12-things-most-people-dont-knowAbout Lewis and Clark

  1. Lewis was born 8 months after the Boston Tea Party.
  2. Meriwether Lewis’ unusual first name was his mother’s maiden name.
  3. At the time of the expedition, “nothing moved faster than the speed of a horse,” notes historian Stephen E. Ambrose. “No human being, no manufactured item, no bushel of wheat, no side of beef…and, as far as Jefferson’s contemporaries were able to tell, nothing ever would.”
  4. Lewis and Clark set out to explore the Western two-thirds of North America—one of the few spots on earth left to discover (along with Australia, the interior of Africa, the Arctic and the Antarctic).
  5. Lewis delivered President Jefferson’s first State of the Union Address to Congress. (He was then the president’s personal secretary; Jefferson disliked giving speeches.)
  6. As the expedition set out, its map had only three certainties: St. Louis, the Mandan villages on the upper Missouri River and the latitude/longitude of the mouth of the Columbia River. Everything else was considered terra incognita.
  7. To this day, nobody knows exactly what went into “portable soup,” but Lewis so believed in its nutritive value, he spent $289.50 to buy 193 pounds of the stuff—more than he originally estimated for his instruments, arms and ammunition.
  8. Lewis paid a princely $20 for his black Newfoundland dog, which he named Seaman, and refused to eat when things got rough.
  9. When they returned to St. Louis, Lewis and Clark sold their surplus items at an auction—rifles, powder horns, kettles, axes—making $408.62.
  10. Lewis greeted each new tribe with a long speech that began, “Children, we have been sent by the great Chief of the Seventeen great nations of America…”
  11. President Jefferson believed that prehistoric animals still lived in the unexplored areas of the West.
  12. Sacagawea and York—Clark’s black slave—were given the rank of sergeant in the U.S. Army by an act of Congress in 2000.


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