They journeyed on for about a hundred miles, and the first landmark by which they were able to conjecture their position with any degree of confidence was an island about seventy miles in length, which they presumed to be Le Grande Isle. They now knew that they were not a very great distance from the Missouri River, if their presumption was correct. They went on, therefore, with renewed hope, and on the evening of the third day met an Otoe Indian, who informed them they were but a short distance from the Missouri. He also told them of the war that had been progressing between the United States and England. This was news to them indeed, for during that whole period they had been beyond the possibility of learning anything of civilized affairs.
The Indian conducted them to his village, where they were delighted to meet two white trappers recently arrived from St. Louis. A bargain was now made with one of them, who agreed to furnish them with a canoe and provisions for the voyage, in exchange for their venerable traveller, the old horse. In a few days they started and arrived at Fort Osage, where they were again received hospitably by the officers of the garrison, and where they enjoyed that luxury, bread, which they had not tasted for over a year. Re-embarking, they arrived in St. Louis on the 30th of April, without experiencing any further adventure worthy of note.
On the return of Lewis and Clarke’s expedition from the Rocky Mountains where they had wintered with the Mandans, a celebrated chief of that tribe, Big White, was induced to accompany Captain Lewis to Washington in order that he might see the President, and learn something of the power of the people of the country far to the East.
The Mandans at that time were at war with the Sioux, and Big White was fearful that on his return to his own tribe some of the Sioux might cut him and his party off, so he hesitated at first to accept the invitation; but upon Captain Clarke assuring him that the government would send a guard of armed men to protect and convoy him safely to his own country, the chief assented, and took with him his wife and son.
In the spring of 1807, Big White set out on his return to the Mandan country. The promised escort, comprising twenty men under the command of Captain Ezekiel Williams, a noted frontiersman, left St. Louis to guard him and to explore the region of the then unknown far West.
Each man of the party carried a rifle, together with powder and lead to last him for a period of two years. They also took with them six traps to each person, for it was the intention of the expedition, after it had seen the brave Mandan safely to his own home, to hunt for beaver and other fur-bearing animals in the recesses of the vast region beyond the Missouri.
Pistols, knives, camp kettles, blankets, and other camp equipage necessary to the success of the expedition and the comfort of the men were carried on extra packhorses. He did not forget to take gewgaws and trinkets valued by the savage, as presents to the chiefs of the several tribes they might chance to meet.