Winter at Fort Mandan

Fort Mandan ND Tourism

North Dakota Tourism

It had been a relentless five months for Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery. Day after day, mile after mile, they had fought the current of the Missouri River, progressing ever so slowly toward their destination. They had worried about the natives and had an unsettling encounter with the Teton Sioux. They had toiled through the hot, humid summer to keep the boats moving. They had taken each other’s measure and learned which men they could trust – and which ones they couldn’t. And they had buried one of their best on a hill overlooking the river.

They had left St. Charles on May 21. It was now late October and the boats had reached the villages of the Mandan and Hidatsa, west of what is now Washburn, North Dakota. These tribes were friendly, and their villages were the center of commerce for the Indians of the northern plains. Here Lewis & Clark and their men would build a fort and dig in for the winter.

The captains named the encampment Fort Mandan in honor of their neighbors. As befit a military fort, there was a sentry post and the swivel gun was mounted. It would not be needed.

Clark computed their distance from the mouth of the Missouri at 1,600 miles, which would mean an average distance traveled of under eleven miles per day. Upon reaching the Mandans, Meriwether Lewis paid off the French voyageurs who had accompanied them from St. Louis. Some of them immediately headed back downstream, while others remained for the winter. They would return with Corporal Warfington in the spring.

The white men’s fort was filled with visitors. There were of course, the Mandans, led by the chiefs, Big White and Black Cat. Canadian explorers and traders, such as Francois-Antoine Larocque and Charles MacKenzie, spent time with the Corps. Then there was Toussaint Charbonneau, a middle-aged French Canadian, who had won two young Indian girls on a bet and made them his squaws. The girls had been captured by the Hidatsa at the three forks of the Missouri, far to the west.

One of the girls was called Sakakawea (this is the spelling used in North Dakota, and means “Bird Woman” in the Hidatsa language). She was Shoshone and probably around 15 or 16 at the time that she met Lewis & Clark. She was also pregnant with her first child.

Charbonneau was eager to be hired on as an interpreter for the rest of the trip and the captains agreed, as much for the native language of his wives as for any skill that he possessed. The interpretation process however, was laborious. Sacagwea would speak with her husband in Hidatsa, which Charbonneau would translate into French for Drouillard. He then turned that into English for the captains.

While no hostilities broke out during their winter at Fort Mandan, Lewis did have to work hard at times to keep the peace among the tribes. The Mandan, wanting the benefits of trading with the white man all to themselves, had stirred up the Hidatsas with lies about the party’s intentions. Lewis tried to smooth things over, but the Hidatsas showed little interest. They had been given no presents and felt that the white men were arrogant.

Also, the Arikara had aligned themselves with the Sioux and attacked a small Mandan hunting party, killing one brave and stealing several horses. Lewis & Clark offered to assist the Mandan in tracking down the offenders, but they were rebuffed. Throughout the entire journey the two captains would never truly understand the complexity of the Native American tribes’ relationships with each other or with the white man.

For the most part however, the winter passed peacefuIly. Lewis and others of the men rode with the Mandans to hunt buffalo. Despite the need for large amounts of meat to feed the party over the long winter, the white hunters took only the tongues of the buffalo. The captains kept the men busy, repairing equipment, making new moccasins for the upcoming trip and hunting.

On New Year’s Day, 1805, a group of the men went to the nearest Mandan village, where Cruzatte played his fiddle and York danced, much to the amusement of the natives. A few days later the Mandans introduced the newcomers to the buffalo dance. During the dance young braves would offer wives to elders of the viIlage or to the men of the expedition in hopes that the ” transfer of power” would lead to successful buffalo hunts.

During the winter Lewis also put his doctoring skiIls, such as they were, to use. He treated an abscess on an Indian child’s back and cut off the frostbitten toes another young boy. If his own men became ill, they were treated in the methods common at that time – bleeding and purging with Dr. Rush’s “thunderclapper piIls”, that Rush claimed would cure anything. The “cure” was often worse than the illness.

The most important event of the winter was the birth of Sacagawea’s son February 11. On the advice of Rene Jessaume, a trader who had long lived with the Mandans, a brew containing the rattle of the rattlesnake was administerd to Sacagawea and she gave birth soon after. The baby was named Jean Baptiste, but would be nicknamed “Pompey” or “Pompi” by William Clark.

Although the snow was still deep and  the ice stilI thick, the men managed to break the keelboat and pirogues loose in late February and put them into dry-dock for repairs. As spring neared, the pace of the work picked up. Canoes were built to provide additional boats for those headed west. Jerky was made from the meat. The keelboat was caulked and made ready for the return trip to St. Louis. And Lewis continued his work of the winter, writing volumes to Jefferson about what they had seen, how things had gone with the native tribes, and cataloging the various specimens he had collected.

The specimens, Lewis’ writings, Clark’s map and other material were carefully loaded into the keelboat. On the afternoon of April 7, 1805, Warfington and his men headed the large boat back down the river. It would be the corporal’s responsibility to get the boat’s contents safely to Jefferson.

At the same time, the permanent party headed west in the two pirogues and six new canoes. The Hidatsas had been to the three forks of the Missouri and told Lewis that it would only take half a day to cross the continental divide. He felt safe in assuring Jefferson that the expedition would achieve its main goal of finding an all-water route to the Pacific. Lewis wrote the president that he hoped to reach the ocean that summer and return to the Mandan villages for the winter, allowing him to arrive at Monticello by September 1806.

Even though the Corps of Discovery was headed into virtually unknown territory, Meriwether Lewis concluded his letter to Jefferson on an extremely optimistic note: “I can foresee no material or probable obstruction to our progress, and entertain therefore the most sanguine hopes of complete success. At this moment, every individual of the party are in good health, and excellent spirits; zealously attached to the enterprise, and anxious to proceed; not a whisper of discontent or murmur to be heard among them; but all act in unison, and with the most perfict harmony. With such men I have everything to hope, and but little to fear.” It is perhaps a good thing that Lewis could not at that moment comprehend the challenges that awaited them.

22 thoughts on “Winter at Fort Mandan

  1. Sachdotut

    В наш час безліч людей мають змогу висаджувати саджанці у себе на подвір’ї. Якщо ви маєте бажання замовити дерева, але не маєте думки, де краще це зробити, вам варто продивитися велику кількість лінків. Якщо ви не знайшли нічого такого, що може вас зацікавити, заходьте на Саджанці Абрикоса посилання.

    На sadzhanciderev.com.ua ви зможете придбати саджанці малини. Ви зможете придбати небагато кущів і подивитися на їх ріст. Також, вам буде надана можливість придбати саджанці нектарина або шовковиці, що є тяжким завданням. Якщо ви маєте бажання придбати саджанці плодово-ягідних кущів, вам необхідно звернути увагу на те, що на посиланні є контакти консультантів, які надають важливі дані.

    Треба зрозуміти, що саджанці плодових дерев треба гарно поливати весь час. Необхідно знати також і про те, що на сторінці є шанс замовити саджанці роз. Ви зможете замовити любий важливий для вас вид роз. Якщо у вас є бажання у іншому райцентрі купити саджанці плодових, замовити за допомогою пошти їх також є шанс. Необхідно звернутися до менеджерів, отримати поради і також обговорити всі нюанси.

    Сьогодні ви вірогідно можете заказати навіть саджанці під сезон. В компанії ви маєте можливість передивитися саджанці, які змога також садити у вересні. Якщо у вас є бажання купити саджанці на осінь, ви маєте змогу здійснити також закуп через консультантів. В даний момент у вас є вирогідність придбати також кущики різних сортів для своєї ділянки. Ви вирогідно зможете придбати яблуні, груші, малину, персики та інші.

    Доставка і сплата доступна любим способом. Ви можете дізнатися багато чого важливого і від консультантів, якщо звернитеся до них за порадою. Спеціалісти проінформують вас і дадуть відповідь на всі ваші запити. На сайті фірми також доступні відео файли, які можуть бути важливими вам. Якщо вас зацікавили фото кустів та саджанців, їх також можна передивитися на ресурсі.

  2. red panda kigurumi

    I think this is among the most vital information for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But should remark on few general things, The site style is great, the articles is really nice : D. Good job, cheers

  3. animal onesies for adults

    Thank you a lot for sharing this with all people you actually realize what you are speaking about! Bookmarked. Please additionally seek advice from my web site =). We can have a hyperlink alternate agreement among us

  4. BestBarrett

    I have noticed you don’t monetize your blog, don’t waste your traffic, you can earn extra bucks
    every month. You can use the best adsense alternative
    for any type of website (they approve all websites), for more details simply search in gooogle: boorfe’s tips monetize your website

  5. ChauJuicy

    Hello. I see that you don’t update your page too often.
    I know that writing posts is boring and time consuming.

    But did you know that there is a tool that allows you to create new
    posts using existing content (from article directories
    or other pages from your niche)? And it does it very well.

    The new posts are unique and pass the copyscape test. You should
    try miftolo’s tools

  6. yeezy shoes

    Thanks a lot for giving everyone a very brilliant possiblity to discover important secrets from here. It really is very brilliant plus stuffed with a good time for me personally and my office peers to visit your site at a minimum thrice in 7 days to read the newest issues you have. And indeed, we’re certainly astounded concerning the excellent creative ideas you give. Selected 1 areas in this article are unquestionably the most suitable I’ve had.

  7. yeezy boost 350 v2

    Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive learn anything like this before. So nice to find someone with some original ideas on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this web site is one thing that is needed on the web, somebody with a little originality. helpful job for bringing something new to the web!

  8. Adidas NMD XR1 Camouflage Main Dark Grey

    My husband and i felt so fulfilled that Raymond could conclude his research through the entire precious recommendations he acquired out of the weblog. It’s not at all simplistic to simply happen to be handing out secrets that many the others could have been trying to sell. And we also acknowledge we need you to appreciate for this. Most of the explanations you have made, the easy web site menu, the friendships you can help to promote – it is many astonishing, and it is helping our son in addition to our family imagine that that article is brilliant, which is certainly quite important. Thank you for the whole lot!

  9. adidas eqt

    There are some interesting points in time in this article but I don抰 know if I see all of them center to heart. There may be some validity however I’ll take maintain opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we would like extra! Added to FeedBurner as nicely

  10. dildo strapon

    “Thanks for your article. One other thing is that if you are marketing your property on your own, one of the difficulties you need to be conscious of upfront is when to deal with household inspection reports. As a FSBO owner, the key towards successfully shifting your property plus saving money upon real estate agent profits is expertise. The more you are aware of, the smoother your home sales effort are going to be. One area exactly where this is particularly important is assessments.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>