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Lewis and Clark

and the Corp. of Discovery 1804-1806

Lewis and Clark and the Corp. of Discovery, a mission of exploring, mapping and surveying, is more than likely the most important expedition ever conducted by the United States. Comparable only to the Apollo missions of late 1960's and early early 70's, they were going where no man had gone before.

They were the first! They were the first to assend the Missouri River to its source, from St. Louis to the Rocky Mountains. They were the first to to stand on the backbone of the Rocky Mountains, the very spine of what we call the continental divide and see westward on the other side. And, they were the first to reach the Pacific Ocean by land...they were the first!

When undertaking any study of this kind, it is important to note that this was not a bunch of roudy fronteersman dresssed in buckskin, seeking and trading for animal skins such as beaver. This was a military operation whose sole mission was to find an all water route to the Pacific. Along the way, the Captains, Merryweather Lewis and William Clark, mapped the region and gathered samples of plants and animals for scientic study. The era of the Mountain Man, as far as an organized profession, came later by 1820 with Ashley and Henry and other groups. The Corp., about 32 men, would have consisted of officers, non-commissioned officers, and enlisted men. A few hunters and enterpretors were hired along the way to assist in various jobs, but most were military.

Being military in nature, Lewis and Clark, during their trek to the Pacific Ocean, would have been in some fashion of military dress, and at times, in full military attire. Besides being military regulation to be in uniform, it was also an attempt by Lewis and Clark to "awe" or impress upon the native peoples they came across into understanding that the newly founded United States were a people with power to be delt with.

The men of the Corp. of Discovery would have been required, by military regulation, to keep their hair cut short and in good condition. Lewis required men's faces to be clean shaven on a daily basis. Besides, beards in the early 1800's were not in style. It is a misconception by Hollywood, stories and contemporary paintings that men of this time, especially mountain men, had long beards and hair. Even though some,  such as, Tousant Charbenou and other hunters and interpreters hired for the expedition, grew beards and mustaches, most frontiersman and mountain men were cleanly shaved. Beards did not come in vogue until the Civil War.