The Journals of Lewis & Clark: August 11, 1806

by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
August 10, 1806
August 12, 1806

August 11, 1806

Monday August 11th 1806. We set out very early this morning. it being my wish to arrive at the birnt hills by noon in order to take the latitude of that place as it is the most northern point of the Missouri, enformed the party of my design and requested that they would exert themselves to reach the place in time as it would save us the delay of nearly one day; being as anxious to get forward as I was they plyed their oars faithfully and we proceeded rapidly. I had instructed the small canoes that if they saw any game on the river to halt and kill it and follow on; however we saw but little game untill about 9 A.M. when we came up with a buffaloe swiming the river which I shot and killed; leaving the small canoes to dress it and bring on the meat I proceeded. we had gone but little way before I saw a very large grizzly bear and put too in order to kill it, but it took wind of us and ran off. the small canoes overtook us and informed that the flesh of the buffaloe was unfit for uce and that they had therefore left it half after 11 A.M. we saw a large herd of Elk on the N. E. shore and I directed the men in the small canoes to halt and kill some of them and continued on in the perogue to the birnt hills; when I arrived here it was about 20 minutes after noon and of course the observation for the O's meridian Altitude was lost; jus opposite to the birnt hills there happened to be a herd of Elk on a thick willow bar and finding that my observation was lost for the present I determined to land and kill some of them accordingly we put too and I went out with Cruzatte only. we fired on the Elk I killed one and he wounded another, we reloaded our guns and took different routs through the thick willows in pursuit of the Elk; I was in the act of firing on the Elk a second time when a ball struck my left thye about an inch below my hip joint, missing the bone it passed through the left thye and cut the thickness of the bullet across the hinder part of the right thye; the stroke was very severe; I instantly supposed that Cruzatte had shot me in mistake for an Elk as I was dressed in brown leather and he cannot see very well; under this impression I called out to him damn you, you have shot me, and looked towards the place from whence the ball had come, seeing nothing I called Cruzatte several times as loud as I could but received no answer; I was now preswaded that it was an indian that had shot me as the report of the gun did not appear to be more than 40 paces from me and Cruzatte appeared to be out of hearing of me; in this situation not knowing how many indians there might be concealed in the bushes I thought best to make good my retreat to the perogue, calling out as I ran for the first hundred paces as loud as I could to Cruzatte to retreat that there were indians hoping to allarm him in time to make his escape also; I still retained the charge in my gun which I was about to discharge at the moment the ball struck me. when I arrived in sight of the perogue I called the men to their arms to which they flew in an instant, I told them that I was wounded but I hoped not mortally, by an indian I beleived and directed them to follow me that I would return & give them battle and releive Cruzatte if possible who I feared had fallen into their hands; the men followed me as they were bid and I returned about a hundred paces when my wounds became so painfull and my thye so stiff that I could scarcely get on; in short I was compelled to halt and ordered the men to proceed and if they found themselves overpowered by numbers to retreat in order keeping up a fire. I now got back to the perogue as well as I could and prepared my self with a pistol my rifle and air-gun being determined as a retreat was impracticable to sell my life as deerly as possible. in this state of anxiety and suspense remained about 20 minutes when the party returned with Cruzatte and reported that there were no indians nor the appearance of any; Cruzatte seemed much allarmed and declared if he had shot me it was not his intention, that he had shot an Elk in the willows after he left or seperated from me. I asked him whether he did not hear me when I called to him so frequently which he absolutely denied. I do not beleive that the fellow did it intentionally but after finding that he had shot me was anxious to conceal his knowledge of having done so. the ball had lodged in my breeches which I knew to be the ball of the short rifles such as that he had, and there being no person out with me but him and no indians that we could discover I have no doubt in my own mind of his having shot me. with the assistance of Sergt. Gass I took off my cloaths and dressed my wounds myself as well as I could, introducing tents of patent lint into the ball holes, the wounds blead considerably but I was hapy to find that it had touched neither bone nor artery. I sent the men to dress the two Elk which Cruzatte and myself had killed which they did in a few minutes and brought the meat to the river. the small canoes came up shortly after with the flesh of one Elk. my wounds being so situated that I could not without infinite pain make an observation I determined to relinquish it and proceeded on. we came within eight miles of our encampment of the 15th of April 1805 and encamped on N. E. side. as it was painfull to me to be removed I slept on board the perogue; the pain I experienced excited a high fever and I had a very uncomfortable night. at 4 P.M. we passed an encampment which had been evacuated this morning by Capt. Clark, here I found a note from Capt. C. informing me that he had left a letter for me at the entrance of the Yelow stone river, but that Sergt. Pryor who had passed that place since he left it had taken the letter; that Sergt. Pryor having been robed of all his horses had decended the Yelowstone river in skin canoes and had over taken him at this encampment. this I fear puts an end to our prospects of obtaining the Sioux Cheifs to accompany us as we have not now leasure to send and enjage Mr. Heney on this service, or at least he would not have time to engage them to go as early as it is absolutely necessary we should decend the river.

Wednesday 11th August 1806

I set out early this morning. at 10 A.M. landed on a Sand bar and brackfast dureing brackfast and my delay at this place which was 2 hours had the Elk meat exposed to the Sun. at Meridian I set out and had not proceeded more than 2 miles before I observed a Canoe near the Shore. I derected the Canoes to land here I found two men from the illinoies Jos. Dixon, and ____ Handcock those men are on a trapping expedition up the River Rochejhone. They inform me that they left the Illinois in the Summer 1804. the last winter they Spent with the Tetons in Company with a Mr. Coartong who brought up goods to trade The tetons robed him of the greater part of the goods and wounded this Dixon in the leg with a hard wad. The Tetons gave Mr. Coartong Some fiew robes for the articles they took from him. Those men further informed me that they met the Boat and party we Sent down from Fort Mandan near the Kanzas river on board of which was a Chief of the Ricaras, that he met the Yankton Chiefs with Mr. Deurion, McClellen & Several other traders on their way down. that the Mandans and Menitarrais wer at war with the Ricaras and had killed two of the latter. the Assinniboins were also at war with the Mandans &c and had prohibited the N W. traders from Comeing to the Missouri to trade. they have latterly killed one Trader near the Mous River and are now in wait for Mr. McKenzey one of the Clerks who have been for a long time with Menetarias. Those dificulties if true will I fear be a bar to our expectations of having the Mandan Minetarra & Ricara Chief to acompany us to the U. States. Tho we Shall endeaver to bring abot a peace between Mandans Mennetaries & Ricaras and provail on Some of their Cheifs to accompany us to the U. States. proceeded on to a point on the S W Side nearly opposit the enterance of Goat pen creek and encamped found the Musquetors excessively troublesom.