Westward Adventure: The Lewis and Clark Expedition


By: Nathan Chandler

4 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

In the early 19th century, the United States was a brand-new country that hugged the East Coast. Then, a group of enterprising men headed west on a voyage of discovery. How much do you know about the Lewis and Clark Expedition?

In the 19th century, which U.S. president decided to send an ambitious expedition across the unmapped areas of North America?

Thomas Jefferson, ever the inquisitive leader, decided to send an expedition west across North America in order to find a suitable transportation route and also to help the U.S. cement its claim to those lands.


What was the name of the group of men that headed west on the expedition?

They were called the Corps of Discovery. An Army captain named Merriweather Lewis was in command, and William Clark was second in the hierarchy. Together, they assumed decision-making responsibility for the group.


The expedition set out from the area of which modern city?

The expedition officially set off from the area that is now St. Louis. The journey commenced May 4, 1804.


The men embarked on a perilous journey from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean, a distance that covered a total distance of about how many miles?

In the early 1800s, the men were forced to use boats, animals and their own feet to make the trip -- which encompassed about 8,000 miles.


The group of men was loosely organized and run as a business.

Although the government certainly welcomed commercial value as a result of the expedition, it wasn't conducted as a business affair. It was treated as a military operation. The men all had military rank and were expected to follow orders or suffering lashings.


Including Lewis and Clark, how many men made up the permanent core group on the journey?

There were 33 permanent members of the party. There were a few civilian hangers-on as well but was mostly a tightly controlled military operation.


Which country sent soldiers to arrest the men?

A spy informed Spanish authorities about the group, and as a result, the Spaniards were worried that the expedition might give America a claim to the gold-rich Southwest. They sent at least four groups out to arrest all of the expedition's men.


What happened when the Spanish soldiers encountered Lewis and Clark?

Four groups of Spanish soldiers set out into the wilderness to capture the Corps of Discovery. Fortunately for Lewis and Clark, the vastness of the territory meant that the Spanish soldiers never located them.


Merriweather Lewis asked his friend William Clark to help him lead the expedition. What was Clark's initial response to Lewis' proposal?

Clark was immediately up for the adventure. He wrote to Lewis indicating that no man alive could be more enthusiastic about the groundbreaking journey.


Lewis brought his faithful dog, Seaman, along for the trip. What sort of dog was Seaman?

Seaman was a big Newfoundland. It turned out to be quite the adventure for the dog. He was attacked by a beaver and stolen by Indians. Lewis got the dog back by threatening to kill the men who took him.


How many dogs did the men eat during their journey?

Native Americans were fond of dog meat, so the men (except Clark) of the expedition often ate canines, too. Fortunately, the much-loved Seaman was never at risk of the frying pan.


When Jefferson sent the men west, he figured they'd run into a mountain made of what?

The president had read many older accounts of the West, including mentions of mountains made of salt. Sadly, the men never encountered enormous mounds of sodium chloride.


Due to the trip's arduous nature and a lack of storage space, the men went into the wilderness only lightly armed.

The men weren't looking for a fight … but they were ready for a war. They had close to 200 pounds of gunpowder as part of an impressive arsenal.


At one point, a Native American woman named Sacagawea joined the expedition in what capacity?

Sacagawea joined the group as a guide and interpreter, but her mere presence may have been her most important contribution, as it helped calm the nerves of natives who saw her traveling with white men.


The men set off hoping to find a river route that led to the Pacific, meaning they were forced to use boats instead of ships. How big was their biggest boat?

The big keelboat was about 55 feet long. The expedition also included two smaller boats called pirogues. The boats were critical to the men's survival at almost every moment of the trip.


The trip wasn't always peaceful. How many people did the men of the expedition kill?

The journey was mostly free of physical violence, but the men did kill two Native Americans, ostensibly because they were attempting to steal guns in the middle of the night.


The expedition depended mostly on which river for transportation?

The Missouri River flows eastward from Montana to Iowa, where it veers south and eventually joins with the Mississippi River. The Missouri was by far the most important body of water for the expedition.


Jefferson required Congressional funding to pay for the expedition. How much money did he request?

The president requested just $2,500 to pay for the expedition, and, thanks to political infighting, he needed serious maneuvering to obtain even that rather small bit of cash.


The journey was a long one. What did Clark spend most of his time doing?

The group's most important task was mapping, and Clark was in charge of that particular job. Lewis spent much of his time wandering the banks, collecting samples and making observations about the areas they traveled.


The expedition was the first group of white men to set foot in what is now North Dakota.

The lucrative fur trade pushed European men west many years before Lewis and Clark. White men had been through North Dakota perhaps 60 years before the expedition arrived.


Clark brought along his slave, who was named York. How was the black man received by Native Americans?

York was virtually godlike out West. The Native Americans were fascinated by his dark skin, and they often attributed magical powers to him.


The men set off in early May, extremely concerned about potentially hostile Indians. When did they meet their first group of Native Americans?

The men were on edge in May, wondering if they'd clash with hostile natives. In the end, it took three months before they met any Indians, and they turned out to be friendly.


Thomas Jefferson hoped that the expedition might encounter which creature?

No one really knew what sort of mysterious creatures the expedition might stumble upon. Jefferson suspected that the men might find wooly mammoths (but they didn't).


The Missouri River ended at the Continental Divide. The men had to reach the Columbia River, which would carry them to the ocean. How did they get from the Missouri River to the Columbia?

The men traded goods for Indian horses, which helped alleviate the burden of reaching the Columbia River. Unfortunately, they had to eat some of the horses in order to ward off starvation.


What injury did Lewis suffer during the expedition?

One of the expedition's men mistook Lewis for an elk and shot him in the buttocks. The painful injury forced Lewis to lay in the homeward-bound boat for weeks as he recovered.


The men finally found a continous water route to the Pacific Ocean.

They did indeed reach the Pacific, but there was no continuous water route like they'd hoped. The mission was still a triumph in terms of mapping and discovery.


After the men reached the ocean, they were eager to get home. How did they get back?

They tried canoeing back up the Columbia River, a feat that proved impossible. They bartered for more horses and rode up over the mountains and back to the Missouri River, which carried them home.


How long did it take the expedition to complete its journey?

This was no brief Boy Scout trip. It took the men about two and a half years to complete their roughly 8,000-mile adventure.


There were 33 men at the start of the expedition. How many of them survived the years-long journey?

The party lost only one man during the entire perilous adventure, and he didn't die from an accident or Indian arrow. Instead, he probably suffered a ruptured appendix.


After the journey ended, Lewis adopted Sacagawea's children.

The kids were adopted, but not by Lewis, who eventually killed himself. Clark bonded closely with the woman and her children during the trip. Once they returned home, he adopted Sacagawea's children, and when she later died, he raised them as if they were his own.


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