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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For April 11:
Captain Lewis (current)
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As the tents and skins which covered both our men and baggage were wet with the rain which fell last evening, and as it continued still raining this morning, we concluded to take our canoes first to the head of the rapids, hoping that by evening the rain would cease and afford us a fair afternoon to take our baggage over the portage. This portage is two thousand eight hundred yards along a narrow, rough, and slippery road. The duty of getting the canoes above the rapid was by mutual consent confided to my friend Captain Clark, who took with him for that purpose all the party except Bratton, who is yet so weak he is unable to work, three others who were lamed by various accidents, and one other to cook for the party.
A few men were absolutely necessary, at any rate, to guard our baggage from the Wabclellahs, who crowded about our camp in considerable numbers. These are the greatest thieves and scoundrels we have met with. By the evening, Captain Clark took four of our canoes above the rapids, though with much difficulty and labor. The canoes were much damaged by being driven against the rocks in spite of every precaution which could be taken to prevent it. The men complained of being so much fatigued in the evening that we postponed taking up our fifth canoe until tomorrow.
These rapids are much worse than they were in the fall when we passed them. At that time there were only three difficult points within seven miles. At present the whole distance is extremely difficult of ascent, and it would be impracticable to descend except by letting down the empty vessels by a cord, and even then the risk would be greater than in taking them up by the same means. The water appears to be considerably upwards of 20 feet higher than when we descended the river. The distance by way of the river between the points of the portage is 3 miles.
Many of the natives crowded about the bank of the rivers where the men were engaged in taking up the canoes. One of them had the insolence to cast stones down the bank at two of the men who happened to be a little detached from the party at the time. On the return of the party in the evening from the head of the rapids, they met with many of the natives on the road, who seemed but illy disposed. Two of these fellows met with John Shields, who had delayed some time in purchasing a dog and was a considerable distance behind the party on their return with Captain Clark. They attempted to take the dog from him and pushed him out of the road. He had nothing to defend himself with, except a large knife which he drew with an intention of putting one or both of them to death before they could get themselves in readiness to use their arrows; but, discovering his design, they declined the combat and instantly fled through the woods.
Three of this same tribe of villains, the Wahclellahs, stole my dog this evening, and took him toward their village. I was shortly afterward informed of this transaction by an Indian who spoke the Clatsop language, some of which we had learned from them during the winter, and sent three men in pursuit of the thieves with orders that, if they made the least resistance or difficulty in surrendering the dog, to fire on them. They overtook these fellows, or rather came within sight of them at the distance of about 2 miles. The Indians, discovering the party in pursuit of them, left the dog and fled. They also stole an ax from us, but scarcely had it in their possession before Thompson detected them and wrested it from them.
We ordered the sentinel to keep them out of camp, and informed them by signs that if they made any further attempts to steal our property, or insulted our men, we should put them to instant death. A chief of the Wahclellahs tribe informed us that there were two very bad men among the Wahclellahs who had been the principal actors in these scenes of outrage of which we complained, and that it was not the wish of the nation by any means to displease us. We told him that we hoped it might be the case, but we should certainly be as good as our word if they persisted in their insolence. I am convinced that no other consideration but our number at this moment protects us. The chief appeared mortified at the conduct of his people, and seemed friendily disposed toward us. As he appeared to be a man of consideration, and we had reason to believe much respected by the neighboring tribes, we thought it well to bestow a medal of small size upon him.
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.