Thursday, April 7, 2011

Three Powerful Words (and a Tidbit too!)

 "We proceeded on." (Captain William Clark)

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark are two of my most favorite heroes in American history. I have always remembered Clark's phrase above; written at the end of many of his journal entries.  No matter what his fears or the challenges he faced, he often closed by simply saying, "We proceeded on".  In those three words, can be found a great deal of hope and strength - all in remembering to do just that.  "To proceed on" whenever I feel anxious or fearful, stressed or disappointed, alone or lost.

Here's a tidbit I wrote once about these two men and their expedition.

One of the greatest adventures in American history was the 1804-06 expedition of Lewis and Clark to explore and map the American West.  These two men and their Corps of Discovery are recognized as national heroes today for their courage in travelling across 1000's of miles of uncharted wilderness and back.  How many members of the Corps of Discovery died during this journey?  What happened to Lewis and Clark at the end of this journey?

Answer:  Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the 31 other members of the Corps of Discovery traveled for over two years through the American West; navigating the Missouri and Columbia Rivers; crossing the Great Plains, meeting Indian tribes for the 1st time; suffered through bitter winters there (-45 degrees!) and a dismal, wet winter on the Oregon coast.  But due to Lewis and Clark's leadership and planning, and the discipline of the men they brought along, only 1 man died during the trip (Pretty remarkable!).  Sergeant Charles Floyd died on August 20, 1804, just two months into the trip, from a ruptured appendix.  The rest of the men stayed relatively healthy (venereal disease was the most common affliction!... usually treated with mega-doses of mercury!).  Lewis suffered the most serious injury of the trip.  In August 1806, while nearing the end of their return trip home, Lewis was shot in the buttocks by one of his own men (Pierre Cruzatte) while out deer hunting!  Lewis spent the last month of the return trip to St. Louis lying on his stomach in the bottom of a canoe; the Corps returned home on September 20, 1806.  The men were greeted as long-lost national heroes, but the fame proved fleeting.  In March 1807, Meriwether Lewis was named Governor of Upper Louisiana, the territory he explored.  But he proved to be an uninterested Administrator.  He also became an alcoholic, increasingly depressed with his life.  On the night of October 10, 1809, Lewis committed suicide, alone and penniless, in a Tennessee roadside inn.  The journals he so diligently kept during his trip were by his side, unedited and unpublished.  William Clark enjoyed a more positive life after the journey.  He enjoyed a happy marriage and was elected Governor of Missouri in 1813.  After Lewis' death, he worked to get his friend's Journals published - they finally were 30 years later.  He continued to work to map the West until his death on September 1, 1838.

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