Museum, University of Nebraska State


Date of this Version

Spring 2018


Nebraska History (Spring 2018) 99(1): 46-57.


Copyright 2018, Nebraska History. Used by permission.


Long’s Expedition was the first party with trained scientists to explore the American West in the name of the United States government. Historians have not been particularly kind to the expedition. William Goetzmann described the party as “A curious cavalcade of disgruntled career officers, eccentric scientists, and artist-playboys, . . .” Hiram Chittenden believed that the expedition of 1819 had failed, and that “a small side show was organized for the season of 1820 in the form of an expedition to the Rocky Mountains.” However, recent papers by Genoways and Ratcliffe, and others conclude that both biologists and historians have missed the most important scientific work of the Long Expedition, which was accomplished during the winter of 1819-1820 at Engineer Cantonment. Here the scientific and ethnographic work was conducted over a nearly nine-month period.