Lewis and Clark's Unforgettable Adventure

Part of the Lewis and Clark For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The Lewis and Clark story is proof that sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction: A melancholic presidential secretary and a genial frontiersman leading three dozen young Euro-American men, a handful of French-Canadians, a black slave, an Indian girl, her infant child, and a large dog on a voyage to find an all-water route across a vast, uncharted continent to a faraway ocean.

With only their wits, frontier skills, and significant tribal assistance to guide them and keep them alive, this group trekked thousands of miles on foot, by canoe, and on horseback, carrying or dragging tons of supplies and trade goods from one Indian village to the next.

Lewis and Clark's route: To the Pacific and back.
Lewis and Clark's route: To the Pacific and back.

After dozens of near-fatal mistakes and mishaps and 28 months of hardship and deprivation (long after they'd been given up for dead), they returned having suffered only three casualties — one of their own to death by natural causes and two Blackfeet Indians killed in a gun and knife fight.

Lewis and Clark had remarkable skills and luck. They seemed to find whatever they needed at just the right time — tribes willing to guide them, transportation to get them to their next destination, the instincts and reflexes to overcome the next threat (heat stroke, grizzly bear attack, malaria, gunshot wound, and a flash flood). When their skill gave out, they relied on luck. And when their luck gave out, they mustered the will to "proceed on," which became their watchwords.

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