Fifty Documents Related to the Assassination of Meriwether Lewis


This book is a companion to my biography,  Meriwether Lewis: The Assassination of an American Hero and the Silver Mines of Mexico. It provides the evidence for my claim that General James Wilkinson and John Smith T organized the assassination of Lewis in 1809.

Publication date: June, 2018

Why was Lewis killed?

Governor Lewis was killed because he was bringing evidence to Washington of the corrupt land dealings of Wilkinson and Smith T--evidence  which would end the general's career and prevent their planned filibuster expedition into Spanish Texas  during the first revolution for Mexican Independence  in 1810. I call General Wilkinson, "a patriotic sociopath and a serial assassin." His contemporaries accused him of being an assassin. Smith T  killed over a dozen men in duels.  They had both participated in Aaron Burr's filibuster expedition of 1806-07 and  would continue to participate in filibusters into Mexican territory for years to come.

State of Tennessee authorities said Lewis was assassinated

When the monument was erected over Lewis's grave site  in 1849 the Monument Commission--which had exhumed his remains--stated he was killed in their official report. In 1924, Tennessee officials wrote  to the federal government seeking National Monument status and  said he was murdered. Read the documents for yourself in Fifty Documents.

Forgeries, lies and cover-ups reveal the conspiracy to assassinate Lewis

Conspiracies are most often revealed by their cover-ups. In the case of Lewis, the cover ups began before he was murdered, starting  with the stories of his "attempted suicides" on the boat. When Lewis changed his plans and abandoned boat travel, the conspirators had to improvise a new assassination plan. Follow the clues to see how it was arranged, who did it, and who covered it up. Read the real letters written by Captain Gilbert C. Russell, the commander of Fort Pickering, to Jefferson recounting the last days of Lewis's life. Compare them to the forgeries written in Russell's name.

Learn about the new evidence discovered by Tony Turnbow in 2010 which proves the basis of the suicide story, the so-called letter by James Neelly, was both a forgery and lie. Neelly, the Indian Agent, who was accompanying Lewis on the Trace, had to be in Franklin, Tennessee  on October 11, 1809, the day Lewis was killed. Instead of "looking for lost horses" he was in court, being sued for a debt. The whole account of Lewis's death was a lie, concocted by the conspirators.

Four different accounts of Lewis's death

Many people have always believed it was murder because of the absurdity of the idea that he committed suicide by first shooting himself in the head, and then in the breast. His two pistols were each fourteen or more inches long. The balls of lead were .55 in diameter, almost the size of a quarter. All the accounts are conflicting. I piece together what I think are the probable facts, combined with the local traditions of the Hohenwald, Tennessee community regarding his death. In the book, four different accounts of his death are presented, along with a review of the evidence and conclusions.

Lewis feared he would be killed on the Natchez Trace

When Lewis left Fort Pickering (today's Memphis, Tennessee) to travel on the Natchez Trace to Nashville, he left two trunks at the fort containing land records. He signed a legal memorandum with Russell stating that if he wrote a letter from Nashville, the trunks were to be sent to him at Nashville. If he didn't write a letter, they were to be sent to the federal land agent in St. Louis in the care of a St. Louis merchant whom he trusted. Jefferson asked to have the trunks sent to him after Lewis's death.

Lewis's servant witnessed his death and reported to Jefferson and Madison

John Pernier, a mulatto of French-African descent, worked as a paid employee in President Jefferson's White House. He accompanied Lewis to St. Louis and was present at Lewis's death. He brought the the news of his death  to Jefferson at Monticello and to President Madison in Washington. Pernier died five months later of an overdose of laudanum (a tincture of 10% opium) in Washington. He was miserably poor, facing debtor's prison, and waiting to receive his back pay from Lewis's estate. General Wilkinson arrived in Washington a few weeks before Pernier's death. I believe  Pernier was poisoned by arsenic added to the laudanum which he received from an unknown source. Arsenic was odorless and tasteless, and not detectable by scientific means until the 1830's.

Advance Review Copies

Please contact me at to request  an Advance Review Copy of the book. The book is being indexed now  and will be published in May, 2018.  191 pages, without index, but with notes and bibliography.

Fifty Documents Chapter Titles

Facing Financial Ruin (Documents 1-3)

Enemies in St. Louis (Documents 4-9)

Evidence of a Conspiracy (Documents 10-39)

Conspiracies and Filibusters in 1809-14 (Documents 40-50)

Review of the Evidence


Audio and video podcasting

I will begin podcasting in April or May about the assassination of Lewis.  A PDF of the marketing sheet which is being sent out with advance review copies is available here.  

Meriwether Lewis: The Assassination of an American Hero and the Silver Mines of Mexico

The book is available in hardcover, trade paper, and ebooks at Amazon and other bookstores.  The best ways to learn about the book is to see the Chapter Summaries posted here, and visit Amazon to see "Search Inside the Book."

"Curious, fascinating, creative and bold. . . boring it is not." Gale does not exaggerate as she describes the rascality of Burr, Wilkinson and their associates . . . If I were a priest, I would give Kira Gale  'a tip of the biretta' for this formidable undertaking."

John Guice, We Proceeded On, Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, February, 2016

Meriwether Lewis, a child of the revolution

Meriwether Lewis was born on August 18, 1774 in Virginia. The Meriwether and Lewis families were founding families of Albemarle County, located near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Thomas Jefferson, who lived 11 miles away at Monticello, was beginning his career as a  leader of the revolution.  Lewis's father and stepfather both served in the Revolutionary Army.  At the age of 20, Lewis began his own military career, serving in the Virginia Militia during the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania, and then in the Legion of the United States and the United States Army in the western territories.

During his brief life span of 35 years, Lewis was associated with many of the most famous men of his time.  Because of this, his biography contains background information on George Rogers Clark, Anthony Wayne, James Wilkinson, Aaron Burr, and others. Stories of the revolution and early republic are featured, along with the multitude of conspiracies active during that time.

That "vile assassin"

General Anthony Wayne, who won the Indian Wars in the Ohio Valley,  called his second-in-command, General Wilkinson "that vile assassin" in a letter to the Secretary of War in 1795. I accuse Wilkinson of assassinating Wayne by arsenic  in 1796, and gaining command of the army by that means. To my surprise, in the course of writing this book, I identify fifteen men who were either probably assassinated by Wilkinson, or who survived an assassination attempt by him.

Aaron Burr and the Northern Confederacy

I also discuss the Northern Confederacy of New England states who plotted secession, and supported Aaron Burr in his attempts to become president or to establish a new empire of his own. I present the evidence for a second, unknown, filibuster attempt by Burr in 1809-1810.  As ProfessorJohn Guice commented, the book is "not boring."

"Of courage undaunted"

After he returned from leading the expedition to the Pacific Coast, Meriwether Lewis became Governor of Upper Louisiana Territory in 1807. He spent his first year as governor out east, dealing with matters related to the expedition and attending the Aaron Burr treason trial as an observer for President Jefferson. After he moved to St. Louis in 1808, he accomplished a great deal during his eighteen months in residence, despite active opposition from his enemies. 

He deserves to be remembered for his many accomplishments and for his true character. He was not depressed, and he was not suicidal. He was truly a man of "courage undaunted," as Thomas Jefferson described him. He lived alone with Jefferson in the President's House, from the first months of Jefferson's presidency in 1801 until his departure for the Pacific in July of 1803. It was my favorite time to write about. 

I admire him very much, and consider my time well spent in researching and writing about his life and death. He is one of the great American heroes. To learn more about the book, please see the Chapter Summaries, available on this website.

Kira Gale

The Assassination of an American Hero and the Silver Mines of Mexico