Sunday, October 11, is the 200th anniversary of the mysterious death of Meriwether Lewis on the Natchez Trace in Tennessee. Was it suicide or murder? Lewis’s death and the mystery surrounding it are the subject of our historical novel To the Ends of the Earth: The Last Journey of Lewis & Clark. We are remembering Lewis all week here on “American Heroes,” including posting excerpts from the book.
False River, Point Coupee, Louisiana Territory
October 5, 1809
Wilkinson bent over, wheezing, and gathered the papers up off the floor. His only regret was that Lewis hadn’t been there to receive the insults in person. Perhaps he’d have the chance to tell him about it in Natchez in a few days—along with the news that the West was buzzing with talk of his rebellion.
He glanced at the paper again, suddenly struck by something he’d missed the first time.
His Excellency the Governor and the General of the Militia being absent from the City
Egad! Clark on the move too? Surely he and Lewis weren’t traveling together! He skimmed the story over, but there were no further details.
No matter. There were big days ahead, and he needed to rest. He climbed into the soft downy bed and arranged the mosquito netting. To force his brain to stop cogitating, he turned his mind to pleasant visions of barrels of flour and crates of apples, bobbing across the sea to Cuba.
He imagined Meriwether Lewis walking the streets of Havana, living out his traitor’s life in exile. Or perhaps rotting forgotten in a prison in Mexico City, bearded and mad. Or dead, in an unmarked grave by a lonely road…