Winter view of reconstructed Fort Mandan, North Dakota
Fort Mandan was the name of the encampment which the Lewis and Clark Expedition built for wintering over in 1804-1805. The encampment was located on the Missouri River approximately twelve miles from the site of present-day Washburn, North Dakota, which developed later. The precise location is not known for certain and is believed now to be under water of the river. A replica of the fort has been constructed near the original site.
Interior yard of the replica of Fort Mandan, North Dakota
The fort was built of cottonwood lumber cut from the riverbanks. It was triangular in shape, with high walls on all sides, an interior open space between structures, and a gate facing the Missouri River, by which the party would normally travel. Storage rooms provided a safe place to keep supplies. Lewis and Clark shared a room. The men of the Corps of Discovery started the fort on November 2, 1804. They wintered there until April 7, 1805. According to the journals, they built the fort slightly downriver from the five villages of the Mandan and Hidatsa nations.
The winter was very cold, with temperatures sometimes dipping to minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit (-43°C), but the fort provided some protection from the elements. Several of the men of the expedition suffered frostbite due to the severely cold conditions, which affected them even with brief exposure.
In addition to seeking protection during the winter, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark spent much of this period on diplomatic efforts with the several Native American tribes who lived near the fort. As the expedition established the first official contact between the United States and these nations, President Thomas Jefferson had directed the captains to pursue diplomatic goals. They were to try to establish friendly relationships with as many tribes as possible, and to prepare them for the arrival of United States traders to the region. They were also to claim United States territorial sovereignty over the land, which had been occupied by Native Americans for thousands of years. The historic tribes had differing conceptions of property use than did the European Americans.
The Teton people had already shown resistance to the expedition. Lewis and Clark gradually adjusted their goals, working to form alliances with the Arikara, Hidatsa, and Mandan against the Teton.
The Mandan were cautiously favorable toward such an alliance. When the Expedition returned to the area in 1806 while traveling east, the Mandan sent one of their chiefs, Sheheke, on the trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with Thomas Jefferson. But, the Mandan did not commit to trading with the United States at the expense of their previous partnership with Great Britain through Canadian traders. The Hidatsa strongly resisted the American diplomatic efforts, often avoiding meeting with Lewis and Clark.
The Corps spent much time during the winter to prepare for their travel in the spring, repairing equipment, making clothing, processing dried meats, etc. In addition, on the way to their winter site, they had used maps made by previous explorers. From that point on in their westward journey, they would enter territory unfamiliar to Europeans according to known documentation. Clark noted that he gathered information from chief Sheheke about the route to the west in order to make a preliminary map.
Not knowing if they would survive the journey, Lewis and Clark used the winter to compile their descriptions of tributaries of the Missouri River, their observations about the Native nations encountered, and their descriptions of plant and mineral specimens which they had collected; all were compiled into a manuscript which they called the Mandan Miscellany. In the spring the captains sent a copy of the manuscript to government officials in St. Louis via their large keelboat. It would return before their expected arrival at the Mandan area in 1806.
Lewis and Clark appear to have first met Sacagawea at Fort Mandan. Her husband Toussaint Charbonneau served as a Hidatsa interpreter for the expedition, and the journals imply that she lived at the fort with him. Their son Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, whom she kept with her throughout the expedition, was born on February 11, possibly at the fort.
When the Corps passed back through the area in August 1806 on their return journey to the East, they found the fort had burnt to the ground. The cause is unknown. Since that time, the Missouri River has slowly eroded the bank and shifted course to the east, putting the former site of the fort underwater.
The Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation built a replica of the fort along the river, 2.5 miles from the intersection of ND 200A and US 83. Made according to materials and design as described in the expedition's journals, it is located near the North Dakota Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. The fort replica holds original items, such as "Meriwether Lewis' field desk, William Clark's map-making tools, bunks the men slept in, equipment they carried in the field, clothes they wore, and the blacksmith's forge." In addition, the site has personnel for tours and interpretive programs about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and its significance in United States, state and regional history. Walking trails go along the property and the river.
June 28–29: First trial in new territory. Pvt. John Collins is on guard duty and breaks into the supplies and gets drunk. Collins invites Pvt. Hugh Hall to drink also. Collins receives 100 lashes, Hall receives 50 lashes.
July 11–12: Second trial in new territory. Pvt. Alexander Hamilton Willard is on guard duty. Is charged with lying down and sleeping at his post whilst a sentinel. Punishable by death. He receives 100 lashes for four straight days.
August 3: The Corps of Discovery holds the first official council between representatives of the United States and the Oto and Missouri Indians at Council Bluffs, Iowa. They hand out peace medals, 15-star flags and other gifts, parade men and show off technology.
August 4: Moses Reed said he was returning to a previous camp to retrieve a knife but he was actually returning to St. Louis (deserting).
August 18: George Drouillard returns to camp with Reed and Otos' Chief Little Thief. Reed is sentenced to run the gauntlet (approximately 500 lashes) and is discharged from the permanent party.
August 18: Captain Meriwether Lewis's 30th birthday.
August 20: Sergeant Charles Floyd dies. He dies from bilious chorlick (ruptured appendix). He is the only member lost during the expedition.
September 7: The expedition drives a prairie dog out of its den (by pouring water into it) to send back to Jefferson.
September 14: Hunters kill and describe prairie goat (antelope).
September 25–29: A band of Lakota Sioux demand one of the boats as a toll for moving further upriver. Meet with Teton Sioux. Close order drill, air gun demo, gifts of medals, military coat, hats, tobacco. Hard to communicate language problems. Invite chiefs on board keelboat, give each 1⁄2 glass whiskey, acted drunk wanted more. Two armed confrontations with Sioux. Some of the chiefs sleep on boat, move up river to another village, meet in lodge, hold scalp dance.
October 8–11: Pass Grand River home of the Arikara Indians 2,000+. Joseph Gravelins trader, lived with Arikara for 13 yrs. Pierre Antoine Tabeau lived in another village was from Quebec.
October 13: Pvt. John Newman tried for insubordination (who was prompted by Reed) and received 75 lashes. Newman was discarded from the permanent party.
October 24: Met their first Mandan Chief, Big White. Joseph Gravelins acted as interpreter.
October 24: Expedition reaches the earth-log villages of the Mandans and the Hidatsas. The captains decide to build Fort Mandan across the river from the main village.
October 26: Rene Jessaume lived with Mandan for more than 10 years, hired as Mandan interpreter. Hugh McCracken a trader with the North West Company. Francois-Antoine Larocque, Charles MacKenzie also visited L&C.
November–December: Constructed Fort Mandan.
November 2: Hired Baptiste La Page to replace Newman.
December 24: Fort Mandan is considered complete. Expedition moves in for the winter.
January 1: The Corps of Discovery celebrates the New Year by "Two discharges of cannon and Musick—a fiddle, tambereen and a sounden horn."
February 9: Thomas Howard scaled the fort wall and an Indian followed his example. "Setting a pernicious example to the savages" 50 lashes—only trial at Fort Mandan and last on expedition. Lashes remitted by Lewis.
February 11: Sacagawea gives birth to Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the youngest member of the expedition. Jean Baptiste is nicknamed "Pompy" by Clark. Lewis aided in the delivery of Sacagawea's baby, used rattle of rattlesnake to aid delivery (Jessaume's idea).
April 7–25: Fort Mandan to Yellowstone River.
April 7: The permanent party of the Corps of Discovery leaves Fort Mandan. The keelboat is sent down river. Left Fort Mandan in six canoes and two pirogues. Thomas Howard received a letter from his wife Natalia.
April 25: Reached Yellowstone River Roche Jaune—sent Joseph Field up river to find Yellowstone. He saw Big Horn Sheep and brought back horns. Lewis searched area thought it would be a good area for fort. Future forts were built, Fort Union and Fort Buford.
May 14: A sudden storm tips a pirogue (boat) and many items, such as supplies and the Corps' journals, spill over into the river. Sacagawea calmly recovers most of the items; Clark later credits her with quick thinking.
May 8: Milk river. Called because of its milky white appearance. Natives called it "a river which scolds all others".
June 3–20: Marias River to the Great Falls.
June 3: The mouth of the Marias River is reached. Camp Deposit is established. Cached blacksmith bellows and tools, bear skins, axes, auger, files, two kegs of parched corn, two kegs of pork, a keg of salt, chisels, tin cups, two rifles, beaver traps. Twenty-four lb of powder in lead kegs in separate caches. Hid red pirogue. Indians did not tell them of this river. Unable to immediately determine which river is the Missouri, a scouting party is sent to explore each branch, North fork (Marias), South fork (Missouri). Sgt. Gass and two others go up south fork. Sgt. Pryor and two others go up north fork. Can't decide which river is Missouri. Clark, Gass, Shannon, York and Fields brothers go up south fork. Lewis, Drouillard, Shields, Windsor Pryor, Cruzatte, Lepage go up north fork. Most men in expedition believe north fork is the Missouri. Lewis and Clark believe south fork is Missouri and followed that fork.
June 13: Scouting ahead of the expedition, Lewis and four companions sight the Great Falls of the Missouri River, confirming that they were heading in the right direction. Lewis writes when he discovers the Great Falls of the Missouri. "When my ears were saluted with the agreeable sound of a fall of water and advancing a little further I saw the spray arrise above the plain like a column of smoke.....began to make a roaring too tremendous to be mistaken for any cause short of the great falls of the Missouri."
June 14: Lewis takes off on an exploratory walk of the north side of the river. Lewis shoots a bison. While he is watching the bison die, a grizzly bear sneaks up on him and chases him into river.
June 21 – July 2: A portage of boats and equipment is made around the falls.
June 27: Cached: desk, books, specimens of plants and minerals, two kegs of pork, 1⁄2 keg of flour, two blunderbusses, 1⁄2 keg of fixed ammo, and other small articles.
June: 18.4 miles Clark surveyed route. Clark was the first white man to see falls from south side of river. As Clark was surveying route he discovered a giant fountain (Giant Springs).
June 22 – July 9: Construction of iron framed boat used to replace pirogues. It was floated on July 9 but leaked after a rain storm. The boat failed and was dismantled and cached July 10.
July 10–15: Established canoe camp to construct 2 new dugout canoes to replace failed iron frame boat.
August 13: Lewis meets Cameahwait, leader of a band of Shoshone
August 15–17: Lewis returns across Lemhi Pass with Cameahwait and sets up Camp Fortunate.
August 17: A council meets with the Shoshone, during which Sacagawea learns the fate of her family and reveals that Cameahwait is her brother. Lewis and Clark successfully negotiate for horses for passage over the Rocky Mountains. They buy 29 horses for packing or eating with uniforms, rifles, powder, balls, and a pistol. They also hire Shoshone guide Old Toby.
August 18: Captain Lewis's 31st birthday. In his journal, he scolds himself for being "indolent", or lazy, and vows to spend the rest of his life helping people.
August 26: Lewis and the main party cross the Continental Divide at Lemhi Pass. They thereby leave the newly purchased United States territory into disputed Oregon Country.
November 24: The Corps takes the matter of where to spend the winter to a vote. York, a slave, and Sacagawea, a woman, were allowed to vote. It was decided to camp on the south side of the Columbia River.
December 7 – March 23, 1806: Fort Clatsop sewed 338 pairs of moccasins.
December 25: Fort Clatsop, the Corps' winter residence, is completed.
January 1: Discharged a volley of small arms to usher in the new year. Several Corps members build a salt-making cairn near present-day Seaside, Oregon.
March 22: Corps of Discovery leave Fort Clatsop for the return voyage east.
July 13: Reached White Bear Island. Opened cache and many items were ruined. The iron frame of the boat had not suffered materially.
July 15: Lewis explores Maria's river separates from Gass to meet at Mouth of Maria's between Aug. 5 and no later than Sept 1. Maria's River expedition includes M. Lewis, R. Fields, J. Fields, G. Drouillard.
July 15–26: Camp Disappointment. Marias River does not go far enough north. Indians finally discovered.
July 20: Sgt. Ordway's party (from Clark's party) meets Sgt. Gass's party at the Great Falls of the Missouri.
July 27: The Blackfeet Indians try to steal Lewis's group's rifles. A fight broke out and two Indians were killed. This is the only hostile encounter with an Indian tribe.
July 28: Lewis meets Ordway and Gass.
July 3: Clark explores Yellowstone—leaves for Three Forks and Yellowstone. Sgt. Pryor, G. Gibson, H. Hall, R. Windsor. Sgt. Ordway, J. Colter, J. Colter, P. Cruzatte, F. LaBiche, T. Howard, J. Shields, B. LaPage, G. Shannon, J. Potts, W. Brattan, P. Wiser, P. Willard, J. Whitehouse, T. Charboneau, Sacagawea & Pomp, York.
July 6: Clark's group crosses the Continental Divide at Gibbons Pass.
July 8: Reached Camp Fortunate dug up cache from year before—tobacco most prized.
July 13: Sgt. Ordway splits from Clark to travel up Missouri River to meet Lewis and Gass.
August 3: Clark arrives at confluence of Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers—moves down river because of mosquitoes.
August 8: Pryor and party reached Clark. Pryor and party (Sgt. Pryor, G. Gibson, H. Hall, R. Windsor) left Clark with horses and a letter to Hugh Henry to get Sioux to go to Washington and make peace with other Indians. Horses stolen, had to make bull boats to get across and down river.
August 11: Lewis is accidentally shot by a member of his own party.
August 12: The two groups rejoin on the Missouri River in present-day North Dakota.
August 18: Capt. Lewis's 32nd birthday.
August 14: Reached Mandan Village. Charbonneau and Sacagawea stayed. John Colter went back up river with trappers Hancock and Dickson provided rest of company stay with expedition all the way to St. Louis.
September 23: The Corps arrives in St. Louis, ending their journey after two years, four months, and ten days.