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The Final Briefing at St.Charles,  May 21,1804
"All the forepart of the Day arranging our party and procuring 
the different articles necessary for them at this place."
William Clark, May 21, 1804

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark have been preparing for this day for over a year. This is the day that the total party of the Corps of Discovery will take the poles of the keelboat and shove off the bank of the Missouri River and into the current of that brown and treacherous water knowing that, 'this is it'. Outside of the very small community of La Charrette some seventy miles up the Missouri River, St. Charles is the last contact the Corps will have with white men. Also, this location would be the last chance to procure any last minute supplies.

In the painting "The Final Briefing at St. Charles, May 21, 1804", we  see Lewis, Clark, and Sgt. Ordway engaged in a conference and checking the all-important list. The conversation would have been about 'do we have enough', 'did you repack that', 'is that in a dry location', and the questions and concerns would have been endless. I know that my lists are long and assembled in great detail for my simple research trips. A voyage into the unknown reaches of the West for the first time in history would have been an occasion to assemble the list of lists. Clark is seen adding a comment about an item in Lewis' notes. Ordway is consulting with the officers and providing input as to the state of the stores, the equipment, the boats, and the men.  As commanding officers, Lewis and Clark's word was final. They would have given their orders to Ordway; and, Ordway would have implemented them. A fact that is overlooked by most is that the Lewis and Clark expedition was a military unit, not just a group of rag tag frontiersmen making their way west.

In my interpretation of this event, I am depicting the men in their full uniforms. My painting is a good opportunity to view the top three men together in the late morning hours before their formal departure from St. Charles. Many visiting dignitaries from St. Louis were in St. Charles to see the group off; and, the Corps was preparing to attend Mass before their departure. Lewis would have been demanding discipline from his men and the formal nature of their dress would serve as a reminder of this demand. Thus, the Corps of Discovery under the command of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark would soon be underway. 

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