P-064 Yellowstone Expedition Letters

This pair of autograph letters are from Lieutenant Isaac Clark to his Father, Colonel Isaac Clark of Vermont, describing his efforts to outfit the Atkinson Expedition to the Yellowstone River. Letters also discuss the City of Saint Louis, where Lt. Clark was staying at the time. The Yellowstone Expedition detailed in these letters is a little-known but significant early western expedition. It was organized in 18191 and was under the command of Col. (later Brigadier General) Henry Atkinson. The group was charged with ascending the Missouri River by steamboat (an early attempt at such travel on the Missouri) to establish a series of forts along the river to protect the American fur trade, guard against hostile Indians, and counteract the presence of the British Hudson’s Bay Company in the region. The expedition ultimately reached the “Council Bluff” in eastern Nebraska, where they established Fort Atkinson, near the Missouri River. The troops at Fort Atkinson endured a harsh winter in 1819-1820, and lack of provisions left them susceptible to scurvy and other diseases, which ultimately claimed between 100 and 200 lives. Clark’s letters give a rare firsthand account of the logistics and provisions of the expedition. Both letters are written by Lieut. Clark, to his father, Col. Isaac Clark in Castleton, Vermont. Isaac Clark, Sr. (1742-1822) had a military career that spanned some fifty years. He fought in the Revolutionary War, participating in the Battle of Bennington (1777) and the recapture of Fort Ticonderoga (1778). During the War of 1812 he led Vermont troops in patrolling the border with Quebec to prevent smuggling and led several military forays into Quebec. He also served in several political and judicial positions in Vermont.
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