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Era Introduction - Were There Other American Attempts–Before and After–to Explore the West?

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Yes, there were several. During Thomas Jefferson’s tenure as Ambassador to France and then as Secretary of State, he sought men and means to explore what would eventually become the Louisiana Purchase. Some of the plans were simply silly, such as the proposed John Ledyard expedition, others had real potential, such as John Sinclair’s and George Rogers Clark’s proposed trips. In the end, none of them got beyond St. Louis (Sinclair) and the rest never got off the ground.

At the same time as the Lewis and Clark expedition was sent to explore the northern reaches of the Louisiana Purchase, the Hunter and Dunbar group went south to ascertain the location of America’s southern boundaries. Like their more famous counterparts, Hunter and Dunbar were also to collect samples of flora and fauna, but mostly to engage in map-making.

Immediately after the return of the Corps of Discovery, General James Wilkinson, commander of American military forces in the trans-Appalachian West, sent Zebulon Pike to find the headwaters of the Mississippi. In 1809, Pike was sent west again, this time to trace the Arkansas and Red Rivers. It was during this time that he discovered the mountain that today bears his name. Unfortunately, the Spanish found Pike and arrested him, returning him to Mexico until his release some months later.

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