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Historic Diaries: James Doty, 1820

In the summer of 1820, James Duane Doty (1799-1865) was appointed secretary of an expedition that was ordered to visit the Lake Superior bands of Ojibwe Indians, examine the natural features of the western Great Lakes, and, if possible, locate the source of the Mississippi River. The War of 1812 had shifted control of the region from Britain to the United States, and the expedition also wanted to learn how the Indian nations in the region felt toward Americans. Young Doty (only 21 years old at the time) kept a journal in which he carefully noted the details of the expedition's northwest course from Detroit to northern Minnesota. His journal runs from May 24 until Aug. 5, 1820, when the expedition reached the confluence of the Black River and the Mississippi on its return route. Besides recording his impressions of the Native Americans they met, Doty also made notes on the natural and mineral resources of Lake Superior and on his fellow-travelers, who included Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793-1864), Gov. Lewis Cass (1782-1866), and West Point professor David Bates Douglass (1790-1849). Besides those officers, the expedition also numbered 10 soldiers, 10 French Canadian voyageurs, and 10 Ojibwe, Shawnee, and Ottawa hunters.

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