This is a work of fiction, despite its extensive basis in history. The plots that swirled around Louisiana and the early American frontier were numerous, complex, and overlapping affairs that ebbed and flowed from the time of the Revolution through at least the end of the War of 1812. James Wilkinson, George Rogers Clark, and a succession of French officials were involved in several of these plots throughout the 1790s.
The Citizen Genet affair is the most well-known of these conspiracies, but the story that that appears in this book is a composite of the Genet affair and several other plots. A number of dates and places have been changed to create a coherent story.
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark became lifelong friends during the months they served together in Wayne’s army from 1795-96. However, no letters or other first-hand accounts survive that can tell us what bonded the two men. The adventure in this book is pure conjecture.
All of the major characters and most of the minor characters is this book are real. While the particulars of Marianne’s character were created by us, tradition in Louisville holds that George Rogers Clark and an African-American woman were long-time companions. Thanks to James Holmberg of the Filson Historical Society in Louisville for telling us about this little-known aspect of General Clark’s life.
We have made every effort to create a fictional world that is as close to the reality and spirit of the period as possible. We’ve consulted dozens of books and hundreds of Internet articles during the research for this novel. The book would not have been possible without the impressive resources of the Perry-Casteñeda Library at the University of Texas at Austin. Our principle sources are discussed below. Any blame for historical inaccuracies is, of course, our own.
Just a few years ago, it seemed that Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage (1996) would stand forever as the last word on Meriwether Lewis. Now it seems that there are plenty of new things about Lewis yet to be written. We supplemented the scant data on Lewis’s early career in Ambrose’s book with the reliable and well-done Lewis & Clark: Partners in Discovery, by John Bakeless (1947). Good information on William Clark’s early life can be found in William Clark and the Shaping of the West, by Landon Y. Jones (2004) and Dear Brother, edited by James Holmberg (2002), a collection of the letters of William Clark to his older brother and confidante Jonathan.
The Citizen Genet affair electrified the nation and almost brought down the career of Thomas Jefferson. Several good accounts of the affair exist, including The Genet Mission, by Harry Ammon (1973), The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, by Conor Cruise O’Brien (1998), and Jefferson and the Ordeal of Liberty, by Dumas Malone (1962). Genet is profiled in Lives and Times: Four Informal American Biographies, by Meade Minnigerode (1925).
“Mad Anthony Wayne and the Kentuckians of the 1790s,” by Paul David Nelson, published in the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society in 1986, provides a solid introduction to the feud between Anthony Wayne and James Wilkinson and how it intertwined with the Citizen Genet affair.
The amazing career of André Michaux has long been overshadowed by his involvement with Genet, not to mention the later success of Meriwether Lewis. Historians still debate how committed Michaux was to the Louisiana scheme; clearly, botanizing was his first and perhaps his only love. Henry Savage Jr. and Elizabeth Savage have written a terrific joint biography of the great French botanist and his son called André and François André Michaux (1986).
The best book on the Whiskey Rebellion, which prompted Meriwether Lewis to join the army, is The Whiskey Rebels: The Story of a Frontier Uprising, by Leland Baldwin (1968).
The definitive history of General Anthony Wayne, the Legion of the United States, and the vastly underrated Battle of Fallen Timbers has been written by Alan D. Gaff in Bayonets in the Wilderness: Anthony Wayne’s Legion in the Old Northwest (2004). One of the most important primary sources is “William Clark’s Journal of General Wayne’s Campaign,” in which young Clark lets his ill-fated alliance with Wilkinson hang out for all posterity to see. It was published in 1915 by the Mississippi Valley Historical Review and can be read on Google Books. An anonymous first-hand account was produced by the busy pen of James Wilkinson and published as From Greene Ville to Fallen Timbers: A journal of the Wayne Campaign July 28-September 14, 1794 by the Indiana Historical Society in 1952.
A closer look at the politics and social history of the early army can be found in The Old Army: A Portrait of the American Army in Peace, 1784-1898, by Edward M. Coffman (1988), and The Beginning of the U.S. Army 1783-1812, by James Ripley Jacobs (1947). We also consulted The Sword of the Republic: The United States Army on the Frontier, 1783-1846, by Francis Paul Prucha (1969), and An American Profession of Arms: The Army Officer Corps 1784-1815, by William B. Skelton (1992).
The definitive book on the arms, clothing, and culture of the army of Lewis and Clark is Tailor Made, Trail Worn, by Robert J. Moore Jr. and Michael Haynes (2003). The rules and procedures of the old army that were followed by Anthony Wayne and Lewis and Clark can be read in Baron Von Steuben’s Revolutionary War Drill Manual, the “blue book” first published in 1780. Two other books that provided great details about the lives of ordinary soldiers and officers in the early army were The Army in Transformation, 1790-1860, by James M. McCaffrey (2006), and March to Massacre, by William Guthman (1975). “Crime and Punishment in the Legion, 1792-1793,” by Richard C. Knopf (Bulletin of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio, July 1956), gives good details about courts-martial and discipline in Wayne’s army.
No one source was the bible on the history of frontier Ohio, early Cincinnati, and Fort Washington. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830, by R. Douglas Hurt (1996), has lots of good information. The Forts of Ohio, by Gary S. Williams (2003) has descriptions of the forts built by Anthony Wayne. Wayne’s Trace: Fort Deposit to Fort Industry, by Charles M. Jacobs (2003) is a useful guidebook. The most fun source was a delightful article called “A Visit in 1929 to the Sites, In Western Ohio, Built by Generals Arthur St. Clair, Anthony Wayne, and William Henry Harrison,” written by James A .Green and published by the Ohio Archeological and Historical Quarterly in 1930, in which the author not only describes the sites at that time, but waxes on for some time about the ease of getting to them in his new-fangled automobile.
Several other first-hand accounts were useful, including The First Description of Cincinnati and Other Ohio Settlements, a 1797 account by missionary John Heckewelder, and Daniel Drake’s Notices Concerning Cincinnati, first published in 1810. The WPA writers’ project guide, Cincinnati: A Guide to the Queen City and Its Neighbors (1943), is still an excellent resource on the history and geography of Cincinnati.
No truly satisfactory biography of Anthony Wayne exists, but the best we found were Anthony Wayne: A Name in Arms, by Richard C. Knopf (1960) and Anthony Wayne: Soldier of the Early Republic, by Paul David Nelson (1985).
The definitive biography of George Rogers Clark has yet to be written, and those biographies that exist focus on his Revolutionary War exploits rather than his tragic later career. We found Background to Glory, by John Bakeless (1957), The Life of George Rogers Clark, by James Alton James (1928), and George Rogers Clark: His Life and Public Services, by Temple Bodley (1927) to be the most helpful.
The infamous career of James O’Fallon’s was detailed in “The Intrigues of Dr. James O’Fallon,” by John Carl Parish, published in the Mississippi Valley Historical Review in 1930. Thanks to Jon Kukla, author of a great book on the Louisiana Purchase, A Wilderness So Immense (2004), for first bringing the dramatic story of the domestic abuse of Fanny Clark O’Fallon to our attention. Not long after the public brawl with George Rogers Clark, James O’Fallon simply disappeared. What happened to him in this book is as good an explanation as any.
The astonishing career of James Wilkinson has long cried out for a modern biography. Since we completed this book, Andro Linklater has published An Artist in Treason (2009). In the meantime, we relied primarily on Tarnished Warrior, by James Ripley Jacobs (1938).
William Henry Harrison is a fascinating and influential figure who had an immense impact on the future map of the United States, primarily through ruthless treaty negotiations with the Indians of the Northwest Territory. His role in the War of 1812 is brilliantly described in Pierre Berton’s The Invasion of Canada (1980). Unfortunately, Harrison’s fifty-year career in public service has been reduced to a punch line ever since his death just one month after being sworn in as president in 1840. Two good books about Harrison are Mr. Jefferson’s Hammer: William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy, by Robert M. Owens (2007), and William Henry Harrison: His Life and Times, by James A. Green (1941).
In the other corner, Manuel Gayoso should be remembered as one of the ablest public servants that Spain ever had in the New World. Gayoso: The Life of a Spanish Governor in the Mississippi Valley, 1789-1799, by Jack D. Holmes (1965), is definitive. Gayoso’s negotiations with the Chickasaws are detailed in Paths to a Middle Ground: The Diplomacy of Natchez, Boukfouka, and San Fernando de Barrancas, by Charles A. Weeks (2005).
Details about the journey between Fort Washington and Chickasaw Bluffs were greatly helped by William Myer’s incredible “Indian Trails of the Southeast,” published in the 1925 annual report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, and by Thomas Rodney’s 1803 journal of his trip from Delaware to the Mississippi Territory, published as A Journey Through the West (1997). Rodney’s book has the added bonus that he actually met Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as they were preparing for their expedition to the West!
A spectacular source on early Philadelphia can be found in Historic Philadelphia: From the Founding Until the Early Nineteenth Century, published by the American Philosophical Society in 1953. This book includes a terrific map. A good source on early Louisville can be found in Two Hundred Years at the Falls of the Ohio, by George H. Yater (1979).