THE ABBREVIATED JOURNALS OF THE LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION:
Pierre, SD to Fort Mandan, ND
October 1, 1804 – October 27, 1804
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.
The wind blew hard all last night and was very cold. The Corps left early. They passed the Cherokee River. The Missouri is now full of sand bars due to its low flow. The men had to haul the barge over one difficult bar. They met a young Frenchman who was recognized by one of the engages. He lived with Jean Valle at his trading post. They brought the young man to the barge in the pirogue (and he stayed all night). The Corps arrived at Jean Valle’s trading post where two men stocked a few items to trade with the Sioux. Valle provided information about the Cheyenne Indians and interior of the country, including a new animal (bighorn sheep). 16 miles.
A violent wind all night. Very cold morning. They sailed before daylight. Jean Valle came aboard and spoke in English. He said they would not be troubled any more by the Sioux. He traveled two miles with the Corps and then returned to his post. At 2 p.m. the Corps noticed Yankton Sioux Indians on the hills. One of Yankton came down to the river and fired his gun. He wanted the Corps to come to shore and meet with his tribe (of about 200 people). Lewis and Clark paid no attention, but eventually told him that they had spoken to his chief and to wait for Pierre Dorian. They continued upstream (expecting to be attacked by the Tetons around the next bend). However, there was no further incident and so they continued to eventually camp on a sandbar, a half mile from the shore. No hunting today because the Indians were troublesome. They were forced to keep the company together that night and remained on high alert. 12 miles.
The Corps left at 7 a.m. after another night with high winds. Some rain and thunder, and chilly. At noon they examined their storage. Several bags had been opened by mice and some corn was scattered. Some of the clothing was also spoiled, as well as papers. At 1 p.m., an Indian arrived with a turkey on his back, and four more Indians joined him. The Corps had no conversation with them. They spotted gulls and white brant flying south in large flocks. The men also attempted to explore other channels, but the water was too low. They camped on a sandbar on the south side of the river. 11 miles.
Another windy night with some rain, followed by a very cool day. The Corps realized they had ascended the wrong channel. Consequently, they had to return three miles to get back to the Missouri. They saw several Indians on the bank, who yelled at the men. One Indian fired his gun and skipped a musket ball on the water before them, but they paid no attention to him. Another Indian swam to the barge and begged for gun powder. The captains gave him some tobacco and told him they weren’t traders but a government party able to defend themselves. There’s a hard headwind. Lewis and three men walked a large island (with little timber) that once was populated by an Arikara village (17 lodges). It’s been deserted five years. They camped on a sandbar at the upper end of the island. 12 miles.
It’s the first morning with frost and they left at sunrise. They passed three Tetons who begged for tobacco, but the company ignored them. Later they saw a herd of antelope swimming the river. One of the hunters killed four of them. Clark walked on an island covered with wild rye and killed a buck and a wolf. We found the fresh antelope meat very good and sweet, as they had no more fresh meat on hand. It’s a clear and pleasant evening. The Corps camped on a mud bar and the captains refreshed the men with a glass of whiskey. 20 miles.
A cold north wind blew all day. The company stopped at noon at a deserted Arikara village of eighty round lodges covered with earth. They found three different kinds of squashes growing in the village. The men had to drag the barge over several sandbars due to low water. They observe great numbers of geese, swans, brants and ducks. John Shields killed a fat elk. The magpie is common here. Lewis and a soldier hunted along the beautiful shore “bottoms” and saw a lot of prairie hens. The Corps camped on a large sandbar. 14.5 miles.
On this Sunday, the Corps awoke to a heavy frost and left at daylight. The current is gentle with a hard south wind. Clark walked up the river a mile. He saw the tracks of a very large white (grizzly) bear and an old Arikara village (partially burned out). He found many canoes and baskets. They also saw two more Teton Indians (who requested, and were given, some venison). The company passed an island that Clark, Ordway and three other men hunted. They killed a badger and a large mule deer doe. They saved the badger skin and bones to send back to Washington. The island is covered with rye grass and sharp-tailed grouse (so they named it “Grouse Island”). The men camped on the north side of the river. 22 miles.
The Corps set out early on a cool morning. They passed the Grand River (it’s 120 yards wide) and found great quantities of buffalo berries near its mouth. The hunters discovered an Arikara village on a three-mile-long island. They passed the village in the presence of a great number of spectators and camped above it at the foot of some high land. The island is covered with fields of corn, tobacco, and beans. Joseph Gravelines, a French interpreter joined the Corps, and told the captains these (Arikara) Indians were friendly.
NOTE: The friendly relations between whites and Arikaras did not continue. The death of their chief who went to Washington at the captains' invitation apparently antagonized them, and they prevented the return of the Mandan chief Sheheke to his people in 1807.During the fur-trade days of the 1820s and 1830s they were openly hostile to whites. This hostility must have influenced the unfavorable judgements of many later white traders and travelers, who emphasized the "Rees'" various deviations from Anglo-American mores. Eventually declining numbers, caused by disease and war with the Sioux, forced the Arikara to move to Like-a-Fishhook village in North Dakota with the Hidatsas and Mandans. This event (circa. 1845) finally brought about an alliance. The tribe now resides at Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota.
Lewis, Gravelines and three of the men went to the Arikara village, smoked with the chiefs and gave them tobacco. Clark formed a guard on shore around the boats and anchor. Robert Frazier was selected as one of the permanent members of the Corps, being transferred from among those who were enlisted for only the Missouri portion of the expedition. He joined the mess of Sgt. Gass. Lewis returned late with Gravelines. Another French trader named Pierre Antoine Tabeau accompanied them. It was a pleasant evening. 12 miles.
It was a cold, blustery day with some rain. The waves were as high as [Clark] had ever saw them on the Missouri. The Corps delayed a day to meet with the very friendly Arikara Indians, but it too cold, so they decided not to Council. Instead they gave the chiefs some tobacco and promised to speak tomorrow. Two Frenchmen lived with the Arikaras. They used the bull boat—a frame of boughs made in the shape of a bowl and covered with a single buffalo hide—to cross the river. The boats carried three to six men and rode the highest waves. This nation has never seen a black man before and were astonished with York. They called him “The Big Medicine.” To convince them of his strength, York displayed a number of feats.
The captains learned there were some “jealousies” between the chiefs. They have Gravelines and Tabeau invite the chiefs to a council. At 1 p.m. the chiefs assembled at a camp under an awning with a U.S. flag hoisted. The captains identified three chiefs (Lighting Raven, Pocasse and Eagles Feather), then delivered the usual speeches, giving them flags, medals, cloth and paints. Afterwards, they shot the air gun (which astonished the Arikara). The captains also observed there were two Teton Sioux in the council, and they were told these Indians came to intercede with the Arikara to stop us.
The Arikaras are not fond of liquor of any kind and “were surprised that [Jefferson] should present to them a liquor which would make them fools [Biddle].” Ordway and Gass visited the Arikara village and discovered they raised corn, beans, pumpkins, squash, watermelons and a kind of tobacco that Gass noted was only for smoking and not chewing. Gass also took a ride with two Arikara women in their bull boat. Some of the Arikara women are very beautiful and clean.
Clark’s black servant York was a novelty again. The Arikara flocked around him and examined him from top to toe. He perpetuated a joke that “made himself more terrible in their view than [Clark] wished him to do.” York claimed that he was once a wild animal who ate people (particularly children) before Clark caught and tamed him. The Corps set up their corn mill and demonstrated it to the Arikara.
It’s a clear and cold morning. Lewis and Clark learned one of the chiefs was “considerably grieved” because he had lost all the presents he received when his canoe overturned on the way home (Ordway). At 11 a.m. they met with Lighting Raven (chief #1) and gave him a steel mill. The chief thanked them for the presents and said his people promised to follow their counsel. He said the “road” (river) was open for us and no one dare to shut it. He also asked the captains to help the Arikara and Mandans make peace. The captains took Lighting Raven and his nephew aboard the barge and set off upriver.
A little later they allowed Pocasse (chief #2) to board until they came to the second Arikara village three miles from their island. They then walked with Pocasse and Eagles Feather (chief #3) to their villages (who already had the U.S. flag flying over their camp, according to Gass). Each village offered the captains food and they enjoyed several conversations on various topics. The Arikara chiefs also noted their people were “poor and dirty,” even though Gass journaled “they are the most cleanly Indians I have seen on the voyage, as well as the friendly and industrious.”
The captains told the Arikaras they would hear them out tomorrow and returned to the barge at 10 p.m. The Arikara gave them cornbread and boiled beans. It was tasty (“rich”) and nourishing. The men discover their best axe is missing (stolen by the Arikara and returned the next day).
After breakfast, the captains joined the Indians waiting for them to council. They went to the house of Pocasse (chief #2) and were given seven bushels of corn, tobacco, seeds, leggings and a robe. The chief agreed to follow their counsel and expressed satisfaction in their gifts. He asked for the captains to take on of his chiefs to the Mandans and broker peace. Then they went to another village and were given more corn (ten bushels), squash and beans. The captains gave them sugar, salt and two sun glasses (magnifying glass?).
Clark observed the Arikara desired to be at peace with all nations, but that the Sioux regularly “poison their minds and keep them in perpetual dread.” Clark also wrote, for the first time, of a “curious custom” of the Sioux and Arikaras in giving their “handsome” (beautiful) women to “whom they wish to show some acknowledgement.” The captains didn’t accept any Sioux women, even though they followed and offered them to the company. The captains also resisted the offers of the Arikaras, however two beautiful women were sent to follow them and “persisted in their civilities.” These women ended up spending the night. One of Arikara joined the Corps to travel to the Mandans.
At 2 p.m. the company set out with the fiddles playing and horns sounding. The village watched them from the banks and the men made several miles before they stopped for the night. Ordway noted the John Newman and Moses B. Reed were confined. The evening was clear and pleasant, but cooler. 10 miles.
The Corps left early on a cloudy day with some rain. John Newman was confined for “mutinous expression.” They took three Arikara with them: the chief’s brother (going upriver to work a peace treaty), another Indian and one of the women. The company passed a Sioux camp that did not speak a word. The Indians, strangely, just watched them go by.
At noon a two-hour court martial was held for John Newman. His jury consisted of Ordway, Gass, Shields, Collins, Werner, Bratton, Shannon, Goodrich, with Clark presiding. Newmans is charged with talking in a “highly criminal and mutinous nature” to the point of destroying military discipline, creating alienation between the company and its officers, and souring desire to continue in service. He pled not guilty, but the jury unanimously felt otherwise, sentencing Newman to 75 lashes and dismissal from the Corps. He was also relieved from guard duty, deprived of all weapons, assigned to “drudgeries” (the worst jobs) and no longer allowed to participate in any formal parades.
The company traveled past a strange outcropping of two stones that resembled humans and a dog. The Arikara, they’re told, hold these stones in great reverence, even making offerings to them. They believed a myth that stated there once was a man in love with a girl whose parents would not let her marry. The young lovers mourn their situation, as well as the dog that joined them, to the point they turned to stone. At their feet is a great amount of grapes, supposedly their food until they transitioned to rock. Clark named the nearby creek: “Stone Idol Creek.” He also noted an increase in timber and a “fine breeze” (SE) that pushed them. The hunters killed a deer. They finally made camp after dark on the north side. 18 miles
The Corps set out early in a cold rain, which continued all day. They were finally in present-day North Dakota. At noon the company stopped and executed the 75 lashes upon John Newman. The punishment so alarmed the Arikara chief that he cried out loud. Clark explained the situation to him and the chief agreed the crime was worthy of punishment. However in their tradition such a serious crime was death. He also informed the captains that his people never whipped another human, not even a child. 12 miles.
It rained all night, but the men still got an early start. The Corps met an Arikara hunting party and stopped at their camp. They had twelve canoes loaded with excellent fat meat. Several of the Indians gave them meat and the captains, in return, gave them fishhooks and beads. They all enjoyed a smoke together, and then the Corps proceeded on. They saw many Indians on both sides of the river. The men camped at dusk near another party of Arikara about thirty in number and that’s when their Arikara woman departed (Gass). Clark journaled the Arikara were friendly and much pleased with his black servant York. He noted their women were fond of caressing his men. Ordway noted the Indian children liked to follow after York, however whenever he turned around to face them, they ran and shouted with terror. 10 miles.
It’s another rainy and cold (30 degrees) morning. The Corps left at sunrise. There were two young Indian women who were “very anxious to accompany” the Corps. They passed an old Cheyenne village which appeared to be surrounded by a wall of earth. The northwest wind was a hard one. The men saw great numbers of antelope on shore. Lewis and the Arikara chief walked on shore. At one point, there were suddenly great numbers of antelope in the river and Indians on both shores. Indian boys, in the water, killed the antelope with spears and hauled them to shore. Indian men shot antelope from the shore by arrow while others, on horseback, kept the antelope in the water for an easy kill. Clark counted 58 antelope killed. One of the hunters with Lewis shot three antelope for the Corps. Lewis captured a “poorwill”—a small bird “in a dormant state” due to the cold temperatures. The Corps traveled another half mile upriver and then camped. Many Indians came to see the boat, some late at night, hollering and singing. A couple Indians brought fresh and dried buffalo, plus an antelope to the Corps. They stayed the night (singing and being “very merry”). 14.5 miles.
Set out early with a northwest wind. After breakfast, Clark walked on shore with their Arikara chief and an interpreter, listening to their many extraordinary stories (and traditions about turtles, snakes and the power of a particular rock or cave). They also viewed large herds of buffalo, elk, and antelope. Clark shot three deer and an elk. The Arikara chief killed a deer. And the Corpsmen killed another four deer. They saw large herds of antelopes swimming in the river. Some of the men got into a “great number” of rattlesnakes, according to Lewis...so they named it “Rattlesnake Bluff.” The wind was the problem, however, and it blew so hard they could not move much after 10 a.m. Clark and the men scaffolded their meat and returned to find their barge had only traveled a few miles past where they had camped. Ordaway mentioned the wind abated towards evening and they proceeded until after dark before making camp. 6 miles.
The company left at sunrise. It’s a clear and cold morning with frost. After two miles they met a couple Frenchmen (employed by Graveline) in a canoe who informed the Corps they had been trapping nearby when their four traps, plus thirty skins, guns, ammo and ax were stolen by Mandan Indians. The Frenchmen were headed downstream but turned around and followed the Corps hoping to voice their complaint, gain some justice and recompense. The company saw large numbers of antelope all day and their hunters killed four. They saw no buffalo but did spy a herd of 248 elk. The hunters killed 6 deer and 4 elk in the evening hours, plus a pelican. The country is level and fine with some high short hills. The trees are primarily cottonwood, some ash and elm. Clark once again noted the Arikara were not fond of spiritous liquors, nor appeared to be grateful for alcohol as a gift. 13 miles.
The Corps set out early with a good southeast wind. They continued to see more timber, especially along the shoreline. Clark walked on shore and observed great numbers of buffalo, elk, deer and antelope. He observed the streams in this area were all brackish. The water is undrinkable. They started to see sign of the Mandan. The men killed four elk, six deer and a pelican. All the skins were distributed among the men. They also saw swans and ten wolves. It was a pleasant day, according to Clark. 17.5 miles.
The company set out early to another hard northeast wind that blew against them all day. They spotted an old Mandan village that appeared to be fortified. The country through which they passed was “delightful” with great numbers of buffalo, elk, antelope, and deer. Clark killed three deer and the hunters shot another ten and an antelope. They also encountered their first grizzly bear. Clark noted he “saw several fresh tracks of that animal, double the size of the largest track I ever saw.” Peter Cruzatte wounded the “white bear.” Lewis journaled how Cruzatte was so alarmed by the grizzly’s “formidable appearance” that he left his tomahawk and gun to run for his life. He later returned to see the bear, thankfully, had gone the other direction. Soon after Cruzatte shot a cow buffalo in the thigh and broke her leg. Unlike the bear, the cow pursued him and he finally ditched her, hiding in a ravine. Clark also watched several wolves following the buffalo, killing off the weak, wounded, fat or slow. 12 miles.
It’s a very cold “disagreeable” night with a brutal hard northeast wind. There’s some hail, sleet and freezing rain that turned to snow during the morning hours. The men dealt with a swift current that slowed their progress. They passed a sacred Indian stone that claimed a person could “see...all the calamities and good fortune to happen [to] the nation and parties who visit it (Clark).” There was also a great tree in the open prairie that Indians respected for its power to make them brave. Clark killed a buffalo. Another man shot an otter (their first encounter with this animal). They camped on the high prairie where the cold ground is covered with snow. 7 miles.
At 1 a.m. Clark was violently and suddenly attacked with rheumatism in his neck that proved so bad he could not move. Lewis applied a hot stone wrapped in flannel on his neck to provide some relief. They left at sunrise to another cold morning with new snow. At 7 a.m. the Corps passed a camp war of Teton Sioux, numbering around a dozen men. The Tetons were all nearly naked (save their loin cloth) and painted for war. Clark had every reason to believe these Sioux intend to steal horses from the Mandans. The Sioux were double-tongued and could not be trusted. The captains gave the war party nothing and moved on upriver. Clark’s neck continued to spasm with great pain. The hunters killed a bull buffalo. They saw a great deal of beaver sign, and the French men in the Corps caught several every night. The day was clear, warmer, and pleasant. 12 miles.
It’s a cloudy, cold morning, with some snow. The Corps left at dawn and passed five deserted Mandan villages (their fires still burning). One was the village of the two Frenchmen they had met down river (and got robbed). They found a small red berry (the buffalo berry) that’s sour and good to the taste (Ordway), and ate their fill. Three hunters go out to hunt and return with nothing. 13 miles.
It’s another cloudy morning with a little snow. Clark’s rheumatism improved, who noted the beautiful country. They passed an old Hidatsa village and came to an island where they were visited by the Grand Chief of the Mandan Indians (a #2 chief). The Mandan chief met the Arikara chief with great cordiality and they smoked together. The Mandan Indians had some beautiful woman with them. Lewis visited their camps with an interpreter. The Corps continued upstream and camped below the old Village of the Mandans. At that point five Mandans came and took the Arikara chief to their camp. Not much game is found around the villages. 7 miles.
It’s very cold and windy. Like Clark, Reuben Fields is afflicted with rheumatism in his neck. Moses Reed has it in his hips and Peter Cruzatte in his legs. The Corps passed an old, abandoned Mandan village (later occupied by the Arikara until 1799). There were several parties of Indians on both sides of the river, some on horseback, hollering and singing. They learned the Sioux and Assiniboine had taken horses from the “Big Bellies” or Hidatsa Indians (the Assiniboine also killed the Hidatsa). The company ran aground several times and passed a very bad point of rocks, after which they camped on a sand point. Other than those mentioned, all the party was well. Several Indians visited in the evening, including the son of the late great chief of the Mandans (he had two fingers missing and was pierced in many places—a testimony to their grief for deceased friends). The Mandan Indians appeared to have similar customs and fashions to the Arikaras, but were milder in their language and gestures. The Corps camped on a sandy point opposite a high hill. 11 miles.
They set out early on a clear morning and saw many Mandans on shore. The Arikara chief deboarded. At 10 a.m. the company stopped at a Mandan village where two chiefs boarded with their heavy articles (earthen pots, corn). At this same village they met an Irishman named Hugh McCracken, a free trader employed by the Hudson Bay Company of Canada. He and another man came to this area nine days earlier to trade for horses and buffalo robes. The Corps landed about a half mile below the first Mandan town. Soon after, many Mandan men, women and children flocked to the shore to see the Corps of Discovery. They were much pleased with the corn mill that was set up on the boat, and surprised at the ease with which it reduced the corn to flour. Some of the Indians hung around the boat until midnight. Lewis walked to town with the principal chiefs and interpreters, but Clark remained behind with his neck still in pain. Lewis found the Mandan tribe very friendly. 11 miles.
The company set out early and later stopped at a chief’s lodge. Clark smoked with him but could not eat because of his painful neck. This displeased the Indians somewhat. Here the captains also met Rene Jessaume, another trader working out of the Hudson Bay Company. His wife was a Mandan woman. Clark employed Jessaume to interpret for the company. The Corps proceeded to a central point opposite the Knife River, formed a camp and raised a flag. Lewis and Jessaume walked to the second village of Mandans. They gave three twists of tobacco to the chiefs and invited them to council the next day. Clark concluded they were now 1610 miles from the River Dubois, where they first embarked on this expedition. 4 miles.