Today is a history lesson because on Monday, June 23, I will be departing Raleigh-Durham for Great Falls, Montana. The seminar I am attending is on Lewis and Clark and is through the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT). We will be studying Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery as they voyage west through unknown territory.
Louisiana was one of the hallmark moments in American history. Thomas Jefferson sent a delegation to France to purchase the strategically important port city of New Orleans. New Orleans, with its location close to the Gulf of Mexico, controlled all traffic in and out of the Mississippi River. The Mississippi not only was the western boundary of the fledging United States, but an important means of transporting goods from the Ohio River Valley.
Napoleon, facing mounting costs of wars in Europe and maintaining an empire in the western hemisphere, made a desperate offer of 15 million dollars for not just New Orleans, but the entire territory of Louisiana. In what would later be a very controversial decision, Jefferson approved the appropriation of funds to purchase Louisiana.
The Louisiana Purchase resulted in:
- Doubling the size of the United States, which begins the perpetuation of the idea of “Manifest Destiny”
- One of the first major tests of Presidential powers. Many people in Congress believed that Jefferson overstepped his powers in acquiring land without Congressional approval.
- Political, social, and economic issues that come with the acquisition of such a large swatch of land.
- In order to better inventory and survey the land, prepare for the Natives and determine the value of the purchase, Jefferson employed Meriweather Lewis and William Clark to lead a team called the Corps of the Discovery.
The Corps of Discovery departed in 1803 north of St Louis on a mission to map the newly acquired land and record and observe the plants, animals and people of the new territory. The Corps were led by army veterans Meriweather Lewis and William Clark. With them were an additional 31 individuals (and one dog, Seaman) who who were willing to brave the unknown journey west into some of the most scenic and wild places in North America.
From the bayous of Louisiana to the scenic vistas of Glacier National Park, the Louisiana Purchase added an incredibly diverse topography to the United States. Journeying from the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers to the Pacific Ocean, Lewis and Clark lead a three year voyage of discovery, adventure and hope through new frontiers and with new people. Next week, I get to experience some of their journey through experiences in and around Great Falls and a few days retracing their voyage along the Missouri River.
For more information on Lewis and Clark's adventures, check out these websites: