How the Party Grew
Field Notes of Captain William Clark
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
In January, 1803, President Jefferson assured Congress that an overland expedition to the Pacific could be pulled off by "an intelligent officer with ten or twelve chosen men."
Yet when that expedition left its North Dakota winter quarters in April, 1805, it was led by two officers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Their whole party numbered 33 people, more than double the force originally planned. and that was the "permanent" corps of explorers that actually went to the Pacific: there had been 45 or more travelers on the journey's first leg from St. Louis.
The story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition's seemingly runaway growth is a hard one to piece together. The leading participants didn't say much about it on the record that has survived. The main unanswered question is whether anyone in Washington authorized the expansion or, as seems quite likely, the leaders did it on their own without much fear of official censure if they returned in triumph.
Arlen J. Large
Arlen Jim Large of Washington, D.C. was a correspondent of the Wall Street Journal and a frequent contributor to We Proceeded On, the journal of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. He passed away in 1996.
Articles on this site by Arlen J. Large:
- 1. Arlen J. Large, "'Additions to the Party': How an Expedition Grew and Grew," We Proceeded On, February 1990, Volume 16, No. 1, 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 format is provided at http://lewisandclark.org/wpo/pdf/vol16no1.pdf#page=4.