- The Lewis and Clark Expedition Day by Day by Gary E. Moulton
By Gary E. Moulton. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2018. vii + 654 pp. Illustrations, maps, index. $75.00 paper.
The adventures of the Corps of Discovery are well known, but no one has compiled such an easy to read and thorough look into the explorations of the Lewis and Clark team like Gary Moulton. Moulton successfully combined the writings of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and members of the team, including John Ordway and Patrick Gass, to provide a day-by-day narrative of the journey.
While much of the Lewis and Clark mission was outside the Great Plains, the men described the land, vegetation, climate, animals, and Native Americans, often in great detail. Lewis and Clark’s writings about the Great Plains logically focused on the watered areas of the region as they passed through the Plains in their canoes and camped near the shores.
Amazed by the numbers of buffalo, grizzly bears, and antelope they found on the Great Plains, they also enjoyed the prairie dogs and found the mosquitoes annoying and the birds beautiful. They saw the mountain goat for the first time, calling it a sheep. As their journey progressed and they learned more and more, the men compared the animals of the Great Plains to those farther west, such as the grouse. The numbers of buffalo continued to amaze Lewis throughout the journey. Regarding vegetation, the men commented upon the cherries, plums, and hog peanuts they found. On their return to St. Louis, they once again encountered prickly pears on the Great Plains, reminding them that their journey was nearly at an end.
Lewis and the others wrote about the Native Americans in great detail, explaining their horticultural practices, hunting styles, and relationships with other Native groups. For example, they thought of the Mandans as typical Great Plains village dwellers who farmed and regularly hunted on horseback. Descriptions of the clothing and jewelry worn by the tribes brought the people of the Plains to life.
Reading Moulton’s narrative of the journey reminds readers of journals, diaries, and reminiscences written by overland trail travelers in the 1840s to 1860s, but knowing that the Corps of Discovery first noted these things makes the journey of Lewis and Clark all the more spectacular. While not providing an analysis of the mission, Moulton provided a volume accessible to all.
Missouri University of Science and Technology