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Entries For April 7:
Captain Lewis (current)
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Having on this day at 4 P.M. completed every arrangement necessary for our departure, we dismissed the barge and crew, with orders to return without loss of time to St. Louis. A small canoe with two French hunters accompanied the barge. These men had ascended the Missouri with us the last year as engagés. The barge crew consisted of six soldiers and two [blank space in MS.] Frenchmen. Two Frenchmen and an Arikara Indian also take their passage in her as far as the Arikara villages, at which place we expect Mr. Tabeau to embark, with his peltry, who, in that case, will make an addition of two, perhaps four, men to the crew of the barge.
We gave Richard Warfington, a discharged corporal, the charge of the barge and crew, and confided to this care likewise our dispatches to the government, letters to our private friends, and a number of articles to the President of the United States. One of the Frenchmen, by the name of Joseph Gravelines, an honest, discreet man, and an excellent boatman, is employed to conduct the barge as a pilot. We have therefore every hope that the barge and, with her, our dispatches will arrive safe at St. Louis. Mr. Gravelines, who speaks the Arikara language extremely well, has been employed to conduct a few of the Arikara chiefs to the seat of government, who have promised us to descend in the barge to St. Louis with that view.
At the same moment that the barge departed from Fort Mandan, Captain Clark embarked with our party and proceeded up the river. As I had used no exercise for several weeks, I determined to walk on shore as far as our encampment of this evening. Accordingly I continued my walk on the north side of the river about six miles, to the upper village of the Mandans, and called on The Black Cat, or Posecopseha, the Great Chief of the Mandans. He was not at home. I rested myself a few minutes and, finding that the party had not arrived, I returned about two miles and joined them at their encampment on the N. side of the river opposite the lower Mandan village.
Our party now consisted of the following individuals:
John Baptiste Lepage
Hugh McNeil William Warner
Thomas P. Howard
John B. Thompson
Interpreters: George Drouilliard and Toussaint Charbonneau; also a black man by the name of York, servant to Captain Clark; an Indian woman, wife to Charbonneau, with a young child; and a Mandan man who had promised us to accompany us as far as the Snake Indians, with a view to bring about a good understanding and friendly intercourse between that nation and his own, the Minnetarees and Amahamis.
Our vessels consisted of six small canoes and two large pirogues. This little fleet, although not quite so respectable as that of Columbus or Captain Cook, was still viewed by us with as much pleasure as those deservedly famed adventurers ever beheld theirs, and, I daresay, with quite as much anxiety for their safety and preservation. We were now about to penetrate a country at least two thousand miles in width, on which the foot of civilized man had never trod. The good or evil it had in store for us was for experiment yet to determine, and these little vessels contained every article by which we were to expect to subsist or defend ourselves. However, as the state of mind in which we are, generally gives the coloring to events, when the imagination is suffered to wander into futurity, the picture which now presented itself to me was a most pleasing one.
Entertaining as I do the most confident hope of succeeding in a voyage which had formed a darling project of mine for the last ten years, I could but esteem this moment of my departure as among the most happy of my life. The party are in excellent health and spirits, zealously attached to the enterprise, and anxious to proceed. Not a whisper or murmur of discontent to be heard among them, but all act in unison and with the most perfect harmony.
Reprinted by permission of the American Studies Programs at the University of Virginia.
The complete text can also be downloaded for printing from their website.