INSTRUMENTS OF THE EXPEDITION
This morning being
Christmass, the day was announced by the discharge of our Swivels,
one Round from our small arms of the whole company.... The Men then
prepared one of the Rooms,
and commenced dancing, we having with us Two Violins & plenty of
Musicians in our party.--
25 December, 1804
According the Private Whitehouse's journal entry (above), the
expedition carried two fiddles. We know that George Gibson, another
member of the party, also played--though the journals don't mention
his fiddling nearly as frequently as they do Cruzatte's. How the
instruments survived the trip, if in fact they did, I'll never know.
In fact, they may not have survived; the expedition reached St. Louis
on September 23, 1806, but Cruzatte last fiddles, at least according
to the journals, way back on June 8.
The expedition carried many of these for Indian presents.
Expedition members may or may not have played them. We know, however,
that the Indians did: "they Received them verry thankfully," Private
Whitehouse writes of giving presents to the Yankton Sioux, "divided
them out among themselves, & play on their juze harps, Sung
&c." For more information, visit the Jew's
The journals frequently mention Indian "tambourines," Only once,
however--on New Year's Day, 1805--do we see one in the hands of an
expedition member. There's no indication that the expedition carried
the kind of tambourine with which most of us are familiar, the kind
with metal jingles. More likely, the party either borrowed or bought
an Indian instrument.
Probably the instrument we would have heard most commonly on the
expedition. The Voyageurs, the French watermen, were famous for
belting out French songs while they worked. And the journals
frequently talk about the men singing around the fire at night: "our
party received a dram," writes Clark less than two weeks before the
end of the journey, "and Sung Songs until 11 oclock at night in the
greatest harmoney." Also, the men usually celebrated holidays with
song: "at day light this morning," Clark writes on Christmas day,
1805, "we we[re] awoke by...a Selute, Shoute and a Song which
the whole party joined in under our windows."
Used to signal from boat-to-boat and boat-to-shore, these tin
horns are not technically instruments, but the men used them as
noisemakers to mark holidays.
They do not appear in the journals of the expedition, but they may
have been so common that the journal writers didn't think them
important enough to write about. People have been using bones as
musical instruments for thousands of years, and the expedition
certainly had lots of them. See Rhythm
Bones Central for more.
Also not mentioned in the journals as musical instruments, but we
know that the expedition carried spoons made of both cow horn and
iron (probably pewter). You can find a concise description of how to
play the spoons here.