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The CorpsHolidays
Three Days Off
Christmas at Fort Mandan, 1804

At Camp Dubois, 1803

Page 2 of 5

he men of the Lewis and Clark Expedition observed their first Christmas together in 1803, in their hastily built camp at the Dubois (Wood) River, on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, across from the mouth of the Missouri. They had arrived there on December 12, and the next day began building their "huts," which were roofed by the 24th, although Clark's wasn't finished until the 30th. Captain Lewis was in St. Louis.

It was a routine "frolick" typical of most holidays back then. Clark was awakened by the traditional daybreak volley of gunfire, to find that some of the party had already gotten drunk, and two had fought. "The men frolicked and hunted all day," he wrote. "Several Turkey Killed. Shields returned with a cheese & 4 lb butter. Three Indians Come to day to take Christmas with us."

New Year's Day was about the same, except that "Several men Come from the Countrey to See us & Shoot with the men. . . . I put up a Dollar to be Shot for, the two best Shots to win. . . . The Countrey people won the dollar."

--Joseph Mussulman, 11/99; rev. 6/03

Three Days Off
Christmas at Fort Mandan, 1804

From Discovering Lewis & Clark ®, http://www.lewis-clark.org © 1998-2014
by The Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation, Washburn, North Dakota.
Journal excerpts are from The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, edited by Gary E. Moulton
13 vols. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983-2001)