Old Man River:  History Along the MississippiApril 19-November 2, 2003

Early Exploration and Development

Expeditions and War in the early 1800s

Bald eagle and alligator crossing sign
The Upper vs. The Lower Mississippi
expeditions exhibit section
Photograph depicts items on display in this gallery, including artifacts and documents courtesy of:
~ The Hermitage, Home of Andrew Jackson, Hermitage TN
~ James Leonardo, Des Moines IA
~ The Missouri Historical Society Library, St. Louis MO
~ Muscatine Art Center, Muscatine IA
~ Old Fort Madison, Fort Madison IA
~ Putnam Museum of History and Science, Davenport IA
~ Michael Zahs, Ainsworth IA

The Lewis and Clark Expedition:
Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were chosen by President Jefferson to explore the Louisiana Territory and to report on land formations, plant life, and climate. In 1804, the Corps of Discovery set up Camp River Dubois on the Mississippi near present-day towns of Alton and Wood River, Illinois. On May 14 the men crossed the Mississippi to head west via the Missouri River.

Surviving a two-year and 8,000 mile expedition that took the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific Ocean and back, the men returned to St. Louis on Sept 23, 1806. It was the beginning of exciting prospects for the new American West!

The Northern Expedition of Zebulon Pike:
In 1805, before Lewis and Clark returned to St. Louis, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike was sent to the upper Mississippi to explore the river's headwaters. His expedition covered 2,000 miles by boat and on foot from St. Louis up through northern Minnesota, where he mistakenly named Leech Lake as the source of the Mississippi River. (Not until 1832 did Henry Schoolcraft correctly identify Lake Itasca as the river's source.)

The War of 1812
During continuing wars with France, the British imposed a blockade on U.S. trade and kidnapped American sailors for service in the British Navy. In retaliation, the woefully under-prepared United States declared war on England.

The British encouraged hostile bands of Sauk and Meskwaki to besiege Fort Madison - the first US military post on the upper Mississippi River in the present state of Iowa. After many soldiers were killed and garrison cattle slaughtered, the commanding officer abandoned the fort in September 1813.

On January 8, 1815, the British fleet attacked New Orleans - a city defended by General Andrew Jackson and a ragtag assembly of Western militia, French pirates, Choctaw Indians, and freed slaves. Outnumbered two to one, American artillery and sharpshooters stopped the British in their tracks!

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Did you know … ?
The astonishing victory at the Battle of New Orleans did not end the War of 1812 … it was already over! The Treaty of Ghent had been signed in Belgium on December 24, 1814, but it was nearly three months later before the news reached New Orleans from Europe.


This section "Early Exploration and Development" has the following related pages:
Expeditions and War in the 1800s

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Early Exploration and Development
River Days
view of Bellview, Iowa
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Man vs. Man
Bald eagle and conservation officer
Man vs. Nature
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The Arts Along the River
New Orleans graveyard
Legends and Spirits
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