Me and Meriwether

The secret diary of William Clark

July 4, 1804—To mark our first Fourth west of the Mississippi, Lewis directed me to powder the keelboat's cannon so he could fire it. I would have liked to shoot it too, but that's OK. Lewis is so much fun, and such a leader too.

August 1804—Today I learned that it is better to own a rifle than to major in debate at Harvard. At a fork in the river, Lewis and I agreed that the southerly route was better, while the men insisted on heading north. "Anyone who doesn't follow me will be shot," Lewis said, with admirable firmness. Though I wish he'd said, "Follow us."

October 1804—Lots of Indians. Lewis told me to find a "safe place" for a fort. We were outnumbered 90 to one; for my next trick, I will walk on water. Anyway, you don't need a presidential commission to figure out that we need to build on the other side of the river.

Tonight I asked Lewis if he would consider hyphenating our mission, so that it will be known as the Lewis-Clark Expedition. But he was already asleep. I think.

December 1804—Sacagawea, an Indian woman who joined our corps last month with her husband, asked me, "How come you're always second? C comes before L."

I complimented her on her knowledge of our alphabet but said no more.

February 1, 1805—I asked my slave, York, whether he thought our mission should be called the Clark and Lewis Expedition. "Ask me again when I'm allowed to vote," he answered.

April 1805—As we sent off some more artifacts to Washington, it was impossible not to notice that I contributed more of them than Lewis, and better ones too. After dinner I asked that he consider using an ampersand in our mission's name. He said that would make us look like a dance-hall team.

An observation: There is no I in "team." There is an I in "Lewis." LewIs. LewIs. LewIs.

July 9, 1805—Killer rapids on the Columbia River. For once, I'm glad I'm number two. If Lewis' canoe doesn't make it, I'll give him a nice eulogy and order the men to begin portaging. The Clark Expedition will then proceed.

Late September 1805—"Follow me," the great one commanded. We did, and we nearly starved before reaching Idaho. Would love to see that in the history books.

November 15, 1805—We saw the actual Pacific today. But I saw it before Lewis did.

April 1, 1806—At breakfast Lewis showed me a letter he is sending to Jefferson. It closed with:

Meriwether Lewis
The Clark and Lewis Expedition.

I bowed my head and said, "Thank you, captain." Then he tapped the letterhead's date with his finger. "April Fool," he shouted, cackling so loudly he spooked two horses.

My two horses.

June 20, 1806—So we've seen the Pacific. Mapped the West. Climbed the Rockies—again. We're almost home!

Today I tamed a squirrel and named it Lewis. Then I shot it. Delicious.

September 23, 1806—St. Louis. Big crowds, chanting: "Lewis! Lewis! Lewis!"

I no longer care. He and I are two guys who walked a long way, moved our bowels in the woods and received bonus pay. Pretty basic. Ten years from now we'll be forgotten anyway.

Get the latest History stories in your inbox?

Click to visit our Privacy Statement.