Archive for the ‘Corps of Discovery’ Category

Thanks to our reader John Orthmann, who was kind enough to comment on additional Lewis & Clark sculptures in his neck of the woods, we have more sculptures to add to our blogs about statuary featuring Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the whole Corps of Discovery gang.

First of all, some sad news:

Lewis and Clark monument along Washington Highway 101 near the Oregon state line

This terrific chainsaw statue is no more. Wah. But some great news:

I missed a terrific statue by the great Stanley Wanlass. Located in Long Beach, Washington, this statue commemorates the day when William Clark recorded on a sturdy tree what must have been a deeply satisfying moment: William Clark. Nov. 19, 1805. By land from the U. States.

In our novel, To the Ends of the Earth, we described Clark’s memory of that day:

He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and, taking care not to stumble in the darkness, went down to the sand spit and found a place to sit near the water. He looked at the blanket of gray mist covering the river, but he wasn’t really seeing it. In his mind’s eye, he saw instead the fog hovering in the giant, tangled trees along the Columbia River as the Expedition took their canoes through the river channels, coming ever closer to the Pacific Ocean they were so anxious to see. He could almost feel their heavy dugouts quiver in awe of the rough tidewater.

When they’d finally reached the great Pacific, he and Lewis had walked alone a short distance, leaving the men behind to whoop out their pleasure in the achievement. From a towering basalt cliff, they’d stood together in their ragged buckskins, drizzle dripping off their beards, watching enormous waves crash against the rocky shoreline. Clark’s heart was so full he couldn’t even speak. He would never forget the way Lewis faced down the great ocean with a challenging stare, as if to say I made it, you sonofabitch. Then he’d given Clark that defiant, crinkle-eyed smile, and a slow, satisfied nod.

Sacagawea and Jean-Baptist by Alice Cooper (1905)

Sacagawea is said to have been immortalized in statue more than any other American woman. Portland is home to one of the earliest monuments, a tremendous bronze by Alice Cooper. The sculpture was dedicated for the Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, a ceremony that was attended by feminist dignitaries including as Susan B. Anthony, and by Eve Emery Dye, feminist and author of The Conquest (1902), the historical novel that gave rise to many of the myths about Sacagawea that are still cherished today.

Sacagawea and Jean-Baptiste, by Glenna Goodacre (2004)

Not content with one statue of Sacagawea and little Pomp, in 2003, Portland added another, this time at Lewis & Clark College. Glenna Goodacre, who also designed the Sacagawea dollar, created the work, which was donated to the school by college trustee Richard Bertea and his wife Hyla.

Bronze artist Heather Heather Söderberg with her Sacagawea (2011)

One of the newest sculptures can be found at the Cascade Locks Visitor Center in Oregon, where a sultry Sacagawea is now on hand with the Expedition’s faithful dog Seaman. Heather Söderberg was commissioned to create the bronzes as a permanent memorial to the struggle faced by the Corps in navigating the rapids and the events of April 13, 1806, when Sacagawea and Seaman accompanied Captain Lewis on a mission to trade deer and elk skins for canoes and dogs (for eating) with the local people.

This video shows the casting of Sacagawea’s head:

Meriwether Lewis and Seaman by John Jewell (2005)

Sergeant John Ordway, by John Jewell (2006)

Located near Tacoma, Fort Lewis (now named Joint Base Lewis-McChord due to an operations merger with the adjacent Air Force base), was named after Meriwether Lewis in 1917. Home of the Army I Corps, it is a huge and vital base. In a landmark choice, Major General John Hemphill, who spearheaded the project to bring these oversized bronzes to the base, commissioned a bronze of Sergeant John Ordway along with that of Lewis and his dog. Ordway’s statue is one of the few statues in the United States of a non-commissioned officer and the only one honoring one of the non-coms of the Corps of Discovery.

We wrote more about Ordway and his critical role in leading the Corps in our blog The Four Sergeants of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

Lewis & Clark at Patit Creek, by George Touchette (2005)

Near Dayton, Washington, an impressive collection of more than 80 — count ’em, 80 — life-sized steel silhouettes give visitors a sweeping impression of the scene at Patit Creek, where the Corps of Discovery camped on May 2, 1806, during the Expedition’s return journey. The full-scale scene was conceptualized and designed by local history buff and funeral director George Touchette, and the town of Dayton obtained a $108,000 grant from the Washington State Historical Society to complete the project. The sculptures were cut by Northwest Art Casting in Umapine, Oregon.

Thanks again, John, for all the great additions! Readers, let us know about other Lewis & Clark sculptures in your neck of the woods!

Previous installments:

Lewis and Clark in Sculpture (Part 1) – Virginia to Missouri

Lewis and Clark in Sculpture (Part 2) – Great Plains

Lewis and Clark in Sculpture (Part 3) – Rocky Mountains to the Sea


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To conclude our tour through the Lewis & Clark Expedition in public art, let’s take a look at the sculptures of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark that adorn the trail from the Rocky Mountains to the sea. As with earlier installments, please let us know if we missed any. This is a part of the trail we have traveled very lightly and I am dying to go back.

Hospitality of the Nez Perce, by Douglas Hyde (1993), is on the campus of Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho

This beautiful bronze by Doug Hyde, a Santa Fe-based sculptor of Native American descent, was commissioned for the centennial of Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, a pretty town at the confluence of the Snake River and the Clearwater River. It depicts Lewis and Clark meeting with Twisted Hair of the Nez Perce as his young son Lawyer, later to play a major role in the conflict between the Nez Perce and American settlers, plays at their feet.

Hospitality of the Nez Perce by Doug Hyde (2006) on the grounds of the Idaho State Capitol

Look familiar? If not, consult your doctor about short-term memory loss. In 2006, historian Carol MacGregor commissioned a replica of Hyde’s Lewiston statue to be placed on the campus of the Idaho state capitol in Boise.

An Indian guide joins William Clark and York on the bluff at the University of Portland

I have not been able to discover much about this statue and would love to hear any further information about it.

Lewis and Clark monument along Washington Highway 101 near the Oregon state line

Talk about a terrific old statue! This is another one about which I have been able to learn next to nothing. I am not even sure of its exact location, but it appears to be in the Cape Disappointment area, where Meriwether Lewis explored before he and Clark settled the Corps of Discovery at Fort Clatsop near Astoria in the winter of 1805-06. Please post in the comments if you know anything about this gem.

Lewis and Clark monument by Stanley Wanlass (1980). This statue stands inside the Visitors' Center at Fort Clatsop near Astoria, Oregon.

For the most part I have skipped some indoor statuary for this series of blog posts, but Stanley Wanlass’s bronze is the show-stopper at the Fort Clatsop Visitors’ Center. It is indoors due to the extreme rainfall in the area, which is so much a part of the Lewis & Clark story at Fort Clatsop. Clark and Seaman take a look at a fish being offered by a Native American, while Lewis, the gourmet of the group, is busy being visionary.

Clark's Sturgeon, by Jim Demetro (2005) in Long Beach, Washington

What a fun statue. This sculpture by Jim Demetro depicts a real-life incident from the journals in which Clark records finding a 10-foot sturgeon on the beach. The statue adorns the Lewis & Clark Discovery Trail, which I have not yet gotten to visit. It sounds like an amazing project which features other Lewis & Clark interpretive displays including a whale skeleton and a 19-foot bronze tree by Stanley Wanlass that marks the spot where Clark carved the historic inscription “William Clark. Nov. 19, 1805. By land from the U. States.”

"End of the Trail" by Stanley Wanlass (1990) in Seaside, Oregon

This beautiful bronze by Stanley Wanlass marks the official end of the Lewis & Clark trail, the westernmost point reached by the intrepid pair. For more about Wanlass, check out his very interesting website, which includes photos of his fascinating automotive sculptures.

Again, please leave information in the comments about other Lewis and Clark sculptures or further information about these fascinating memorials to the leaders of the Corps of Discovery.

For more reading:

Lewis and Clark Among the Nez Perce
Lewis and Clark Among the Clatsops

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Continuing our sculpture tour of the Lewis & Clark trail, let’s take a look at the Lewis & Clark monuments to be found in the Great Plains states.

"First Council" Monument at Fort Atkinson State Park, Nebraska, by Oreland C. Joe (2003)

This interesting monument depicts the first meeting between Meriwether Lewis and William Clark with the Native Americans. The captains, along with their dog Seaman and an interpreter (whose name was recorded by Clark as “Fairfong”), met with Shon-go-ton-go and We-the-e of the Missouria-Oto tribes. The sculptor, Oreland C. Joe, is himself a Native American of Navajo and Ute descent.

"Spirit of Discovery" by Pat Kennedy (2002) stands in front of the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City, Iowa

Does this imposing statue look familiar? It should if you read Lewis & Clark in Sculpture, Part 1. It is identical to the statue that stands on the waterfront in St. Charles, Missouri. I read on the Internet (so it must be true) that there were three castings of this sculpture. Where is the other one? Let me know in the comments!

"Pointing the Way" by Tom Palmerton at the entrance of the Missouri River Basin Visitors' Center in Nebraska City.

I can’t seem to discover much about this monument. Anyone who knows more about its story and when it was dedicated is cordially invited to comment!

Mary poses with Tom Neary's "Mandan Winter" (2004) at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn, North Dakota

This is truly one of my favorite Lewis & Clark sculptures. When we first arrived at the Interpretive Center (gateway to Fort Mandan and a huge milestone on our Lewis & Clark travels), it was raining lightly, and the powerful impression of the sculpture of the two captains with Sheheke of the Mandans (Big White), brought to mind some lyrics from a favorite song:

I could almost see them standin’ in the rain
Their brown and blinded faces reflecting all the pain
And all the cars and people, passing by
And all the ringing memories that can make a banjo cry

Also, visit sculptor Neary’s site for some great photos of the fabrication of this statue and a separate one of Seaman that is near the replica fort.

Explorers at the Marias, by Bob Scriver (1976). This statue stands along the Missouri River in Fort Benton, Montana.

The sculpture at left by Bob Scriver depicts Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea at “Decision Point,” as they make the critical decision at a huge fork in the river as to which branch is the true Missouri and will lead them further to the west. There is some interesting history behind this monument. The site was selected as Montana’s official state memorial to the Lewis & Clark Expedition in 1925. However, no money was ever appropriated to proceed. In 1972, the community of Fort Benton began a fundraising project that resulted in $400,000 and a commission to Bob Scriver, a sculptor mostly known for his western bronzes. The research for the Fort Benton work led Scriver to a life-long obsession with Lewis & Clark.

York, Seaman, Lewis & Clark gaze westward in Bob Scriver's "Explorers at the Portage" (1989) in Great Falls

Scriver’s prominence only grew with the passing years, and in 1989 he created this bronze for the city of Great Falls in honor of the centennial of Montana statehood.

If anyone has any additional details about these statues, or I have missed any in the Great Plains states (South Dakota, where are you?), please let me know. I’d also welcome any comments on how the summer floods affected these sites. In the final installment of this series, we will visit the statues from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific.

For more reading:

Lewis & Clark road trip: The Nebraska Trail
Lewis & Clark road trip:  The Sioux City Interpretive Center
Lewis & Clark road trip: Fort Mandan
Lewis & Clark road trip: Fort Benton, Montana

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Meriwether Lewis by John Lanzalotti (2000). This bust was placed in the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond in 2008.

You might think that after Meriwether Lewis and William Clark returned from the West to great acclaim as national heroes, that every city and town associated with the Expedition would have wanted to erect a monument to their achievement. But in fact, outdoor public sculpture was unheard of in the United States until about the 1830s, many years after the Corps of Discovery had faded from memory. The real golden age of public monuments began in America after the Civil War, when almost every community wished to build a memorial to the dead.

The pace of building monuments reached its zenith around the turn of the 20th century. Since then, a number of very interesting Lewis & Clark monuments have been erected all along the trail, with a fresh wave coming recently for the Bicentennial commemoration.

In this series, we’ll take a look at some of the Lewis & Clark sculptures. Today I’ll begin with several monuments in the “Eastern Legacy” states where Captain Lewis prepared for the Expedition and William Clark recruited early members of the Corps, as  well as the way the Expedition is remembered along the first segment of the Lewis & Clark Trail in Missouri.

As many historians like to say, the Lewis & Clark Expedition actually began in the mind of Thomas Jefferson, so what better place to begin our sculptural journey than Charlottesville, Virginia, the home town of Jefferson and of Lewis himself.

Statue in Charlottesville, Virginia of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Sacagawea (kneeling), by Charles Keck (1919)

The Charlottesville monument seems to have been the first permanent memorial to Lewis & Clark in the United States. Here, Charles Keck captured the manly beauty and virility of Lewis and Clark in this statue that shows them very much as frontier soldiers, perhaps not so different from the American doughboys who had recently returned from World War I. From the awkward pose, it is difficult not to think that Sacagawea was a last-minute addition to Keck’s commission, and indeed her posture has been interpreted as subservient or cowering, drawing student protests in recent years. In 2009, a plaque was added to the statue recognizing Sacagawea’s contribution to the Expedition’s success.

"When They Shook Hands," by Carol Grende (2003). Statue located at the Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville, Indiana.

This bronze was commissioned by the Southern Indiana Visitors’ Bureau and several local boosters to commemorate Clarksville’s role as the home of William Clark in 1803 and the place where the two captains met that fall and began the planning of the Expedition and recruitment of members of the Corps of Discovery. Interestingly enough, sculptor Carol Grende of Montana accepted the commission in spite of an extremely tight seven-month deadline to complete the project before the bicentennial event in Clarksville, and the statue arrived in town just 30 hours before the ceremony began.

"Captain's Return," by Harry Weber (2006). This St. Louis statue of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their dog Seaman stands in the waters of the Mississippi near the Gateway Arch.

This bronze by St. Louis sculptor Harry Weber was commissioned for the final “signature event” of the Bicentennial, which commemorated the September day in 1806 when the Corps of Discovery returned, about a year later than expected and after most people had given them up for dead. It has become iconic as a gauge of how high the river’s waters flow every spring and summer in flood stage:

The Lewis & Clark statue on the St. Louis riverfront in flood stage. I have seen photos in which only Clark's hat is still visible.

Lewis and Clark monument on the waterfront in St. Charles, Missouri, by Pat Kennedy (2003)

Lewis, Clark, and Seaman were a common trio in Bicentennial commemorations. It is interesting to compare how bulked-up Lewis and Clark are here compared with their 1919 portrayal in the Charlottesville statue.

This grouping on the grounds of the Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City includes York, Lewis, Seaman, Clark, and George Drouillard. Bronze by Sabra Tull Meyer, 2008.

A day in the life early in the Lewis & Clark Expedition is depicted in this grouping. The artist who made this arrangement, Sabra Tull Meyer, has a fascinating website that tells the story of the monument’s creation along with great photographs of how the statues were created. Check out The Making of a Monument.

The Corps of Discovery by Eugene Daub (2000). This statue stands in Case Park on the Kansas City waterfront, and depicts Lewis, Clark, York, and Sacagawea with her baby Jean-Baptiste on her back.

The Kansas City monument was the centerpiece of the renovation of Case Park, a showpiece of urban renewal in downtown Kansas City. The monument is 18 feet high and is believed to be the largest Lewis & Clark memorial in existence.

Are there any outdoor sculptures of Lewis and Clark in the eastern states or in Missouri that I have missed? If so, let me know. In the next installment of this series, we’ll trek onward and see how Lewis and Clark are remembered on the Great Plains.

More reading: William Clark’s grave

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Having just endured the hottest, driest summer ever recorded in Central Texas, I admit I feel a certain reverse kinship with Lewis and Clark regarding the long, cold winter they spent at Fort Mandan. The winter of 1805-1805 was bitterly cold on the Dakota frontier. Clark started off the month of December noting in his journal that the days were “cold & windey,” “a Cloudy raw day,” and “a Cold raw morning … with some snow.” On December 6, Clark noted, “The wind blew violently hard from the N, N W. with Some Snow    the air Keen and Cold. The Thermometer at 8 oClock A, M, Stood at 10 dgs. above 0—.”

"Hunting with Sheheke: 'White Coyote' And An Expedition Member Approach Ft. Mandan Winter 1804-1805," by Michael Haynes

"Hunting with Sheheke: 'White Coyote' And An Expedition Member Approach Ft. Mandan Winter 1804-1805," by Michael Haynes

Unfortunately, it was only the beginning. The next day, Clark wrote:

The weather so excesive Cold wolves plenty, we only saved 5 of them, I with a party turned on the 8th out and found the Buffalow at 7 ms. distant    Killed 8 & a Deer, I returned with 2 Cows leaving men with remaining meat—    Several men badly frost bit—    The Themormeter Stood this morning at 44 d. below Breizing [freezing].

With temperatures dipping to – 44°F, frostbite became a major concern for Lewis and Clark. According to Or Perish in the Attempt by Dr. David J. Peck, frostbite occurs when the skin’s temperature drops to 24.8°F, the freezing point of pure, undiluted water. At that point, the fluids inside and outside the skin freeze, blood vessels spasm and leak fluid into the surrounding tissues, and circulation of blood slows down or even ceases altogether. In severe frostbite cases, the tissues are so oxygen-starved that major tissue damage occurs and the tissues can actually “die.” In milder cases, the skin becomes red, swollen, blistered, and extremely painful.

1804 was long before the age of Gore-Tex, silk underwear, and goose-down coats. Lewis and Clark’s men had only buckskins, flannel shirts, wool trousers and army coats to protect them from the severe cold, putting them at serious risk. Furthermore, because of the necessity of hunting, guard duty, and fatigue work, they could not always limit their exposure to the damp, blustery winds, deep snow, and sub-zero temperatures. Despite Lewis and Clark’s measures to protect them – the captains rotated Fort Mandan’s guards every half-hour at one point — many of the men suffered from frostbite on their hands, feet, and ears. At one point, poor York was even forced to contend with “a little” frostbite on his penis. It was no wonder. On December 17, Clark recorded a mind-blowing, bone-shaking 74° below zero.

Winter at the Mandan villages, 1804-1805

Winter at the Mandan villages, 1804-1805

Under such extreme conditions, Lewis and Clark’s men were not the only ones suffering from the colder-than-average temperatures. The Native Americans were also feeling the cold. Clark reported on January 10, 1805:

The Indians of the lower Villages turned out to hunt for a man & a boy who had not returnd from the hunt of yesterday, and borrowd a Slay to bring them in expecting to find them frosed to death    about 10 oclock the boy about 13 years of age Came to the fort with his feet frosed and had layen out last night without fire with only a Buffalow Robe to Cover him, the Dress which he wore was a pr of Cabra (antelope) Legins, which is verry thin and mockersons—    we had his feet put in Cold water and they are Comeing too—

Lewis was the boy’s primary care physician, and regrettably, there was not a whole lot he could do to warm the boy’s feet and restore circulation. The boy hobbled around for a couple of weeks before the tissue on his feet started to turn black and it was clear the damaged tissue on his feet would never heal. The only recourse was frontier surgery.

On January 27, Clark wrote in his journal, “Capt Lewis took of the Toes of one foot of the Boy who got frost bit Some time ago.” Four days later, he made another entry: “Sawed off the boys toes.” It seemed the unlucky patient had lost more of his metatarsals. Fortunately, the boy escaped gangrene, infection, or further surgery. Less than a month later, on February 23, Clark recorded, “The father of the Boy whose feet were frose near this place, and nearly Cured by us took him home in a Slay—.”

By that time, the Corps of Discovery was already looking westward. They had begun to hack the keelboat and pirogues out of the ice. By February 25, Clark noted in his journal that “The Day has been exceedingly pleasant.” The worst of winter was over, and the men were anxiously looking forward to proceeding on.

More interesting reading: The Little Ice Age

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One of the most colorful members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was its oldest member, interpreter and sometime cook Toussaint Charbonneau – better known as “Mr. Sacagawea” and baby-daddy to young Pomp. One of the main things we know about Charbonneau from the Lewis and Clark journals is that he got on Lewis’s nerves. In his final request for pay for Charbonneau at the end of the expedition, Lewis dismissed him as a “man of no peculiar merit.” Clark, however, liked him better and kept up his acquaintance with Charbonneau long after the expedition had ended.

Lewis and Clark at Three Forks, by Edgar Paxton

Lewis and Clark at Three Forks, by Edgar Paxton. Charbonneau is depicted on the far right.

Born in Canada to French parents in 1767, Toussaint Charbonneau was a trapper and trader for the North West Company, a Canadian fur-trading concern. Charbonneau’s first appearance in the historical record – and also the first blemish on his reputation – come from the records of that company. On May 30, 1795, a recorder on one of the North West Company expeditions wrote: “Tousst. Charbonneau was stabbed at the Manitou-a-banc end of the Portage la Prairie, Manitoba in the act of committing a Rape upon her Daughter by an old Saultier woman with a Canoe Awl—a fate he highly deserved for his brutality.”

Charbonneau survived the incident, and by the time Lewis and Clark arrived at the Mandan-Hidatsa villages in the fall of 1804, he was still employed as a trapper and had been living among the Hidatsa for several years, now with two teenage Indian wives. One of these was Sacagawea, a Shoshone Indian who had been kidnapped by the Hidatsa around 1800. Charbonneau had bought Sacagawea from the Hidatsa, and she was pregnant with their first child. Hearing that Lewis and Clark were looking to hire interpreters, Charbonneau applied for the job. Clark wrote in his journal:

4th of Novr. a french man by Name Chabonah, who Speaks the Big Belley language visit us, he wished to hire & informed us his 2 Squars were Snake Indians, we engau him to go on with us and take one of his wives to interpet the Snake language The Indians Horses & Dogs live in the Same Lodge with themselves

Sagawea’s first meeting with Lewis and Clark occurred on November 11, when she came with her husband and his other Shoshone wife, Otter Woman, to present some buffalo robes as gifts to the officers. She gave birth to her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, on February 12, 1805. Despite the fact that she was a new mother, Lewis and Clark had high hopes that Charbonneau, Sacagawea and the baby would accompany them west in the spring. They were especially interested in Sacagawea, who could help them negiotiate with the Shoshone for horses to carry them across the Rocky Mountains.

Sacagawea's First Gift, November 1804 - by Michael Haynes

Sacagawea's First Gift, November 1804 - by Michael Haynes

Toussaint Charbonneau’s engagement with the Corps of Discovery was rocky from the start. On March 12, 1805, Clark noted “our Interpeter Shabonah, detumins on not proceeding with us as an interpeter under the terms mentioned yesterday he will not agree to work let our Situation be what it may not Stand a guard, and if miffed with any man he wishes to return when he pleases, also have the disposial of as much provisions as he Chuses to Carrye.” Clark deemed Charbonneau’s terms “in admissible” and concluded, “we Suffer him to be off the engagement which was only virbal.”

In other words, Charbonneau quit. A few days later, however, he had a change of heart. Clark wrote: “He [Charbonneau] was Sorry for the foolissh part he had acted and if we pleased he would accompany us agreeabley to the terms we had perposed and doe every thing we wished him to doe &c. &c.” It was back on again.

As key members of the expedition’s communications team, the Charbonneau family was in close contact with the captains throughout the expedition, often sharing the same tent. Clark in particular became fond of the family, particularly of Charbonneau’s wife “Janey” (Clark’s nickname for Sacagawea) and her baby “Pomp.” Clark even offered to educate the boy at his own expense, a promise he later made good on. On August 14, 1805, Clark notes that he rebuked Charbonneau “for Strikeing his woman at their Dinner.” While he did not put up with any mistreatment of Sacagawea, in general Clark seems to have not only tolerated Charbonneau, but actually liked him.

Charbonneau and Sacagawea with William Clark

Charbonneau and Sacagawea with William Clark

For Lewis, however, it was a different story. Lewis was not all that impressed with Charbonneau’s skill as an interpreter – he could speak Hidatsa imperfectly and English not at all – and even less impressed with his wilderness prowess. On April 13, 1805, Charbonneau’s lack of skill as a waterman went on display. Lewis wrote: “A suddon squall of wind struck us and turned the perogue so much on the side as to allarm Sharbono who was steering at the time, in this state of alarm he threw the perogue with her side to the wind, when the spritsail gibing was as near overseting the perogue as it was possible to have missed. the wind however abating for an instant I ordered Drewyer to the helm and the sails to be taken in, which was instant executed and the perogue being steered before the wind was agin plased in a state of security. this accedent was very near costing us dearly.”

Only a month later, an even worse potential disaster occurred on Charbonneau’s watch. Lewis and Clark were both walking on shore, and Charbonneau was again at the helm of the white pirogue, in which were stored the expedition’s papers, instruments, books, medicines, and most of their trade goods. Lewis recounted with “trepidation and horror” what happened next:

It happened unfortunately for us this evening that Charbono was at the helm of this Perogue, in stead of Drewyer, who had previously steered her; Charbono cannot swim and is perhaps the most timid waterman in the world; perhaps it was equally unluckey that Capt. C. and myself were both on shore at that moment, a circumstance which rarely happened; and tho’ we were on the shore opposite to the perogue, were too far distant to be heard or to do more than remain spectators of her fate… surfice it to say, that the Perogue was under sail when a sudon squawl of wind struck her obliquely, and turned her considerably, the steersman allarmed, in stead of puting her before the wind, lufted her up into it, the wind was so violent that it drew the brace of the squarsail out of the hand of the man who was attending it, and instantly upset the perogue and would have turned her completely topsaturva, had it not have been from the resistance mad by the oarning against the water; in this situation Capt. C and myself both fired our guns to attract the attention if possible of the crew and ordered the halyards to be cut and the sail hawled in, but they did not hear us; such was their confusion and consternation at this moment, that they suffered the perogue to lye on her side for half a minute before they took the sail in, the perogue then wrighted but had filled within an inch of the gunwals; Charbono still crying to his god for mercy, had not yet recollected the rudder, nor could the repeated orders of the Bowsman, Cruzat, bring him to his recollection untill he threatend to shoot him instantly if he did not take hold of the rudder and do his duty, the waves by this time were runing very high, but the fortitude resolution and good conduct of Cruzat saved her.

Replicas of the white and red pirogue on the Missouri River in Omaha, Nebraska

Replicas of the white and red pirogue on the Missouri River in Omaha, Nebraska

Still shaken by the near disaster, Lewis recalled his own mad impulse to jump in the water in a life-sacrificing attempt to save the pirogue. “I should have paid the forfit of my life for the madness of my project,” he wrote. “But this had the perogue been lost, I should have valued but little.”

Charbonneau’s stock with Lewis had fallen considerably, and not even his skill at making boudin blanc could restore the Captain’s faith in him. Despite the critical role Charbonneau played in the chain of interpretation once they reached the Shoshone, Lewis became further incensed with Charbonneau in August 1805 as the Corps of Discovery was preparing to trek on horseback into the Rocky Mountains. Charbonneau learned that the Shoshone were planning to decamp down the Missouri, a calamity that would have left Lewis, his party, and his baggage stranded in the mountains without a guide. Lewis wrote:

Artist's depiction of Toussaint Charbonneau

Artist's depiction of Toussaint Charbonneau, Lewis and Clark Murals Series

Our hunters joined us at noon with three deer the greater part of which I gave the indians. sometime after we had halted, Charbono mentioned to me with apparent unconcern that he expected to meet all the Indians from the camp on the Columbia tomorrow on their way to the Missouri. allarmed at this information I asked why he expected to meet them. he then informed me that the 1st Cheif had dispatched some of his young men this morning to this camp requesting the Indians to meet them tomorrow and that himself and those with him would go on with them down the Missouri, and consequently leave me and my baggage on the mountain or thereabouts. I was out of patience with the folly of Charbono who had not sufficient sagacity to see the consequencies which would inevitably flow from such a movement of the indians, and altho’ he had been in possession of this information since early in the morning when it had been communicated to him by his Indian woman yet he never mentioned it untill the after noon. I could not forbear speaking to him with some degree of asperity on this occasion.

From then on, at times when Lewis and Clark were separated, the Charbonneaus almost inevitably remained with Clark.

When the Corps arrived back at the Mandan-Hidatsa villages in August 1806, Charbonneau was given a voucher in the sum of $500.33, his payment for his interpreter duties. (Sacagawea received nothing.) The Charbonneaus remained there until the late fall of 1809, when they boarded a Missouri Fur Company barge and traveled to St. Louis. There Charbonneau cashed in his voucher and accepted his land warrant, another reward granted to all the men on the expedition.

The Fate of the Corps book

The Fate of the Corps by Larry E. Morris

However, farming did not agree with Charbonneau. He sold his land to Clark for $100 in 1811 and resumed his job as a fur trapper, this time with the Missouri Fur Company. Leaving his son Jean Baptiste in Clarks’ care, Charbonneau was stationed at Fort Manuel in present-day South Dakota when Sacagawea died in December 1812, leaving behind a young daughter, Lisette. William Clark became legal guardian to both Jean Baptiste and Lisette by order of a St. Louis orphan’s court in August 1813. Lisette did not survive childhood.

As for Charbonneau, he lived on until around 1840, continuing to scratch out a living as a trapper, trader, cook, and interpreter for the government. Charbonneau was at Fort Clark near the Mandan-Hidatsa villages in 1837 when a smallpox epidemic struck, killing his Indian wife at the time and decimating the native population. He later took another wife, a 14 year-old Assiniboine girl. It is not known exactly when or under what circumstances Charbonneau died. His estate of $320 was settled in 1843 by his son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.

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