Small Arms, Personnel, and Miscellany
By Walt Walker
A nine-part series examining some details of the
Corps of Discovery to make the Expedition more personal
I began this project to learn as exactly as possible to whom Captains Meriwether Lewis and/or William Clark were referring when they mentioned “hunters” in the Journals. Were the hunters just from the former civilians they enlisted coming down the Ohio River in 1803 or did they also include men transferred from other army units to The Corps of Discovery? Did the hunters use their personal arms or the rifles Lewis obtained from the Harpers Ferry Arsenal or did they use muskets that the soldiers brought with them? While looking into this area, I discovered hunter combinations that seemed to develop naturally and the captains’ “go-to” men when meat supplies were critical.
I have also included in the Miscellany Section, all the various spellings of “Sioux” written in Volumes Two through Eight as transcribed by Gary Moulton and also included the number of canoes the Corps constructed at the various Canoe Camps and the dates and number of grizzly bears killed or wounded by the Corps.
In writing this piece, I will make a supposition such as “probably” or “most likely” from my own inferences reading the Journals. They are not conclusive, just speculations. Other readers are welcome to their own conclusions. The project included re-reading, “The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition” by Gary Moulton. I referred to Volumes One, Nine, Ten, and Eleven on occasion. Donald Jackson’s “Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition” were also used for background information. Further, my research went no deeper than my personal library and personal experience as a hunter and a former army enlisted man. This is by no means a scholarly interpretation.
Chapter 1: Creating the Corps of Discovery
In a confidential message to Congress dated January 18th, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson laid out the need to explore The Louisiana Territory and his desire to extend that trip to the Pacific Ocean to seek a waterway for practicable travel across the continent. He created The Corps of Discovery for that mission. He stated, “An officer with ten or twelve men chosen from various army posts along with their arms and accouterments might explore the whole line even to the Western Ocean”. He believed that “An appropriation of $2500 would cover the undertaking”. This statement would lead to the conclusion that prior-enlisted men, as opposed to the civilians enlisted by Lewis and /or Clark, brought with them their army-issued muskets and accouterments. Congress would approve Jefferson’s request by a “Secret Authority” as stated by Jefferson in a letter to Caspar Wistar dated February 28th, 1803. (1)
Lewis told the president in a letter dated April 20th, 1803(2) that he has written to Major McRae, Commandant of South West Point, asking for enlisted men who meet the qualifications needed to be in his party. He also stated that he has written to the commandants of Fort Massac, Fort Kaskaskia, and Illinois (Cahokia was proposed but never developed) asking for the same. Lewis also wrote that rifles, tomahawks, and knives were being prepared at Harper’s Ferry. (3)
Lewis, in a letter to Jefferson dated, May 29th,1803, stated that he has received a reply from Major McRae. The major stated that of the twenty volunteers, only three or four men possessed the qualifications Lewis deemed necessary for the expedition. Lewis replied that he will take some of them to man his boats and hope that others with “better descriptions” can be had at other forts. (4)
Lewis wrote to Clark explaining the mission and asked Clark to accompany him. He explained his instructions to select enlisted army personnel and engage civilians who are good hunters. Lewis wanted to include some French traders to assist the movement of baggage and food to the winter camp on the Missouri.(5) Lewis’s “List of Requirements” showed that fifteen rifles with accouterments for each man along with clothing for all fifteen men were needed among all other listed requirements. (6)
Henry Dearborn's letter to Major McRae, dated July 2nd, 1803 ordered the major to send a sergeant and two or three men to Fort Massac, there to be placed under Captain Lewis’s command. (7)
Major McRae actually sent Corporal Richard Warfington, Hugh Hall, Thomas P. Howard, John Potts, and four other men. The latter four were rejected by Lewis and Clark. (8) On the same day, Dearborn wrote several other letters regarding the expedition. He wrote Lewis that the whole number of NCOs and privates should not exceed twelve and that Lewis could hire an interpreter to accompany the Corps. The letter to Russell Bissell, Amos Stoddard, and Daniel Bissell ordered them to detach men from their commands who were deemed suitable for such service to the expedition. Finally, in a letter to Russell Bissell and Amos Stoddard, he ordered them to furnish one sergeant and eight good men, preferably, those who understood rowing a boat to take provisions to the winter camp up the Missouri.(9)
On the 11th of November 1803, Lewis engaged George Drouillard (aka: Drewyer) as an Indian interpreter for $25 a month.(10) Drouillard confirmed this with Clark on the 25th of December 1803. Drouillard said he would go to Massac to settle his matters. (11)
Lewis wrote to Clark from Pittsburg on the 3rd of August, 1803 that he was much gratified with Clark’s decision to join him. He was also pleased with Clark’s conditionally engaging some men to join them. Lewis stated that the men so engaged would not be used exclusively for the purposes of hunting, but they would also bear responsibility for a portion of the labor in common with the party. (12)
The eight troops sent by Major McRae to meet with Lewis at Fort Massac had not arrived by the time Lewis left there, but arrived at Cahokia on the 16th of December, 1803. In his letter to Clark on the 17th of December, 1803, Lewis stated that “there was not a hunter among them”, but one was a blacksmith, another a house-joiner. He speculated that a blacksmith might be useful to the party. (13)
Finally, Lewis wrote to the President on the 19th of December, 1803, that he had made a selection of a sufficient number of men from the troops at Fort Kaskaskia to complete the party. He then proceeded by land to Cahokia and then went on to St. Louis to confer with Spanish officials.
Meanwhile, Clark proceeded from Kaskaskia to Cahokia and then went on to what would become Camp Dubois. The camp was across the Mississippi from the mouth of the Missouri since the Spanish had refused them entry onto the Missouri until the formal change of ownership(14) On December 22, 1803, Drewyer arrived at Camp Dubois with the eight men sent by Major MacCrae. Clark picked Corporal Richard Warfington and privates Hugh Hall, Thomas P. Howard and John Potts while he rejected the others.(15)
1. “Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition” by Donald Jackson, Second edition, Volume I, Letter Eight, pages 10-13.
2. Ibid: Letter 12, pages 17-18
3. Ibid: Letter 28, pages 37-41
4. Ibid: Letter 40, pages 51-53
5.Ibid: Letter 46, pages 57-60
6. Ibid: Letter 53, pages 69-75
7. Ibid: Letter 60, Page 102
8. Moulton: “Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition”, Volume 2, page 139, note 2
9. Jackson: Letters 62, 63, 64, pages 102-103
10. Moulton: Volume2, page 85 under date of November 11th, 1803
11. Moulton: Volume 2, page 141, under date December 25th, 1803
12. Jackson: Letter 80, pages
13. Jackson: Letter 98, page 144
14. Jackson: Letter 99, page 145-147
15. Moulton: Vol.2, page 139 under date December 22, 1803, and note 2