Following Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s Corps of Discovery as they navigate the muddy Missouri River and begin a great adventure, this activity book is set against the background of the vast North American continent. It takes children from President Jefferson’s vision of an exploratory mission across a continent full of unique plants and animals through their dangerous and challenging journey into the unknown to the expedition’s triumphant return to the frontier town of St. Louis. Twenty-one activities bring to life the Native American tribes they encountered, the plants and animals they discovered, and the camping and navigating techniques they used. A glossary of terms and listings of Lewis and Clark sites, museums, and related websites round out this comprehensive activity book.
About the Author
Janis Herbert is the author of The American Revolution for Kids, The Civil War for Kids, Leonardo da Vinci for Kids, and Marco Polo for Kids.
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Lewis and Clark for Kids
Their Journey of Discovery with 21 Activities
By Janis Herbert
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2000 Janis Herbert
All rights reserved.
Fixing for a Start
Their Place in Time
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were born before the United States was a nation. In the year of Clark's birth, British troops fired into a crowd in Boston. Around the time of Lewis's birth, the colonists rebelled with the Boston Tea Party and Daniel Boone blazed a trail from the east to the far-off land of Kentucky.
1770 William Clark is born
1774 Heriweiher Lewis is born
When Thomas Jefferson became president, he wrote to a trusted young friend and asked him to be his personal secretary. Meriwether Lewis was honored by the request.
Lewis was born in 1774, at a place very close to Jefferson's family home in Albemarle County, Virginia. Like President Jefferson, he was a planter's son. When Meriwether was just a young boy, his father, Lieutenant William Lewis, fought with George Washington against the British in the Revolutionary War. Meriwether rarely saw his father, so it must have been a special time when Lieutenant Lewis came home to visit in the fall of 1779. Sadly, when Meriwether's father left to rejoin the army, his horse fell while crossing a flooded and raging river. Lieutenant Lewis swam ashore and made his way back to his family's home, wet and bitterly cold. He developed pneumonia and died. Meriwether's mother remarried, and her new husband moved the family to Georgia, where they made a home in the wild, wooded country.
From a very early age, it seemed as if Meriwether Lewis was destined to become a great explorer. He was curious and fearless, and he loved to roam. Barefoot, with his eager dogs at his side, he tramped through the woods surrounding his family's Georgia home. The land was rich with wildlife, and on their walks the light-haired, blue-eyed boy and his dogs surprised deer and birds, and even an occasional black bear. By age eight, Lewis was skilled at fishing and hunting. Late at night he roused his dogs and went hunting for opossum and raccoon. When Lewis was nine, he was already so brave and confident that when he was charged by a crazed bull he held his ground, raised his gun, and shot the animal.
Lewis's mother, Lucy, taught him about the wild plants and trees surrounding their home. Lucy knew everything about how plants could be used as medicine, and she taught her young son how to recognize the plants and use them to treat illnesses. From her, Lewis also inherited a love for learning. Lucy's books were the most precious objects in their home.
Though he loved tramping around the woods of Georgia, Lewis wanted an education. As the oldest boy in his family, he knew it would someday be his responsibility to take over his father's plantation. He also had a natural curiosity about the world and was eager to learn. Because there were no public schools at that time, Lewis set out to find a tutor. At age 13, he returned alone to Virginia and lived with a teacher.
Lewis poured himself into his studies. He learned grammar, "figurs" (math), geography, botany, and history. He read great books, poems, and plays. More than anything, Lewis loved to read the journals of Captain James Cook, a British navigator who explored the Pacific and Antarctic Oceans.
When he had time, Lewis stretched his long legs on hikes to the mountains of Virginia or to his mother's home in Georgia. He grew into a tall, handsome young man. Moody and somewhat shy, he felt more comfortable alone in the wild.
Lewis wanted to see the world and wanted to continue his education, but after five years of schooling he received a letter from his mother asking for his help. Her husband had died and she wanted to come back to Virginia. At age 18, Lewis moved his mother, brothers, and sisters back to his family's home in Virginia and became the head of their 2,000-acre plantation.
Lewis worked hard at managing the estate. He saw that the crops were planted and harvested, directed all the daily tasks, and planned for his family's future. His days were full, but the life of a plantation owner was not for him. Lewis was restless. Whenever he had time, he rode his horse far and wide or tramped on foot all over the countryside.
When Lewis turned 20, word spread throughout the country of a rebellion in the west. President Washington called for a militia (volunteer soldiers) to bring an end to the Whiskey Rebellion, and Lewis couldn't resist the urge to join up.
The long march over the Allegheny Mountains, from his Virginia home to western Pennsylvania, and the nights camping under stars agreed with Lewis. When the Whiskey Rebellion ended, he signed up for the regular army. "I am quite delighted with a soldier's life," he wrote his mother. He served as ensign under General "Mad Anthony" Wayne, who had gotten his name because of his reckless bravery during the Revolutionary War. (Wayne had led his soldiers against an alliance of Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in the territory of Ohio. The treaty signed after that battle opened the land for settlers from the United States.)
Lewis became army paymaster. He traveled up and down the Ohio River on a large, flat-bottomed boat (called a keelboat), visiting different forts. For a time, he was assigned to the Chosen Rifle Company, an elite company of sharpshooters. The tall, red-headed captain of that company became a good friend of his. The captain's name was William Clark.
The two men had much in common. Clark was born in 1770 only a few miles away from Lewis's family home. Clark's father was a planter also. Lewis and Clark easily could have been childhood playmates. But while Lewis was shy and sometimes gloomy, Clark was friendly and outgoing.
Clark was the ninth of 10 children. When the Revolutionary War began, six-year-old Clark watched as his five older brothers rode off to fight the British. His oldest brother never came home again; he died as a British prisoner. Another brother, George Rogers, was a great hero of the war and close friend of Jefferson. His actions in battle secured the land that would someday become the states of Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Young William Clark must have been tremendously proud of his heroic brothers.
When Clark was 15 years old, his family settled in the frontier land of Kentucky. The family built a log house, and Clark's father carved a plantation out of the wilderness. There were no towns, no schools, and very few neighbors in the new land. Clark wasn't able to get any formal education. He learned to read and write at home, and his brothers took the time to teach him about history, philosophy, and science. Clark, like Lewis, spent long hours tramping through the woods, hunting, and fishing. Out in Kentucky, in addition to being wary of bears and other wild animals, young Clark had to stay on the alert for Indians. The Indians who had lived here for so long were threatened by the new settlers and waged war against them. One of Clark's brothers was killed when Indians attacked the new settlement.
When Clark was 19, he followed in his brothers' footsteps and joined the military. He rose to captain, serving under Mad Anthony Wayne. When Lewis joined Clark's company, they quickly became friends. The two men saw in each other a trustworthy and honest companion. Lewis served in Clark's company for six months.
In 1796 the Indian wars in Ohio ended and Clark retired from the army. He was 26 years old and anxious to start a new life. He had learned a lot about the Native American people while he served in the army, and had great respect for Indian ways. He also had a passion for the wilderness. He wanted a life of adventure. He made a plan to travel up to the northern reaches of the Mississippi River and establish trade with the Indian tribes there.
Clark's plans were thwarted when he reached home. His brother, George Rogers, had fallen on difficult times, and Clark set aside his own dreams to help his brother get back on his feet. A few years later, their father died and Clark inherited a great deal of land in Kentucky. Instead of being free to pursue a life of adventure, he was tied to a large Kentucky plantation.
Lewis, in the meantime, remained in the army. He enjoyed traveling as army paymaster. In December 1800, he was promoted to captain. Then two months later he received the letter that would change his life forever.
1800 Jefferson is elected president
1801 Lewis becomes President Jefferson's secretary
Jefferson was about to be inaugurated as president of the United States. He needed an assistant, someone trustworthy and intelligent. Lewis fit the bill. His military experience and contacts would be of great help to the president. Jefferson wrote to Lewis and asked him to join him "as one of my family," to live at his house and help him with all the duties he would take on as president of the country. Lewis replied that he would "with pleasure accept the office." He took leave from the army and set out immediately for the capital in Washington.
For the next two years, Lewis lived and worked in the president's house. He was the president's right-hand man, helping him with all the duties of running the government. He even delivered President Jefferson's State of the Union address to Congress. (The president hated giving speeches!)
For years President Jefferson had thought about the lands to the west of the Mississippi River. Many countries were trying to lay claim to them. Spain, France, England, and Russia had all raised flags on some portion of North America. President Jefferson dreamed of a United States that would reach across the continent and hoped to stop these other countries from colonizing the western lands. The first step toward his dream would be to explore the length and breadth of the land. Even before the Louisiana Purchase, he wanted to send an expeditionary force to the west to find out about these unknown lands and report back on their discoveries. He hoped such an expedition would find a water route to the Pacific Ocean that would prove useful as a future trade route. Also, President Jefferson had a scientist's curiosity. What was out there in the western lands? What undiscovered peoples, animals, and plants? He thought about it constantly.
1802 President Jefferson asks Lewis to command an expedition to the west
In 1802 President Jefferson offered a challenge to his young assistant. Would Lewis lead an expedition through the unknown lands of the west? Lewis was the perfect choice. He was a skilled outdoors-man, brave and clear-headed. He had great strength of character, intelligence, and curiosity. Jefferson was confident that Lewis, now 28 years old, had all the qualities required for such a great challenge and would prove to be an outstanding leader for the expedition.
It was decided. Lewis would lead a corps of men up the length of the Missouri River, scaling any mountains along their path, which would end at the continent's edge. On the way, he would study and make notes of the climate, animal and plant life, and the presence of minerals. He would collect specimens of plants and animals for President Jefferson. He would meet with the Indian tribes who lived along the route, study their customs and languages, and speak with them about the new U.S. government in the east. He would map the vast area the expedition would cover, from the mouth of the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean.
There were so many things President Jefferson and Lewis did not know about what lay ahead for the expedition. One thing they did know was that the expedition would have to travel a very great distance to reach the Pacific Ocean. In 1792 Boston seafarer Captain Robert Gray had rounded the Americas in his ship, the Columbia, and traveled far up the western coast of North America. He had reached a great river, which he named after his ship, and had calculated the river's location. By using special instruments and calculating the position of the sun and stars, Gray had pinpointed his position at the mouth of the Columbia River on the Pacific Ocean. With these measurements, President Jefferson and Lewis had a rough idea of the width of the North American continent — 3,000 miles. Jefferson thought that the expedition would be able to travel by boat up the great Missouri River, make a short crossing overland to the Columbia River, then travel down the Columbia to the ocean.
It took Lewis a very long time to prepare for the journey. He had a lot of decisions to make. How many men should he take? The company should be large enough to accomplish its many tasks but not so large that it would look like a war party to the Native Americans they would meet. What supplies should he bring? He needed to feed and clothe the group for an undetermined (but definitely long) period of time. What kind of boat would they need? Lewis ordered a special keelboat constructed for the journey.
1803 Lewis invites Clark to join him in command of the expedition
Lewis's hands were full and his mind was bursting. There were so many tasks involved with getting ready for the expedition, to say nothing of the many things he would have to accomplish once it was underway. As he thought of the journey ahead, he came to the conclusion that it would require more than one commander. Lewis wanted a strong leader to help him command a corps of men through the vast west. This person would need to be a skilled woodsman who could help with the many challenges they would face in the wilderness, an equal partner who could take over all the tasks should something happen to Lewis. In June 1803, Lewis wrote a letter to the man he knew would fit the bill perfectly: his one-time commander, William Clark.
In his letter, Lewis described the nature of the expedition and the path it would take — down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to the Mississippi River, then up the Missouri River to its source. From there, Clark read, the expedition would travel by land to find the Columbia River, where it would once again take to the water, following the river all the way to the Pacific ocean. It was the grandest, most exciting adventure Clark had ever heard of. He was thrilled when, at the end of the letter, Lewis asked him to join him in "its dangers and its honors." "There is no man on earth with whom I should feel equal pleasure in sharing them as with yourself," said Lewis. Clark replied immediately. "This is an undertaking fraught with many difficulties," he said. "But my Friend I do assure you that no man lives with whome I would perfur to undertake Such a Trip. I join you with hand and Heart." One of the most famous partnerships in history was formed. Lewis and Clark would serve as captains of the expedition to the west.
Lewis left Washington for Pittsburgh after receiving President Jefferson's instructions. Besides the main object of the expedition, to find a route to the Pacific Ocean, the explorers were instructed to measure latitude and longitude along the way and to draw maps of the country. They were to learn about the Indian tribes along the route, studying their languages, customs, and hunting practices. If any chiefs should wish to visit Washington, Lewis and Clark should arrange for them to come to the east. The captains were told to take careful notes of the climate and plant and animal life of the country they passed through.
Lewis spent long weeks in Pittsburgh waiting for his special boat to be finished. He grew more anxious every day to begin the journey. He hired several men who would help him take the boat down the Ohio River on the first leg of its journey. While he waited, he heard from Clark, who was waiting for him in the town of Clarksville, in Indiana Territory. Clark had been swamped with applications from young men who wanted to join them on their great adventure. He thought some were excellent young woodsmen. Lewis added a member to the expedition, too — a large, black Newfoundland dog he named Seaman.
After a long delay, the keelboat for the expedition was completed. Lewis had designed it, and it was named the Discovery. It was 55 feet long and 8 feet wide at its middle, tapering to 4 feet wide at the ends. It had a tall mast, and center poles that held up an awning. Eleven benches were made to seat 22 men at their oars. Its flat bottom would help it navigate shallow rivers. A cannon pointed out from the bow (the forward part of the boat), and a cabin was at the stern (the rear of the boat). Lewis also purchased another, smaller, boat, which was called a pirogue. (Pirogue is a French word for a flat-bottomed canoe made from a hollowed-out log.) And because Lewis knew that at some point in the journey they would have to leave the river and the keel-boat behind, he had another special item built — a collapsible boat. It was a special lightweight iron frame that men could easily carry overland. Then when they got to water again, they could cover the frame with animal hides and turn it into a boat.
Excerpted from Lewis and Clark for Kids by Janis Herbert. Copyright © 2000 Janis Herbert. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Preface To the Westward,
1 Fixing for a Start,
2 We Set Out Early,
3 We Smoke the Pipe of Peace,
4 Forty-Five Below,
5 Beautifull in the Extreme,
6 Tab-Ba-Bone and So-So-Ne,
7 O! The Joy!,
8 Our Homeward Bound Journey,
9 What Marvels We Found,
Lewis and Clark Sites, Organizations, and Events,
Web Sites to Explore,