Our Lewis and Clark Journal – Day 5
Day 5: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Down the Ohio [July 31]
Our family is following the historic Lewis and Clark Trail, tracing the Missouri River to its source and going across the great continental divide. We have set aside 28 days for this journey, one for each month the Corps of Discovery, as it was called, was away.
The first four days of our family adventure took place in June with visits to Charlottesville (Lewis and Clark’s home town) and the Presidential homes in Virginia and D.C. It was at Monticello that Thomas Jefferson began imagining the westward expansion of the nation, and in D.C. that his dream took shape. Meriwether Lewis was living with Jefferson in the White House, serving as the President’s aid in Washington, when Jefferson asked if he would lead the expedition.
Today we leave for the second part of our journey.
Having been commissioned to travel up the Missouri River and down to the Pacific coast, and having made arrangements to co-lead the Corps of Discovery with his old army commander William Clark, Meriwether Lewis travelled from D.C. to Pennsylvania. There he received medical and scientific training in astronomy, geology, botany, and zoology from the country’s leading minds at the American Philosophical Society. From Dr. Benjamin Rush he received powerful laxatives that were used (to cure?) almost everything. And he began placing orders for everything from his boats to rifles, from dried pea soup to canvas that could be used for tents, tarps, sails and clothing. He tried to think of everything. Then he continued on to Pittsburg and down the Ohio River.
Our destination today would be Louisville, Kentucky, on the Ohio River (about which I will say more tomorrow). On the way we stopped in Philadelphia, to pay homage to Lewis’ preparations. We read together Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Lewis containing the president’s questions and instructions for the men, including advice on provisioning the crew. We spoke about Benjamin Franklin and scientific discovery, remembering previous trips to Philly’s great museums. And since at least one aspect of our travels will be sampling local foods, we had out obligatory Philly Cheese Steak. (Several folks have suggested might be the equivalent of Rush’s Famous Thunderbolts, which is unfair to a really great cheese steak, but not inappropriate to the airport version we had available).
Just by chance, I had a conversation with a neighbor this morning and learned that she is a direct descendant of Auguste and Peter Chouteau, the father and son who held a monopoly in St. Louis of every imported item needed on the frontier. They accompanied L&C as far as St. Charles, MO, to cheer them on their way. (We will find our trip strangely touched by history like this again and again during our 28 days.)
Today was our wedding anniversary, so we finished this day with a minor league baseball game (August’s first) between the Louisville Bats and the Syracuse Chiefs (NY vs. KY!). New York won.
Read: “Jefferson’s Instructions to Lewis” in The Journals of Lewis and Clark, edited by Frank Bergon (Penguin Books).