Lewis and Clark Timeline 1804

1804 - Up The Missouri

March 9, 1804 - Three Flags Day Ceremony in St. Louis, Missouri; the official transfer of the upper Louisiana Territory from Spain to France. After the ceremony Meriwether Lewis stayed in St. Louis with Pierre Chouteau and his family.

Mouth of the Missouri River
Mouth of the Missouri River, left center of photo.
May 14, 1804 - Camp River Dubois, Illinois - The expedition began. Clark led the men in three boats; the 55-foot long keelboat and two pirogues of over 40 feet in length, one painted red, the other white. Clark wrote: "Rained the fore part of the day. I determined to go as far as St. Charles a french Village 7 leagues up the Missourie, and wait at that place untill Capt. Lewis could finish the business in which he was obliged to attend to at St. Louis and join me by Land from that place 24 miles; by this movement I calculated that if any alterations in the loading of the Vestles or other Changes necessary, that they might be made at St. Charles. I set out at 4 oClock P.M., in the presence of many of the neighbouring inhabitants, and proceeded on under a jentle brease up the Missourie to the upper Point of the 1st Island 4 Miles and camped on the Island which is Situated Close on the right (or Starboard) Side, and opposit the mouth of a Small Creek Called Cold water, a heavy rain this after noon."
Lewis and Clark Center
Lewis and Clark Center, St. Charles, Missouri.
May 16, 1804 - St. Charles, Missouri, (Lewis and Clark Trail Site #4), was a town of 450 people in 1803. Pierre Cruzatte and Francois Labiche, who were half-French and half-Omaha Indian, enlisted in the Corps of Discovery.

May 20, 1804 - St. Charles, Missouri - This day was a Sunday, and Clark sent 20 of the men to the Catholic Church in St. Charles. Lewis rode overland from St. Louis to St. Charles. May 21, 1804 The expedition set out at 3 p.m. from St. Charles, Missouri.

May 31, 1804 - The expedition camped at the mouth of Deer Creek in Osage County, Missouri. Lewis described the Eastern Wood Rat for science, and several plants; Clark met with Big Track, a leader of the Osage Indians.

June 23, 1804 - Clark camped on shore after rounding Jackass Bend in Ray County, Missouri; the men camped on an island across from the later site of Fort Osage, (Lewis and Clark Trail Site #8), built in 1808 under the supervision of Indian Agent William Clark.

Statue of Lewis, Clark, York, Pomp and Sacagawea.
View of present day Kansas City from where Lewis and Clark camped.
June 26-28, 1804 - Kansas City, Kansas - The men dried articles that had been soaked by river water; 8 or 10 hunters were sent out, and saw the first buffalo of the journey.
June 29, 1804 - Near modern Parkville, Missouri - Hugh Hall and John Collins were court martialled for stealing whiskey. Collins was sentenced to 100 lashes, Hall to 50. The keelboat almost struck an overhead branch as it violently turned in a rapid; if it had hit the branch it might have been sunk. At 3:30 p.m., after establishing camp, the punishment was carried out on Collins and Hall.
Missouri River as seen from a bluff in Atchison, Kansas.
Missouri River as seen from a bluff in Atchison, Kansas.
July 4, 1804 - Near the site of modern Atchison, Kansas (Lewis and Clark Trail Site #11) the expedition celebrated the 28th year of American Independence. Joseph Field was bitten by a snake. The bow gun on the boat was fired and a gill of whiskey was issued to each man in celebration of Independence Day.

July 12, 1804 - Big Lake, near modern Fortescue, Missouri - The Captains stayed at this camp to rest the men, and waited for a hunting party to return from the Big Nemaha River in Nebraska. Clark went up the Nemaha about 3 miles and marveled at the prairie lands he saw. He also noted the remains of a late prehistoric Oto village, and ate wild grapes. At 1 p.m. the court martial of Alexander Willard was held. Willard had been caught sleeping on guard duty, a capital crime; Willard was convicted, and sentenced to 100 lashes on his bare back, given nightly at sunset in amounts of 25 lashes for four consecutive nights. The punishment commenced on this evening.

July 20, 1804 - The expedition camped a little above Spring Creek, in Cass County, Nebraska. Clark and Reubin Field explored along the Weeping Water Creek looking for elk; they walked all day through the immense prairie. Clark killed a yellow wolf and marveled at the general good health of the men.

A river oxbow on the Missouri.
A river oxbow on the Missouri.
July 24, 1804 - For several days the Corps stayed at a site they called "Camp White Catfish," within the borders of modern Lake Manawa State Park, Iowa. Clark copied a map, while Lewis readied letters for President Jefferson; potentially they wanted to send this material back eastward with a few of the men, but decided against it. Many of the men were hunting, although game was scarce. Those who fished were more successful and caught catfish, from which the name of the camp was derived.

August 1, 1804 - At what the Corps called the Council Bluff Site, today's Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, Nebraska, they waited for Indian chiefs to arrive for a council. This was William Clark's 34th birthday, and he recorded "This being my birth day I order'd a Saddle of fat vennison, an Elk fleece and a bevartail to be cooked and a Desert of Cheries, Plumbs, Raspberries currents and grapes of a Supr quality. 3 Deer and an Elk killed to day The Indians not yet arrived. a Cool fine eveninge Musquetors verry troublsom, the Praries Contain Cheres, Apple, Grapes, Currents, Raspberry, Gooseberry Hastlenuts and a great vairety of Plants and flours not common to the U S What a field for a Botents [botanist] and a natriless [naturalist]".

August 2, 1804 - Council Bluff site, Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, Nebraska - At sunset, six Oto chiefs and their warriors, with a French interpreter, Mr. Faufong, arrived; on the morning of August 3, Lewis and Clark gave out peace medals to the Oto and Missouri chiefs.

August 11, 1804 - The camp was at what is today Badger Lake, near Whiting, Iowa - Lewis and Clark honored Black Bird, a chief of the Omaha Indians who died four years earlier, by climbing to the top of his mound grave with ten men and planting a flag. They stated in the journals that over 400 Indians, including Black Bird, had died of smallpox in an epidemic four years previously.

prairie grass
August 18, 1804 - near modern Homer, Nebraska - this was Capt. Lewis' 30th birthday. The Captains parleyed with Oto chiefs. A court martial was held for Pvt. Moses B. Reed, who had deserted and was tracked down, captured and returned to camp. He was expelled from the permanent party and ordered to return to St. Louis from the Mandan villages in the spring - in addition, he had to run the gauntlet four times through. The Oto chiefs thought this punishment harsh until Reed's great offense was explained to them. An evening meeting was held with the Oto chiefs, followed by a dance which lasted until 11 p.m. An extra gill, a ¼ of a pint, of whiskey was issued to each man.
Flod's Bluff
Floyd's Bluff

August 20, 1804 - Near modern Sioux City, Iowa (Lewis and Clark Trail Site #18) - The only member of the Corps of Discovery to die on the expedition, Sgt. Charles Floyd succumbed to what is now believed to have been appendicitis. Even if the members of the expedition had known what his malady was, there was nothing they could have done for him. Sgt. Floyd died on either the Nebraska or the Iowa side of the river; his body was then taken upriver to the first high bluffs at modern Sioux City, Iowa, for burial. The inroads of the Missouri River washed away part of Floyd's grave and his remains were reburied in 1857 600 feet to the southeast of the original site. In 1895 the grave was marked with a concrete slab, and in 1901 a 100 foot tall obelisk was erected over the spot. Clark recorded: "Sergeant Floyd much weaker and no better . . . Serjeant Floyd as bad as he can be no pulse and nothing will Stay a moment on his Stomach or bowels. . . Serj. Floyd Died with a great deal of Compusure, before his death he Said to me, 'I am going away I want you to write me a letter.' We buried him on the top of the bluff 1/2 Mile below a Small river to which we Gave his name, he was buried with the Honors of War much lamented, a Seeder post with the Name Sergt. C. Floyd died here 20th of august 1804 was fixed at the head of his grave. This Man at all times gave us proofs of his firmness and Determined resolution to doe Service to his Countrey and honor himself . . . " The military funeral was conducted by Capt. Lewis.

August 23, 1804 - One mile southeast of Vermillion, South Dakota (Lewis and Clark Trail Site #20). A wide variety of wildlife was sighted on this day; Joseph Field killed the expedition's first buffalo.

[The following is based on information in Gary E. Moulton, ed. The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, Volume One, Atlas, and Volume 3, August 25, 1804 - April 6, 1805].

Red Berries
August 25, 1804 - Lewis, Clark, Ordway, Drouillard, Shields, Joseph Field, Colter, Bratton, Labiche, E. Cann, Warfington, Fraser and York walked to Spirit Mound, (Lewis and Clark Trail Site #22), seven miles north of Vermillion, South Dakota, said by Indians to be a place of evil or mischievous spirits. ". . . in an emence Plain a high Hill is situated, and appears of a Conic form, and by the different nations of Indians in this quarter is Suppose to be the residence of Deavils. That they are in human form with remarkable large heads, and about 18 Inches high, that they are very watchfull and are arm'd with Sharp arrows with which they Can Kill at a great distance; they are Said to kill all persons who are So hardy as to attempt to approach the hill; they State that tradition informs them that many Indians have Suffered by those little people, and among others Three Mahar men fell a sacrefise to their merceless furry not many Years Sence. So Much do the Maha, Soues, Ottoes and other neighbouring nations believe this fable, that no Consideration is Suffecient to induce them to approach the hill."
Gavin's Point Dam
Gavin's Point Dam near Yankton, South Dakota.

August 30, 1804 - Calumet Bluff, at modern Gavins Point Dam, South Dakota - A council was held with the Yankton Sioux at which Clark made a speech and distributed presents and peace medals. The Yankton danced until late at night on the Dakota side of the river.

Sept. 7, 1804 - The camp was at "the Tower," four miles southeast of the Nebraska/South Dakota border on the Nebraska side, near Niobara National Scenic Riverway. The men investigated a prairie dog town and described it for science.

Sept. 10, 1804 - The camp was on Pocahontas, or Towhead Island, now inundated by Lake Francis Case. On Cedar Island Clark found the fossil remains of the backbone, teeth and ribs of an ancient sea-dwelling creature called a plesiosaur, 45 feet long.

Sept. 20, 1804 - The Corps was in Hughes County, South Dakota, in the Grand Detour or Big Bend of the Missouri area. The men could walk easily across the narrow land areas between the bends in the river. Clark noted: "I walked on Shore . . . Saw numbers of Buffalow and Goats, I saw a Hare and believe he run into a hole in the Side of a hill . . . None of those Goats has any Beard, they are all Keenly made and is butifull."

Sept. 24, 1804 - Within the boundaries of modern Pierre, South Dakota, the Corps met and had a confrontation with the Lakota or "Teton" Sioux. The following day the men raised a flag and put up the sail awning for a council. The Lakota began to arrive about 11 a.m.; after a ceremony much like those of the past few months with other Indian tribes, the Lakota leaders feigned drunkenness and asked for more presents, declaring they would not let the Corps go on without them. The Second Chief, called the Partisan, threatened Clark, who drew his sword and called the men to arms. A potentially disastrous confrontation was finally diffused when the Lakota backed down.

October 8, 1804 - The campsite was in Corson County, South Dakota, between Rampart and Cathead Creeks in an area now inundated by Lake Oahe. This was the so-called Leavenworth Site of Arikara earth lodge villages. The first Arikara village was called Rhtarahe, the second Waho-Erha. The Corps crossed the Grand River and Oak Creek, passed the first village and set up camp. Lewis and three men, along with an interpreter who lived in the area, Joseph Gravelines, went to the Arikara village. The Arikaras were astonished by York - they had never seen a black man before.

Sacagawea gravesite
One of Sacagawea's gravesites.
October 13, 1804 - Camped one mile below the North Dakota boundary near modern Pollock, South Dakota. Pvt. John Newman was confined for mutinous talk, and court martialed. His punishment was 75 lashes on his bare back and banishment from the permanent party. Further, he was condemned to perform only menial tasks and no soldierly duties like standing guard from this point onward.
Earth Lodge
Earth lodge reproduction at Knife River Indian Village NHS.
October 26, 1804 - Mitutanka, the first Mandan earth lodge village, near Stanton, North Dakota - Lewis and Clark finally arrived at the Mandan villages - 1,600 miles by their estimate from Camp River Dubois. There were two Mandan villages and three villages inhabited by the Hidatsa and Arahami tribes. These three groups lived in close proximity and harmoniously, sometimes joining forces against their principal enemy, the Sioux. They traded their agricultural products with other tribes in the region. Lewis and Clark estimated that the population of the five villages, located within an 8 x 2 mile rectangle, totaled 4,400. About 1,400 of these people were adult males, 700 Mandans, 650 Hidatsas, and 50 Amahamis. Clark recorded: "We came too and camped about 1/2 a mile below the 1st Mandan town . . . soon after our arrival many men womin and children flocked down to See us.
Capt. Lewis walked to the village with the principal Chiefs and our interpreters, my Rhumatic complaint increasing I could not go." Lewis and Clark had already decided to stay for the winter with the friendly Mandan and Hidatsa Indians, where food would be available. The Indian villages added a measure of protection as well, and the explorers were interested in noting the customs of these fascinating people.

Nov. 2, 1804 - Near modern Stanton, North Dakota. One of Lewis and Clark's first tasks was to survey the area to find a suitable spot for their winter camp. A place was selected on the east, or north, bank of the Missouri about 6 air miles below the mouth of the Knife River on a point of low ground sheltered by bluffs. It was directly opposite the lower of the fiveMandan villages. On November 3 the men set to work building Fort Mandan. It apparently consisted of two rows of huts, or rooms.
Lewis and Clark Interp. Center
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, North Dakota.
Each row contained four units which were connected by a palisade on the river side. The fort was not finished until Christmas Day, but the men moved in before that because of the cold weather. The actual site of Fort Mandan has been washed away and lies partially underwater, although the State of North Dakota has built a replica about 10 miles downriver. Clark recorded: "This Morning at Daylight I went down the river with 4 men to look for a proper place to winter proceeded down the river three miles and found a place well Supld. with wood and returned, Captain Lewis went to the Village to here what they had to say and I fell down, and formed a Camp, near where a Small Camp of Indians were hunting cut down the Trees around our Camp . . . "

Nov. 4, 1804 - Fort Mandan, North Dakota - Toussaint Charbonneau was signed as an interpreter for the coming journey, along with his Shoshoni wife, Sacagawea.

Dec. 17, 1804 - Fort Mandan, North Dakota - The temperature was 43° below zero; Mr. Hugh Heney of the Northwest Company made sketches for the captains of the country between the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers, and a Mandan man made sketches of the land to the west.

Bison in the snow
Dec. 25, 1804 - Fort Mandan, North Dakota - Sgt. Patrick Gass recorded that "Flour, dried apples, pepper, and other articles were distributed in the different messes to enable them to celebrate Christmas in a proper and social manner." Three rations of brandy were served during the day, which was mainly spent in dancing. Clark mentioned giving the men Taffia, which was a cheap form of rum made in the West Indies: "I was awakened before Day by a discharge of 3 platoons from the Party and the french, the men merrily Disposed, I give them all a little Taffia and permited 3 cannon fired, at raising Our flag, Some Men Went out to huntr and the others to Danceing and Continued untill 9 oClock P.M. when the frolick ended &c."

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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