William Clark field notes
Scope and Contents
The field notes were found among the papers of General Henry Hammond after his daughter's death in 1953. A facsimile edition of the field notes was produced by Ernest Staples Osgood as The Field Notes of Captain William Clark 1803-1805 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1964). Osgood believes that Clark sent these notes to President Jefferson, and that they were later used by Nicholas Biddle and Paul Allen when they prepared the official account of the expedition, History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, to the Sources of the Missouri (Philadelphia: Bradford & Inskeep, New York: A.H. Inskeep, 1814). Osgood's introduction describes his unsuccessful attempts to discover the path of the field notes to General Hammond's papers.
The collection is arranged according to Osgood's organization of the field notes into two distinct sections: the "Dubois Journal" and the "River Journal." The Dubois Journal, the notes kept while at Camp Dubois at the mouth of the Missouri River during the winter of 1803/1804, consists of thirteen sheets of paper, two of them previously attached (folder 2). The River Journal, the notes kept while voyaging up the Missouri River and at the Mandan villages for the winter of 1804/1805, consists of 56 sheets of paper, two of them forming one entry in Osgood (folder 12).
Prior to their arrival at the Beinecke Library, the notes were collated in pencil in date order by an unidentified person, with fragments and other undated papers filed at the end. Osgood, however, incorporated the fragments and other undated papers into the chronological run of papers. The pencilled number on the item, therefore, is not always the same as the Osgood number. The box and folder list references both the Osgood number and the pencilled numbers for each item.
The papers taken together present a generally complete, continuous run of entries. Most sheets contain entries for several days, some of them an entry for just one day, and some contain continuations of an entry from another sheet. There are several fragments, which Osgood has attempted to place in their correct location in the chronological run. Clark wrote on paper previously used for various purposes: some of the sheets had been used as envelope covers with the address still visible underneath, some were used for jotting down random notes, figuring sums, drafting orders and letters, receipts, making lists of expedition members, and in one case punishments of members who broke the rules of the expedition (broadside folder 66). Often the journal entries are written over or around maps, drawings, lists, and tables of figures. The notes after the second entry for September 22-23 (folder 57) are different from others in the collection, being fair copies in Clark's hand of his field notes for those dates. Original, "rough" notes for these entries are not in this collection, as discussed by Osgood in his introduction.
The journal entries through November 1804 were made almost daily; during the winter of 1804/1805, the entries are fewer and farther apart and written on one sheet. Many of the entries contain Clark's tables listing the expedition's course, distance, and time travelled. Several sheets contain speeches, notes, lists, and descriptions rather than journal entries. These are a description of the country and a list of the French in the boats (folder 26), speeches and notes made by Clark at the council with the Oto Indians (folder 38), speeches of Indian chiefs (folder 49), list of distances from the mouth of the Missouri (folders 56, 64, and 65), and a list of the number of officers and men required to protect Indian trade (folder 65). Some short notes and calculations on the papers are in the hand of Meriwether Lewis. Each sheet contains a date notation at top in a different hand, which Osgood believes is that of Nicholas Biddle.
Oversize consists of two sheets which are filed in broadside folders.
Conditions Governing Access
Existence and Location of Copies
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
3 Linear Feet ((1 box) + 1 broadside folder)
Language of Materials
A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog
The journal entries through November 1804 were made almost daily; during the winter of 1804/1805, the entries are fewer and farther apart and written on one sheet. Several sheets contain speeches, notes, lists, and descriptions rather than journal entries, including speeches and notes made by Clark at the council with the Oto Indians, and his calculations on the number of men and officers required to protect Indian trade.
- Clark, William, 1770-1838
- Explorers -- United States
- Indians of North America -- Commerce -- West (U.S.)
- Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806)
- Lewis, Meriwether, 1774-1809
- Missouri River
- Oto Indians
- Overland journeys to the Pacific
- Overland journeys to the Pacific -- 1803
- West (U.S.) -- Description and travel
- Guide to the William Clark Field Notes
- Under Revision
- by Diana Smith
- February 2002
- Description rules
- Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository
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