In 1801 Thomas Jefferson, who was the president, had a dream. His dream was to send an expedition to explore the Louisiana Territory and the Oregon Region. Jefferson believed that there must be a land and water route to the Pacific coast. He wanted the expedition to find this route and to establish friendly communications with the Indians living there. Jefferson's plan also included gathering information about any new plants, animals and minerals the explorers found. This he believed would enable the U.S. to claim the Oregon Region, which consisted of what is now Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
In 1803, Thomas Jefferson asked Meriwether Lewis to lead the expedition. Lewis accepted the challenge with enthusiasm. Lewis was, as the president thought, the perfect choice for a leader because he enjoyed being outdoors and exploring new places and things. Lewis, who was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, in 1774, had loved exploring even as a child. The family's home in Georgia and their move to a two hundred-acre plantation in Virginia provided many such opportunities. His formal education consisted of tutoring from age thirteen to eighteen in Virginia. However, it was his mother who gave him his love of learning. Even after eight years in the army, where he earned the rank of Captain, Lewis would continue his education. At the age of twenty-eight, while serving as Thomas Jefferson's private secretary, Lewis had full access to the president's library. Here he had found books on every subject you could imagine. .
Lewis' love of learning, his military experience and his knowledge of the outdoors made him the perfect choice for a leader.
Lewis chose his friend William Clark to help him lead the expedition. Although he too had been born in Virginia, Lewis and Clark didn't meet until they served together in the Army. During this time, Lewis learned of Clark's map-making skills. He also was an excellent leader, able to discipline his men.