This Day In History: Lewis and Clark Reach A White Settlement (1806)

On this day in history in the year 1806, after over two years exploring the western wilderness, the Corps of Discovery arrived at the frontier village of La Charette, in modern Missouri. The Corps of Discovery was a team of explorers led by Lewis and Clarke. This day in 1806 they arrive at the first white settlement that they had seen since they left on their expedition in 1804.

They had reached the settlement just in time. The Lewis and Clarke team were almost entirely out of supplies and were subsisting on wild berries and plums. They were weak and many were ill.  To make matters worse they had traded all their tradable goods and this meant that they could not barter with the Indians  for food.

Upon arriving at La Charette, the men fired their guns to alert the inhabitants of their approach. The locals then  fired three rounds from the trading boats on the riverbank. The people of La Charette rushed to the banks of the Missouri River to see who was coming. The settlement was a mixed one, with French and American settlers and they are amazed to see the men returning. It had been widely reported on the frontier that the expedition had been lost or they had been massacred by hostile Indians.

The Lewis and Clark mission had been a spectacular success, despite all the odds.  The Corps of Discovery had travelled deep into the wilderness, where no white men had ever been. They had been welcomed by friendly Indian tribes who greatly assisted them. They had helped Lewis and Clarke to explore the upper reaches of the Missouri and they had discovered that there was no river that could facilitate passage across the great continent. The expedition had pressed on further west and had been the first to reach the Pacific Coast after traveling by an inland route. They had mapped the areas they had travelled through and collect information from friendly native Americans. The expedition also collected some scientific data on plants and animals. The Corps of Discovery helped in the opening of the trans-Mississippi West to the young American Republic and this was later to lead to the settlement of the west. Lewis and Clarke had shown that the continent could be traversed and inspired many more explorers and settlers to go west.

Postage stamp commemorating the Lewis and Clark expedition

Lewis and Clarke and their men spent an evening celebrating their safe return in the settlement. The settlers offered the Corps members the use of their canoes and two days later they were in St Louis, where they had started their expedition.  Immediately after they arrived they asked the Post Master to send a letter to President Jefferson, announcing that the expedition had been a success and was finally home.  The Corps, especially their leaders were celebrated as heroes in the East.