Western Expansion for Kids - Lewis and Clark explore the Federal Territory of Louisiana Illustration

Western Expansion for Kids - Lewis and Clark

For Kids: President Jefferson, the 3rd U.S. President, was very good at talking Congress into doing things. First, he talked Congress into buying 500,000,000 acres of land from Napoleon of France (the Louisiana Purchase) with money Congress did not have. To make the purchase, Congress had to borrow money from two European banks. This huge purchase doubled the size of the United States. Then Jefferson talked Congress into approving an exploration of this land, thousands of miles of never explored acreage. No one had any idea of what to expect or what the explorers might find. He also talked Congress into funding the exploration, but Congress would only approve $2,500.

The next step was to decide who would go. When Jefferson became president, he had asked his good friend, army captain Meriwether Lewis, to become his personal secretary. Lewis agree. After the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson asked Lewis if he would like to lead the exploration west of the Mississippi, into the land now called the Federal Territory of Louisiana. Lewis jumped at the chance. He loved adventure. Lewis asked his good friend, Lieutenant William Clark, if he would like to join the expedition. Like Lewis, Clark jumped at the chance.

In 1804, they organized their trip and gathered supplies. In 1805, Lewis, Clark, and a small group of men composed of U.S. Army volunteers, headed west into the Federal Territory of Louisiana. This small band of explorers have been nicknamed the Corps of Discovery by historians. The Corps of Discovery faced every possible danger - illness, hunger, dangerous animals, poisonous plants, rough terrain, you name it. They traveled down the Ohio River, up the Missouri River, across the Continental Divide, and reached the Pacific Ocean. They met many different tribes of Native Americans - some friendly, some not so friendly. With maps and sketches in hand, they returned home to report their findings to President Jefferson.

Their trip excited the imagination of many people. Their exploration west of the Mississippi encouraged western expansion by settlers.

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