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Supply list brings Lewis and Clark Expedition to life     Send a link to a friend

[APRIL 21, 2004]  HARTFORD -- We all know what it's like to pack for a family vacation of a week or two. Imagine what it was like to pack for a journey of thousands of miles where you did not know what to expect or how long the trip would take.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark had to pack very carefully for their journey to explore the Louisiana Territory in order to make sure they had enough food, clothing and supplies for their men plus gifts for Native Americans they might meet along the way. The fact that only one member of their expedition died during the 28-month, 8,000-mile journey indicates that their careful planning and training paid off.

The 200th anniversary of the start of the Lewis and Clark Expedition will be celebrated during "The Departure," a special event scheduled for May 13-16 at Lewis and Clark State Historic Site in Hartford. To commemorate this bicentennial observance, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which administers the historic site, is providing the following information that should prove interesting for history enthusiasts of all ages. More information about the expedition will follow in the coming weeks.

A Memorandum of Articles in readiness for the Voyage

(A list of food and consumable supplies for the expedition)

Written by William Clark

(includes original spelling and punctuation)



14 Bags of Parchmeal


9 Bags Common Parchmeal


11 Bags Corn, Hulled


30 half Barrels of flour, 3 Bags of flour


7 Bags of Biscuit, 4 Barrels of Biscuit


7 Barrels of Salt Pork


50 Kegs of Pork


2 Boxes of Candles 70 lb. and about 50 lb.  
(one of which has 50 lb. of soap)


1 Bag of Candle-wick


1 Bag Coffee


1 Bag Beens & 1 of Pees


2 Bags Sugar


1 Keg of Hogs Lard


4 Barrels of Corn hulled


1 Barrel of meal


600 lb. Grees  
50 bushels meal  
24 bushels Natchies Corn Huled  
21 Bales of Indian goods  
Tools of every Description & &c.  

our party

2 Capts. 4 Sergeants, 3 Intptrs., 22 Amns. 9 or 10 French, & York also 1 Corpl. & Six in a pirogue with 40 Days provisions for the party as far as the provisions last.

(From "The Definitive Journals of Lewis and Clark, Volume 2," edited by Gary Moulton)

Memorandum of supplies

(A sampling of what Lewis and Clark took on their journey west)

Scientific instruments

  • Surveyor's compass
  • Hand compass
  • Quadrants
  • Telescope
  • Thermometers
  • Two sextants
  • Set of plotting instruments
  • Chronometer (needed to calculate longitude)

Camp supplies

  • 150 yards of cloth to be oiled and sewn into tents and sheets
  • Pliers
  • Chisels
  • 30 steels for striking to make fire
  • Handsaws
  • Hatchets
  • Whetstones
  • Iron corn mill
  • Two dozen tablespoons
  • Mosquito curtains
  • 10 pounds of fishing hooks and fishing lines
  • 12 pounds of soap
  • 193 pounds of "portable soup" (a thick paste concocted by boiling down beef, eggs and vegetables)
  • Three bushels of salt
  • Writing paper, ink and crayons

Gifts for Native Americans

  • 12 dozen pocket mirrors
  • 4,600 sewing needles
  • 144 small scissors
  • 10 pounds of sewing thread
  • Silk ribbons
  • Ivory combs
  • Handkerchiefs
  • Yards of bright-colored cloth
  • 130 rolls of tobacco
  • Tomahawks that doubled as pipes
  • 288 knives
  • Eight brass kettles
  • Vermilion face paint
  • 33 pounds of tiny beads of assorted colors

[to top of second column in this article]


  • 45 flannel shirts
  • Coats
  • Frocks
  • Shoes
  • Woolen pants
  • Blankets
  • Knapsacks
  • Stockings

Arms and ammunition

  • 15 prototype Model 1803 muzzle-loading .54 caliber rifles
  • Knives
  • 500 rifle flints
  • 420 pounds of sheet lead for bullets
  • 176 pounds of gunpowder packed in 52 lead canisters
  • One long-barreled rifle that fired its bullet with compressed air, rather than by flint, spark and powder

Medical supplies

  • 50 dozen Dr. Rush's patented "Rush's pills"
  • Lancets
  • Forceps
  • Syringes
  • Tourniquets
  • 1,300 doses of physic
  • 1,100 doses of emetic
  • 3,500 doses of diaphoretic (sweat inducer)
  • Other drugs for blistering, salivation and increased kidney output

Traveling library

  • Barton's "Elements of Botany"
  • Antoine Simon Le Page du Pratz's "History of Louisiana"
  • Richard Kirwan's "Elements of Mineralogy"
  • "A Practical Introduction to Spherics and Nautical Astronomy"
  • "The Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemeris"
  • A four-volume dictionary
  • A two-volume edition of "Linnaeus" (the founder of the Latin classification of plants)
  • Tables for finding longitude and latitude
  • Map of the Great Bend of the Missouri River

(From "Lewis & Clark in Illinois," an activity booklet for grades 4-5, published by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency)

The booklets accompany "Lewis & Clark in Illinois" resource kits available at various Illinois State Historic Sites. They were funded in part by the Library Services and Technology Act through the Illinois State Library, Illinois Secretary of State's Office.

The resource kits present materials that interpret and educate the public about Lewis and Clark's journey, with particular attention to the time the expedition spent in the Illinois Country and the importance of the Illinois story to the success of the expedition.

The "Lewis & Clark in Illinois" resource kits were developed to support classroom instruction. In addition to the activity booklet, each self-contained kit provides the teacher with instructional materials, a calendar of events, laminated pictures of local history and maps. Teachers can present the Lewis and Clark connection to Illinois history in an age-appropriate, engaging and informative manner.

The kits can be checked out through any public library or at the following state historic sites: Lewis and Clark, Hartford; Cahokia Courthouse, Cahokia; Cahokia Mounds, Collinsville; Fort Kaskaskia, Ellis Grove; and Fort de Chartres, Prairie du Rocher. Each of these historic sites is administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and all are open Wednesday through Sunday for free public tours.

[Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
news release]

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