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The Fate of the Corps

The Fate of the Corps: What Became of the Lewis and Clark Explorers After the Expedition

Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The Fate of the Corps
    Book Description:

    The story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition has been told many times. But what became of the thirty-three members of the Corps of Discovery once the expedition was over?The expedition ended in 1806, and the final member of the corps passed away in 1870. In the intervening decades, members of the corps witnessed the momentous events of the nation they helped to form-from the War of 1812 to the Civil War and the opening of the transcontinental railroad. Some of the expedition members went on to hold public office; two were charged with murder. Many of the explorers could not resist the call of the wild, and continued to adventure forth into America's western frontier.Engagingly written and based on exhaustive research,The Fate of the Corpschronicles the lives of the fascinating men (and one woman) who opened the American West.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13024-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. Chronology
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. 1-4)

    A steady drizzle was falling on the final day of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Tuesday, 23 September 1806, which was perfectly fitting because the men had hit rain their first day out. They paddled through the downpour into the current of the river they loved and hated. They had drunk from a trickling stream at the edge of the Continental Divide that was a source of the Missouri River, and now, reaching the end of that waterway, they must have experienced a unique blending of joy and sorrow, excitement and nostalgia, as the muddy Missouri merged with the mighty...

  5. CHAPTER ONE “We Descended with Great Velocity” The Triumphant Return of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
    (pp. 5-22)

    The thirty-three members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition picked up speed as they headed home. On their journey west, which had begun near St. Louis in May of 1804, they had rowed, pushed, and pulled their boats upstream on the Missouri River, laboring to make ten miles a day. Now, in the summer of 1806, the wayworn explorers were running the Missouri from its Montana headwaters back to St. Louis, riding with the current in their pirogue—a huge hollowed-out log equipped with rudder and sails—and dugout canoes, stroking deep with their paddles, sometimes making seventy-five or eighty...

  6. Map of the Missouri River Region
    (pp. 10-11)
  7. CHAPTER TWO “All the Red Men Are My Children” Lewis and Sheheke’s Visit to Thomas Jefferson
    (pp. 23-27)

    “A Letter from St. Louis (Upper Louisiana), dated Sept. 23, 1806, announces the arrival of Captains Lewis and Clark, from their expedition into the interior.” Thus began a typical story that ran in newspapers from Frankfort, Kentucky, to Baltimore in the autumn of 1806. Lewis and Clark had returned to a home that would never be the same—they were national heroes. “I sleped but little last night,” Clark wrote the day after arriving in St. Louis.

    The long days of paddling rivers and hiking mountains had been replaced by a flurry of letter writing and festive receptions. Lewis wrote...

  8. CHAPTER THREE “They Appeared in Violent Rage” Pryor and Shannon’s Battle with the Arikara
    (pp. 28-37)

    On 18 May 1807, almost three years to the day after the expedition had begun, a contingent of soldiers checked their rifles and ammunition and boarded a keelboat in St. Louis to escort Sheheke and Jusseaume and their families back to the Mandan villages. Joining the soldiers was George Shannon, who had been hired as a hunter. His salary of $25 per month was a windfall—he had earned a grand total of $178.50 for three years of service on the expedition.

    Shannon had joined Lewis and Clark in October 1803 at the age of eighteen.¹ His youth was sometimes...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR “He Saw the Prairie Behind Him Covered with Indians in Full and Rapid Chase” The Adventures of John Colter
    (pp. 38-48)

    A lone in his dugout canoe, John Colter skirted sandbars, wound his way around islands, and dodged sawyers, making good time as he navigated the Missouri. Colter knew from the flow of the river, the vegetation, and the temperature that it was midsummer, almost a year since he and his partners, Joseph Dickson and Forrest Hancock, had set off on their great trapping venture. The three of them had followed the Yellowstone River into present-day Montana, but they had not been trapping long when Colter and Hancock had a falling-out with Dickson. According to his friend Peter Cartwright, Dickson spent...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE “This Has Not Been Done Through Malice” George Drouillard’s Murder Trial
    (pp. 49-53)

    On Monday, 19 September 1808, probably a month or so after Colter’s long run back to Fort Raymond, the crowd in the St. Louis district courtroom buzzed as the constable ushered a prisoner to the defense table. He was well known as Manuel Lisa’s fur-trading associate and also as a key member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition—George Drouillard. The charge was murder.

    It seems quite likely that Lisa was also in the courtroom. He and Drouillard had been arrested for Bissonnet’s death when they returned from Montana, and Lisa had posted a five-thousand-dollar bail to gain their freedom....

  11. CHAPTER SIX “The Gloomy and Savage Wilderness” The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis
    (pp. 54-74)

    Reaching the end of a hard, dusk-to-dawn, forty-mile ride through the Tennessee wilderness, Meriwether Lewis pulled his horse off the trail known as the Natchez Trace and rode toward a log structure in a nearby clearing. The date was Tuesday, 10 October 1809. The inn called Grinder’s Stand offered food and lodging to travelers on the trace. Surrounded by the stumps of poplars that had been felled to build it, Grinder’s Stand was actually two cabins, each with a huge fireplace, linked by a fifteenfoot covered breezeway the settlers called a dogtrot. Priscilla Grinder, wife of the absent owner, watched...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN “I Give and Recommend My Soul” The Deaths of George Gibson, Jean-Baptiste Lepage, and John Shields
    (pp. 75-81)

    On 26 October 1806 , Thomas Je ff erson had written to Lewis: “I received, my dear Sir, with unspeakable joy your letter of Sep. 23 announcing the return of yourself, Capt. Clarke & your party in good health to St. Louis.”¹ Indeed, it had been “unspeakable” that thirty-three people, including an infant, had safely made the journey from Fort Mandan to the coast and back. (In the summer of 1805, Jefferson had learned of the death of Sergeant Floyd, which occurred before the group reached Fort Mandan.) The corps had been greatly blessed or incredibly lucky—or both. But...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT “A Sincere and Undisguised Heart” George Shannon’s Early Career
    (pp. 82-88)

    Days after George Drouillard’s trial ended, George Shannon left for Lexington, Kentucky, to enroll at Transylvania University. William Clark wrote to his brother Jonathan: “The Bearer of this letter is Mr. George Shannon [one or two words lost due to the seal tear] unfortunate fellow who lost his leg by a wound received in the action at the Ricaras, he is going to lexington to go to School, with the view of acquiring Some knowledge to fit him for an employment to get his liveing, he is Studious, and ambitious, and a man of impeachable [impeccable] Charector.”¹ With interest possibly...

  14. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  15. CHAPTER NINE “He Must Have Fought in a Circle on Horseback” George Drouillard’s Death at the Hands of the Blackfeet
    (pp. 89-96)
    Manuel Lisa

    On 24 September 1809, 101 days after he had left St. Louis—and one year and one day after he had been found not guilty of murder—George Drouillard was with those who returned Sheheke to his people. One of the soldiers fired a shot as the keelboat approached the chief’s village. A native returned the salute. Then a mate raised the Stars and Stripes, and the villagers crowded to the shore. “I then caused the mandan nation to be assembled,” wrote Pierre Chouteau, who had commanded the flotilla of 350 men and thirteen keelboats, “as also the minnitari and...

  16. CHAPTER TEN “Water as High as the Trees” William Bratton and John Ordway and the Great Earthquake
    (pp. 97-105)

    First came the noise—an unearthly, eerie, deafening, ear-splitting roar that jolted farmers and townspeople alike from their beds at 2:30 in the morning. “Inconceivably loud and terrific,” said one; “equal to the loudest thunder, but more hollow and vibrating,” said others. Violent shaking followed immediately, with the cacophony of crashing timber and collapsing bricks merging with the original roar, followed in turn by the ground itself rippling in waves.¹

    “We were awakened by a most tremendous noise,” wrote one villager, “while the house danced about as if it would fall on our heads. I soon conjectured the cause of...

  17. CHAPTER ELEVEN “She Was a Good and the Best Woman in the Fort” Sacagawea’s Death
    (pp. 106-117)

    In the spring of 1811, after a year and a half in civilized St. Louis, where the narrow streets outside his cramped quarters were continually bustling with comings and goings, Toussaint Charbonneau was preparing to head upriver, back to Mandan country, where he could see buffalo or elk from the door of his tepee. He bought fifty pounds of biscuit, or hardtack, from Auguste Chouteau. He sold a parcel of land (acquired the previous autumn) back to William Clark for one hundred dollars.¹ Then he signed on with Manuel Lisa, who was making his third consecutive biennial trip up the...

  18. CHAPTER TWELVE “The Crisis Is Fast Approaching” The Corps and the War of 1812
    (pp. 118-126)

    “I had arisen at a quarter after 4 o’clock,” wrote General William Henry Harrison, “and the signal for calling out the men would have been given in two minutes.” Harrison was reportedly in his tent talking with Adam Walker, a drummer of the Fourth U.S. Infantry, when the first shot rang out. Next came the scream of a wounded Indian, followed by a volley of arrows and musket balls from the line of Indians. “The attack . . . began on our left flank,” Harrison wrote. “But a single gun was fired by the sentinels . . . which made...

  19. CHAPTER THIRTEEN “We Lost in All Fourteen Killed” John Collins and Toussaint Charbonneau Among the Mountain Men
    (pp. 127-138)

    Edward Rose galloped through the darkness, yelling to the trappers huddled on the beach that the Arikara had killed Stephens. Hearing that “war was declared in earnest,” the half-sleeping men were instantly alert, checking their muskets and squinting through the rain toward the Arikara village. Someone climbed in a canoe and paddled out to the keelboat anchored in the Missouri River to warn William Henry Ashley, commander of the fur-trading expedition. “I was informed that the Indians had killed one of my men Aaron Stephens,” wrote Ashley, “and in all probibility would attack the boats in a few minutes; arrangments...

  20. CHAPTER FOURTEEN “Taken with the Cholera in Tennessee and Died” The Sad Fate of York
    (pp. 139-148)

    From the moment of his birth, York was essentially the property of William Clark. He was born at the Clark plantation in Virginia a few years after William, and the two of them grew up with each other and played together as young boys. William Clark Kennerly, Clark’s nephew, wrote that William “grew to be a sturdy lad, tramping the woods in search of small game, fishing in the Rappahannock, and in the long evenings listening to Brother George’s tales of his daring campaigns of 1774 in the Dunmore Wars. On school holidays he rode about the countryside, always accompanied...

  21. CHAPTER FIFTEEN “Men on Lewis & Clark’s Trip” William Clark’s Accounting of Expedition Members
    (pp. 149-161)

    Throughout the 1820s, William Clark was immersed in Indian affairs, directing the work of several Indian agents and meeting with representatives of many different nations when they came to St. Louis. Sometime between 1825 and 1828 , possibly to break the monotony of his never-ending government paperwork, Clark penned a historic document. Writing in a rather casual manner on the front cover of his cash book, Clark recalled the individuals who had accompanied him and Meriwether Lewis on their journey west:

    Capt. Lewis Dead

    Odoway Dead

    N. Pryor at Fort Smith

    Rd. Windser on Sangamah Ills.

    G. Shannon Lexington Ky....

  22. CHAPTER SIXTEEN “Active to the Last” The Final Decades of the Corps
    (pp. 162-186)

    The very day that David Crockett arrived in Nashville—16 April 1829—the governor of Tennessee resigned his office and confided to Crockett that he was departing for the Arkansas Territory, to dwell among the Cherokee. He knew the Cherokee people well, for he had lived among them for almost three years after running away from home at the age of fifteen.

    A week earlier, the governor’s eighteen-year-old bride, Eliza Allen, had left him, a breakup that quickly became public knowledge. Deeply hurt that his wife did not love him, he resigned, convinced it was the only suitable response to...

  23. APPENDIX A Members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
    (pp. 187-202)
  24. APPENDIX B The Death of Meriwether Lewis
    (pp. 203-209)
  25. APPENDIX C The Sacagawea Controversy
    (pp. 210-214)
  26. Notes
    (pp. 215-254)
  27. Bibliography
    (pp. 255-270)
  28. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 271-272)
  29. Index
    (pp. 273-284)