When the Atlas of the Lewis and Clark Expedition appeared in 1983 critics hailed it as a publishing landmark in western history. The second volume, which began the actual journals, fully lived up to the promise of the first. This eagerly awaited third volume continues the journals of explorers whose epic trail-blazing still excites the imagination. Instructed by President Jefferson to keep meticulous records bearing on the geography, ethnology, and natural history of the trans-Mississippi West, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and four of their men filled hundreds of notebook pages with observations during their expedition of 1804-6. The result was and is a national treasure: a complete look at the Great Plains, the Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest, reported by men who were intelligent and well prepared, at a time when almost nothing was known about those regions so newly acquired in the Louisiana Purchase.
Volume 3 consists of the journals during the expedition’s route from the Vermillion River to Fort Mandan, North Dakota, and their winter encampment there. It describes their encounters with Sioux, Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa Indians, including considerable ethnographic material on these tribes. Some miscellaneous documents containing information gathered during the first year of the expedition, originally published in a separate volume, are here brought together in an appropriate chronological sequence.
Superseding the last edition, published early in this century, the current edition contains new materials discovered since then. It greatly expands and updates the annotation to take account of the most recent scholarship on the many subjects touched on by the journals.