Some snow, some cold and a dead body — Lewis & Clark Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin

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Today, the Lewis & Clark Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers one day of their expedition on April 20, 1805.

From their diary entries:



Saturday April 20th 1805.

The wind continued to blow tolerably hard this morning but by no means as violently as it did yesterday; we determined to set out and accordingly departed a little before seven.

I walked on shore on the N. side of the river, and Capt Clark proceeded with the party.   The river bottoms through which I passed about seven miles were fertile and well covered with Cottonwood some Box alder, ash and red Elm.

The underbrush, willow, rose bushes Honeysuckle, red willow, gooseberry, currant and serviceberry & in the open grounds along the foot of the river hills immense quantities of the hisop.

In the course of my walk I killed two deer, wounded an Elk and a deer; saw the remains of some Indian hunting camps, near which stood a small scaffold of about 7 feet high on which were deposited two dog sleighs with their harness.

Underneath this scaffold a human body was lying, well rolled in several dressed buffalo skins and near it a bag of the same materials containing sundry articles belonging to the deceased; consisting of a pair of moccasins, some red and blue earth, beaver’s nails, instruments for dressing the Buffalo skin, some dried roots, several plaits of the sweet grass, and a small quantity of Mandan tobacco.

I presume that the body, as well as the bag containing these articles, had formerly been placed on the scaffold as is the custom of these people, but had fallen down by accident.

Near the scaffold I saw the carcass of a large dog not yet decayed, which I supposed had been killed at the time the human body was left on the scaffold; this was no doubt the reward, which the poor dog had met with for performing the [blank]—friendly office to his mistress of transporting her corps to the place of deposit.

It is customary with the Assinniboins, Mandans, Minetares &c who scaffold their dead, to sacrifice the favorite horses and dogs of their deceased relations, with a view of their being serviceable to them in the land of spirits.

I have never heard of any instances of human sacrifices on those occasions among them.—

The wind blew so hard that I concluded it was impossible for the pirogues and canoes to proceed and therefore returned and joined them about three in the evening.

Capt. Clark informed me that soon after setting out, a part of the bank of the river fell in near one of the canoes and had very nearly filled her with water.

That the wind became so hard and the waves so high that it was with infinite risk he had been able to get as far as his present station.

The white pirogue and several of the canoes had shipped water several times but happily our stores were but little injured; those which were wet we put out to dry and determined to remain until the next morning.

We sent out four hunters who soon added 3 elk, 4 geese and 2 deer to our stock of provisions.

The party caught six beaver today which were large and in fine order.

The Buffalo, Elk and deer are poor at this season, and of course are not very palatable, however our good health and appetites make up every necessary deficiency, and we eat very heartily of them.—

Encamped on Stard side; under a high well timbered bank.



Wind a head from the N W.

We set out at 7 o’Clock proceeded on, Soon after we Set out a Bank fell in near one of the Canoes which like to have filled her with water, the wind became hard and waves So rough that we proceeded with our little Canoes with much risk.

Our situation was such after setting out that we were obliged to pass round the 1st Point or lay exposed to the blustering winds & waves, in passing round the Point Several canoes took in water as also our large pirogue but without injuring our Stores & much.

I proceeded on to the upper part of the 1st bend and came too at a beautiful Glade on the S. S., about 1 mile below Capt Lewis who had walked through the point, left his Coat & a Deer on the bank which we took on board,—.

A short distance below our camp I saw some rafts on the S. S. near which, an Indian woman was scaffolded in the Indian form of deposing their dead, & fallen down

She was or had been raised about 6 feet enclosed in several robes tightly laced around her, with her dog sleighs, her bag of different colored earths paint, small bones of animals, beaver nails and several other little trinkets, also a blue jay, her dog was killed and lay near her.

Capt Lewis joined me soon after I landed & informed me he has walked several miles higher, & in his walk killed 2 Deer & wounded an Elk & a Deer, our party 〈killed〉 shot in the river four beaver & caught two, which were very fat and much admired by the men, after we landed they killed 3 Elk, 4 Geese, & 2 Deer.

We had some of our Provisions & which got a little wet aired, the wind continued so hard that we were compelled to delay all day.

Saw Several buffalo lodged in the drift wood which had been drowned in the winter in passing the river; saw the remains of 2 which had lodged on the Side of the bank & eate by the bears.

Course distance &c. 20th of April 1805.

South 1 ½ miles to the upper part of a timbered bottom at a bluff on  the Lad. Side

West 1 ½ miles to a high timber on the Sd. Side passing over a large Sand point on S. S.

N. 45° W. 1 ½ mile to a tree in a Glade in a bend to the Starboard Side    a  Sand pt. opsd.

S. 45° W. 2  miles to a point of low willows on the Sd. Side.

6 ½

This morning was very cold, some snow about 2 o’Clock from flying clouds, some frost this morning & the mud at the edge of the water was frozen


The Lewis & Clark Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows with an image of an Indian burial scaffold.

Lewis & Clark Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin