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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For August 6:
Captain Lewis (current)
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We set out this morning very early on our return to the Forks. Having nothing to eat, I sent Drouilliard to the wood-lands to my left in order to kit a deer; sent Sergeant Gass to the right with orders to keep sufficiently near to discover Captain Clark and the party should they be on their way up that stream; and, with Charbonneau, I directed my course to the main Forks through the bottom, directing the others to meet us there.
About five miles above the Forks, I heard the whooping of the party to my left and changed my route toward them. On my arrival, found that they had taken the rapid fork and learned from Captain Clark that he had not found the note which I had left for him at that place and the reasons which had induced him to ascend this stream. It was easiest and more in our direction, and appeared to contain as much water. He had, however, previously to my coming up with him, met Drouilliard, who informed him of the state of the two rivers and was on his return.
One of their canoes had just overset and all the baggage wet - the medicine box, among other articles - and several articles lost, a shot pouch and horn with all the implements for one rifle lost and never recovered. I walked down to the point where I waited their return.
On their arrival, found that two other canoes had filled with water and wet their cargoes completely. Whitehouse had been thrown out of one of the canoes as she swung in a rapid current, and the canoe had rubbed him and pressed him to the bottom as she passed over him, and had the water been two inches shallower must inevitably have crushed him to death. Our parched meal, corn, Indian presents, and a great part of our most valuable stores were wet and much damaged on this occasion. To examine, dry, and arrange our stores was the first object. We therefore passed over to the larboard side, opposite to the entrance of the rapid fork, where there was a large gravelly bar that answered our purposes. Wood was also convenient and plenty. Here we fixed our camp and unloaded all our canoes, and opened, and exposed to dry, such articles as had been wet.
A part of the load of each canoe consisted of the leaden canisters of powder, which were not in the least injured though some of them had remained upwards of an hour under water. About 20 pounds of powder which we had in a tight keg, or at least one which we thought sufficiently so, got wet and entirely spoiled. This would have been the case with the other had it not been for the expedient which I had fallen on of securing the powder by means of the lead, having the latter formed into canisters which were filled with the necessary proportion of powder to discharge the lead when used, and those canisters well secured with corks and wax.
Shannon had been dispatched up the rapid fork this morning to hunt by Captain Clark before he met with Drouilliard or learned his mistake in the rivers. When he returned, he sent Drouilliard in search of him, but he rejoined us this evening and reported that he had been several miles up the river and could find nothing of him. We had the trumpet sounded and fired several guns, but he did not join us this evening. I am fearful he is lost again. This is the same man who was separated from us fifteen days as we came up the Missouri, and subsisted nine days of that time on grapes only.
Whitehouse is in much pain this evening with the injury one of his legs sustained from the canoe today, at the time it upset and swung over him. Captain Clark's ankle is also very painful to him. We should have given the party a day's rest somewhere near this place had not this accident happened, as I had determined to take some observations to fix the latitude and longitude of these forks. Our merchandise, medicine, &c., are not sufficiently dry this evening. We covered them securely for the evening. Captain Clark had ascended the river about nine miles from this place on course of S 30° W before he met with Drouilliard.
We believe that the N.W. or rapid fork is the drain of the melting snows of the mountains, and that it is not as long as the middle fork, and does not at all seasons of the year supply anything like as much water as the other, and that about this season it rises to its greatest height. This last appears from the apparent bed of the river, which is now overflowed, and the water in many places spreads through old channels which have their bottoms covered with grass that has grown this season, and is such as appears on the parts of the bottom not inundated. We therefore determined that the middle fork was that which ought of right to bear the name we had given to the lower portion, or River Jefferson; and called the bold, rapid, and clear stream Wisdom; and the more mild and placid one which flows in from the S.E. Philanthropy, in commemoration of two of those cardinal virtues which have so eminently marked that deservedly celebrated character through life.
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.