Departure Day

River with two forks

Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Midwest Region

On May 14, 1804, the Corps of Discovery, minus their leader, began the 28-month trek across the newly acquired Louisiana Territory.

Here is John Ordway’s journal entry: “Showery day. Capt Clark Set out at 3 oClock P. M. for the western expedition. one Gun fired. a nomber of Citizens see us Start. the party consisted of 3 Sergeants & 38 Good hands, which maned the Batteaux and two pearogues. we Sailed up the Missouri 6 miles & encamped on the N. Side of the River.”

It’s a little strange, however, that Captain Clark’s journal states they departed at “4 oClock P.M.”

Where was Captain Lewis? He was still taking care of business in St. Louis, including coordinating the final arrangements for Pierre Chouteau and the Osage Indian leaders’ trip to Washington. Lewis wouldn’t leave St. Louis on horseback until May 20, arriving in St. Charles to meet his men around 6:30 p.m. The Corps would shove off from St. Charles at 6:00 a.m. two days later, on May 22.

Source: The Journals of Lewis and Clark
Learn more about the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail:
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Last updated: May 15, 2018