Capital Retention

masthead saying 'We Proceeded On'

Reprinted from We Proceeded On1

Some of the ways in which the Corps contrived to preserve the investment in horses are listed below:

Threat Response
Theft Animals left with Nez Perces were branded;2 the two expedition horses going up the Missouri were apparently taken on board the keel boat at night.3
Animal Restiveness Castrating rambunctious males, picketing and hobbling; corraling; impoundments and posting of night sentries generally effective on westbound trip (but see above for failed measures eastbound).
Slipping on ice Shields, the blacksmith, shoed horses at Fort Mandan.
Sore hooves Clark on the Yellowstone put "mockersons" made of green buffalo skins on the horses' feet.
Food, water, and fatigue Pace of the journey and camp sites had to be adapted to availability of pasture and need to rest tired animals; the captains were surprised at Mandan that local horses spurned bran meals and would eat only Cottonwood bark "usually given them by their Indian masters in the winter season."
Sore backs Often "in a horrid condition," the horses' backs had been wounded by "illy constructed" saddles and too hard riding by their native masters. Sgt. Gass obtained "goats hair to stuf the pads of our Saddles."
Overuse The captains "apportioned the horses to the several hunters in order that they should be equally rode," thereby preventing any horse "being too constantly hunted."
Mosquitoes Clark's party kindled large fires—their horses stood in the smoke to avoid the torture.
  • 1. Robert R. Hunt, "Hoofbeats & Nightmares: A Horse Chronicle of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Parts I and II," We Proceeded On, Volume 20, No. 4 (November 1994) and Volume 21, No 1 (February 1995), the quarterly journal of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. Editorial additions include page titles, side headings, and graphics to assist the web-based reader. The original printed format is provided at and
  • 2. Milo M. Quaife, ed., The Journals of Captain Meriwether Lewis and Sergeant John Ordway . . . (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Collections, 1916), vol. XXII , 293. Ordway's entry of October 5, 1805 states that "a stirrup Iron" [underlining added] was used to brand the 38 horses left with the Nez Perces. Wayne Williams, a longstanding member of our Trail Heritage Foundation and student of horse lore, believes that Lewis's branding iron referred to herein could not have been used to brand horses. His opinion is in concert with that of Manfred R. Wolfenstine, in The Manual of Brands and Marks, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970), 103 who assumes that this iron (dimensions and design as illustrated) "was not used to brand animals but rather to mark bales of specimens which were sent back east wrapped in hides." The brand may be too large for branding horses; it is also too intricate in design and manufacture to be considered as having been forged en route by Private Shields, the expedition blacksmith. Though not listed in the inventory, the iron must have been part of the freight accompanying the party on debarking from Camp Dubois in May 1804—that 'stirrup irons' (as designated by Sgt. Ordway) were used on the early frontier for horse branding is attested in Journal of an Exploration in Spring of the Year 1750 by Dr. Thomas Walker, preface by William Cabell Rives (Boston: Little Brown & Co., 1888), 51; entry for April 30, 1750 refers to a horse branded by "a swivel stirrup iron."
  • 3. Paul Russell Cutright, A History of the Lewis and Clark Journals (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1976) 234-35, quoting Private Whitehouse's paraphrased journal entry of June 10-11, 1804.