Tag Archives: Mandan Indians
we have just heard from Capt. Lewis, who wintered 1600. miles up the Missouri; all well. 45. chiefs of 6. different nations from that quarter are forwarded by him to St. Louis on their way to this place. our agent at St. Louis will endeavor to prevail on them to stay there till autumn & then come on. should they insist on coming immediately they will arrive in July, & may derange my departure.
Thomas Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph, June 24, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Communication between leaders used to take a LONG time!
The President covered a number of topics in this letter to his daughter. One was receiving the first report from Meriwether Lewis since May 1804, when the Corps of Discovery departed St. Louis for the western sea. They had wintered with the Mandan Indians on the northern plains. In April, 1805, when the ice cleared on the Mississippi, most of the Corps headed west. Fifteen of the men, though, navigated the keelboat back to St. Louis, with all the plant and animal specimens collected to date. Their trove included a live prairie dog, which eventually made it all the way to Washington City!
In addition to specimens, Lewis had persuaded a number of Indian chiefs to return with the keelboat and journey on to Washington to meet the President.
The original plans for the Corps called for them to send another contingent home when they reached the mountains. Jefferson expected a second report, which never came. At the Rocky Mountains, the challenge ahead seemed so arduous that Lewis and Clark were unwilling to diminish their manpower.
Lack of a second report caused practically all to give up on the Corps, believing them to have perished somewhere in the great unknown west of the Mandan villages. Jefferson maintained confidence in Lewis for their safe return. It would be 16 more months before that confidence was rewarded by Lewis’ next letter, written from St. Louis in late September, 1806.