Small Arms, Personnel, and Miscellany
by Walt Walker
A 9 part series examining details of the men and their guns
Chapter 9: Divided Forces
Lewis left from Travelers’ Rest with Drewyer, the Field brothers, Gass, Frazer, Werner, Thompson, McNeal, and Goodrich. Lewis said that the last three men were not hunters. They were chosen to be treated with the medicine Lewis had left at the Portage and Werner was the cook. Gass and the Field Brothers had Harpers Ferry rifles and Frazer had his musket. The balance of the party possessed muskets except for Goodrich as his musket had been traded to the Shoshone. Understandably, McNeal would have been issued one of the muskets cached at Decision Point to replace his broken one and Goodrich would have been issued the other musket.
Clark and his party left Travelers Rest with the rest of the party and all but seventeen of the horses which Lewis had taken with him. They headed for Camp Fortunate and the cached canoes. With Clark were York, Charbono, Sacajawea, Pomp, Bratton, Collins, Colter, Cruzatte, Gibson, Hall, Howard, Labiche, LePage, Ordway, Potts, Pryor, Shannon, Shields, Weiser, Whitehouse, Willard, and Windsor. Ten of the men had rifles- Ordway, Collins, Colter, Cruzatte, Gibson, Labiche, Pryor, Shannon, Shields, and Willard. Ordway, Collins, and Willard also had muskets.
After arriving at Camp Fortunate and recovering the canoes, Ordway's party set out in six canoes having cut up the seventh canoe for paddles, headed for the three forks. Pryor's party set out with the horses to meet up with Ordway again at the three forks. Clark later joined Ordway's party on the way. Collins killed a goose as the party descended the Beaverhead River. It isn’t known whether he used his rifle or musket. He was close to Labiche's ability as a fowler. On July 11th while descending the Jefferson River, Clark sent out Colter, Collins, Willard, and Gibson to hunt. All of them brought in game for the party. Clark called them four of the best hunters.
Ordway had with him in the canoes, the men who would descend the Missouri from the three forks. He took Collins, Colter, Cruzatte, Howard, LePage, Potts, Weiser, Whitehouse, and Willard. Ordway, Collins, Colter, Cruzatte, and Willard all carried their rifles. Collins, Colter, Cruzatte, and Willard did the hunting for Ordway’s party all the way from the three forks to the lower camp at the falls. On July 13th, 1806, Ordway left the three forks to descend the Missouri while Clark’s party went overland to the Yellowstone.
Clark’s party had the balance of thirteen personnel who would travel overland from three forks to the Yellowstone River. He also took along forty-nine horses and a colt. Included in the party were York, Charbonneau, Sacajawea, Pomp, Pryor, Shannon, Shields, Gibson, Labiche, Windsor, Hall, and Bratton. Windsor and Hall carried muskets, Bratton probably carried Clark’s fusil or one from the inventory list from the coast. Charbono’s firearm is unknown. He probably carried one of Clark’s when needed. The other enlisted men carried rifles.
Clark chose his personnel so that, if they met the Crow Indians along the way, he would have Sacajawea, Charbono, and Labiche as interpreters. He took Bratton because he might need the medical attention that Ordway could not provide. By that time Lewis had taken his party up the Marias and would not have been available to administer medicine. Pryor and Shannon and Windsor were specifically chosen to take the horses overland to Fort Mandan. Hall was soon also sent with Pryor. Labiche, Shields, and Gibson were the designated hunters for Clark’s remaining party of nine. Before Pryor’s party separated from Clark’s, they all stopped to make two canoes, which Clark then utilized to construct a catamaran which better suited their needs.
Of Clark’s party, Bratton, Hall, and Windsor were the non-hunters. Bratton set some traps near the mouth of the Yellowstone, but most of the way, he was too weak to work. All of the other enlisted men hunted, as did Clark and York. Charbono met with a bad accident when his horse stepped in a hole while he was chasing a buffalo. Gibson also became injured on July 18th and he did not hunt again until the 30th of July.
On August 3rd, Clark’s party arrived at the mouth of the Yellowstone. They stayed for two nights before going on. Pryor’s party joined them on August 8th. Pryor’s party had all their remaining horses stolen on their second night out. They, then, made bull boats to descend the Yellowstone. Shields, Shannon, Gibson, and Labiche then did all the hunting up to the time Lewis’s party caught up to them.
As regards Lewis's party, they reunited on July 28th and, after opening the caches at Decision Point and stripping metal from the rotted red pirogue, proceeded down the Missouri. Gass and Willard hunted and brought the horses and the meat from the Lower Camp. Ordway brought the balance of fourteen personnel in the White Pirogue and five canoes from the Lower Camp to Camp Disappointment. The combined parties consisted of twenty men, eight of whom had Harpers Ferry rifles. They also had the two cached muskets and the gun Lewis brought from the encounter on the Marias.
Howard and Frazer were named as hunters on July 28th and 29th. Howard brought down two deer on the 28th and Frazer killed a buffalo with his musket on the 29th. When they left Decision Point on July 28th Lewis, Drewyer, Cruzatte, and likely, McNeal, Goodrich, Thompson, Werner, and the injured Weiser manned the White Pirogue. There were three small canoes all manned by hunters and two large canoes.
The Field brothers were in one small canoe and Collins and Colter were in the other small canoe. Ordway and Willard were in a little larger canoe. Likely, Gass, LePage, and Frazer manned one large canoe. Likely, Potts would be in charge of the other large canoe since he was one of the best canoe handlers. He probably would have had Whitehouse and Howard with him.
Ordway hadn’t hunted for a long time, but teamed with Willard to kill a bear. Both of them carried rifles. Colter and Collins in one canoe and the Field brothers in another were sent ahead of the party to hunt most days.
Drewyer killed a doe on August 3rd, the first day he was reported hunting after the encounter with the young warriors. Lewis, Drewyer, and the Field Brothers had just completed a grueling ride on horses a few days earlier. It is amazing that any one of them could walk with ease let alone go hunting. Lewis’s party arrived at the mouth of the Yellowstone on the 7th. Drewyer hunted again on the 8th. On the 11th of August, Lewis and Cruzatte pursued a herd of elk and Cruzatte accidentally shot Lewis because of the thick brush and his limited vision. When Lewis and Cruzatte got back to the White Pirogue, Gass dressed Lewis’s wound.
On the 12th of August, Lewis’s party caught up with Clark and the Corps was united. Lewis’s party readjusted loads and people when they met Clark. There were five men assigned to oar the White Pirogue since none of these men were hunters. Clark came aboard the White Pirogue to attend to Lewis. York probably came with Clark along with, possibly, the Charbono family. The assigned boat crew stayed on the white Pirogue and the balance of Clark's party manned the catamaran. Possibly, two or three men were placed in canoes. The next day, Clark and Drewyer walked on the shore to hunt. The party arrived at the Mandan Villages on August 14, 1806.