Sentinel's Box

Sentinel Box

Fort Clatsop (replica)

Small shelter made from slabs of wood

Photo ©2008 by Kris Townsend, used with permission

On December 31, 1806, the men built a box to shelter a sentinel from the rain, next to the door to the orderly room. The captains immediately issued Detachment Orders containing important instructions. The orders clearly show the degree to which Lewis and Clark consistently maintained the spirit of Baron von Steuben's Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States.

The fort being now completed, the Commanding officers think proper to direct: that the guard shall as usual consist of one Sergeant and three privates, and that the same be regularly relieved each morning at sunrise. The post of the new guard shall be in the room of the Sergeants rispectivly commanding the same. the centinel shall be posted, both day and night, on the parade [ground] in front of the commanding offercers quarters; tho' should he at any time think proper to remove himself to any other part of the fort, in order the better to inform himself of the desighns or approach of any party of savages, he is not only at liberty, but is hereby required to do so. It shall be the duty of the centinel also to announce the arrival of all parties of Indians to the Sergeant of the Guard, who shall immediately report the same to the Commanding officers.
The Commanding Officers require and charge the Garrison to treat the natives in a friendly manner; nor will they be permitted at any time, to abuse, assault or strike them; unless such abuse assault or stroke be first given by the natives. nevertheless it shall be right for any individual, in a peaceable manner, to refuse admittance to, or put out of his room, any native who may become troublesome to him; and should such native refuse to go when requested, or attempt to enter their rooms after being forbidden to do so; it shall be the duty of the Sergeant of the guard on information of the same, to put such native out of the fort and see that he is not again admitted during that day unless specially permitted; and the Sergeant of the guard may for this purpose imploy such coercive measures (not extending to the taking of life) as shall at his discretion be deemed necessary to effect the same.
When any native shall be detected in theft, the Sergt. of the guard shall immediately inform the Commanding offercers of the same, to the end that such measures may be pursued with rispect to the culprit as they shall think most expedient.
At sunset on each day, the Sergt. attended by the interpreter Charbono and two of his guard, will collect and put out of the fort, all Indians except such as may specially be permitted to remain by the Commanding offercers, nor shall they be again admitted untill the main gate be opened the ensuing morning.
At Sunset, or immediately after the Indians have been dismissed, both gates shall be shut, and secured, and the main gate locked and continue so untill sunrise the next morning: the water-gate may be used freely by the Garrison for the purpose of passing and repassing at all times, tho from sunset, untill sunrise, it shall be the duty of the centinel, to open the gate for, and shut it after all persons passing and repassing, suffering the same never to remain unfixed long[ger] then is absolutely necessary.

As far as Indian relations were concerned, it worked like a charm. Previously, some of the locals had taken advantage of the apparent informality of the Corps' camp, to the point where, in mid-November, the password for any Clatsop Indian's admittance to the fort was "No Chinook." With a perimeter more clearly defined, Clark noticed immediately that the Indians were "much more reserved and better behaved to day than yesterday. The Sight of our Sentinal who walks on his post, has made this reform in those people who but yesterday was verry impertenant and disagreeable to all."

The Corps of Discovery being a military operation through and through, "we keep ourselves perfectly on our guard," wrote Lewis (April 11, 1806), whether danger was expected or not.

The rest of the Detachment Orders issued on this date will be found on the desk in the Orderly Room.