Music, Songs and Instruments of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

By: Anthony T, Amanda G, Breanne K, and Luke D

In February 1803 at the urging of then President Thomas Jefferson, Congress approved spending $2,500 (Final cost was $38,727) for a small U.S. Army expedition. Their assignment was to ascend the Missouri River, cross the continental divide, and follow the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. Jefferson chose 28-year-old Meriwether Lewis as leader for the group he called the Corps of Discovery. Lewis selected a former army comrade, 32-year-old William Clark to be his co-leader. The expedition began May 14, 1804, as the group left Camp Wood River Illinois.
The expedition returned to St. Louis on September 23, 1806. During the expedition they discovered many different instruments. The journals of people in the Lewis and Clark Expedition record at least 30 times that the men of the expedition turned to song and dance for fun or to impress the native peoples they met.

external image Lewis%20and%20Clark%20med.jpg

Music, Songs and Dances

Music, songs, and dancing were extremely important on this expedition, as it kept up morale on this long, difficult expedition. Though the Corps included two fiddlers, George Gibson and Pierre Cruzatte, the men on this expedition orten had to sing and dance themselves for entertainment. Here's a list of the songs and dances the Corps of Discovery might have sung and danced.

· Reels:

  • Old Molly Hare
  • Gilderoy
  • The White Cockade
  • The Jay Bird
  • The Blackbird
  • Blac-eyed Susie
  • Over the Hills and Far Away
  • The Squirrel Hunters
  • Cuckoo's Nest
  • College Hornpipe
  • My Love She's But a Lassie Yet
  • Mississippi Sawyer/Downfall of Paris
  • Soldier's Joy The Girl I Left Behind Me
  • Flowers of Edinburgh
  • Moniermusk
  • Fisher's Hornpipe
  • Paddy on the Turnpike
  • Rickett's Hornpipe
· Jigs:
  • The Irish Washerwoman
  • Haste to the Wedding
  • Top of Cork Road
  • Over the River to Charlie
  • Captain Collins
  • Cock of the North
  • O Lassie, Art Thou Sleeping Yet?
  • Rosin the Beau
  • Saint Patrick's Day in the Morning
  • The Scotch Laddie/ Garry Owen

Both Lists were From:


Instruments on the expedition were important because playing the instruments impressed the Native Americans that the Corps of Discovery met. Some instruments brought on the expedition were:
  • Violins
  • Jaw Harp
  • Tambourin
  • Voice
  • Sounden Horn
  • Bones
  • Spoons


The Fiddlers Of the Expedition

There were two people on the expedition who played the fiddle: George Gibson and Pierre Cruzatte.
Pierre Cruzatte was a half French, half Omaha, man who had one eye. He was important because he was an experienced riverman, and had a lot of geographic knowledge; Therefore, he was assigned to the crucial position of bowman in the keelboat for his ability to spot the slack water eddies that would assist in advancing the boats upstream. He also boosted the moral of the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition with his exuberant fiddle playing. Most Native Americans thought the music that Cruzatte played was magical.
George Gibson was an experienced woodsman and hunter. He had some sign language skills, which were of value in his mission searching for a deserter, La Liberte, who was thought to be among the Oto Indians. He was also one of the two fiddle players on this expedition, though, his playing was only mentioned once in the journals kept by men of the expedition.

Private Pierre Cruzatte
Private Pierre Cruzatte

From: and

What did the music look like?

Most of their music was not written down. The music was played by ear, and made up. Since the music was not written down, most of it is lost.


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