising and water now covering parts of the ice.
Another cold day (12 degrees, high). A sleigh was readied to take downstream to Clark as soon as they needed it. Big White, The Coal, Hairy Horn and other chiefs, as well as many Mandans, visited the fort. Lewis smoked with them but it wasn’t long until these chiefs retired to rest in the crew quarters (which proved a common practice). Not every Corpsman was happy with this constant intrusion, however. Ordway noted the “savages trouble us very much.” Shields killed three antelope while the blacksmiths continue to keep the company well fed in corn. If it wasn’t for the iron works, the food situation would’ve been disastrous. They may not have meat, but they had plenty of corn.
The Indians used iron not just for axes but various other tools that scrape and sharpen. Lewis had the blacksmith disassemble a sheet-iron galley stove that was “burned out” from use. It proved a valuable commodity: every small piece (4X4”) garnered 7-8 gallons of corn in trade from “extremely pleased” Indians. Clark’s hunting party finally found the game. Sgt. Gass journaled how next two days, he wrote, were particularly productive (10 elk and 18 deer). So much so they built a pen to secure their meat from the wolves (which were numerous).
It’s a warmer day (29 degrees, high). More Indians visited the fort. The sergeant of the guard reported the Indian wives of the Corp’s interpreters were habitually opened the fort gate (at all hours of the night) to let Indian visitors inside. Lewis ordered a lock on the gate and prohibited all Indians (except those either already living in the fort or honored guests) to remain overnight in the fort. He also allowed Indians to only access the fort from sunrise to sunset.
The still warm and pleasant (28 degrees, high). The chief Black Cat (the primary leader of the upper Mandan village) visited for fort. He is a man that “possess more integrity, firmness, intelligence and perspicuity of mind than any Indian” Lewis had met. He could prove a useful Indian agent in the future for the U.S. government. Black Cat gave Lewis a bow. He also apologized for not completing the shield, but the weather had been too cold. Lewis gave him some shot, fishing hooks and a couple yards of ribbon. Black Cat’s wife gave the captain a couple pairs of moccasins (to which Lewis returned a small eyeglass and a two needles). They dined together for supper. Black Cat noted his people are suffering greatly without meat in their diets. He hadn’t eaten meat for several days.
Another fair and pleasant day (33 degrees, high). The clerk (McKenzie) from the North West Company visited the fort. That night one of the Corpsmen (Pvt. Thomas P. Howard)—to which Lewis had allowed to visit the Mandan Village that day—arrived back at the fort after dark and found himself shut out. Instead of calling the guard he scaled the picket wall to get inside. A young Indian happened to see him do this and climbed over the fort wall too. When Lewis discovered the breach, he scolded the Indian that he took a great risk (possibly even deadly) in climbing over the fort wall without permission. He gave the alarmed young Indian some tobacco and sent him back outside the fort. As for Pvt. Howard he was confined and court martialed for the offense. The next day, at sunset, he was found guilty for “setting such a pernicious example to the [Indians].” Lewis did not want the Indians to know the fort’s walls were easily climbed. Howard was sentenced to 50 lashes, but the court jury recommended mercy and Lewis forgave the punishment. It was the last court martial and disciplinary problem for the Corps of Discovery.
A cloudy morning with some snow during the night (18 degrees, high). McKenzie departed while the Corp’s interpreter Touissant Charbonneau returned to the fort to inform Lewis he had left the three horses and two men with the meat that was to arrive shortly. The horses, he said, were heavily loaded and without shoes on their hoofs could not walk on the ice. Lewis sent some men with two sleighs to help out.
The weather turned cold again (-8 low). The party of six men left to help the hunters bring back the meat. About 5 p.m., Charbonneau’s’ wife (Sacagawea) “delivered a fine boy.” Lewis noted it was her first child and “as is common in such cases her labor was tedious and the pain violent.” The other interpreter Jusseaume informed Lewis of a practice of grinding up a small portion (two rings) of a rattlesnake rattle into water and giving it to a woman in labor (to hasten birth). Lewis gave Sacagawea a drink of this potion and within ten minutes gave birth to her son (Jean Baptiste Charbonneau [nicknamed “Pomp” or “Pompy”). The captain wasn’t fully persuaded about this concoction’s potency. He wrote “perhaps this remedy may be worthy of future experiments, but I must confess that I want faith as to it’s efficacy.”
It’s a fair and cold day (2 degrees, high). Lewis ordered the blacksmith to shoe the horses and to prepare three sleighs to help transport the meat back to the fort. The party of six men returned around 4 p.m. Drouillard returned with the horses about the same time...and they were very fatigued. Lewis ordered some moistened “meal brands” but was astonished the horses wouldn’t eat it. They preferred the bark and tender branches of the cottonwood tree instead (the normal winter food the Indians fed their horses). Lewis noted the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians are “frequently pilfered of their horses by the Arikaras, Sioux and Assiniboines.” It’s why they bring their horses indoors at night during the winter. Lewis is amazed how such a “scanty allowance” of cottonwood can satisfy such a large animal, but it does. A little after dark, Clark arrived with his hunting party. They lost a lot of meat to wolves who help themselves to kills very quickly.
A cloudy and cold day (10 degrees, high). The Mandan chief Black Cat visited the fort and received his battle axe. He’s very pleased. Clark is back in camp and very tired. He walked over 30 miles on solid ice and through woods were the snow was a couple feet deep. On the second day of the hunt Clark fell through the ice and got his feet and legs wet. He recorded that “walking on uneven ice [had] blistered the bottom of [his] feet, and walking [was] painful.” Joseph Fields had frostbitten ears. Several of the men were nearly out of moccasins.
Three inches of new snow overnight. The temperatures still cold (2 degrees, high). Clark sent Drouillard, Frazier, Goodrich and Newman with shod horses and two sleighs back downstream to retrieve the meat. About 22 miles into their journey, the men stopped to water their horses. That’s when they were attacked by 106 Sioux who surrounded the four men and took all three horses. They considered murdering the men, but eventually decided to do no harm to them (thanks to two Sioux warriors who opposed the idea). The Sioux just wanted the horses. Later one of the Sioux returned a horse and they gave him some corn bread in gratitude. However, they did lose two horses and two good knives. The Sioux informed the Arikaras and Pawnee of their deed. The four men returned to fort at midnight and were very tired. Lewis immediately called for volunteers. They also sent word to Big White and Black Cat requesting warrior help (but most were unavailable). Twenty men and several Indians prepared to head back downstream first thing in the morning.
Very cold morning (-16 low). Lewis, Ordway and Gass were among those who went in pursuit of the Sioux at sunrise. The temperature was -16. Many Indians initially went with the party but only “three or four” lasted the day. Ordway noted they found some meat the hunters had left hanging in a tree and boiled it for supper. They eventually found the Sioux trail and traveled 30 miles before stopping for the night at two old Indian lodges. One of the Mandan chiefs with Lewis returned “nearly blind” due to the “reflection of the sun on the ice and snow.” Snow blindness was a common complaint this time of year. The blindness was cured by the application of hot steam to eyes (although another cure was a solution of gun powder and water). Not much happened at the fort except that one man shot a “very large” red fox (Clark, Whitehouse).
Another cold day (8 degrees, high). A few Indians visited the fort. At dusk two more of the Indians who went with Lewis returned, followed shortly by Pvt. Howard with frostbitten feet. They said the Sioux were so far ahead that they’d couldn’t be overtaken. At one point, the Lewis party spied smoke in the distance (at the same place where Clark’s hunting party built the meat pen). Lewis prepared to attack but once they got closer, they realized the Sioux were gone. They had burned the huts and destroyed all the meat they didn’t take. Their fires were just smoldering now, and the Sioux had left behind many moccasins. To throw off any Sioux who might return that way, the men left corn behind to give the impression it was Arikaras making all the tracks. They found the meat pen all torn down and the meat gone (burned or stolen). Some of Lewis’ men went hunting and killed a couple deer and a wolf.
A warmer morning but a little cloudy (12 degrees, high). The Mandan chief The Coal and his son visited the fort and gave several pounds of dried buffalo meat and fat to Clark . McKenzie (North West Company) also visited the captain. He owned one of the horses stolen by the Sioux a few days earlier. Clark sent out hunters and returned successfully with “a great quantify of elk and deer” (Whitehouse). The Lewis party also went hunting. Most of the men walked in various directions (hoping to drive game in the woods out into the open so the best hunters could get off a shot). They killed 10 deer and four elk.
A cloudy day with some snow (10 degrees, high). Several Mandans came to the fort while McKenzie left in the afternoon. Clark was involved in creating a list of information about the rivers in the area, and to the west. The Lewis party continued to hunt. They found one of Clark’s meat pens and discovered 11 deer and two elk were still there. Other men were packing the meat killed the previous day. The hunters killed one elk and seven deer. They camped at the old Indian camp near the meat pen. Lewis decided it was time to return to the fort.
A warming trend in the weather (20 degrees high). Several Mandans visited the fort and kept the blacksmiths busy mending and forging axes (in exchange for corn). Meanwhile, the Lewis party loaded two sleds with meat in preparation to return to the fort. The gray horse pulled the smallest sled, while the larger and heavier sled was pulled by fifteen men. They left at 9 a.m. Hunters were also out looking for more game. The main party traveled about 20 miles, including a brief stop for a broiled venison supper, before camping for the night in the timber on the south shore of the Missouri river. The hunters rejoined the party with six deer and an elk.
A beautiful day (22 degrees, high). The Mandan chief Little Raven visited Clark very early in the morning and informed him of an old Indian’s death. The captain knew the man, who was 120 years old, according to Little Raven. The old Mandan wanted his grandchildren to dress his corpse and put him upon a stone on a hill “with his face towards his old village.” He wished his spirit would go downriver to the mouth of the “Heart River.” According to Mandan belief, there was an underground village where the Mississippi reached the sea. His goal was to meet his family—namely his brother—who had already died and passed into the next world. Meanwhile the Lewis party set out early, with the hunters going ahead. They traveled ten miles before stopping to broil some meat for dinner. They put on another eight miles before camping once again for the night. The hunters killed five elk but the party could only find three of them before nightfall.
It’s a “delightful day” according to Clark (30 degrees, high). The men took advantage of the warm sunshine to dry their clothes. The Mandan chiefs Big White and Big Man visited the fort and informed Clark that several Mandans had left to consult their “medicine stone” to discover what the next year had in store. The Mandans greatly trust this stone and the oracles it gives, visiting it annually in the spring (and sometimes again in the summer). After they arrive at the stone, they smoke and head to the woods to sleep. The next morning they return to the stone to decipher the “raised” and “white marks” that foretell the coming year (wars, changes). The Hidatsa have a similar oracle stone. Lewis returned before sunset with two sleds loaded with meat. After they couldn’t overtake the Sioux, they hunted for two days and killed 36 deer and 14 elk. Although some were too skinny to bother harvesting, they still brought back thousands of pounds of fresh meat. Due to the warm day (with some rain), it was a sloppy, hard load to drag (21 miles). Consequently, the men are very tired.
A cloudy morning that turned to rain, and then snow, around noon (32 degrees, high). It snowed for about an hour. Several chiefs and Indians from the three Indian nations (Mandan, Hidatsa, Assiniboine) in their area visited the fort.
A warm and pleasant day (32 degrees, high). No Indians visited. The interpreter Jusseaume and his family traveled to a nearby Indian village. The boy who lost his toes to frostbite was finally taken home by his father. All the men worked to free the other pirogue, but it proved a difficult job (using axes, pry bars and other tools). They finally released the white pirogue from the ice, and nearly freed the red one too.
It’s a beautiful day (32 degrees high). The men started early to free the barge and red pirogue from the ice, which is still very thick, but finally succeeded. It was critical to get the boats free before the warmer weather caused the ice on the river to break apart. In the loosening of the barge, some of the corking fell out and created a leak. The men bailed the water. Jusseaume and his family returned to the fort. Several Indians visited.
Another “exceedingly pleasant” day (38 degrees, high). The men employed a pulley system (windlass) to hoist the boats further onto shore. The two pirogues were moved with little difficulty; however the barge was a different matter. The elk skin rope they used “proved too weak and broke several times” (Clark). They worked all day but with night coming on, they had to quit and leave the barge on the skids. The captains were visited by Hidatsa chief Black Moccasin and several other Indians. They brought meat (carried to the fort by their wives). One of the chiefs asked for an axe to be forged for his son. One of the Hidatsa asked to stay the night with his two wives (and was granted permission). Two Indian boys also stayed, including Black Cat’s son.
Another fine day (31 degrees, high). The men started early to draw the barge further up the bank. It was just in time, as 100 yards of ice broke away in the river. The captains ordered 16 men to start the process of constructing four dugout canoes. The Indians were fascinated with the process to move the boats.
A beautiful and pleasant day (36 degrees, high). A few Indians visited the fort, including one who was “the largest Indian [Clark] ever saw.” Clark worked on a map of the Missouri river region. The men fixed the skids under the barge and moved the pirogues along the northern side of the fort (to keep the sun’s warmth from thawing them too quickly and causing more cracking). Several men cut timber to create coal. The blacksmiths continue to do iron work for the Indians (in trade for corn). Four men were assigned to build four new dugout canoes. The captains decided to send the barge back to St. Louis in the spring and only move forward with pirogues. It’s too heavy and large for the shallow Missouri.
A cold morning but moderate day (38 degrees, high). The interpreter Gravelines returned to the fort. He brought two French engages and two Arikaras carrying letters from their tribe affirming they intend to “follow our councils” (including peace with the Mandan and Minatare). They also informed the captains of the Sioux’s “threats and intentions” to kill “every white man they see” (under the influence of their chief Black Buffalo). Furthermore several bands of Sioux were gathering to attack the Mandans. It’s also confirmed the Teton Sioux (106 warriors) were responsible for attack robbing the Corps of two horses (“we are bad medicine...and must be killed” wrote Ordway). The Arikaras were unhappy with their conduct and refused to feed them (prompting them to leave the area). Finally, the Arikara sent along some tobacco and a plant root with properties to heal snake bites. It’s for topical use only (not to be chewed or swallowed). Clark sent the 16 men upstream to cut timber for the new pirogues and they found what they needed (even though they broke several axes). In general, the men are behaving well (Whitehouse).
It’s a cloudy and warm day (38 degrees, high). The captain is copying his map of the Missouri territory. The men are building pirogues (with repaired axes), making ropes, burning coal and hanging up meat. They are also repairing the guns or making battle axes for the Indians (for corn).
A beautiful, pleasant day (36 degrees, high). The river is started to break up in places. Everyone is busy working on projects (cutting wood, repairing stuff, mending clothes, dressing skins, making moccasins). Several Indians, including the chief named “Coal” visited the fort (many bringing corn, beans, dried meat and persimmon for iron work). The Northwest Company clerk (Francois-Antoine LaRocque) also visited, after going to several Indian camps to trade merchandise. He informed the captains that three of his trading companies have merged and the head of the Northwest Company is dead.
A clear and fine day (39 degrees, high). Ducks are seen flying north. The Mandan chief Black Cat and Hidatsa chief Raven Man visited the fort but didn’t stay long. The captains informed them of the Sioux’ intentions for war. Men continue to make coal and towing lines.
A cloudy morning (36 degrees, high). The Mandan chiefs Big White and Black Cat visited the fort, with a gift of meat for the captains. Several other Indians also visited bringing dried meat and corn. An engage from the Northwest Company also arrived for a horse. His superior’s wife requested some silk (which the captains gave her in three different colors). The Assiniboine returned to the area and tried to steal Minatare horses but couldn’t.
It’s a clear and pleasant day (40 degrees, high), with an early morning snow squall. Several Indians visited. A Frenchman and an Indian passed through with a letter for the Arikaras (from a Mr. Tabeau). The men continue in their various projects. “Nothing extraordinary,” wrote Ordway.
A cloudy and smoky day due to Minatare Indians burning the prairie (36 degrees, high). The Indians believed torching the grass created a better grass later and would “induce” the buffalo to their area. The Minatare chief Little Fox visited the fort and informed the captains that the Assiniboine returned the horses they stole from their tribe. Pvt. Shannon cut his foot with a tool while shaping wood for the pirogue. Drouillard and Graveline went to the Mandan village. The river is rising and covering the ice. It’s becoming difficult to cross the river safely.
A cloudy and colder day (26 degrees, high). The chief named “Coal” visited with a sick child. Clark gave the child some of Benjamin Rush’s “thunderbolt pills.” The French interpreter Charbonneau returned in the evening from the Hidatsa villages and informed the captains that the entire tribe is back from hunting. He also had a present from “Mr. Chaboillez” of the Northwest Company: several yards of cloth, a pair of corduroy overalls, a vest, 200 musket balls, gun powder, tobacco and three knives.
A cold and windy day (12 degrees, high). Several Indians visited the fort (with corn and dried buffalo). A couple of the Indians helped the captains understand more about the tribes near the Rocky Mountains.
Another cloudy and cold day (18 degrees, high). Clark commissioned a French engage to take a letter to Tabbeau and informed him of the Arikara’s desire to meet with the Mandans. Clark visited the party of 16 men making the pirogues about five miles upriver. On his way he met the Grand Chief of the Hidatsa (named “One Eye”)—a leader with a bad reputation and known for his brutality. One Eye wanted to meet with the captains. Clark encouraged to head to the fort to meet Lewis and he'd catch up later (he sent his interpreter back with the chief). Clark continued upstream and found his party nearly finished building the dugout canoes. On the way home he stopped into the Mandan Village for a smoke (of friendship), then headed back to the fort to meet with Chief One Eye. The captains gave the Hidatsa grand chief a medal, armband, shirt, cloths, and a flag. He seemed pleased. The captains had already sent him gifts previously but he claimed he never got them. Two guns were fired in his honor. Lewis showed him the air cannon and telescope (which One Eye thought were “great medicine”).
A cold and windy day (-2, low). The captains are visited by several chiefs from area Minatare villages. The chiefs stayed all day, while the chief of one tribe named the Mahhaha remained for the night. Ordway mentions several Hidatsa also stayed the night. The Mahaha chief gave “strange accounts of his nation” to the captains. His tribe used to live 30 miles below where they do now but were so oppressed by the Sioux and Assiniboine that they had to move upriver. The Assiniboine had killed most of the tribe. The remaining Mahhaha constructed their village near the Minatare at the mouth of the Knife river. They’ve now intermixed with the Mandan and Minatare. Lewis gave the chief a peace medal and other small presents.
Another cloudy, cold and windy day (26 degrees, high), with some snow late. The captains decided that two additional dug out canoes were needed to transport provisions. They are also concerned about a new wrinkle. Charbonneau, their Hidatsa interpreter (and husband of Sacagawea) has been unduly influenced by the Northwest and Hudson Bay trading companies. He is now questioning his decision to join the Corps and head West. Lewis and Clark explained their position and gives Charbonneau space to reflect, the decide whether he will go forward with them. The head chief of the Watersoon (Hidatsa) stayed the night.
A good day with snow during the night (10 degrees, high). Charbonneau informed the captains that he would not go further as the Corps interpreter under the previously agreed terms. He does not want to stand guard as one of his duties, he wants to leave later if he desires, and wants to carry as many provisions as he chooses. The captains said no dice and Charbonneau was dismissed. The river continues to rise. Two men traveled to the Hidatsa village to procure some tobacco from the traders.
A clear and cold day (-1, low). The Northwest Company clerk (McKenzie) visited the fort. The river continued to rise. Many Indians present (anxiously waiting for their battle axes). The blacksmiths have been working non-stop to supply their need.
A clear, warm day (40 degrees, above). Clark had the men shell corn. McKenzie left but the Indians were back again. Toussaint Charbonneau moved out and made his camp outside the fort. The captains hired Graveline to take his place. The river continued to rise.
A clear, pleasant and warm day (38 degrees, high). Clark dried some of the Indian trading goods, as well as parched meal and some clothing in the sun. Several Indians at the fort, eyeballing the goods. Some are still hulling corn or removing the outer skin of the kernels.
A warmer day (42 degrees, high). A French man named Joseph Garreau visited the fort. He had lived several years with the Mandan and Arikara. He demonstrated the “secret art” for how to make Indian beads, a craft of the Shoshone (who had been captured by the Arikaras and showed them). The Indians particularly love the larger beads and wear them in their hair or around their necks. Clark reported that an Indian was deeply offended by Whitehouse (who struck his hand as he held a spoon for his bad behavior).
It’s a windy and warmer Sunday (46 degrees, high). The men attempt to air out their goods. Toussaint Charbonneau moved all his stuff across the river and had a “come to Jesus” moment. He relayed a message through one of the Frenchmen (likely Francois Labiche) to tell the captains he’s sorry for his foolish behavior. He’s agreed to accompany the Corps on the original terms and will comply with every command. The captains called Charbonneau into a meeting and they further discussed the subject. In the end, Charbonneau was back on the Corps as an interpreter. A few Indians in the fort and the river continued to rise. There’s several places where the ice is now gone. William Werner lost his tomahawk. He suspects the Indians stole it.
A colder and cloudy day (34 degrees, high). Clark packed up the merchandise that had been drying and packed them into eight different packs, one for each pirogue and canoe. There’s a report of more fighting between the Sioux and area tribes. Fifty Assiniboine were killed a few days earlier. Toussaint Charbonneau officially enlisted as an interpreter. Clark is sick.
A cold, windy and cloudy day (31 degrees, high), with a snow squall overnight. The Mandan chiefs Big White and Little Crow visited the fort, as well as an Indian couple with a sick child (Clark nursed the child). Clark was informed that the two parties of Hidatsa have gone to war. Around 10 a.m., Gass returned to the fort to report the dug out canoes were finished.
Another cold day (28 degrees, high). Clark took six men upstream. First he visited the Mandans and smoked a pipe with several of the old men. Then he traveled upstream to see the new dugout canoes. Clark found several Indians with the men too. He ordered the dugout canoes taken to the river and prepared to bring down to the fort once the river clears of ice.
It’s a cloudy day with a dusting of snow in the afternoon (26 degrees, high). The rest of the dugout canoes are taken to the river and corked. On his return to the fort, Clark found a large quantity of pumice stone on the sides of the hills (evidence of a previous fire). He collected different pumice stones and incinerated them in a furnace, producing a glazed stone. Clark also gathered some plants reputed to cure a rabid dog or snake bite.
A cloud day with some rain in the evening (36 degrees, high). Several Indians visited the fort, including a Hidatsa chief from the “grand village” who stayed the day and night. The captains gave the chief a peace medal, an artillery coat, shirt, knife and wampum (greatly pleasing him). The chief also enjoyed watching the men dance.
A clear and pleasant day, with some snow in the morning (38 degrees, high). After breakfast, the chief and Hidatsa, along with LaRocque and McKenzie left the fort. However, shortly the brother of the Hidatsa chief One Eye arrived to deliver a vocabulary of his dialect. The Mandan Chief “The Coal” and other Indians visited too.
A cloudy morning and cool day (30 degree, high). The men are now preparing to leave Fort Mandan. Six men were sent to bring the dugout canoes downstream to the fort, but they returned because the vessels weren’t ready (still needed corked). Two men made cages for the prairie hens and magpies the captains wanted sent to Jefferson. They saw swans and geese flying north.
A fine day (32 degrees, high). The ice continued to break up on the Missouri, as the river rose nine inches. One large break up nearly carried their new canoes downstream. Two men made a steering oar for the barge. Others continue to hull corn. A few Indians visited the fort.
A clear, warm, and pleasant day (46 degrees, high). Several men continued preparations to leave. The ice on the river continued to break apart and jam.
A windy and warmer day (60 degrees, high). The canoes are all down at the fort and they are corked, pitched and tarred, particularly on the “windshakes” (cracks in the wind due to heavy winds). The men are getting closer to renewing their voyage upriver. The ice has stopped flowing downstream, suggesting an obstacle upstream.
Another gorgeous spring day (64 degrees, high). A few Indians visited but were involved at the riverbank attempting to snag floating buffalo carcasses. Clark noted the Indians jumped from “one cake of ice to another” to try to catch a passing buffalo. The ice now passing in great quantities.
A clear and pleasant day, with some high winds (52 degrees, high). The river fell dramatically (22 inches in one day). The men continued to prepare to leave Fort Mandan.
A pleasant day (49 degrees, high). The obstacle broke away upriver and the Missouri rose 13 inches in 24 hours. Indians have set fires to the plains on both sides of the river (to grow better grass for their horses and to draw the buffalo).
It’s a cloudy day (45 degrees, high). Several flocks of ducks and geese continue to head north. Not much ice floating now, as the river continues to rise (10 inches overnight). The barge is fully corked and ready to head back downstream. A few Indians visited the fort. The men are in high spirits and few nights pass without a dance. Except for venereal disease (a common thing among the Indians), the men are generally healthy.
A spring thunderstorm, with lightning and hail rolled through (the first notable rain since last October 15). Clark had the barge, pirogues and canoes put into the water. Several boxes made for the skins of different animals. The captains intend to set off the barge with six Corpsmen, three Frenchmen and possibly an Arikara chief. The Corps of Discovery will ascend the Missouri in the red and white pirogues, plus six dugout canoes. Five Frenchmen will join for a short distance (on their way to trap beaver). Lewis and Clark’s party will consist of 26 Americans, George Drouillard (French interpreter and hunter), Toussaint Charbonneau and his two wives (ultimately only Sacagawea), York and a Mandan chief. They will carry a four-month supply of provisions.
A cold rain throughout the day. The final preparations are underway. One of the Mandan chiefs was miffed that the captains paid him little attention (so he went back to his village). The captains are busy writing and preparing dispatches. Clark decided to send his journal to Thomas Jefferson “in its original state for his own perusal.” However, Clark still wanted to have it returned and edited (for spelling and grammar). The journal, he wrote, was for events between May 13, 1804 and April 3, 1805. Clark claimed he “wrote until very late at night” on his journal, but that meant he did not have much time to write other letters to family and friends. The river fell 5 inches overnight.
There’s a frost on the ground and some ice on the edge of the water, but it’s still a fine day. It’s the final day of packing. The men are busy loading the barge. In the boxes intended for Jefferson are skeletons (antelope, prairie dog, white and grey hare), skins (martin, red fox, badger), tails (mule deer, white weasel, squirrels), horns (mule deer, elk, big horn sheep), a Mandan bow and quiver, Arikara tobacco and seed, buffalo robes (Mandan, Minatare), articles of Indian dress, Mandan corn, Mandan earthen pot, a tin full of insects and mice, plants and roots used for remedies. In addition, they sent several living things, including a prairie dog, four magpies and a prairie hen (but only one magpie and the prairie dog survived the trip to D.C.).
Tomorrow the Corps planned to be back on the river. The wife of the French trader LaRocque and the clerk of the Northwest Company (McKenzie) visited the fort. McKenzie wanted recompense for his horse was stolen by Sioux. Because it was in the care of the Corps at the time of the theft, there is a financial responsibility (and he is compensated for the loss).
A cold and windy day. McKenzie and LaRocque’s wife left the fort. The barge is ready to leave, but the wind prevented loading the pirogues and canoes. The departure is delayed.
A clear and windy day. The two pirogues and six canoes are loaded, but the high winds are troublesome. Several Mandans visited the fort. Gass used the day to spotlight the “long and friendly intercourse” the men enjoyed with the Indian, particularly the women. He mentioned “narratives of feats of love as well as arms” but did not think it “prudent to swell [his] journal with them” (since they were supposed to write about “more useful information”). Gass noted that chastity was “not very highly esteemed by [the Indians]” and that had “loathsome effects” with the syphilis, which was quite common. Gass wrote: “The fact is, that the women are generally considered an article of traffic and indulgences [and] sold at a very moderate price. As proof of this...for an old tobacco box, one of [the] men was granted the honor of passing a night with the daughter of the head chief of the Mandan nation.”
It’s a fine day for another delay to the departure. Several Mandans visited the fort and informed the captains that many Arikara are camped on the other side of the river. The captains sent their interpreter (Gravelines) to check it out and let them know what’s going on. They also wanted to know if any Arikara were interested in going to Washington, D.C. (as the barge could take them downriver). Richard Warfington’s squad is designated to return the barge to St. Louis and get the boxes (and the first copies of the journals) safely to Jefferson. Also included are comprehensive field notes of the rivers, Indians, animals, plants and minerals. Lewis’ undated journal contains an exhaustive outline of the journey from Camp Dubois to the Mandan Villages.