I've seen your future, Mr. Lewis
And I don't wanna be rude
But spoiler alert:
You totally kill yourself, dude!
Last month, while I was in Joplin, Missouri for my high-school reunion, I saw my 7th-grade history teacher.
When she heard that I was going to spend the next four days riding a bike along the Katy Trail – a rail trail along the Missouri River that follows the route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition – she told me to write a report about Lewis and Clark.
As noted in a previous 2 or 3 lines, the starting point for my first day's ride was St. Charles, Missouri, which is on the west bank of the Missouri River just a few miles from where it joins the Mississippi River.
Captain Meriweather Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark and the 30-odd members of the Corps of Discovery camped in what is now Frontier Park in St. Charles before setting off on their expedition at about 3:30 pm on May 21, 1804 – a little more than a year after the American government purchased the Louisiana Territory from the French.
Today, Frontier Park has a handsome statue of Lewis, Clark, and Lewis's black Newfoundland dog, Seaman. (There will be more about Seaman in the next 2 or 3 lines.)
|Lewis and Clark (and Seaman)|
A few days after leaving St. Charles, Lewis and Clark passed Boone's Settlement, near present-day Matson, Missouri. Daniel Boone had moved his family there from Kentucky in 1799 after suffering legal and financial setbacks. At the time, Missouri was Spanish Territory, and Spanish officials appointed Boone to serve as a judge.
While riding my bike on the Katy Trail, I passed "Daniel Boone's Original Judgment Tree Park," where Boone heard and adjudicated disputes between the local settlers:
From Stephen Ambrose's history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Undaunted Courage:
Did Lewis and Clark meet Daniel Boone? Did they shake his hand? Did he wish them luck, or offer advice, or a drink?
The next day, Lewis and Clark camped near the small French settlement of La Charrette, which was just a few miles east of current-day Augusta. At that time, La Charrette was the last European settlement on the Missouri.
The westernmost point I rode on the Katy Trail was Rocheport, which is about 115 miles west of the site of La Charrette. Lewis and Clark passed the site where Rocheport is today -- perhaps the most scenic stretch of the Katy Trail thanks to the stone bluffs that tower over the the trail -- on June 7, 1804.
Clark's journal reports seeing some Indian pictographs on those bluffs. There are a few faded pictographs still visible on the bluffs east of Rocheport today.
The members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition did not include a physician. However, Meriweather Lewis's mother, Lucy Marks, was a noted herbalist. In addition, before leaving on his voyage of discovery, Lewis consulted with the most prominent doctor of that era, Benjamin Rush (who was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence).
According to a marker on the Katy Trail between North Jefferson and Hartsburg, the Corps of Discovery was equipped with calomel (for fevers), laudanum (a tincture of opium used to combat pain and sleeplessness), tartar emetic (to induce vomiting), mercurial ointment (for venereal disease), Glauber's salt (a laxative), and Peruvian bark (which contains quinine, a treatment for malaria).
The expedition also had 50 dozen "Rush's Thunderclappers," a patented laxative whose name testified to its explosive qualities.
In any event, only one member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition died during the two years, four months, and ten days it took the Corps of Discovery to travel from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean and back to St. Louis again – a distance of about 7000 miles. That one casualty, Sergeant Charles Floyd, died in current-day Sioux City, Iowa, about two months after the expedition left St. Charles. The cause of Floyd's death was likely acute appendicitis.
Another bike rider I met on the Katy Trail told me that he had read that Lewis and Clark had an air rifle that was capable of bringing down a deer. This seemed very unlikely to me, but it turns out to be true.
An Italian named Girardoni invented an air-powered rifle in 1779 that was used in the Austrian army for 25 years. It could shoot 30 or more .46-caliber balls before its air reservoir was exhausted, which gave soldiers equipped with the Girardoni rifle a tremendous rate-of-fire advantage over soldiers equipped with conventional single-shot, muzzle-loading muskets.
|Girardoni air rifle|
The Lewis and Clark Expedition was equipped with one Girardoni rifle, which can be seen in the National Rifle Association's National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, VA.
According to this video, that Girardoni rifle was of crucial significance in the expedition's success:
Lewis and Clark returned to St. Charles in September 1806, over two years after debarking on their journey. President Thomas Jefferson appointed Lewis as the governor of the Louisiana Territory, and named Clark as the U.S. agent for Indian affairs in the territory.
Lewis set out for Washington in September 1809 in hopes of resolving a dispute with War Department bureaucrats over the reimbursement of Lewis's expenses.
The night of October 10, Lewis was spending the night at an inn on the Natchez Trace called Grinder's Stand, which was about 70 miles southwest of Nashville.
Early the next morning, the innkeeper's wife heard gunshots and found Lewis bleeding from gunshot wounds to his head and abdomen. He died shortly after sunrise.
William Clark and Thomas Jefferson believed Lewis had committed suicide. But Lewis's family insisted he was murdered. Most historians believe today that the cause of death was suicide – Lewis had serious financial and personal problems, and had attempted suicide earlier on his journey.
|The grave of Meriweather Lewis|
Click here to read what one prominent historian wrote about the death of Meriweather Lewis.
Peter Shukoff ("Nice Peter") and Lloyd Ahlquist ("EpicLLOYD") are the creators of "Epic Rap Battles of History," a series of videos that airs on the ERB channel on YouTube and has attracted more than 7 million subscribers and 1.2 billion views. (Yes, I did mean "billion.")
The most popular of the fifty-odd "Epic Rap Battles of History" released to date include "Justin Bieber vs. Beethoven," "Dr. Seuss vs. Shakespeare,' and "Darth Vader vs. Adolf Hitler."
Here's the "Lewis and Clark vs. Bill and Ted" video, which was released in May 2015:
You remember Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, don't you?