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Across America: The Lewis and Clark Expedition (Discovery by Maurice Isserman, John S. Bowman

By Maurice Isserman, John S. Bowman

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Finally, on May 14, 1804, it was time to go. Lewis was in St. Louis, still tending to the Osage delegation. He would join the expedition after a few days. M. in the presence of many neighboring inhabitents, and proceeded on under a jentle brease up the Missouri. . ” His list included: “2 Capts. 4 Sergeants, 3 Intptrs. [Interpreters], 22 Amns [Americans]. 9 or 10 French, & York also 1 Corpl. & Six in a perogue. . ” One of the “Capts,” Meriwether Lewis, was in St. Louis, so he was not on board with the rest of the men when they set sail up the Missouri on May 14.

On November 20 they set off northward up the Mississippi, the river that the Algonquian Indians called “the Father of Waters” and that drains the water from 40 percent of the continental United States. Although the Mississippi’s course was well known by this point, Clark began to record the river’s twists and turns, with compass bearings, perhaps practicing the record-keeping he would need to keep along the Missouri. As they headed northward, they were traveling between the separate countries. The Illi- Q 33 nois Territory, part of the United States, formed the east bank of the river, the Louisiana Territory, which was still officially governed by the Spanish, and not scheduled to be handed over to the United States until the following spring, lay to the west.

Lewis would serve as the expedition’s doctor as well as its commander, and his Philadelphia mentors included the most famous physician in America, Benjamin Rush. However, most of Rush’s advice would prove less than useful where it was not actually harmful to the patients under Lewis’s care. It was Rush’s considered belief, for example, that powerful laxatives were the first line of defense against disease. While in Philadelphia Lewis stocked up on 600 doses of “bilious pills,” or laxatives, for his medical kit.

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