Study Guide

Louisiana Purchase and Lewis & Clark Timeline

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Aug 1, 1791

Haiti Slaves Revolt

Slaves in the French sugar colony of Saint-Domingue (today's Haiti) launch a massive uprising against the island's planters and French colonial rule.

Feb 1, 1794

Slavery Ends in Haiti

The French revolutionary assembly in Paris abolishes slavery in all French colonies, hoping to gain the loyalty of ex-slave leaders such as Toussaint Louverture in order to resist invasion attempts from Spain and England against Saint-Domingue.

Oct 1, 1795

Right of Deposit

The United States and Spain sign a treaty guaranteeing Americans the "right of deposit" in the Spanish port of New Orleans. The treaty means that Americans in the vast Mississippi Valley now have the right to navigate the entire Mississippi River and to store goods in New Orleans in order to facilitate export.

Oct 1, 1800

Napoleon Acquires Louisiana

In the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte acquires the Louisiana Territory from Spain. Napoleon hopes to use the vast territory on the North American mainland to supply a renewed French sugar empire in the Caribbean with food, cotton, lumber, and other staples.

Jan 1, 1801

Slavery Ends in Santo Domingo

Toussaint Louverture's ex-slave army conquers Spanish Santo Domingo (today's Dominican Republic), liberating all slaves on the island of Hispaniola and uniting the island under Toussaint's rule.

Jul 1, 1801

New Constitution Saint-Domingue

Toussaint Louverture proclaims a new constitution for Saint-Domingue, establishing himself as a powerful Governor-General for life even while declaring his loyalty to France and Napoleon.

Dec 19, 2019

Commerce in New Orleans

For the first time, American commerce through the port of New Orleans—chiefly agricultural produce, furs, and lumber—exceeds $1 million a year.

Jan 1, 1802

Napoleon Army in Caribbean

Napoleon sends a huge army of 40,000 men, led by his brother-in-law Charles Leclerc, to reconquer Saint-Domingue and depose Toussaint Louverture.

May 1, 1802

Napoleon Tries to Restore Slavery

Napoleon attempts to restore slavery in Saint-Domingue, provoking fierce resistance from the island's ex-slave population.

Jun 1, 1802

Louverture Deported

Toussaint Louverture is deported from Saint-Domingue to France, where he will be confined to the dungeon of castle Fort-de-Joux in Doubs until his death from pneumonia in April 1803.

Nov 1, 1802

French Lose Saint-Domingue

General Leclerc, commander of Napoleon's expedition to Saint-Domingue, dies of yellow fever. The French Army, decimated by fierce resistance from ex-slaves as well as by fearsome tropical diseases, has lost the war for Saint-Domingue.

Feb 1, 1803

Expedition of Discovery

Congress appropriates $2,500 to fund an expedition of discovery through the uncharted West (including a good chunk of the Louisiana Territory, which remains French territory) to the Pacific.

Apr 11, 1803

Napoleon Offers Louisiana

Napoleon offers to sell the United States not only the port of New Orleans, but the entire Louisiana Territory.

Apr 30, 1803

Louisiana Purchase

American envoys Robert Livingston and James Monroe conclude negotiations to purchase the entire Louisiana Territory for $15 million, doubling the size of the United States for a cost of about 3 cents an acre. Livingston and Monroe have been authorized by President Jefferson only to obtain the city of New Orleans.

Jun 19, 1803

Lewis and Clark

Meriwether Lewis, President Jefferson's choice to lead the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific, writes to Army officer William Clark, asking him to be the co-leader of the expedition. Clark accepts in July.

Jun 20, 1803

Jefferson Instructs Explorers

President Thomas Jefferson addresses his detailed instructions for the Pacific expedition to its leader, Meriwether Lewis. Jefferson's ambitious agenda includes navigation and mapmaking, diplomacy with Native Americans, and extensive scientific observation.

Aug 3, 1803

Native American Encounter

Lewis and Clark make their first peaceful encounter with Native Americans, near the site of modern-day Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Jul 4, 1803

Jefferson Announces Purchase

President Thomas Jefferson announces the Louisiana Purchase to the American people.

Aug 31, 1803

Corps of Discovery

Meriwether Lewis leaves Pittsburgh with 11 men, heading west with the nucleus of what will become the Corps of Discovery.

Oct 20, 1803

Congress Approves Purchase

Congress ratifies the treaty authorizing the Louisiana Purchase.

Jan 1, 1804

Haiti Independence

Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the most powerful Black leader remaining in Saint-Domingue after Toussaint Louverture's death, declares independence for the new nation of Haiti.

Mar 10, 1804

Official Louisiana Transfer

The city of St. Louis hosts an official ceremony commemorating the transfer of Louisiana from France to the United States. Lewis and Clark are in attendance.

May 14, 1804

Lewis and Clark Depart

The Lewis and Clark expedition departs from its winter encampment at Fort Dubois, Illinois, paddling up the Missouri River toward the unknown.

Aug 20, 1804

Floyd Only Casualty

The Lewis and Clark expedition suffers its first (and only) casualty, as Sergeant Charles Floyd dies of a burst appendix.

Oct 24, 1804

Fort Mandan

Lewis and Clark arrive at the villages of the Mandan (north of the site of modern-day Bismarck, North Dakota), which are home to more than 4,500 friendly Native Americans. The Corps of Discovery builds its winter encampment there, calling it Fort Mandan.

Apr 7, 1805

Missouri River

The Lewis and Clark expedition departs Fort Mandan, paddling west up the Missouri River.

Jun 13, 1805

Great Falls

Lewis and Clark arrive at the Great Falls of the Missouri, near present-day Great Falls, Montana. Their arrival at the spectacular landmark, which has been described to them by Native Americans, confirms that they are going the right way but also presents them with a major obstacle. Portaging around the falls will take nearly a month.

Aug 12, 1805

Continental Divide

Meriwether Lewis reaches the Continental Divide, high in the Rocky Mountains.

Sep 1, 1805

Bitterroot Mountains

A starving Corps of Discovery struggles through a brutal overland journey through the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho. This is the most arduous part of their voyage.

Oct 1, 1805

Snake River

Using new canoes built with the guidance of friendly Nez Perce Indians, Lewis and Clark swiftly float downstream from the Snake River into the Columbia River.

Nov 1, 1805


Lewis and Clark reach the Pacific Ocean, at the mouth of the Columbia River near present-day Astoria, Oregon.

Dec 1, 1805

Fort Clatsop

The Corps of Discovery builds Fort Clatsop, its winter encampment at the mouth of the Columbia River. Over the course of four months spent at the fort, only twelve days do not bring rain.

Mar 23, 1806

Journey Home

Lewis and Clark abandon Fort Clatsop, beginning their long journey home.

Blackfeet Warriors

In the Lewis & Clark expedition's sole violent encounter with Native Americans, Meriwether Lewis' traveling party shoots and kills two aggressive Blackfeet warriors.

Aug 14, 1806

Return to Mandan Villages

The Lewis and Clark expedition reaches the Mandan villages, site of their winter encampment two years earlier.

Sep 23, 1806

Triumphant Return

The Corps of Discovery makes its triumphant return to St. Louis.

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