A Fine Boy

With a little help from a rattlesnake’s rattle, Sacagawea gives birth to a baby she names Jean Baptiste

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The daughter of a Shoshone chief, Sacagawea was captured as a young girl by a raiding party of Hidatsa and raised by that tribe. At about age 17, she married Toussaint Charbonneau, a trader and fur trapper who acted as an interpreter on the expedition. Two hundred years ago this month, while the corps wintered at Fort Mandan, Sacagawea gave birth to a son, Jean Baptiste.

February 7, 1805 [Capt. Meriwether Lewis]
The Sergt. of the guard reported that the Indian women (wives to our interpreters) were in the habit of unbaring the fort gate at any time of night and admitting their Indian visitors, I therefore directed a lock to be put to the gate and ordered that no Indian but those attatched to the garrison should be permitted to remain all night within the fort or admitted during the period which the gate had been previously ordered to be kept shut which was from sunset untill sunrise.

February 10 [Sgt. John Ordway]
An Instance happned last evening a little Singular one of our men returning from the Mandans village 2 or 3 young Indians followed him the Gate being Shut in Stead of calling to the Guard he went round back of the Fort and Scaled over. one of the Indians followed him over. Capt. Lewis ordered the Indian away after Giving him a Scolding at the Same time telling him that he was not So much to blame as the white man Setting the example, & Gave him a piece of tobacco & Started him & confined the man for Setting Such a pernicious example to the Savages. to day at 12 oClock he was tried by a court martial.... at Sunset the proceedings of The court martial came out the prisoner was Sentenced 50 lashes & laid to the mercy of the commanding officer who was pleased to forgive him the punishment awarded by the court.

February 11 [Lewis]
About five oclock this evening one of the wives of Charbono was delivered of a fine boy. it is worthy of remark that this was the first child which this woman had boarn and as is common in such cases her labour was tedious and the pain violent; Mr. Jessome informed me that he had freequently administered a small portion of the rattle of the rattle-snake, which he assured me had never failed to produce the desired effect, that of hastening the birth of the child; having the rattle of a snake by me I gave it to him and he administered two rings of it to the woman broken in small pieces with the fingers and added to a small quantity of water. Whether this medicine was truly the cause or not I shall not undertake to determine, but I was informed that she had not taken it more than ten minutes before she brought forth perhaps this remedy may be worthy of future experiments, but I must confess that I [lack] faith as to it's efficacy.

February 15 [Ordway]
About 2 OClock last night the 4 men who dispatched yesterday returned and informed us that they were Stoped about 25 mls. down the River by about 105 of the Souix Savages, they emediately Seized the horses cut [off] the collars (hooping and yelling) jurked the halters from one to another through Several hands. then they jumped on two of them and rode [off] uppon the run, our men with much difficulty kept the Gray mare which had a coalt at the Fort. one of the horses which they took was a fine large Gilding which belong to one of the N.W. Compy. tradors by the name of Mackinzie— the other was a publick horse as soon as we was informed of this Capt. Lewis and 20 odd of the party vollunterily to go and fight.... I then Set out with Capt. Lewis and 20 odd more of the party. Several warrie[r]s of the Mandans Set out with us but their was only 3 or 4 remained with us the whole day. we walked about 18 mls. and halted. Got Some meat that our hunters had left hanging upon a tree & boiled & eat Some then proceeded on to the place where the horses was taken. we found a Sled their which they had cut the horse out of. found also a nomber pair of moccasons at their camp. we took the Sled and proceeded on their trale untill late in the evening. we then arived at 2 old Indian lodges which we Some expected to find them their we sent in a Spy but found none so we went to the lodges and Slept all night Some of the mens feet were sore walking 30 odd mls. on the Ice to day.

February 28 [Ordway]
About 3 oClock Mr. Gravelleen and Mr. Roie 2 frenchman came up from the Rickarees 2 of the R. Ree Indians came with them they all Informed us that they Saw the Souix Savvages who Robed our men of the 2 horses, & they said their was 106 in nomber and that they had a mind for to kill our men & that they held a counsel over them whether to kill them and take their arms and all or not. but while they were doing that our men were off and got clear, but they Say if they can catch any more of us they will kill us for they think that we are bad medicine and Say that we must be killed.

Over the course of the expedition, William Clark grew very fond of Sacagawea's baby, became his guardian and later financed his education at a St. Louis boarding school.

The known facts of Baptiste's life are few. In 1823, Duke Paul Wilhelm Friedrich Herzog of Wurttemberg, Germany, visited a trading post in present-day Kansas City, where he met the then 18-year-old man, who was working as a guide and interpreter. The two traveled to Europe, where Baptiste remained for six years. He fathered a child with a German woman, but the baby, a boy, died after three months, and Baptiste returned to the United States. He headed West, eventually working as a trapper with Jim Bridger and Kit Carson.

Baptiste settled in California, serving as alcalde, or magistrate, at the San Luis Rey Mission. In 1866, he joined gold prospectors headed for the Montana Territory. On the way, he developed pneumonia and died shortly thereafter, at age 61, in Oregon near the Idaho border, having outlived all of the members of the expedition except Sgt. Patrick Gass.

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