Thanked God that he'd lived to bestride the mighty Missouri

American Minute with Bill Federer

“Ocian in view! O! the joy,” wrote William Clark in his Journal, but the next day, NOVEMBER 8, 1805, Lewis and Clark realized they were only at Gray’s Bay, still 20 miles from the Pacific. Clark wrote:

“We found the swells or waves so high that we thought it imprudent to proceed . . . The seas roled and tossed the canoes in such a manner this evening that several of our party were sea sick.”

Pinned down by drenching, cold storms for 3 weeks, Lewis and Clark let the expedition decide where to build winter camp, even allowing Clark’s slave, York, and the woman Indian guide, Sacagawea, to vote. A humble Christmas was celebrated in their new Fort Clatsop, near present-day Astoria, Oregon.

President Thomas Jefferson had informed Congress, February 19, 1806:

“Captain Meriwether Lewis, of the First Regiment of infantry, was appointed, with a party of men, to explore the river Missouri from its mouth to its source, and, crossing the highlands by the shortest portage, to seek the best water communication thence to the Pacific Ocean; and Lieutenant Clarke was appointed second in command.”

By Clark’s estimate, their journey had taken them 4,162 miles from the mouth of the Missouri River. Three months earlier, August 12, 1805, Meriwether Lewis, along with three companions, George Drouillard, Private John Shields and Private Hugh McNeal, reached the headwaters of the Missouri, as Lewis recorded:

“The road took us to the most distant fountain of the waters of the Mighty Missouri . . . Private McNeal had exultingly stood with a foot on each side of this little rivulet and thanked his God that he had lived to bestride the mighty and heretofore deemed endless Missouri.”


The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.


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