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Historical Background

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Suggested Reading


Lewis and Clark
Suggested Reading


BAKELESS, JOHN. Lewis and Clark: Partners in Discovery. New York: William Morrow, 1947. A popularized joint biography, including coverage of the expedition. Separate, definitive biographies of the two men have not yet been written.

[BIDDLE, NICHOLAS]. History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark . . ., ed. by Paul Allen. 2 vols., Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1814; various domestic reprints and foreign translations. The first account of the exploration to be published based on its two leaders' journals. Biddle also studied those of John Ordway and Patrick Gass, and enjoyed the personal assistance of Clark and George Shannon. Excludes most of the natural history and other scientific data. Thomas Jefferson's special introduction is entitled "Life of Captain Lewis."

COUES, ELLIOTT, ed. History of the Expedition Under the Command of Lewis and Clark . . . A New Edition . . . . 4 vols., New York: Francis P. Harper, 1893; reprint, 3 vols., New York: Dover, 1965. A rewrite-editing of BIDDLE, but the author also utilized the Lewis and Clark journals. The principal value of this work lies in its lengthy notes, which are enriched by Coues' travel over a large portion of the route and his extensive knowledge of the natural history of the Missouri Valley. Includes meteorological and natural history data.

CUTRIGHT, PAUL R. Lewis and Clark: Pioneering Naturalists. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1969. The most recent and comprehensive study dealing with natural history aspects of the expedition. The author is a well-known botanist, who has surveyed much of the trail. Analyzes basic source materials, and discusses condition and present locations of surviving zoological-botanical specimens brought back by Lewis and Clark.

DEVOTO, BERNARD. The Course of Empire. Boston: Houghton Muffin, 1952. The last two chapters, "Westward the Course of Empire" and "The Passage to India," ably summarize the experiences and accomplishments of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The rest of the book provides useful background data.

DEVOTO, BERNARD, ed. The Journals of Lewis and Clark. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1953. An excellent, one-volume abridgement of the Lewis and Clark journals (see THWAITES), but also incorporates some passages from BIDDLE; from the Whitehouse, Ordway, and Floyd journals; and from McKeehan's rendition of that of Gass (see GASS). The introduction and notes are contributions in their own right.

EIDE, INGVARD H. American Odyssey: The Journey of Lewis and Clark. Chicago, New York, and San Francisco: Rand McNally, 1969. This photographic collection presents many fine modern views of sites, among which are interspersed quotations from the journals.

GASS, PATRICK. A Journal of the Voyages and Travels of a Corps of Discovery, Under the Command of Capt. Lewis and Capt. Clarke . . . . Pittsburgh: David McKeehan, 1807; various domestic reprints and foreign translations. Consists of McKeehan's rewriting of the journal of Gass in formal English, a capability the latter never possessed.

JACKSON, DONALD, ed. Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Related Documents, 1783-1854. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1962. Next to the various journals, this work is probably the most important source on the expedition—especially on such matters as its genesis, diplomatic and other background, personages involved, and financial and logistical arrangements. More than half of the 428 letters and documents reproduced have never previously appeared in print. Most of the others have been scattered in assorted publications, and have not always been reprinted without errors in transcription. The annotations and bibliography are valuable, and the index is outstanding.

McKEEHAN, DAVID, see GASS, PATRICK NASATIR, A. P., ed. Before Lewis and Clark: Documents Illustrating the History of the Missouri, 1785-1804. 2 vols., St. Louis: St. Louis Historical Documents Foundation, 1952. Essentially a collection and translation of French and Spanish documents from the archives of Mexico, Spain, Canada, and France, though some are from U.S. repositories and a handful are in English. Clarifies the history of Upper Louisiana and the Missouri River Basin.

MOULTON, GARY E., ed. The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. 13 vols., University of Nebraska Press, 1983-2001. Latest release of the journals, fully indexed and annotated. A superb presentation of the journals of Lewis and Clark, as well as those of Ordway, Floyd, Gass, and Whitehouse. Additionally presents herbarium of the expedition, an atlas of the expedition maps, and an index.

OSGOOD, ERNEST S., ed. The Field Notes of Captain William Clark, 1803-1805 (Vol. V, Yale Western Americana Series). New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964. This thoroughly annotated book, which features an excellent introduction, provides a major addition to the basic sources. Consists of the text and reproduction of Clark's rough field notes for the period December 13, 1803, the day after arrival at the site of Camp Wood, to April 3, 1805, or 4 days before leaving Fort Mandan, N. Dak. Clark utilized the May 14, 1804 to April 3, 1805 segment of these notes, others of which may still be extant for the remainder of the journey, to prepare his formal notebook journals (see THWAITES). Before the discovery of the field notes in a St. Paul attic in 1953, described by Osgood, little was known about day-to-day activities at Camp Wood. Thus, publication of these notes represented the last link in a reasonably complete account of the expedition from the time Lewis left Pittsburgh until the return to St. Louis. The original field notes are now in the Western Americana Collection at Yale University.

QUAIFE, MILO M., ed. The Journals of Captain Meriwether Lewis and Sergeant John Ordway, Kept on the Expedition of Western Exploration, 1803-1806 (Vol. XXII, Wisconsin Historical Society Collections). Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1916; reprint, 1965. Along with the THWAITES volumes, this is a key source. Prior to the discovery of Lewis' Ohio River Journal in late 1913 or early 1914 and its publication in this book, there was virtually no knowledge of the trip down that river and up the Mississippi to Camp Wood. Ordway's journal, like the Ohio River journal, was found in the Biddle family papers; quite complete chronologically, it is second in value as a source only to the journals of Lewis and Clark themselves and provides data not found in any other place. Both documents are now at the American Philosophical Society.

THWAITES, REUBEN G., ed. Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804-1806. 8 vols., New York: Dodd, Mead, 1904-5; reprint, limited edition, New York: Antiquarian Press, Ltd., 1959. The basic published source on the expedition, this monumental work contains the extant formal notebook journals of Lewis and Clark (as compared to the field notes; see OSGOOD), as well as those of Floyd and Whitehouse. Also presents scientific data, an atlas of the expedition maps, and various appendices. The introduction, bibliographical analysis, and extensive annotations are highly useful.

WHEELER, OLIN D. The Trail of Lewis and Clark, 1804-1904. 2 vols., New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904; 2d ed., 1926. Although this book is outdated and contains some inaccurate site data, it is still worthwhile. At the beginning of the present century, when large parts of the trail were still little changed, the author traveled on horseback over many sections.

Lewis & Clark Archives

Last Updated: 2-Apr-2004