Chapter Summaries

  1. Albemarle County: 1774–76 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .      1  

Meriwether Lewis’s birth in 1774—Lewis’s, Meriwethers, Jeffersons, leading families of  Albemarle—Thomas Jefferson’s role in starting the American Revolution—Virginia Shirtmen.

  1. George Rogers Clark . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .        5

George Rogers Clark, older brother of William Clark and native of Albemarle, moves to Kentucky—organizes volunteer militia and wins Northwest Territory for the United States in 1778–79.

  1. Growing Up in Albemarle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .       17

Lewis’s childhood—deaths of father and stepfather—British officers POW camp —Tarleton’s Raid—Lewis’s schooling.

  1. The Whiskey Rebellion: 1794–1795 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .       29

Lewis joins Virginia militia to put down rebellion in western Pennsylvania—enlists in Legion of the United States.

  1. James Wilkinson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .       35

Wilkinson exposes Conway Cabal and wins support of  George Washington—marries Ann Biddle—moves to Kentucky—destroys rival George Rogers Clark’s career—opens Mississippi River for Kentucky goods—becomes Spanish agent—foils Connolly plot—serves in Indian Wars in Ohio Valley—joins the new Legion of  the United States.

  1. The Legion of the United States: 1792–96. . . . . . . . . . . . .     55

Wilkinson becomes brigadier general under Major General Anthony Wayne—assassinations of Trueman and Hardin—attempted assassination of Humphrey Marshall—Wayne’s Ohio forts—William Clark’s loyalty to Wilkinson—Wayne almost killed by falling tree—Wayne wins Battle of Fallen Timbers—Wayne calls Wilkinson “that vile assassin”—Wilkinson demands Court of Inquiry over Wayne’s victory—Wilkinson colludes with British—Robert Newman, double agent—Powers delivers Spanish payoff to Wilkinson—Edmond Genêt Affair—George Rogers Clark becomes Major General in French Revolutionary Army  and organizes invasion of Louisiana for Genêt—Fort Massac—Wayne dies en route to Philadelphia—Did he die from arsenic poisoning?—Lewis carries legion records to Philadelphia—Wilkinson becomes commanding general of new United States Army.

  1. Mississippi Valley Conspiracies: 1797–1798 . . . . . . . . . . .      91

Federalist and Republican parties—President John Adams— “a tropical profusion of plots”—threat of British invasion from Canada—Zachariah Cox and Mobile Bay—martial law in Detroit—Senator William Blount Conspiracy and first U. S. impeachment trial—Haitian Revolution—French refugees—Talleyrand and “XYZ Affair”—Quasi War with France in the Caribbean—U. S. aids Haitian rebels—surrender of Spanish forts on Mississippi—Andrew Ellicott discovers conspiracy  of Spanish officials and American officers to establish new country  in Mississippi Valley—Spain prepares for war—William Clark sketches Spanish fort and war vessels en route to New Orleans.

  1. Conflicts and Secrets: 1798–1801 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     111

Lewis joins Freemasons—leave of absence on family business—becomes army recruiting officer at Charlottesville—Alien & Sedition Acts—Jefferson and Madison secretly draft Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions—secession from union feared—George Rogers Clark flees arrest on charge of sedition—William Clark tries to solve his brother’s financial troubles—Adams and Hamilton quarrel—Congress authorizes five armies anticipating war with France—Hamilton becomes commanding general of U. S. Army—President Adams sends peace envoy to France—Hamilton and Wilkinson plan secret military base, Wilkinsonville, at Ohio and Mississippi Rivers—Hamilton is forced to resign—Wilkinson’s protegé Philip Nolan is killed in Texas by Spanish—fires at War and Treasury Departments destroy government records—700 troops begin moving to Wilkinsonville without Adams’s knowledge—election of 1800 ends in tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr—Was an invasion of Spanish territory  planned if Burr became president?—silver mines of Mexico, Natchez cotton lands, and ship owners—usurpation and civil war—Gabriel’s slave rebellion in Virginia—governors of Pennsylvania and Virginia prepare for civil war—Aaron Burr accepts vice presidency—Lewis becomes paymaster for western army posts—President Jefferson asks Lewis to become his private secretary.

9:  The President’s House: 1801–1803 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     139

Description of the President’s House—dinner parties—Lewis ranks army officers in coded list—Wilkinson tours northeast with Jonathan Williams—Wilkinson and Williams go to Wilkinsonville for training exercises—strange death of  Colonel Strong—Indian treaties and road building—mammoth cheese—Lewis visits Mahlon Dickerson in Philadelphia—mammoth exhibit—Alexander Mackenzie’s Voyages—Robert Gray’s discovery of Columbia River—Doctrine of Discovery—Mackay-Evans Expedition to Upper Missouri—John Evans and the Welsh Indians—Mandan villages—Evan’s death in New Orleans—France prepares to invade Louisiana—St. Domingue (Haiti) revolution—the Louisiana Purchase, “a noble bargain”—planning an expedition to the Pacific Coast—Lewis goes to Harpers Ferry, Lancaster and Philadelphia preparing for expedition—Lewis asks William Clark to join him as co-leader —news reaches capitol on July 3, 1803 that France has sold Louisiana to the United States.

10:  Journey to the Pacific: 1803–1806 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .      185

Lewis leaves Washington on July 5, 1803—boat building in Pittsburgh—Seaman the dog—airgun—Wheeling—Grave Creek Mound—Big Bone Lick fossils—William Clark at Falls of Ohio—“Nine Young Men from Kentucky”—Fort Massac & Kaskaskia—Louisiana transfer ceremonies—Wilkinson urges capture of Lewis’s expedition—Upper Missouri boundary of Louisiana—four Spanish expeditions sent to capture “Captain Merry”—Pawnee chief stops Spanish soldiers—Wood River Camp in Illinois—Postmaster John Hay—Clark receives 2nd Lieutenant commission—May 14th, 1804 departure—music—description of keelboat—duties of sergeants—Clark as map maker—journal keepers—Lewis’s missing journal—Indian survey—Otoe Council—deserters—Omaha village—Sgt Floyd’s death—Shannon gets lost—Yankton Sioux Council—Patrick Gass elected Sergeant—prairie dog capture —pronghorns—Indian burning of prairies—confrontation with Teton Sioux—Black Buffalo’s role as American ally in War of 1812—Arikara Council—sex with Indian women—mutiny trial—crime & punishment—winter at Fort Mandan—Hidatsa and Mandan chiefs—British traders—hunting parties—relations with Indians—dancing—sex and venereal disease—blacksmiths—Sacagawea gives birth to Pompey—reports to the president—keelboat returns to St. Louis—death of Arikara Chief—departure from Fort Mandan, April 7, 1805—33 members of permanent party—importance of woman and baby with expedition—grizzly bears—map of Montana rivers—immense amount of buffalo and beaver—Assiniboin Indians watch them—boat accident, loss of Lewis’s journal—incredible labor of men—White Cliffs—Decision Point—Marias River—Great Falls—Sacagawea sick—dragging canoes on wheels (Portage Camps)—cache pits—iron boat frame—narrow escapes from death—prickly pear cactus—Three Forks and Missouri headwaters—map of water route to Pacific—acquiring horses from the Shoshone—Sacagawea’s brother, chief of Shoshone band—Lemhi Pass—Flatheads—Old Tobé guides them through Bitterroots (Lolo Trail)—portable soup—Nez Perce view of expedition—stomach troubles—Canoe Camp—Blackfeet Indians, allies of British—lack of guns among Shoshone, Flatheads, Nez Perce—geopolitical significance of reaching mouth of Columbia River—Boston ships and Triangular Trade—three territorial missions of expedition—establishment of American fur trade in West—Columbia River Plateau Indians—Celilo Falls—Salmon fishing—Chinook Indians—reaching the Pacific—Dismal Nitch—vote for location of winter quarters—Fort Clatsop—Saltworks—the great whale—perpetual rain—bargaining with Chinooks—sex and venereal disease—return journey—Seaman stolen and retrieved—horses purchased—Walla Walla Indians—return to Nez Perce—Clark fathers son with Nez Perce woman—Nez Perce visit to Clark in 1831—Traveler’s Rest—Lewis goes north to explore Marias—Clark goes south to explore Yellowstone—Camp Disappointment—fight with Blackfeet—later accounts of fight—Colter runs for his life in 1808 —Drouillard killed in 1810—Blackfeet hostility to Americans—Lewis accidentally shot by Cruzatte—Clark’s party on Yellowstone—Indians steal horses—Pompey’s Pillar—return to Mandan villages—Clark promises to raise Pompey in St. Louis—Mandan chief Big White, Jessaume, their wives and children join expedition—meet Teton and Yankton Sioux—encounters with traders on river—arrival back at St. Louis.


  1. Burr-Wilkinson Conspiracy: 1804–07 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .       311

Wilkinson visits Burr secretly, May 23, 1804—Northern Confederacy— filibusters and Free Masonry—Charles Williamson and “The Levy”—Prevost family—Burr kills Hamilton in duel, July 11, 1804—Burr approaches British government—Burr explores Spanish Florida—Burr and Wilkinson meet in Washington and study maps—Wilkinson’s gold accessories—Jefferson appoints Wilkinson Governor of Louisiana Territory and gives federal jobs to Burr’s relatives and friends—Blennerhassett Island—Burr meets Andrew Jackson—Mexican Association in New Orleans—rumors of filibuster—Yrujo, Spanish Ambassador, gives Burr $2,500—Miranda in New York City with plans for Venezuela filibuster—Mexican army moves across Sabine River—escalating threats of war between U. S. and Spain—western exploring expeditions—Zebulon Pike sets out to explore Southwest, July 15, 1806—Pike reaches Sante Fe—Mexican commander who disobeyed orders is commended by superiors—$16,883.12 in expenses unaccounted for by Captain Moses Hooke—Neutral Ground Agreement—Burr’s Bastrop Tract—Dauphin Island—Burr’s international associates—Burr’s cipher letter to Wilkinson—Burr sets filibuster in motion—Burr’s treason trial in Kentucky—fortress at Vera Cruz harbor and silver stored there—Was Burr working with French revolutionary agents in Mexico?—Wilkinson betrays Burr and sets up defense of New Orleans—Wilkinson arrests Burr conspirators arriving in New Orleans—Jackson warns New Orleans governor of Burr’s plot—Jefferson issues Proclamation on Spanish Territory—Burr and his men travel towards Natchez—Burr arrested on January 18, 1807 in Mississippi Territory—Burr escapes jail and arrested again on February 18th near Mobile—Burr taken under military escort to Richmond, Virginia, arriving there on March 25, 1807.

  1. Governor of Louisiana Territory: 1807–09 . . . . . . . . . . . .      349

Lewis and Clark Expedition arrives back in St. Louis, September 23, 1806—Lewis asked to bring evidence of land records fraud to Washington—the Lead Mines District—John Smith T attempts to bring 12,000 pounds of lead to Aaron Burr in Natchez—Smith T defies arrest on charge of treason—Smith T’s reputation as killer—Lewis and Clark travel east—The Burr Conspiracy at the Falls of the Ohio—Davis Floyd only man to be convicted of treason in Burr Conspiracy, receives 3 hour jail sentence—York and his family in Louisville—Lewis surveys Virginia and North Carolina border en route—Lewis and Mandan party arrive  home in Albemarle on December 13th—Lewis and Mandan party reach Washington on December 28, 1806— Clark visits Fincastle, Virginia and proposes marriage to 15 year old Julia Hancock—expedition members receive pay and land grants from government—Lewis appointed Governor of Louisiana Territory and Superintendent of Indian Affairs—Clark appointed Indian Agent—Clark leaves for St. Louis—Lewis sends Robert Frazier to bring Clark a brigadier general’s commission and orders to remove all Burrites from office—Frazier fears assassination by Burrites as he travels to St. Louis—Territorial Secretary Frederick Bates serves as acting governor, and superintendent of Indian affairs; also as recorder of land titles, and member of  land commissioners board—Bates supports Moses Austin and Wilkinson supports John Smith T—Will Carr appointed federal land agent—Smith T battles Austin for control of lead mines in the Mineral Wars—land commissioners began dealing with claims of small land holders, the original French inhabitants—Clark spends summer of 1807 in St. Louis— the Pryor-Chouteau and Manuel Lisa expeditions depart from St. Louis—Pryor-Chouteau is joint military-commercial venture to bring Big White back to the Mandan-Hidatsa villages—Arikara attack expedition, killing 4 men and wounding 9—Meriwether Lewis spends year of 1807 out east—his dog Seaman is with him—Seaman’s dog collar inscription—John Pernier, a free man of color, who will be hired as Lewis’s servant in 1808—Big White is entertained at President’s House before returning to St. Louis—Lewis’s planned three volume account of the expedition to the Pacific and wall map—publication of Patrick Gass’s unauthorized journal—history of various editions of Lewis and Clark Journals—Lewis goes to Philadelphia in April to begin meeting with scientists and artists—Lewis gives government accountant William Simmons an account of expedition expenses in August—Lewis attends treason trial of Aaron Burr held in Richmond in August and September—Burr found not guilty—Lewis writes lengthy analysis of trade and Indian relationships in Upper Louisiana—Lewis returns to Richmond to settle financial matters for Jefferson—Lewis is determined to “get a wife”—Lewis, his brother Reuben, John Pernier and Seaman set off for St. Louis in November—Lewis surveys family land holdings in Kentucky—Lewis hires  printer, Joseph Charless in Louisville, to relocate to St. Louis—Lewis arranges for Laws of the Territory of Louisiana to be printed by Charless when they arrive in St. Louis—Charless returns to Louisville to settle affairs—Lewis becomes both publisher and editor of the Missouri Gazette, first newspaper west of  Mississippi River—Lewis rents house and shares it with newlyweds William and Julia Clark—Clark  whipping his slaves who are unhappy about moving to St. Louis—Clark threatens to sell York to a severe master—York wants to stay in Louisville where his wife is enslaved—York’s eventual fate—Lewis buys “Great Mound” of St. Louis—ancient Indian mounds in Cahokia—Lewis buys property for his mother in St. Louis, plans to sell property in Albemarle—explanation of drafts and bills of exchange, shortage of money on frontier—due to embargo, government is broke—Northern Confederacy wants to secede from union—Lewis founds first Masonic Lodge in St. Louis, serves as Grand Master—Lewis presides over territorial legislature—two forts established in 1808, Fort Madison for Sac and Fox, and Fort Clark (Osage) for Osage—Lewis writes three long letters regarding Indian affairs to Washington—British inspired Indian attacks, Shawnee chief Tecumseh recruiting allies for war against U. S.—Clark builds fort and makes a treaty with the Osage—Manuel Lisa returns to St. Louis from Montana—St. Louis Missouri Fur Company organized with 11 partners, including William Clark and Reuben Lewis—another expedition is planned to return Big White—Lewis becomes guardian of 13 year old Toussaint Jessaume, agrees to pay schooling and expenses in St. Louis for five years—Lewis has multiple enemies—Burrites and land claimants with fraudulent claims—Judge Lucas receives death threats—Smith T. organizes petition drive to not reappoint Lucas to Land Commission—Frederick Bates an enemy of Lewis—Postmaster John Hay an enemy of both Lewis and Clark—mail with bills or drafts takes 3 or 4 months to reach Washington—historian Donald Jackson’s unfair treatment of Lewis—George Prevost plots secession with northern states—President Madison chooses cabinet based on sectional politics—Secretary of War Dr. William Eustis is Burr’s best friend—Secretary of State Robert Smith and Eustis refused to reimburse Lewis for money he has personally spent to print Territorial Laws and return Big White—Missouri Fur Company under leadership of Manuel Lisa returns Big White to his village—Sacagawea and Charbonneau bring Pompey to St. Louis—Pompey’s later life—Sacagwea’s death in 1812—their daughter brought to St. Louis—Lewis’s financial problems caused by government—owed $9,000—estate reimbursed for $5,200 after his death—motives of Eustis and Smith—Would Lewis return as governor in 1810?—Lewis’s 17 land parcels put up as security for debt of  $4,000 to creditors in St. Louis—after Lewis’s death Clark refuses appointment as governor, becomes Superintendent of Indian Affairs—August 18th, 35th birthday, Lewis writes to Eustis “my country can never make a Burr of me”—malarial fevers—Lewis makes new treaty with Osage on September 2nd—leaves St. Louis on September 4th, 1809 with Pernier and Seaman bound for New Orleans to take a ship to Washington to straighten out financial affairs and then go to Philadelphia to resume work on book.

  1. Assassination of Meriwether Lewis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .         409

 Clark writes Lewis distressed by “Creditors all flocking in near”—false stories created to support death by suicide—at New Madrid, on September 11th,  Lewis makes out will leaving estate to his mother—arrives at Fort Pickering sick with malarial fevers on September 15th—false story of Lewis trying to commit suicide twice on boat—“Mr. X” travels from fort to make arrangements for Lewis’s assassination—Lewis writes to President Madison saying he will travel by land to Nashville—two letters of Captain Gilbert C. Russell, commander of fort, reporting on Lewis’s last days to Jefferson—Lewis fully restored to health in six days, waits at fort hoping Russell can go with him to Washington—instead Lewis sets off with Indian agent James Neelly on September 29th—Lewis has Russell sign agreement he will hold two trunks at fort until Lewis asks for them by letter to be sent to Nashville—verbal message arrives for trunks to be held at fort—trunks were to be safely sent to federal land agent in St. Louis, if Lewis doesn’t write—How did conspirators change plans from killing him on board boat, to killing him on Natchez Trace?—Benjamin Wilkinson, general’s nephew and “Mr. X.” as conspirators—recruiting new participants, James Neelly, Robert Grinder, John Brahan—Neelly arrives at fort—Neelly and Lewis go to Indian Agency, where on October 3rd, Neelly has local citizens sign statement that James Colbert is an honest man, who did not steal saddlebags containing $621—announcement is published in Nashville newspaper on October 20th—Neelly has to appear in court in Franklin on October 11th, where  he is being sued for debt—Neelly makes up story of  two lost horses to explain why he sends Lewis, Pernier, and Neelly’s servant on ahead to Grinder’s Stand, while he takes another route to Franklin—Lewis is killed on October 11th, 1809 at Grinder’s Stand—Seaman is killed—Captain John Brahan writes false report of suicide in Neelly’s name, and signs it with forged signature at Nashville on October 18th—Brahan writes an almost identical letter to Jefferson, and Pernier brings both letters to Jefferson—Neelly writes an authentic letter to Eustis on October 18th at the Indian Agency (near Tupelo, Mississippi)—the three Mrs. Grinder’s stories, different versions in 1809, 1810, and circa 1845—local coroner’s jury is afraid to convict Robert Grinder of murder—blood-stained Masonic apron—legend of Hiram Abiff—2009 event at Meriwether Lewis National Monument & Gravesite—Lewis’s possessions, bundled and inventoried at Nashville, arrive  in Washington “so badly assorted that no idea could be given them by any terms of general description”—inventory of items—Thomas Freeman and John Brahan speculate in land sales at Great Bend of Tennessee River—Pernier suspected of murdering Lewis by Lewis’s mother—Pernier tells Jefferson what really happened—Neelly steals Lewis’s pistols, dirk, rifle, horse, gold watch, and money—Neelly fired from job as Indian agent to the Chickasaws in 1812—Pernier waits in Washington to receive $271.50 he is owed in back pay from Lewis’s estate—Pernier, facing debtor’s prison, obtains laudanum from unknown source and dies of an overdose on April 29th, 1810—General Wilkinson in Washington in April.

  1. Wilkinson & Mexican Independence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    443

General Wilkinson’s arrest warrant and bail in October, 1809 at Natchez—two competing conspiracies in 1809 to participate in Father Hildago’s revolution for Mexican Independence—2,000 troops ordered to New Orleans to defend city against possible British invasion—Wilkinson establishes camp at Terre aux Boeufs—Eustis orders troops 300 miles up river to Natchez—10,000 French refugees from Cuba arrive in New Orleans—Governor Claiborne defends Wilkinson’s decision to establish camp at site where Battle of New Orleans is fought in 1815—Spanish colonies in revolt—10,000 British troops in Caribbean—Republic of West Florida established in 1810—Lieutenant Francis Newman reveals plot of American army officers and Mexican officials to revolutionize Mexico—Claiborne’s investigator finds Aaron Burr behind the plot—Wilkinson finally obeys orders and moves troops to Natchez; 590 men die while enroute—Wilkinson relieved of command and ordered to Washington—Wilkinson and John Smith T plan filibuster to participate in Hildago’s revolution—advance party of three men sets out from Ste. Genevieve in November, 1809 and is captured by Spanish—released from prison and arrive in Natchez in May, 1812—leaders of Guttierez-Magee filibuster of 1812—General creates false “Russell Statement” during court-martial in 1811—Russell testified at trial that Wilkinson tried to assassinate army officer—Russell goes AWOL to save his life after forged statement concerning Lewis’s death by suicide is created by Wilkinson—Two handwriting experts confirm Russell Statement is a forgery—Wilkinson found not guilty at court martial charging him with deaths at Terre aux Bouefs and being a Spanish agent—reasons why Wilkinson assassinated Lewis—Jefferson writes biography of Meriwether Lewis for the Lewis and Clark Journals published in 1814—writes he was “Of courage undaunted, possessing a firmness & perseverance of purpose which nothing but impossibilities could divert from its direction.”—enduring value of Lewis’s observations on Indian cultures and natural science.

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