Lewis and Clark knew that their journey would be a long, tiresome one full of hardships and challenges. Both men felt that the success of the expedition would depend on the men they chose as well as their leadership abilities. They decided to look for "good hunters, stout, healthy, unmarried men, accustomed to the woods, and capable of bearing bodily fatigue." Men having skills such as carpentry, blacksmithing, cooking, and repairing weapons were also considered.

Clark went ahead of Lewis to Clarksville, Indiana, where he spent time interviewing volunteers for the Corp. Many men applied, but only 33 became members of what was called the Permanent Party. Lewis and Clark appointed three Sergeants - John Ordway, Charles Floyd, and Nathaniel Pryor - and divided the remaining 22 men into three squads under them.

Also along on the journey were Clark's manservant, York, a black Newfoundland dog, Seaman, which Lewis bought in Pittsburgh before the start of the journey, and George Drouillard, an interpreter. Toussaint Charbonneau, an interpreter, and his Indian wife, Sacagawea, joined the party along the way. In addition, seven more soldiers and about ten boatmen were hired in St. Louis specifically to take specimens, maps, and reports of the expedition back to President Jefferson.

"The Nine Young Men From Kentucky"

Captain William Clark enlisted nine men at Clarksville, Indiana Territory, across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky. The new recruits became known as the "Nine young men from Kentucky." All would be selected as members of the Permanent Party.

They were as follows:

Sergeant Charles Floyd
Sergeant Nathaniel Pryor
Private William Bratton
Private John Colter
Privates Joseph and Reuben Field
Private George Gibson
Private George Shannon
Private John Shields


The Clothes They Wore

Seventeen of the men recruited for the expedition were soldiers in the U.S. Army. They most likely they started the journey in their military uniforms. The other recruits were outfitted in the woolen and linen European-style civilian clothing of the day or possibly buckskin.

As they traveled, of course, their clothes wore out or became torn and tattered. When this happened, the men fashioned new clothes from animal skins and furs. In fact, they adopted many of the Indian ways of dressing and making clothes from the tribes that they came in contact with along their journey.

Clothing not only protected the men from the weather, it was also an important item of trade with the Indians. Uniform coats, silk hankerchifs, and brass buttons literally saved the lives of the men by allowing them to obtain horses and canoes for transportation, and food when they were close to starvation.


The Food They Ate

Take a lunchbreak with The Corps at

"The Diner"

From reading Lewis and Clark's journals, we know that they ate a variety of foods, which can be divided into three categories:

  • foods they purchased for the expedition
  • foods they obtained by hunting, fishing, or gathering
  • foods they traded for or were given to them by the Indians

Many of the foods the men ate, they had never tasted before (such as salmon). Here are two recipes you can you can make at home. (Please ask an adult for help before you do though!)


Fruit was a treat for the men as well as an important source of vitamins for them. A good way for the men to store the fruit they gathered was to dry it. To make your own dried fruit, try this recipe:

Fruit Leather
(sort of like Fruit Roll-Ups!)

Ingredients you'll need:

2 apples, peeled and cut into small chunks

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teapoon cinnamon

Other things you'll need:

Saucepan, blender, spoon, cookie sheet, plastic wrap, tape

Place the fruit and lemon juice in the blender and puree until smooth. Spoon the mixture into the saucepan and cook, stirring, over medium heat until it's thick (5 to 10 minutes). Remove from heat, add the cinnamon, and allow to cool. Line the cookie sheet with plastic, taping it down at the sides so it doesn't move. Spoon the mixture onto the plastic wrap. Spead it in a very thin layer with the back of the spoon. Set near a sunny window to dry for a day. Peel off and eat.


Legend has it that fishermen and hunters kept their dogs quiet by tossing them little scraps of batter fried in the lard leftover from frying their catfish. Soon the "Hushpuppies" became popular and have been a Southern tradition ever since.


Ingredients you'll need:

1 1/2 cups cornmeal

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup minced chives

Other things you'll need:

Oil for frying, mixing bowl, skillet, spoon, fork, paper towels

In a bowl, stir together the cornmeal, salt, sugar, and baking soda with a fork until blended. Whisk in the eggs and buttermilk until smooth. Stir in the chives. In a skillet, heat 1 inch of oil over medium-high heat. Drop the hushpuppy batter by the tablespoonfuls into the hot oil. Cook until browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve hot. Makes 6 hushpuppies.


The Weapons They Carried

Kentucky Flintlock rifle

Fifteen of the men carried of the Corps carried U.S. army regulation rifles hat came from the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. These rifles were "flintlocks", which means the bullet has to be pushed down into the 33-inch barrel of the rifle. It takes about 30 seconds to load a flintlock, which doesn't seem like a long time until you realize that an attacking grizzly bear can run 800 feet in that amount of time!

Other men in the Corp carried their own "Kentucky" flintlock rifles (these had even a longer barrel!), or muskets (more powerful guns typically loaded from the open end). Lewis had an air gun, which uses compressed air to fire a bullet, and pistols he purchased in Philadelphia. Officers carried swords as a symbol of their rank.

Gunpowder for the rifles was kept in lead cans. When a can was empty, it was melted and poured into molds to make bullets.


Knives and tomahawks were also issued to the men.

Tomahawks were invented by the Native Americans and adopted by settlers. They could be used as a weapon but most often served as a tool for the men. The Corps used them to build dugout canoes and also butchered bison, deer, and other game with them.

The Way They Traveled

The Corps traveled 6 to 12 miles per day, depending on the conditions. Under good conditions, such as level terrain or calm waters, they traveled more. Under poor conditions, such as crossing the Rocky Mountains, they traveled less.

Their days could be from 4 to 10 hours long, depending on the length of daylight and other factors.


The Corps used four types of boats during their journey:

Keelboats are made to carry a lot of weight. They have a keel, a heavy piece of wood running along the center of the bottom, to help control the boat in river currants. The Corps' keelboat was the largest of their vessels. It was 55 feet long and 8 feet wide. To the back of the boat (stern) was a small cabin with a deck on top. To the front (bow) was another deck. The men sometimes had to "pole" the boat forward in the river instead of rowing. To do this, each man would push a pole against the river bottom and then walk towards the back of the boat, pushing the deck with his feet.

The keelboat was sent back downstream when it became to difficult to navigate up the Missouri River. It returned with a small crew to St. Louis in the spring of 1805. It was loaded with a cargo of journals, a map, and animal specimens for President Jefferson.

Pirogues are flat-bottomed boats that were dugout logs or wooden boats of similar shape. Their flat bottoms allowed them to float in shallow water. The Corps had two pirogues: a red one designed to be rowed by eight men, and a white one rowed by six. They could carry several tons of cargo. The pirogues were taken as far as the Great Falls of the Missouri, then stashed there to be picked up on the return trip.

Dugout canoes replaced the pirogues for the remainder of the journey west. The men followed the Indians' example and made dugouts from tree trunks. The tree was cut down, the bark was removed, and then the top of the log was cut off to form a flat top. The sides were smoothed and rounded with an ax, and the ends shaped. The inside of the log was hollowed out using tomahawks.
When the Corps reached Montana on their return journey in 1806, some of the men were sent to a British post in Canada to trade horses for supplies. Along the way, Indians stole the horses, and the men made two bullboats and headed down the river to catch up with the rest of the Corps. Bullboats were used by the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes to transport meat downstream to their villages after a buffalo hunt. Bullboats were made by stretching buffalo hides over a bowl-shaped frame of sticks that were tied together with leather thongs.

Another type of boat taken on the expedition, but not used, was an invention of Captain Lewis'. It was a collapsible canoe with a iron frame that could be covered with animal skins. It weighed only 44 pounds but could carry up to one ton of weight. Lewis planned for the men to carry the frame until they reached the upper Missouri River, where they would cover it with animal skins, and seal the seams with sticky pine-tree pitch. This was a good plan, but unfortunately, it didn't work.

When the expedition reached the Missouri's Great Falls in Montana, there were no pine trees to provide the pitch for the seams. Lewis mixed a concoction of beeswax, buffalo fat, and ground-up charcoal to use instead. When they put the boat in water, it floated fine, but by night, Lewis' pitch mixture was falling off the seams, and the boat was leaking.


Horses were another means of travel for the Corps.

When they began their journey, the Corps had four horses. Along the way, they lost some and found others. Horses were most valuable when the men crossed the Rocky Mountains. They carried baggage and made the crossing much easier. During the winter of 1805-1806, the Nez Perce Indians cared for the horses while the Corps traveled on to the Pacific Ocean.

Other members of the
Permanent Party

Of course, the men spent a lot of their time during the journey walking. Just to reach the Pacific Ocean, was 4,162 miles! Can you imagine walking most of that distance?

The men walked on all types of terrain including sand, stone, rocks. Many times they had to walk so that the boats would float in the shallow waters of the Missouri. Sometimes they even had to walk and pull the boats!

During their portage around the Great Falls of the Missouri, the ground was covered with prickly pear cactus, and its sharp spines poked right through the men's moccasins and cut their feet. Ouch!

The Other Interesting Facts About the Men

The youngest member of the Corps was George Shannon. He turned 19 in 1804. The oldest member was John Shields. He was 35.

Seven of the members of the expedition fell in love with the Rocky Mountains and returned there to live.

Private Pierre Cruzatte had only one eye and liked to entertain the men with his fiddle.

French, English, Omaha, Hidatsa, Mandan, and Plains Indian sign language were languages known by the men. None of the men knew the Sioux language.

lewis & clark home || animals discovered || corps of discovery
jefferson's letter || the trail || links || activities || glossary
education home