I inclose you a letter directed to your brother which came to me under cover a few days ago. I have the pleasure also to inform you that we have lately recieved thro a channel meriting entire confidence, advice that on the 4th. of Aug. he was at the mouth of the river Plate, 600 miles up the Missouri, where he had met a great council of the Missouris, Panis, & Ottos, at their invitation … he will be through his whole course as safe as at home. believing that this information would be acceptable to yourself, his mother & friends, I communicate it with pleasure …
To Reuben Lewis, November 6, 1804
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders keep family members in the loop.
The President forwarded a letter he had received for Meriwether Lewis to the latter’s younger brother and wrote of the latest account he’d had about his intrepid explorer. That report came days before, originating with someone who must have been coming downstream when Lewis was headed the opposite direction. The report was that Lewis and Clark were 600 miles upstream, at the mouth of the Platte River, just south of present day Omaha, NE. (Lewis’s journal records that date as July 21, 1804, two months after they departed St. Louis.)
The report also relayed a successful meeting with Indian chiefs, the desertion of two men, plans for some of the men to return the following spring and the rest to head on up the Missouri. There were numerous factual errors in the account, but it may have been the first word Jefferson had on their progress. Buoyed by his successful meeting with the chiefs, Lewis felt no danger lay ahead of them. Jefferson knew Lewis’ mother and brother would appreciate the reassurance.
There was plenty of danger ahead, but Lewis and Clark led their men successfully through it all and returned to St. Louis almost two years later.