Monday, September 15, 2014

The Journals of Lewis and Clark Analysis

Go to my review of The Journals of Lewis and Clark.

Following are several questions that Fanda offers for further analysis:

What challenges did the expedition face?

The men of the Lewis and Clark expedition faced every conceivable obstacle and challenge one can think of pertaining to a journey into the unknown: terrain, weather, illness, lack of food, lack of supplies, Indians, wild animals, and other mishaps. 

Sacagawea Saving Supplies, by Rob Wood
Terrain: Some examples of obstacles include carrying their supplies and canoes uphill to go around the falls; crossing the Rocky Mountains in snow; and walking on sharp rocks that made walking painful.   Meanwhile, the roaring rapids were not any easier. 

Weather: A hard downpour flooded their sleeping area and ruined many samples of plants and animals they had collected.  Sometimes the winter was unbearable, as they lacked sufficient clothing or blankets.  And the summers were intolerable, especially when the mosquitos increased. 

Lewis and Clark in the Bitterroots @  Jim Carson Studios
Illness: While they brought medicines with them and used them frequently, including for the Indians, most of the time they just had to suffer through a sickness or painful condition with rest and food.  Many times they had to slow down the progress of the expedition until whoever was ill recovered.

Lack of food: Given the great expanse of undeveloped area, they had an abundance of food because the land was full of wildlife.  They hunted animals for supplies, too, to make boats and clothing.  But sometimes when they were unsuccessful in catching anything to eat, or there just wasn't anything to hunt, they had to buy meat (dog) from the Indians, which they came to appreciate and enjoy.  And other times they only had roots to eat.  Yuck.

Lack of supplies: Imagine the condition of your clothing after a two year adventure.  I don’t know how much clothing they took with them, but by the end, Lewis or Clark described the men’s clothing as threadbare, including their blankets and moccasins. 

The Encounter@ James Ayers Studio
Indians: Lewis and Clark always used caution when meeting new tribes, though it helped to have interpreters and Sacagawea.  Most of the tribes were friendly and open to helping the adventurers, but Lewis and Clark were constantly on guard due to numerous incidents with theft.  Nonetheless, after two years of meeting with Indian tribes, they only had one violent altercation (with the Tetons) over stolen weapons.  Stolen horses were one thing, but don’t take a man’s gun. 

Wild animals: This was probably the biggest threat because they had several dangerous confrontations with bears.  Even a bullet wouldn’t stop a bear.  Poor Charbonneau came very close to being eaten. 

Other mishaps:  Did you know that Lewis was shot by one of his own men?  Toward the end of the journey, during a time of hunting, another member shot Lewis unintentionally (thinking he was an elk) but ran away when Lewis called to him.  Thankfully, the wound was not lethal, and Lewis was able to recover; but Lewis understood that this other man was mortified for having accidentally shot him.

Going Over the Falls, by Charles Fritz
What does it mean to be human?

I think this is a survival story.  While every person on this journey understood the risks – at least that there were risks involved - they still may not have known what to expect, but they were willing to go and to be adventurous and survive every obstacle and burden. 

Survival called them to “make do” at times with what they had; to persevere faster, harder, and further; for courage and bravery to outwit or outrun a grizzly bear; for geniality and restraint when meeting others whose language was unknown and may mistake them for a war party of an enemy; to endure pain, discomfort and sickness; and to stand up for righteousness in the face of injustice because one's authority and character were being tested.  During the lone Indian battle, Lewis said, 
I now got back to the pirogue as well as I could, and prepared myself with a pistol, my rifle, and air gun, being determined – as a retreat was impracticable – to sell my life as dearly as possible.
Lewis and Clark Expedition

What is the end of the history?

The end of the expedition is exciting.  It happens suddenly, and at first without much fanfare.  The prospect of home gave them a boost of energy to row faster and harder.  When they recognize cows on the banks, they realize that they are very close to the end of their journey, and when they finally land, Americans are so excited to see them because, as Lewis and Clark found out, everyone gave them up for dead or had long forgotten them.  It was a joyful occasion to announce their arrival with much pomp and circumstance because they were alive and had amazing news to share with the people of the United States.

An Evening Reading, by Thomas Lorimer (1941)
To that end, the purpose of this history was to describe and reveal the rich and beautiful lands of the North West teeming with abundant wildlife and unique vegetation, to note the numerous Native American tribes that lived on these lands and their willingness to make peace with, take council from, and trade with the people of the United States, and to confirm and establish a safe passage through these lands to the Pacific, specifically for trade.

Furthermore, it gave us a sample of man’s humanness: of courage, prowess, strength, leadership, compassion, perseverance, ingenuity, and endurance; of good men working together, looking out for one another, being concerned for the welfare of each other; of man’s desire to seek friendly relationships with strangers and be respectful of their customs, so long as they were not against God’s commandments; of man’s ability to use wisdom and knowledge for good intention; of man’s capacity to stand for justice and not be lenient toward sinfulness; and finally, of man’s will to live and survive.

Lewis and Clark and Seaman @ St. Charles, Missouri
The Lewis and Clark expedition set the standards on exploration – how to lead, manage, work together, and be successful.  Of course, they never thought they would be accomplishing that, but only saw it as a call to do something important for their country.  Yet they left a great legacy, and all explorers can learn much from their experience.


Cleo said...

For some reason my comments are failing to show up on a number of blogs …….. :-Z I posted one on your review and it's not there now.

In any case, I really enjoyed your review and the analysis was perfect. When you actually list out the number of challenges from the many sources that they faced, it was certainly overwhelming odds, wasn't it? Some day I want to read about these explorers; I've only read basic summaries of their adventures so far. Beautiful pictures, BTW. I think The Encounter is my favourite.

Ruth said...

Ugh! Sorry, Cleo. This has happened to me, too, on other blogs.

Anyway, you got through this time. Yay!

I watched the National Geographic video of Lewis and Clark the other night, and they described the expedition as equal to man going to the moon (at that time). I wasn't born during the moon landing, but even watching footage of that major world event was exciting. So that is how I imagine it was for the people of 1806.

And The Encounter is my favorite, too.