Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Harrison Smith, 24 October 1806

on or after 24 Oct. 1806

Mr. Smith may notify in his paper that I have recieved a letter from Capt. Lewis dated at St. Louis Sep. 23. at which place himself, capt Clarke & their party arrived that day. they had past the preceding Winter at a place which he calls Fort Clatsop near the mouth of the Columbia river. they set out thence on the 27th. of March last, & arrived at the foot of the Rocky mountains May 10, where they were detained until June 24, by the snows which rendered the passage over those mountains impracticable until then. he found it 2575 miles from the mouth of the Missouri to the great falls of that river, thence by land passing the Rocky mountains to a navigable part of the Kooskooske 340. miles, of which 200 would admit good road, and 140 miles over tremendous mountains which for 60 miles are covered with eternal snows. then 73. miles down the Kooskooske into a South Eastwardly branch of the Columbia, 154 miles down that to the main river of the Columbia, & then 413. miles to the Pacific in all 3555. miles from the mouth of the Missouri to the mouth of the Columbia. in this last river the tide flows 183. miles, to within 7. miles of it’s great rapids, and so far would admit large sloops; and from thence upwards may be navigated by batteaux & piriagurs. he speaks of this whole line furnishing the most valuable furs in the world, and a short & direct course for them to the Eastern coast of China; but that the greatest part of these would be from the head of the Missouri. he says it is fortunate he did not send back from the head of the Missouri any part of his force, consisting of 31. men, as more than once they owed their lives & the fate of the expedition to their numbers. one man of his party had died before he reached fort Mandan in 1804. every other one is returned in good health.

Capt Lewis expected to remain at St. Louis some days to settle with & discharge his men, & would then set out for Washington, by the way of Vincennes, Louisville, Abington, Fincastle, Staunton & Charlottesville. he is accompanied by the great Mandan chief, who is on a visit to Washington. Capt Lewis speaks of his colleague, Capt Clarke, in the most affectionate terms, and declares his equal title to whatever merit may be ascribed to the success of this enterprize.

DLC: J. Henley Smith Papers.

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