Grandpa stretched out his long legs, and settled in for the storytelling session. He had told these stories many times before, but the children never seemed to tire of hearing them, and he certainly never tired of telling them.
“It was sometime in ’03 that Mr. Clark received the letter from his old Army buddy, Captain Lewis, asking us to join him on a little trip west across the Louisiana Territory. President Jefferson wanted the captains to take a few soldiers and do some exploring, to make contact with the Indian tribes in the region, and to search for the Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean.
“I don’t think Mr. Clark was too interested when he was first invited, having already served his country through his time in the Army. But Captain Lewis was insistent that he was the right man to help co-lead the Corps of Discovery as they traveled west.
“Well, I do have to say that neither Mr. Clark nor I had ever heard of co-commanders for anything in the military, but Mr. Clark finally gave in to Captain Lewis’ requests. The next thing I knew, we were leaving home and heading to Clarksville to meet Captain Lewis.
“Right away, both Captain Clark and Captain Lewis were already recruiting Army soldiers to join us on the Expedition. Word came while we were heading towards St. Louis that the United States was actually going to buy the Louisiana Territory. With that, it looked like our secret little group of six or eight men was going to quickly grow to several times that number.
“I heard Captain Clark ask a soldier he was recruiting if he was married. When the soldier said yes, Captain Clark informed him that he was ineligible to join the group. They were only looking for single men. That surprised me, since I was married, and Captain Clark knew that. I had to say goodbye to my wife before we left Louisville. Maybe because I was Captain Clark’s slave, I didn’t have to be ‘eligible.’ I never did figure that part out.”
At that the grandchildren all groaned appropriately and Grandpa continued:
“The other men that joined us as we travelled south on Captain Lewis’ new flatboat were all picked for the particular skills they had. Captain Clark selected several soldiers because they were good at fishing or boating and so on. As we got closer to St. Louis, our group continued to grow. Clark and Lewis seemed determined to choose most of their men by time we reached St. Louis.