Teach PA History
Captain Lewis and his Medicine Bag
Equipment & Supplies
  • • Copies made of the following papers: Source 1: Medicine and the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Source 2: Captain Lewis's Medicine Bag, Worksheet 1: You Be The Doctor!, Worksheet 2: Assignment-Rubric: Compare and Contrast. • Computer with Real Audio capability to play audio story about mosquitoes at PBS site:PBS Online - Lewis and Clark: Living History. Listen to Real Audio: "What About Mosquitoes" • Source 3: Teacher Answer Key/Information Guide for Source 2: Captain Lewis's Medicine Bag and Worksheet 1: You Be The Doctor!

Day 1

I. Say to your students: "Imagine that you are preparing for a month-long hiking expedition into the mountains with a group of about forty people. What kind of injuries/illness might you experience? What kind of medical training would your group need? What kinds of medical supplies should be packed? Then write two columns on the board: Medical Training and Supplies. Make a list of the students" suggestions under each column. Keep this list for later (Day Two).

Briefly review the events leading up to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Explain that in 1803 our third president, President Jefferson, received $2,500 from Congress to form a party to explore newly purchased land to the west (The Louisiana Purchase). Jefferson selected his personal secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis, to lead this expedition. Without much medical knowledge except for what he learned from practical experience as a soldier and from his mother, Lewis had the responsibility of acquiring medical supplies for his party on a trip would last not one month, but approximately thirty-six months! Jefferson realized the need for modern medical training and medical supplies for the men who were about to undertake the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He sent Captain Meriwether Lewis to Philadelphia to get the training and supplies needed for the group's safety.

II. Distribute Source 1: Medicine and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Have volunteers read the sections: Jefferson's Letter to Dr. Rush and Dr. Benjamin Rush. (Prepare for appropriate responses to any bleeding or purging comments the students may have.) Next, do a Think/Pair/Share Activity: Have students quietly read to themselves Dr.Rush's Rules for Healthy Living (a section of Source 1: Medicine and the Lewis and Clark Expedition). Ask them to choose one rule they think would be most beneficial for the people on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Instruct them to be able to explain their reasoning. After each student has chosen the rule and reason, he/she should share the rule with a partner.

Then ask for volunteers to share their rule with the class. Ask for a volunteer to read the section, Did Lewis Have Any Other Medical Training?. Briefly discuss herbal medicine. Herbal medicine is one of the oldest forms of medicine. It uses healing properties of a plant or herb to cure ailments. Ask students if they can name an example of herbal medicine used today. Common herbal medicines students may recognize include items such as:

  1. Aloe vera (for sunburns)

  2. Echinacea (colds, sore throat, flu)

  3. Ginkgo biloba (memory less, headaches, depression)

  4. Green Tea [prevent and treat cancer, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (thickening of artery walls)]

  5. St. John's Wort (depression)

Day 2

I. Distribute Source 2: Captain Lewis's Medicine Bag.

Have students work with a partner to review the sheet and answer the analysis questions at the bottom. Use Source 3: Teacher Answer Key/Information Guide to quickly review the questions and convey additional information provided. If you have a computer available, play the PBS Online Real Audio clip entitled "What About Mosquitoes" at PBS Online - Lewis and Clark: Living History which discusses the annoying problem of mosquitoes on the expedition. Mention that, although unknown to the expedition and other people at the time, mosquitoes also brought with them the potential of a much more serious medical problem–malaria. Symptoms of malaria included bouts of extreme fever and chills, sweating, and headaches. Lewis describes it this way:

"I was seized with a violent ague [malaria] which continued about four hours and as usual was succeeded by fever which however fortunately abated in some measure by sunrise the next morning."

II. Distribute Worksheet 1: You Be The Doctor!. Inform students that it is time to see how well they can apply the medical treatments Lewis learned from Dr. Rush. Have students work in small groups to analyze the primary source journal entries and predict the treatments. When students have finished, call on a member from each group to share the treatment his/her group predicted and have the student explain his/her reasoning for the answer. Use Source 3: Teacher Answer Key/Information Guide to check treatments and to provide additional information about the medical treatments or illnesses. Inform students that only one man died on the entire thirty-six month journey that covered over 8,000 miles - Sergeant Charles Floyd. Explain that although it was not known at the time, it is now believed that Floyd died from a ruptured appendix. There was no known treatment for appendicitis at that time.

III. Lesson Wrap Up: Explain to the students that even though we now know that many of the medical treatments used during the 1800s were useless and that some were even dangerous, we cannot judge the medicine of that time by today's standards. The Lewis and Clark Expedition practiced the most modern medicine of the day. Bring out the list of medicine supplies and equipment students constructed on Day One. Ask students if they would like to add anything more to their lists after seeing Source 2: Captain Lewis's Medicine Bag. (To reference a more complete source of supplies and equipment, teachers can go to Medical Supplies of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. As a final assignment, have the students write a one-page essay comparing and contrasting the medicine of the 1800s with today's medicine.

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