Army

May 17, 2013

Military Intelligence – this week in history

Tags:
Ruth Quinn, Staff Historian
USAICoE Command History Office

Lewis, Clark begin recon mission

Lewis and Clark at the mouth of the Columbia River, 1805, by Frederic Remington

May 14, 1804
After President Thomas Jefferson negotiated the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, he chartered a “Corps of Discovery” exploration and mapping expedition of this vast unknown land, from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains, and beyond the mountains to the sea. Thus began the first U.S. geospatial intelligence effort.

Jefferson chose his trusted personal secretary, Army Capt. Meriwether Lewis, a skilled frontiersman, to lead the voyage. Lewis enlisted the help of former Army 1st Lt. William Clark, who had even more experience as both a draftsman and frontiersman.

Jefferson then personally supervised their year-long scientific training for the expedition. Training included studying published narratives and maps of other explorers, reading celestial observations, learning how to deal with medical emergencies and how to identify plants, animals and minerals. Jefferson also stressed the importance of daily journals written by the captains themselves, as well as by other literate members of the party.

In addition to the geographic information Jefferson hoped to learn, he had political reasons for the expedition, as well. The geopolitical landscape of North America was as diverse as the physical one in the early 1800s.

Jefferson was on the one hand disturbed by Britain’s expansion of its fur trade in the Pacific Northwest, but he did not want to antagonize the British, needing them as allies should war break out with France over its possession of New Orleans.

France and Spain were also competing for the fur trade in America, and Jefferson wanted to know who supported the French around St. Louis and along the Missouri River. The French were known for their familiarity with native tribes and their languages, so he could not disregard their presence.

Adding to the confusion were the indigenous tribes inhabiting the land of the Louisiana Purchase, who were in conflict with each other as well as the various European powers who had economic interests there.

Finally, Jefferson was interested in the flow of the Missouri River drainage, feeling that any flow of the river above 50 degrees latitude gave him rights to territorial claims in present-day western Canada.

Jefferson schooled Lewis and Clark on all of these geopolitical concerns so the commanders could act as the president’s agents while developing their own informants along the way, adding to the intelligence sources that addressed Jefferson’s national security concerns.

Lewis “networked” during the winter of 1803 – 1804 before the star of his journey. He developed questionnaires for informant debriefing and tabulated responses in a grid system. In their correspondence, Lewis and Jefferson used a cipher system designed by Jefferson to encode communications “that might do injury if betrayed.” The Lewis and Clark expedition was, in fact, a reconnaissance mission.

In her essay, “Rethinking Geographical Exploration as Intelligence Collection,” historical geographer Carol Medlicott writes, “As trusted agents of the state, they were sent into potentially hostile territory to observe according to … instructions and to collect information necessary to ensuring territorial security and negotiating North American geopolitics.”

On May 14, 1804, Lewis and Clark finally started on their two-year voyage of discovery. Their journey took them along the Missouri River from St. Louis through Nebraska and Iowa, South and North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and back. It had far-reaching implications for the future of Native Americans as well as for European Americans, for topography, biological sciences, ecology, and ethnic and linguistic studies of the American Indian. Economic, political, military and social forces brought to bear as a result of the expedition forever changed the northern plains the Native People had known, and would also forever change those who came to the prairie.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
photo-2

USAEPG responds to Army radio test needs

A dismounted tester and a Humvee with the SRW-A radio mounted inside collect evaluation data on the radio is shown with the Huachuca Mountains in the background on Dec. 12. The U.S. Army Electronic Proving Ground, USAEPG, recen...
 
 
U.S. Army photo

Army puts Gray Eagle, One System Remote Video Terminal through test

U.S. Army photo The MQ-1C Gray Eagle, the Army’s largest unmanned aircraft system in the inventory, recently underwent follow-on test and evaluation, which culminated June 14 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Cal...
 
 
Natalie Lakosil

HT-JCOE commanders change during June 19 ceremony

From left, outgoing Commander Col. John Boucher, Human Intelligence Training Joint Center of Excellence; Maj. Gen. Robert Ashley, commanding general, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca; and incoming C...
 

 

BLM Jackson Hotshots hosted at Fort Huachuca for portion of 2015 fire season

TUCSON, Ariz. — The only Bureau of Land Management (BLM) hotshot firefighting crew east of the Mississippi River will be based in southern Arizona for a portion of the 2015 fire season. The 20-member Jackson Hotshot crew from Jackson, Miss. will be housed in the Sierra Vista community thanks to a partnership between BLM and...
 
 

Fort Huachuca Exchange partners with Sears for savings

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service is teaming up with Sears to offer military shoppers special savings on cleaning, home improvement and repair services. Fort Huachuca Exchange shoppers can now receive special offers on cleaning services including: carpets, upholstery, protector and deodorizer for carpet and upholstery, title and grout, air ducts, dryer vents and...
 
 
Mike Williams

Monsoon season is here — use caution when going outdoors

Mike Williams Water races across the road near the Bonnie Blink housing area on post during a monsoon storm last summer. Before crossing, be sure your vehicle has the clearance to make it through a wash if it has water in it. E...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>