Lewis and Clark State Historic Site
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Two hundred years ago, May 14, 1804, at approximately 4:00 p.m. under overcast skies and heavy rain, a crew of Army personnel, led by co-commander William Clark, pushed away from the Illinois shores of the Mississippi River north of St. Louis to begin the Corps of Discovery's Expedition. They would join Captain Meriwether Lewis in St. Charles, Missouri on May 16, 1804.
(MAY 14, 2004) - The Corps of Discovery of St. Charles began the re-enactment of the Expedition of Discovery in replicas of the keelboat and pirogues that were re-launched from the Confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri River at Hartford, Illinois.
by Betty Magrath
photos by Bob Moore
© 2004, Southwest Illinois News
HARTFORD, IL, (slfp.com), May 14, 2004 - Braving rain and cool weather, nearly two thousand visitors gathered at the end of Piasa Lane in Hartford on private property owned by Bill Brown, a local businessman, to watch the re-launch of a replica keelboat and two piroques for the historic re-enactment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The location provided a perfect view of the Confluence of the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers for re-enactors from the Corps of Discovery of St. Charles to begin their journey that will take 28 months and cover more than eight thousand miles to Fort Clatsop on the Oregon coastline and back to St. Louis, summer of 2006.
A series of special programs commemorating the Bicentennial of the Point of Departure at the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site, featured re-enactors performing marching drills, manual labor, cooking, showing medical supplies, quilting, woodcarving, story telling and presentations by members of Native American tribes including the Mandan-Hidatsa, Umatilla, Nez Perce and Shoshone.
Captain Meriwether Lewis, portrayed by Richard Cheatham, president of Living History Associates, greeted President Thomas Jefferson, portrayed by Bill Barker, member of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation of Richmond, Virginia. The Colonial Fife & Drum Corps of Alton, Illinois, performed for the commemoration.
Dr. Dale Chapman, chairman, Illinois Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Commission and president, Lewis and Clark Community College, stated that organizers wanted this event to be broad-reaching and very inclusive. "There have been three Signature events so far, beginning with the first one at Montecello with dignitaries and the representatives from the Library of Congress."
"I think today's commemoration brings a tremendous sense of pride to people throughout the state. It's a way of pausing and talking about the significance of this event not only to the nation but to the formation of the state of Illinois."
Chapman stated that organizers wanted to have a Signature event to highlight the importance of the Illinois country at that time. "We wanted to highlight Illinois' contribution to this Exploration because the Corps wintered over here from December 12, 1803 to May 14, 1804. They were here the longest of any place other than their time in North Dakota."
He commented that the presence of Randy'l He-dow Teton, a Shoshone Indian woman from Idaho was also very significant. "Santa Fe artist Glenda Goodacre, who won the sculpture award from the U.S. Mint to do the commemorative gold coin heard about Randy'l and interviewed her as a potential model for the coin."
Randy'l He-dow Teton, a Shoshone Indian from Idaho and model for the commemorative Sacagawea golden dollar, wore a beautifully beaded regalia as she sign autographs in the Lewis and Clark Visitors Center.
"We have a seven-foot sculpture of Sacagawea on campus. She was here for the dedication. The Olin Corporation of Alton, IL, makes all the alloys for the coin. So it was fitting that Randy'l came back for the commemoration."
Chapman noted that the journals stated that there really wasn't much fan-fare. "It was raining on the day of departure, just like today."
Because of the heavy rains the previous night, organizers had to improvise and make a lot of last minute decisions and changes to the scheduled programs. The weather became the top subject of discussion for young and old Lewis and Clark enthusiasts and re-enactors waiting patiently for the re-launch to take place.
"We are here from Virginia for this event specifically," stated Bill Barker of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Barker, a member of the Living History Associates out of Richmond, Virginia was portraying President Thomas Jefferson during the weekend event.
Barker commented that when the Corps of Discovery took off, the 14th of May, it was raining the better part of the day. "Captain William Clark made that recollection in his journal entry for that day. We need it to rain a lot more now, so we can take off," he laughed.
The event featured a brief welcome by Hartford Mayor William Moore, historical and descendent remarks and tributes to the Corps of Discovery of St. Charles. Master of Ceremonies was Donn Johnson, director of communications, Missouri History Museum.
Moments later, with drums rolling and guns firing, the keelboat pushed away from a barge anchored on the shore. The crowd cheered and waved to the re-enactors. "Hip, hip, hurrah," the crew shouted back as they headed across the Mississippi River towards the Missouri River.
In a conversation following the official re-launch, Dr. Robert J. Miller, professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, Portland, Oregon, said that the Doctrine of Discovery was the legal authority behind President Jefferson sending Lewis and Clark forth, especially into the Oregon territory.
Dr. Robert J. Miller, professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, Portland, Oregon, explained that the Doctrine of Discovery was the legal authority behind President Jefferson sending Lewis and Clark forth on their Expedition.
"When they crossed the Rocky Mountains, they were not in U.S. territory. They were laying America's claim to this territory as against other Europeans countries. This legal principle, used in the Crusades in the Middle Ages, was developed in 1493 by Pope Alexander VI who issued a papal rule dividing the world between Spain and Portugal. England, of course, got into the act later," he said.
Miller stated the Doctrine allowed white people to claim against non-Christian, non-white native inhabitants of wide open areas.
"The Doctrine of Discovery gave the European countries a claim to the property rights of private people and a limited claim of sovereignty over the tribal people," continued Miller. "The United States Supreme Court confirmed this decision in 1823. It is a legal doctrine of the United States still to this day."
Miller delighted in telling several antidotes about the journey. "Lewis had this branding iron. You will notice that when they got across the Rocky Mountains, they started recording in the journals that they wrote their names on stuff. Lewis would use this branding iron that now belongs to the Oregon Historical Society. It's currently in the traveling exhibition at the Missouri History Museum."
"I think he branded things to show that Americans had been to these locations and now had an extra claim to these areas," commented Miller. "They did leave a document in Fort Clapsop on the Pacific Coast in Oregon, that said, 'These people are from the United States. We traveled this route.' It listed all their names and showed the route they came on the Missouri River, over the Rockies and the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean."
"That doctrine is part of the Doctrine of Discovery. They told the Indians chiefs to give this doctrine to any Europeans they would meet because they wanted to prove that the Americans had been there. It was part of the claim of the Oregon Territory for the United States."
Miller, who is a member of the Eastern Shawnee tribe of Oklahoma stated that he was also very interested in George Drouillard, who was half Shawnee.
Wearing period uniforms, re-enactors from the Corps of Discovery of St. Charles board the replica of the keelboat at the Confluence to begin a journey that will take 28 months and cover more than eight thousand miles to Fort Clatsop on the Oregon coastline and back to St. Louis, summer of 2006.
"Historians and commentators also note that George Drouillard was the third most important person on the Expedition after Lewis and Clark. Drouillard was hired by Clark at Fort Massac in November of 1803. He was so important because he was the best hunter," stated Miller.
"Lewis writes in his journals that were it not for the exertions of this excellent hunter we would not have had enough food. George Drouillard was also important because he knew so many Indian languages and was an expert in Indian sign languages. There were many times that he was the only person who could communicate with various tribes."
"Lewis wrote finally that Drouillard was with both Captain Lewis or Captain Clark at all the most dangerous incidents of the Expedition. He carried himself with the utmost integrity and faithfulness," concluded Miller.
Call 1-800-224-2970 or visit www.lewisandclarkillinois.org for more information.
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Lewis and Clark State Historic Site Focuses On the Beginning of the Expedition
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