The first Americans to cross the continent knew less about their destination than the first men who landed on the moon. In 1803, Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to find a direct route from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, the expedition made diplomatic connections with Indian tribes, encountered countless new plants and animals, and persevered through the toughest wilderness. Historian Peter Onuf (University of Virginia) explains Jefferson’s views of American expansion. Historian Dan Thorp (Virginia Tech) examines the explorers’ relationship with Native Americans.

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