Printed in the Aug. 25, 2004
edition of the I.V. News
August of 1804 was an important month for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Corps of Discovery had left their winter camp near St. Louis on May 14 and had a short two day trip to the town of St. Charles, last chance for civilization until their return in September 1806. Going upstream against the flow of the Missouri River presented many challenges which they gradually overcame by determination and muscle power.
On the 21 of July the Corps had arrived at the mouth of the Platte River and had still had no encounters with the Indians of the area. Many indications of village sites had been observed but not until July 28” was any contact made. On that day George Drouillard, the main hunter for the expedition, met an Omaha Indian on the plains and by sign language convinced him to visit the camp. The Omaha hunter was able to arrange for the first meeting with Indian leaders. This took place on August 2” at Council Bluffs, which is near present day Omaha, Nebraska.
On that same day, Moses Reed, a private in the corps, reported that he had left his knife back at the last camp and received permission to return for the knife. On August 7 George Drouillard, often spelled Drewyer in the reports, was sent to find Reed who had apparently deserted. Drouillard was told to bring him back dead or alive. By the way, Drouillard was often given very special assignments that used his tracking, hunting, sign language skills to communicate with the various tribes. He was ½ Indian and ½ French Canadian and was very important in the success of the entire expedition. He returned with Reed on August 18”. Moses Reed was made to run the gauntlet four times. This involved the crew who each had nine switches to whip him but he was not executed as a deserter.
Private Joseph Field, another hunter for the expedition, killed the first badger to be seen and described by the expedition. On August 12 a “Prarie Wolf’ was seen on shore but they were not able to kill it. This was the first sighting of a coyote and many more were seen and killed before the journey was completed. August 23rd the first buffalo was killed, and they would continue to provide much needed food in the coming months. In addition to all this, Captain Lewis had his 30th birthday on August 18 and all the men were given extra alcohol for the occasion.
Sergeant Charles Floyd had been suffering for many days with pain in his abdomen. There was little that could be done to stop the problem and on August 20th he died from his condition. This was the only fatality during the entire expedition even though some severe injuries did occur. The cause of death was listed as bilious colic but was probably a ruptured appendix that even the best doctors of the time could not have cured. He was buried on Floyd’s Bluff overlooking the river near today’s Sioux City, Iowa. A small river entering the Missouri near by was named Floyd’s River in his honor.
The next tribal council with the Indians occurred on August 30th with Yankton Sioux leaders. These councils attempted to convince the Indians of the benefit the white men and white traders would bring to the tribes. Lewis and Clark also tried to convince them of the uselessness of struggling against these new people who would be coming up the river in the near future.
The Yankton Sioux warned the Corps of Discovery that further north the Teton Sioux were more warlike and not easily pacified. The expedition moved north into what is now South Dakota, and into more adventures and discoveries.