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American Minute from William J. Federer
“Ocian in view! O! the joy,” wrote William Clark in his Journal, but the next day, NOVEMBER 8, 1805, Lewis and Clark realized they were only at Gray’s Bay, still 20 miles from the Pacific.
“We found the swells or waves so high that we thought it imprudent to proceed…The seas roled and tossed the canoes in such a manner this evening that several of our party were sea sick.”
Pinned down by drenching, cold storms for 3 weeks, Lewis and Clark let the expedition decide where to build winter camp, even allowing Clark’s slave, York, and the woman Indian guide, Sacagawea, to vote.
A humble Christmas was celebrated in their new Fort Clatsop, near present-day Astoria, Oregon.
By Clark’s estimate, their journey, commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, had taken them 4,162 miles from the mouth of the Missouri River.
Three months earlier, Meriwether Lewis, along with three companions, George Drouillard, Private John Shields and Private Hugh McNeal, reached the headwaters of the Missouri. Lewis recorded:
“The road took us to the most distant fountain of the waters of the Mighty Missouri…Private McNeal had exultingly stood with a foot on each side of this little rivulet and thanked his God that he had lived to bestride the mighty and heretofore deemed endless Missouri.”
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