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Entries For August 25:
Captain Clark (current)
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A cloudy morning. Captain Lewis and myself concluded to go and see the mound which was viewed with such terror by all the different nations in this quarter. We selected Shields, J. Fields, W. Bratton, Sergeant Ordway, J. Colter, Carr, and Corporal Warfington and Frazer, also G. Drouilliard, and dropped down to the mouth of Whitestone River, where we left the pirogue with two men; and, at 200 yards, we ascended a rising ground of about 60 feet. From the top of this high land, the country is level and open as far as can be seen, except some few rises at a great distance, and the mound which the Indians call "Mountain of little people, or spirits." This mound appears of a conic form, and is N. 20° W. from the mouth of the creek. We left the river at 8 o'clock. At 4 miles we crossed the creek, 23 yards wide, in an extensive valley, and continued on two miles further.
Our dog was so heated and fatigued, we were obliged to send him back to the creek. At 12 o'clock we arrived at the hill. Captain Lewis much fatigued from heat - the day, it being very hot, and he being in a debilitated state from the precautions he was obliged to take, to prevent the effects of the cobalt and mineral substance which had like to have poisoned him two days ago. His want of water, and several men complaining of great thirst, determined us to make for the first water, which was the creek in a bend N.E. from the mound, about three miles. After a delay of about one hour and a half to recruit our party, we set out on our return down the creek through the bottom, of about one mile in width, crossed the creek three times to the place we first struck it, where we gathered some delicious fruit, such as grapes, plums, and blue currants. After a delay of an hour, we set out on our back trail, and arrived at the pirogue at sunset. We proceeded on to the place we camped last night, and stayed all night.
This mound is situated on an elevated plain in a level and extensive prairie, bearing N. 20° W. from the mouth of Whitestone Creek nine miles. The base of the mound is a regular parallelogram, the long side of which is about 300 yards in length, the shorter 60 or 70 yards. From the longer side of the base, it rises from the north and south, with a steep ascent to the height of 65 or 70 feet, leaving a level plain on the top 12 feet in width and 90 in length. The north and south parts of this mound are joined by two regular rises, each in oval forms of half its height, forming three regular rises from the plain. The ascent of each elevated part is as sudden as the principal mound at the narrower sides of its base.
The regular form of this hill would in some measure justify a belief that it owed its origin to the hand of man; but as the earth and loose pebbles and other substances of which it was composed bore an exact resemblance to the steep ground which borders on the creek, in its neighborhood, we concluded it was most probably the production of nature.
The only remarkable characteristic of this hill, admitting it to be a natural production, is that it is insulated or separated a considerable distance from any other, which is very unusual in the natural order or disposition of the hills.
The surrounding plains are open, void of timber, and level to a great extent; hence the wind, from whatever quarter it may blow, drives with unusual force over the naked plains and against this hill. The insects of various kinds are thus involuntarily driven to the mound by the force of the wind, or fly to its leeward side for shelter. The small birds, whose food they are, consequently resort in great numbers to this place in search of them - particularly the small brown martin, of which we saw a vast number hovering on the leeward side of the hill, when we approached it in the act of catching those insects. They were so gentle that they did not quit the place until we had arrived within a few feet of them.
One evidence which the Indians give for believing this place to be the residence of some unusual spirits is that they frequently discover a large assemblage of birds about this mound. This is, in my opinion, a sufficient proof to produce in the savage mind a confident belief of all the properties which they ascribe to it.
From the top of this mound, we beheld a most beautiful landscape. Numerous herds of buffalo were seen feeding in various directions. The plain to north, northwest, and northeast extends without interruption as far as can be seen.
The boat under the command of Sergeant Pryor proceeded on in our absence (after jerking 1 the elk I killed yesterday) six miles, and camped on the larboard side. R. Fields brought in five deer. George Shannon killed an elk buck. Some rain this evening.
We set the prairies on fire as a signal for the Sioux to come to the river.
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.